- 美術研究 = The bijutsu kenkiu : the journal of art studies
- no.214, pp.1-34, 1961-03-30
This article is a study, from the viewpoint of the history of calligraphy, of a letter written in kana (Japanese syllabaries) on the reverse side of a copy of a ge (document from a governmental office to a higher governmental office) from the governor of Inaba Province dated the 2nd day of the 11th month of the year Engi 5 (A.D. 905). This ge is found in the first part of the 2nd scroll in the 4th box of the “Tōnan-in Archives” preserved in the Middle Section of the Shōsō-in Repository of Imperial Treasures in Nara. The letter under discussion, which appears to be by a female hand, is hard to decipher, and it does not bear the date of copying nor the name of the copyist. This study is therefore concentrated on how the letter reads and when it was copied. The letter, or more exactly the sheet of paper on which the letter had been written, was utilized to supplement the shortage of writing-paper (i. e. to use the plain side) at the time of making a copy of the ge. If we know when the ge was copied, therefore, it becomes known that the letter is earlier than that date. Because the date of copying is unknown we have to study first of all when it was done. The document is related to a dispute between the Tōdai-ji Temple and the courtier Fujiwara Arizane concerning the jurisdiction over an estate at Takaniwa, Takakusa-gun in Inaba Province (now Tottori Prefecture). Researches on the procedure of this dispute suggest that the ge was copied either in the 5th year of Engi (905) or by the 12th or 13th year of the same era (912–913) or some time during the Enchō to Tengyō and Tenryaku eras (923–956). From the calligraphic style the resent author is led to attribute it to the lastmentioned period, namely between the 3rd and 6th decades of the 10th century. The author then tries to guess the age of the kana letter in the light of the early history of kana writing. Due to insufficiency of known materials, however, the history of kana calligraphy in the first half of the 10th century has not yet been established, and the author had to begin with classifying them in order to get a rough survey of kana script of this period. Through his research it has been made known that in this field of writing in the first half of the 10th century there existed, side by side and often mixed up, two different ways of writing: one following the traditional mode, that is, to write in the so script with each character written separately from the ones above and below (doku sō or “separate” style), and the other in what was probably a new way, i. e. to write in the sō and hira-gana scripts with the characters of words, phrases or sentences in continuing strokes (remmen or “continued and entangling” style). (Translator's note: The sō script, as referred to in literature of the time, is a simplified form of cursive style of Chinese ideographs, to be read in Japanese-style pronunciation and each character standing for one sound or syllable, from which hira-gana or Japanese syllabaries seem to have evolved. That is to say, it is a script transitional from Chinese ideographs to hira-gana syllabaries. It should not be confused with the sō or cursive style of writing as contrasted with kai, gyō and other such terms referring to the flourishing, angular, iutermediate and cursive styles.) The fact can be interpreted to illustrate a still immature stage of development in kana writing during the first half of the 10th century, contrasting with the fully progressed kana calligraphy in the late 10th to the 11th and 12th centuries. The “separate” and “continuing” styles appear to have been maintained firmly as two different ways of writing, the former probably for male writers and the latter for female. When we take these circumstances into consideration and attach due importance on the rather “continuing” aspect of the letter under discussion, and when we note that the brush work in this letter shows characteristics in common with that of a chō (report from an official to an upper governmental office) from Tamba Province dated the 22nd day of the 9th month of the year Shōhei 2 (A. D. 932), we are led to regard led to regard the age of this letter to be in about the Shōhei era (931-938). If so it is the old existing example of a letter in kana writing.