The Kokinwakashū, or Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Songs, more commonly known as Kokinshū, is an anthology of some eleven hundred poems compiled in the early tenth century at the Heian court. The “Japanese songs” (waka) of the title are a vernacular poetic form of thirty-one syllables versified into five metrical units in a 5/7/5/7/7 pattern, so named to mark an explicit contrast with the cosmopolitan style of Sinitic poetry, which was also popular among court aristocrats. The “collection” (shū) is “ancient and modern” (kokin) because it anthologized poetry written by its editors and their contemporaries together with poems from the recent and distant past.


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