The Birth of Kūkai as a Literary Figure : A Translation and Analysis of Shinzei's Preface to the Henjō Hokki ShōryōshūThe Birth of Kūkai as a Literary Figure : A Translation and Analysis of Shinzei's Preface to the Henjō Hokki Shōryōshū
37 , 2016-03Kyushu University, School of Letters, Graduate School of Humanities, Faculty of Humanities
Kūkai, the founder of the Shingon school of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, is regarded as one of the finest kanshi 漢詩 poets of the early Heian period. Although the existence of numerous modern edited editions of his work serves as a testament to his ongoing canonical status, little scholarly attention has been paid to the actual process by which he was transformed into a full-fledged literatus. It was Shinzei, Kūkai's senior disciple, who played a major role in promoting his master's literary accomplishments. He was responsible for compiling the Henjō hokki shōryōshū, a collection of Kūkai's non-doctrinal works, including many poems. His editorial duties also included composing a preface for the anthology, a key document in understanding the early stages of Kūkai's memorialization as a poet. This paper will examine Kūkai's literary canonization by presenting a complete, annotated English translation of Shinzei's preface, and then situating it within the political milieu of the mid-ninth century.