Japanese Kanshi: A Special Story of Poetry

Proceedings of The 5th World Conference on Research in Social Sciences

Year: 2023



Japanese Kanshi: A Special Story of Poetry

Chunyan Jia




This paper focuses on a unique literary phenomenon of Japanese kanshi poetry. Since early times, Japanese literature has consisted of two branches, one composed in Japanese and the other in Chinese. The former was transmitted orally until a written system came into being in the eighth century, and the latter has always been written in the Chinese language and based on the set literary form of Chinese. This paper aims to explore the feature of this poetic form and its English translator Burton Watson’s view based on the Stylistics theory. Specifically, the paper first reviews the development of kanshi and how it was influenced by traditional Japanese verses. Next, the paper investigates its relationship with classical Chinese poetry, and a deeper understanding of classical Japanese and Chinese poetry could be gained via comparisons between poetic features, including themes, forms, imagery, rhetorical devices and aesthetics demonstrated in kanshi, haiku, shi and ci. This paper finds that though the Japanese kanshi takes the form of classical Chinese poetry, its poetic features and aesthetics are more to the taste of Japanese literary tradition and thus should be appreciated in its own term. This special style of kanshi poetry deserves more attention from both the reader and scholar.

keywords: Burton Watson, classical Chinese poetry, Japanese poetry, kanshi,  poetic features