Waka Kanjo & Cosmetics

A most unusual manuscript, written throughout in one hand, concerning waka kanjo, with a seemingly unrelated second part covering women’s cosmetics & hairstyles of the Kamakura period.

24 illus., including 13 figures of women with various applications of cosmetics, and a number of hairpieces & extensions, etc. 44; 15 folding leaves. Two parts in one vol. 8vo (273 x 193 mm.), later patterned wrappers, new stitching. [Japan: mid-Edo].

A fascinating manuscript, written throughout in one hand, concerning two seemingly unrelated subjects. The first part, of 44 leaves, is dedicated to waka kanjo, the initiation rituals performed to transmit knowledge regarding literary texts such as waka poetry, the early native poetry of Japan. Derived from esoteric Buddhist ceremonies created to transmit doctrines, waka kanjo began to occur in the late Kamakura period. “At these waka kanjo, a waka mandala was displayed along with portraits of Sumiyoshi Daimyojin (the patron deity of waka poetry) and the poets Kakinomoto no Hitomaro and Ariwara no Narihira (considered the founders of the Way of Poetry). Incense was burnt; elaborate gifts of money and clothing were presented; and after appropriate poetic mantras were recited, commentaries containing esoteric poetic secrets were transmitted to the initiate along with genealogical lineage documents (kechimyaku) purportedly authenticating an unbroken line of transmission.”–Susan Blakeley Klein, “Allegories of Desire. Poetry and Eroticism in Ise Monogatari Zuino” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Winter 1997), p. 441.

To make things more complicated and obscure, the rituals varied by poetic school. The beginning of this manuscript provides a history of the origins of waka kanjo and the rules for how to write waka poetry. This is followed by 20 leaves with a history of the changes in rituals as waka kanjo developed. There is an account of the 31 gods of poetry (deities and emperors) and in which region each was worshipped. Lists of famous waka kanjo ceremonies follow.

A most interesting family tree of the greatest waka poetry practitioners starts with Sumiyoshi Daimyojin and includes Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Yamabe no Akahito, and Sugawara no Michizane. The family tree of poets continues to a final name, “Kimura,” who received a copy of this manuscript in 1683. Our manuscript is a mid-Edo copy of the manuscript received by Kimura.

The second part of the manuscript is devoted to court ladies’ cosmetics and hairstyles of the Kamakura period of the 12th century. Most of its first section addresses the sculpting of eyebrows. The illustrations of the women catalogue the varieties of eyebrow shapes and positions depending on age, rank, and occasion. The accompanying text gives detailed explanations. These illustrations are finely and richly colored with ample use of gold and other metallic pigments.

The next section is devoted to hairstyles, hairpieces, and hair ornaments. There are a number illustrations of these hairstyles, along with images of ornate makeup brushes. We find a remarkable image of a court lady’s full attire.

On the final page of the manuscript is a passage stating that all the information in this manuscript is secret and should be treated accordingly and the reader should not tell anyone else of its contents.

Price: $4,500.00

Item ID: 6913

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