Ishiyama-gire (Pages from the Poetry Collection, Ise-shū)

Organization control number
Cultural property designation
Important Art Object
By Fujiwara no Kintō (reportedly)
Era century
Heian period, 12th century
Item shape
Ink on colored paper
19.9 × 15.6 cm
Kyushu National Museum
Ise-shū is a collection of poems by Ise (dates unknown), a female poet of the 10th century in the Heian period (794–1192). She served Onshi (872–907), who was the court lady of Emperor Uda (867–931). Ishiyama-gire was originally part of the Hongwan-ji version of the “Collection of Thirty-Six Poets” (National Treasure, Nishi Hongwan-ji temple collection, Kyoto). It was bound in decchōsō style (a type of book-binding with paste). The “Collection of Thirty-Six Poets” was presented to ex-Emperor Shirakawa (1053–1129) on his 60th birthday celebration held in the third year of the Ten’ei era (1112). The books were probably in the custody of the Imperial Court until the 18th year of the Tembun era (1592). Emperor Go-Nara then granted them to Shōnyo (1516–54), the tenth head priest of Hongwan-ji temple. The books use a wide variety of luxuriously decorated paper, on which poems were written by renowned calligraphers of the time. It can surely be said that the Hongwan-ji version of the “Collection of Thirty-Six Poets” represents the culmination of poetry, decorated paper making arts, and above all, the calligraphic brushwork of the Heian period. Even among these books, “Ise-shū” is well known for its elegant calligraphic style and luxuriously decorated paper. In 1929, Nishi Hongwan-ji temple unbounded this book, along with “Tsurayuki-shū” (second volume; calligraphy by Fujiwara no Sadanobu), and sold the respective pages to raise funds for establishing a women’s Buddhist school (present-day Musashino University, Tokyo). The paper here consists of sheets of paper in various colors—light blue, brown, light brown, and blue—that are torn and pasted on a sheet of lime white paper covered by a cloth with mica printing. Flying birds and small pine branches formed with silver pigments are then randomly arranged on the sheet. On this elegant paper, the foreword and four poems are transcribed in 11 lines of spontaneous and rhythmical brushstrokes. In the sixth line, ink remains only on the convex part of the paper surface. This indicates the paper has an uneven cloth texture, and reveals the dynamic power of the brushstrokes.