National Treasure

One Page of the Calligraphy Album ‘Tekagami Kanboku-jo’: a poem from the Chinese anthology ‘Baishi wenji’ by Bai Letian


Artist Attributed to Sugawara-no-Michizane
Period Heian period, early 11th century
Materials and techniques Ink on paper
Size 30.1×27.3


"Kokin Wakashu" is the oldest known poem anthology in Japan, compiled in 905 by Ki-no-Tsurayuki. Unfortunately the original compilation has long been lost, and today the oldest transcription of the anthology remains in fragments known as Koya-gire. The name is said to have derived from the fact that priest Mokujiki Ogo (1536-1608) of Monju-in Temple at Koya-san was presented with the first part of volume nine by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and that he preserved it at Koya-san as his treasure. Koya-gire was originally in handscroll form consisting of 21 volumes. This piece is from the last part of volume nine. Waka is written in beautiful renmei-tai (continuous writing) on hakuma paper (white paper of hemp) sprinkled with powders of gold and silver. The elegant paper and the refined calligraphy display the aesthetic sense of the Heian period aristocrats. The writer of Koya-gire has been attributed Ki-no-Tsurayuki however at present, it is believed to have been written by three different calligraphers and has been classified as type 1, 2 and 3. This fragment belongs to type 1, copied probably in the middle of the 11th century by a great calligrapher of the time.

Search Collections