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Home » 9. Texts and Sources » Other Basic Texts
This annotation of the Manyō shū was written by Keichū. In its complete form, it spans twenty volumes and forty-three books, with a six volume commentary. The first edition was finished in 1688, and the complete version was finished two years later. The project of writing an annotation of the Manyō shū was begun by Shimokōbe Chōryū at the request of Tokugawa Mitsukuni. However, after Chōryū's sickness and subsequent death in 1686, the project was continued by Keichū, who was trained by Chōryū in Manyō research. Mitsukuni was dissatisfied with the first version of the work, and Keichū reexamined each of the volumes and performed additional textual research. Through careful historical research on the origins and usage of Japanese syllabic writing (kana) and the Japanese readings of Chinese characters (kunyomi ) found in the whole of the Manyō shū, Keichū corrected and reinterpreted the Japanese readings of the characters used for "manyō" that had been in use since the early Heian period. Further, Keichū included a history of the Manyō shū, and an outline of vocabulary found within it, for example, the poetic conventions and place names. The text itself is a groundbreaking commentary that applied the research methods used by Japanese for the study of Siddham – a Sanskrit-based script used by some Buddhist sects in Japan to copy sutras and mantras – to the kana and kunyomi use found in the Manyō shū. The Manyō Daishō ki was Keichū's masterpiece, and Keichū may very well be called the founder of National Learning (kokugaku). Keichū's use of shiddangaku (lit. "Siddham studies") research methodology opened a new period in Manyō research, but this work is equally groundbreaking in that it took on the Manyō shū in its entirety as its subject. Katō Chikage would later follow in Keichū's example and write the Manyō shū ryakuge (1791), another annotation of the entire Manyō shū. Owing to the success of Keichū's Manyō Daishō ki, later kokugaku scholars such as Kamono Mabuchi and Motoori Norinaga would further develop Manyō research. This work is included in the Keichū zenshū (The Complete Works of Keichū), volumes 1 through 7 (1973-75, Iwanami Shoten).

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