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Rich in sensitivity quality and variety Japanese literature ranks as one of the great literatures of the world While some of its works are over 1300 years old they still capture us with their sensitivity to nature Their writing is artfully worded and structured and it has always been characterized by its lyrical beauty In this essay we will look at how Japanese literature has evolved over the years beginning at the first complete works and moving on through time to todays great Japanese writers Japanese literature began around the year 700 At this point in time a great amount of Chinese influence could be seen in their work The Japanese did not have a writing system of their own and so they adopted Chinese characters to their own needs This can be seen clearly in the most ancient complete work the Kojiki Records of Ancient Matters which was completed in 712 Eight years later this was found again in the second complete work produced by the Japanese Nikon shoki Chronicles of Japan which was completed eight years later The first great literary achievement of the Japanese was the Manyo-shu Collection of Myriad Leaves This is an excellent anthology of more than 4500 poems It was compiled mostly by the courtier-poet Otomo no Yakamochi at some point in the late 700s but it contained some poems that had been written a century or more ago The majority of poems found in this collection are the tanka These poems are 31-syllables and like most Japanese poetry do not rhyme but rather have a subtle rhythm within the structure of the poem These poems usually dealt with friendship love and nature There are also several longer poems most of which praise the imperial family Keene The Pleasures of Japanese Literature 11 From 794 to 1185 the Japanese entered the Heian
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