Wiebke Denecke - Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College
Poetry played an important role in Japan’s missions to the Tang court from the seventh to ninth centuries. Whether composed by the envoys themselves, mothers seeing off their sons, previous envoys dedicating poems to an incumbent ambassador in Japan, or by Chinese officials and friends celebrating their Japanese guests at farewell banquets in China, poetry—both vernacular and Sino-Japanese— accompanied the perilous route of the Japanese Tang envoys from their embarkment at Naniwa Port to the Tang capital Chang’an and back.
How do the Tang embassies appear through the mirror of poetry? How did those very few Japanese who actually went to China instead of just dreaming and writing about it inscribe their experience into poetry? And why are the missions depicted radically differently in vernacular and Sino-Japanese poetry? This talk will suggest some answers and yet more questions.