Millennium-old bowl with an inscribed poem discovered

A bowl engraved with a poem written entirely in hiragana more than 1000 years ago in the ruins of a residence that existed in the Heian Period (794-1185 AD) in the Kekachi archaeological site, at Koshu on Honsiu, Japan.

The bowl inscribed with hiragana signs (by Haruhiro Hirahata)

The poem on the almost perfectly preserved bowl is said to tell of the sorrows of parting. The text is a 31-syllable Japanese style of verse, and original as not mentioned in the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves (Manyoshu), the oldest existing anthology of Japanese “waka” poetry, which was compiled in the 8th century, or other anthologies. Researchers believe that the characters were written with the tip of a bamboo spatula while the clay was still drying.  It is also reported to offer clues on the spread of the phonetic writing system from Kyoto, which was then the capital of Japan, to local regions. Researchers state that the bowl dates from the period close to around 935, when Tosa Dairy (Tosa Nikki), a work entirely in hiragana was written by Ki no Tsurayuki, a reputed poet and court nobleman, and so far no other poems from that period written entirely in hiragana, the writing system which dates back to the 8th cent., have been found.

(after Asahi Shimbun & Haruhiro Hirahata)

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