Hon’in sadaijin-ke uta’awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.9
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.19
Romanised TitleHon’in sadaijin-ke uta’awase
Translated TitlePoetry Contest at the House of the Hon’in Minister of the Lef
Alternative Title(s)Hon’in sadaijin tokihira senzai awase 本院左大臣時平前栽合 (‘Garden Contest held by Tokihira, Hon’in Minister of the Left’)
DateAutumn, Engi 5-8 [905-908]
Extant Poems20
SponsorFujiwara no Tokihira 藤原時平 (871-909)
Identifiable Participants
Topicspinks (nadeshiko なでしこ); silver grass (susuki すすき); reaping silver grass (かるかや); maidenflowers (ominaeshi をみなへし); orchids (rani らに); bush clover (hagi はぎ); mountain orange (yamatachibana 山立花); scarlet leaves (momiji もみぢ); bamboo (take たけ); asters (shioni しをに); evergreens (tokiwagi ときはぎ); gentians (rindō りむだう)

This is the oldest extant example of a senzai awase 前栽合, a contest where examples of different types of plants were compared and appreciated. These events could be relatively informal, with a group of close friends sitting together at someone’s house looking out at the grounds and admiring the plants in the garden; or very elaborate, with plants specially grown for the occasion and presented in manufactured settings. Poems were often composed to accompany the enjoyment of the plants, but these were less frequently judged than was the case in other uta’awase.

We know nothing of the details of this contest, other than that it was sponsored by Tokihira during the period when he was Minister of the Left (905-908) and, given the plants and content of the poems, it would seem to have been an autumn contest.

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