Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

7/1/2013 - 8/31/2013

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

The Poetry and Life of Medieval Japanese Poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)

FAIN: FT-60708-13

Paul S. Atkins
University of Washington (Seattle, WA 98105-6613)

This project will culminate in a book on the poetry and life of the medieval Japanese courtier and major poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241). Teika excelled in the thirty-one syllable waka form and was active as anthologist, copyist, critic, judge of poetry contests, diarist, and poetry tutor to senior courtiers and military aristocrats. He was a pivotal figure in the creation of a radically evocative, allusive style that was criticized by his rivals at court but later came to exert a decisive influence on Japanese poetry and poetics. This monograph, the first of its kind in a language other than Japanese, will provide a comprehensive view of the aesthetic, social, and political functions of waka poetry in Japan ca. 1200. It will explore a range of related topics, centered on poetry and poetics and extending to reception history and the role of China in the medieval Japanese imagination.

Media Coverage

'Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet': Unpacking ancient poetry wars (Review)
Author(s): Ian Maloney
Publication: The Japan Times
Date: 3/25/2017
Abstract: Book review of monograph "Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet"

Interview with Paul Atkins: UW Professor offers insights on waka master Teika (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Bruce Rutledge
Publication: North American Post
Date: 10/12/2018
Abstract: Interview with Paul S. Atkins in advance of his public lecture on Fujiwara no Teika.

Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet by Paul S. Atkins (Review)
Author(s): David Gundry
Publication: Japanese Language and Literature
Date: 4/1/2018
Abstract: Book review of "Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet."

Associated Products

Teika (Book)
Title: Teika
Author: Paul S. Atkins
Abstract: This first book-length study of Teika in English covers the most important and intriguing aspects of Teika’s achievements and career, seeking the reasons behind Teika’s fame and offering distinctive arguments about his oeuvre. A documentary biography sets the stage with valuable context about his fascinating life and times, followed by an exploration of his “Bodhidharma style,” as Teika’s critics pejoratively termed the new style of poetry. His beliefs about poetry are systematically elaborated through a thorough overview of his writing about waka. Teika’s understanding of classical Chinese history, literature, and language is the focus of a separate chapter that examines the selective use of kana, the Japanese phonetic syllabary, in Teika’s diary, which was written mainly in kanbun, a Japanese version of classical Chinese. The final chapter surveys the reception history of Teika’s biography and literary works, from his own time into the modern period. Sometimes venerated as demigod of poetry, other times denigrated as an arrogant, inscrutable poet, Teika seldom inspired lukewarm reactions in his readers.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: University of Hawaii Press website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Worldcat entry.
Access Model: Closed
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-8248-585
Copy sent to NEH?: No

"Friend from a World Unseen: Fujiwara no Teika and Medieval Japanese Poetry" (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: "Friend from a World Unseen: Fujiwara no Teika and Medieval Japanese Poetry"
Abstract: The medieval Japanese poet and courtier Fujiwara no Teika (also called Sadaie, 1162-1241) served as co-compiler of the eighth imperial collection of waka poetry, Shin Kokinshū and is said to have compiled the anthology Hyakunin isshu, basis of the well-known card game. Teika wrote over four thousand waka poems in his lifetime, some of which are regarded today as the very best in this distinguished canon. Through his diary, Meigetsuki, and other records, we have a tremendous amount of Teika’s activities, lifestyle, and idiosyncratic personality. Perhaps we know more about Teika than any other individual in classical Japan. Many samples of his distinctive calligraphy have survived and have been coveted by collectors and practitioners of the tea ceremony for centuries. In this talk, given in English, Professor Atkins will lead us through a tour of Teika’s life, highlighting important events such as the Genpei War of 1180-1185, the Jōkyū Disorder of 1221, the places he lived and visited during his lifetime, and Teika’s literary activities, including his most highly regarded poems. Who was Teika? Why is he still famous today? How did he shape our view about classical Japanese culture? All of these questions and more will be addressed.
Author: Paul S. Atkins
Date: 10/25/2018
Location: University of Washington, Seattle
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Video recording of lecture.