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Mumyōzōshi (無名草子, literally "nameless book") is an early 13th-century Japanese text. One volume in length, it is the oldest existing Japanese text on prose literary criticism.[1] The author is unknown, but the leading candidate proposed is Shunzei's Daughter.[2] Other candidates who have been proposed include her maternal grandfather Shunzei himself and the monk Jōgaku (上覚).[3]


One manuscript gives the title as Kenkyū Monogatari (建久物語),[1] a reference to the name of the era in which it was written. Composition occurred between 1200 and 1202.[4]

The author is unknown. Hypotheses include Fujiwara no Shunzei (c. 1114 -1204); his granddaughter, often called "Shunzei's Daughter" (c. 1171 - 1252); Jōkaku (1147-1226); and Shikishi Naishinnō (1149-1201); but strongest support is for Shunzei's daughter.[1][4]


The volume is composed of four distinct sections: a preface, literary criticism, poetic criticism, and a discussion on prominent literary women.

The preface introduces an 83-year-old woman on a trip. She stops to rest at a house, where she writes down the conversation of a group of women talking about literature, creating a frame tale excuse to write the volume. The frame tale itself has many elements from monogatari of the time.[5]

The literary criticism covers 28 stories, including Genji Monogatari, Sagoromo Monogatari (ja), Yoru no Nezame, Hamamatsu Chūnagon Monogatari, and Torikaebaya Monogatari. The others mostly do not exist anymore.[1][4][6]

For poetic criticism, it covers Ise Monogatari, Yamato Monogatari, Man'yōshū, and private and imperial collections. The editor laments the lack of women compilers in the collections.[1][4][6]

It then goes on to discuss the ability and upbringing of a number of prominent women: Ono no Komachi, Sei Shōnagon, Izumi Shikibu, Akazome Emon, Murasaki Shikibu and others.[1][4][6]

The text is particularly valuable as a resource, since it includes descriptions of a number of either completely or partially lost texts.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten (1986:1798-1799)
  2. ^ Marra 1984 : 116.
  3. ^ Marra 1984 : 115.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kubota (2007:341-342)
  5. ^ Rohlich, Thomas H. (1997). "In search of critical space: The path to monogatari criticism in the Mumyōzōshi". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 57 (1): 179–204. JSTOR 2719364. doi:10.2307/2719364. 
  6. ^ a b c Hayashiya (1973)


See also[edit]

  • Fūyō Wakashū, a collection of poetry from various literary sources, many of which are no longer extant

Further reading[edit]