Nihongi Koen (日本紀講筵)

Nihongi Koen was a court function that gave lectures and did research on the national history of Japan or "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) during the early Heian period.

The first Nihongi Koen was held in 721, but it presumed to have had slightly different characteristics from those in later years because it is thought to have held a celebration for the completion of the "Nihonshoki." The functions are known to have been held seven times after that, in 812, 843, 878, 904, 936 and 965.

Scholars conversant with history such as Kidendo (the study of the histories) were appointed as instructors called hakase (an expert), toko and shofuku (reviewers at the post who reviews a book offered by the lecturer for the Emperor or Crown Prince at the ceremony of Emperor's first reading). They spent a number of years giving lectures thoroughly on thirty-volume set of books. It used to be held at intervals of almost thirty years because it was a long-term and large-scale event. As the common practice of the function, a person who played a role of shofuku in a function would act as hakase or toko in the following function. It is also said that there were lively lectures and traffic in ideas among the participants composed of the Grand Minister, Kugyo (the top court officials), and other government officials. Beginning in the Gangyo era, a large party was held after finishing the complete schedule of the events. In the party, the participants, mainly Kugyo recited waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) related to traditions and anecdotes described in the "Nihonshoki" to the accompaniment of wagon (Japanese harp) played by Oouta no mikotoshi. In addition, a stipend called Onsho (a reward grant) was awarded to hakase and other instructors. The waka recited at the party of 906 (after the function commencing in 904) and the party of 943 (after the function commencing in 936) still remains today in large numbers.

The persons in charge of giving lectures, such as the hakase, drew up private notes called Nihongi Shiki as a textbook in advance of their lectures. The contents of the notes were mainly about kun-doku (the word-for-word translating method from Chinese to Japanese) of the main text of the "Nihonshoki" but some of them delved into the comprehension of it. It is considered that these private notes concentrated on the interpretation of the "Nihonshoki" written in kanbun (Sino-Japanese) from the viewpoint of its original form of lore. Four types of private notes remain extant today. It is also thought that these private notes were utilized as the materials for the compilation of "Shaku Nihongi" (annotated text of the Nihon Shoki) in later years. That is because the descriptions which seem to be citations from lost fragments of the private notes can be found in the "Shaku Nihongi."

[Original Japanese]