Shimada no Tadaomi (島田忠臣)

SHIMADA no Tadaomi (828 - 892) was a noble and poet who lived in the first half of Heian period. He is known as SUGAWARA no Michizane's mentor and his daughter, SHIMADA no Nobukiko, became Michizane's legal wife. He was also one of the great composers of Chinese poetry of his era. SHIMADA no Yoshiomi was his younger brother. His penname was Dentatsuon. SHIMADA no Nakahira and SHIMADA no Nakakata were his sons.

Although his father and mother are unknown, his grandfather, SHIMADA no Kiyota, (died November 5, 855 aged 77) came from a powerful local clan in the Owari Province. After graduating from the Daigaku-ryo (Bureau of Education, where bureaucrats were educated), Kiyota worked actively as a scholar and a bureaucrat and was awarded the title of Ason (second highest of the eight hereditary titles). Kiyota was a prominent self-made man, being one of the compilers of the "Nihonkoki" (Later Chronicles of Japan).

Tadaomi became a monjosho (student of literary studies in the Imperial University) in 854, studying under SUGAWARA no Koreyoshi, a Monjo hakase (professor of literature) at that time. Koreyoshi rated Tadaomi's Chinese poems highly and admired his talent. After that, at Koreyoshi's request, Tadaomi taught Koreyoshi's heir, Michizane. In "Kanke Bunshu," an anthology of Chinese-style poetry, Michizane wrote that at the age of 11, he learnt Chinese poems from Tadaomi and wrote his first Chinese poem. Then, at Kanpaku (chief advisor for the emperor) FUJIWARA no Mototsune's recommendation, he was appointed Kokushi (governor) of Echizen Province with the rank of Jushichiinoge (Junior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade). Just at that time, a messenger from Balhae (a Korean kingdom) drifted ashore at Echizen, and Mototsune ordered Tadaomi to handle the case. Although there was some concern over his low rank, he dealt with the case appropriately and the customary Chinese poem he wrote at the welcome banquet for the messenger was superb. After that, he was appointed Dazai no shoni (Junior Assistant Governor-General of Dazai-fu) and then Hyobu-shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of War) in and, in 879, was awarded Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade). Then, proving he was a capable official, he gained results working for the central government and local government alternately, for example Governor of Mino Province, then Tenyaku no kami (head the Bureau of Medicine). Finally, he was promoted to Suke (Assistant Governor) of Ise Province with the rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). When a messenger from Balhae arrived again in 883, Michizane, who was in charge of the case as Shikibu-shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of Ceremonial), recommended that Tadaomi handle it and called back him quickly from his assignment at Mino Province.

His friendship with SUGAWARA no Michizane, his student and later son-in-law, continued over their entire lives. Even when either one of them was away from the capital, they communicated frequently through letters. The contents of these letters, which still remain, include not only poems but also political issues, such as the Ako Incident. It is said that FUJIWARA no Mototsune, an influential person in the political world, loved Tadaomi's Chinese poems so much he ordered FUJIWARA no Toshiyuki to make folding screens on which 500 of Tadaomi's Chinese poems were written, and placed them in his residence.
When Tadaomi died at the age of 65, Michizane mourned his death saying that 'No person with such a real talent of a poet will appear again.'
It is also said KI no Haseo, who knew Tadaomi through Michizane, mourned his death as well saying, 'he was a great poet of the day.'

Initially, his poems were collected in the ten-volume "Dentatsuon Shu" (literally, A collection of Dentatsuon, or SHIMADA no Tadaomi). He also wrote, amongst others, "Hyakkan Tomyosho" (literally, a copy of the Chinese names of 100 official posts), but almost all his works were scattered and lost. They were later included in the three-volume "Den-shi Zenshu" (literally, a collection of the Den family's literary works) together with poems by Yoshiomi, his younger brother. Influenced by Chinese poets of the Six Dynasties period and Juyi BAI of the Tang Dynasty, many of his poems are simple and frank, and are greatly appreciated even today.

[Original Japanese]