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Tanka, also known as Waka, were the traditional short poems and songs in Rokugan. They were written in short lines with thirty-one syllables following a 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic pattern. The more modern form of poetry called renga was based on the same syllabic pattern as waka, [1] and haiku as well, a development of the first three lines of the tanka, known as the hokku. [2]

Tournament Edit

Every year a poetry competition was held by the Emperor, and sponsored by the Crane Clan. Thousands of people entered their waka on a topic chosen by the Emperor himself. [1]

Grave Marker Edit

Tanka were commonly encountered on ancient grave markers, before the Imperial decree dictating cremation of all bodies. [3]

Structure Edit

The tanka was a deceptively simple poem with a striking or complex meaning. It consisted of five “units,” each represented on a separate line on paper. The first three units were the “upper half” and the last two were the “completion” or “lower half.” Each unit was a complete or partial statement, consisting of a specific number of total syllables (more accurately, mora) on each line. The number of syllables/mora on each line must match the number of symbols to represent them. A tanka must divide its statement in the first and second halves; the first half should conjure a specific metaphor or image, and the couplet should either complete the metaphor or make a statement about the point of the first half. [4]

Conventions Edit

There were several conventions associated to Tanka poetry:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Way of the Crane, p. 67
  2. Book of Fire, p. 118
  3. Book of Fire, p. 117
  4. Book of Fire, p. 116

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