As already indicated, this preface was based on Lantingji Xu (Preface to the Orchid Pavilion), a calligraphy work written by Wang Xizhi. (Also, early indications have noted influence from Guitian Fu (Return to the Field), a literary work by Zhang Heng in the Wen Xuan Selections of Fine Literature.[ii]) The preface shows the poetic gathering where people escape the depravity of daily life and enjoy refined pleasure. However, the latter part presupposes that the common fate of an unavoidable death creates the same feelings in people regardless of the flow of time and eras. Therefore, poetry written about these internal feelings will touch the hearts of people in future generations.[iii] In the preface of the plum blossom viewing party, expressions based on Lantingji Xu are found in passages other than sections which are the namesake of Reiwa. Consequently, if we consider the preface as encompassing the entirety of Lantingji Xu, the preface of the plum blossom viewing party describes immutable feelings which are concealed while enjoying the party; specifically, feeling of human beings faced with a finite lifespan. Furthermore, the passages show a confidence in the universality of literature.
It is believed that the preface was written by Tabito, the host of the plum blossom viewing party. Tabito was already 63 years old when he was appointed as governor of Dazaifu. Considering his position at the head of the prestigious Otomo Clan, his appointment to governor essentially amounted to a demotion in the face of the growing power of the Fujiwara Clan. Immediately after assuming the new position, Tabito faced the inauspicious death of his beloved wife. Furthermore, the Conspiracy of Prince Nagaya had occurred in the distant capital of Nara about six months before the party. When considering the sad state of Tabito’s life in Dazaifu, it is easy to understand why he based his work on the Lantingji Xu.
Incidentally, it is worthy to note that all 32 poems following this preface were written in Manyo-gana, which is an ancient writing system that employs Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language. For example, this style was used for the following poem written by the host Tabito.
「わが園に（和何則能尓: wagasononi）梅の花散る（宇米能波奈知流: umenohanachiru）久方の（比佐可多能: hisakatano）天より雪の（阿米欲里由吉能: ameyoriyukino）流れ来るかも（那何列久流加母: nagarekurukamo）」
Modern translation: “Plum blossoms are falling in my garden. I wonder if snow flows far from the heavens.” (This verse refers to how plum blossom petals resemble snowflakes.)
In these poems, Chinese characters were used to accurately express each sound of the native Japanese syllabary.[iv] Tabito’s comparison of falling plum blossoms to snow and his use of the phrase “snow flows” are attributable to classical Chinese poetry such as Six Dynasties poetry. Tabito likens the state of falling blossoms to the auspicious sign of snowflakes fluttering from the heavens, thus creating a fantastical scene.
The purpose of the party was to enjoy the beauty of plum blossoms, a flower that had been introduced from China and was still novel to the Japanese. Even so, the idea of composing Waka poetry instead of classical Chinese poetry shows in many levels how the plum blossom viewing party successfully adopted and integrated foreign culture into Japanese culture. In this respect, the name Reiwa as derived from this passage is an appropriate Imperial period amidst the trends of globalization in modern society.