Movement to “Heian-kyo”

  • known today as Kyoto, capital of Japan from 794 until 1868
    • Abandoning the Chinese
    • Sent no further missions to China
    • severed continental contact = increasing independence, adaptation

The City of Heian-kyo

  • Rectangular
  • about 2 1/2 miles across from west to east and about 3 1/2 miles long from north to south.
  • A stone wall about 6 foot high with a 9 foot ditch on both sides surrounded the city.
  • The city had two rivers running at its edges: the Kamo on the east side and the Katsura on the west side
  • Beyond the rivers, mountains ring the city on the east, north and west sides.
  • 5 million people. Of these, probably 50 thousand lived in Heian Kyo.
  • Development of Writing
  • Kanji:
    • used by men in Heian period
    • Chinese characters
    • difficult to learn
    • Hiragana
      • used by women during the Heian period
      • alphabet still used today

Our Resources: Women Writers

  • Lady Murasaki Shikibu
    • The Tale of Genji/ Tale of the Shining Prince
    • Depicts Heian aristocratic life
    • Sei Shonagon
      • Author of the Pillow Book
      • The Cult of Beauty
      • Aesthetic sensibility and emotional depth-> show of aristocracy and ranking
      • Poetry, calligraphy, music, perfume, dress
      • Japanese Houses
      • The Pillow Book (do not copy)
      • “A preacher should be good-looking. For, if we are properly to understand the worthy sentiments of his sermon, we must keep our eyes fixed on him while he speaks; by looking away we may forget to listen. Accordingly an ugly preacher may well be the of sin . . . .” (Shonagon 106)

Keeping Up Appearances

  • men and women wore heavy, light coloured make-up (small goatee for men)
  • both sexes: make-up coloured part of the lips since small mouths (and eyes) were a sign of beauty
  • Women
  • Plucked eyebrows and painted new ones higher up
  • rouged their cheeks and tiny mouths
  • dyed their teeth black
  • hair parted in the middle, unadorned, flowed to the ground

The Cult of Beauty

  • Costumes
  • Men:
    • Wore stiff black cap, patterned, waist-length robe with voluminous sleeves over billowing trousers -> whole outfit in shades of white, brown, or black
    • Costumes
    • Women:
      • Long silken robes -> colourful and patterned (Sometimes wore as many as 12 of these robes, one on top of the other).
      • Each robe had shorter sleeves than the one beneath, so a rainbow of colours flashed when the arms moved

The Heian Court

  • Preoccupation with art, etiquette, literature, costume, language-> lost touch with reality

Meanwhile, in the real world…

  • Power Structure Changing:
    • Provincial warrior’s power increasing (the early samurai).
    • Increase of private landownership -> made powerful families more powerful (by 10th century no more public land allotments)
    • Court growing increasingly removed from provinces in their charge (sending court-appointed governors)
    • Central control weakened
    • Loss of Power Within the Court

Emperor’s loss of personal power

  • The use of Regents
    • Fujiwara family
    • Family provided empresses
    • Enthronement of young emperors (born of Fujiwara mothers)
    • older men in family able to declare themselves regents
    • Early abdication
      • Young emperor controlled by abdicated emperor (rather than a regent)
      • Way of combating Fujiwara regents

Minor nobles vying for power

  • Formed armed guards -> bushi (warriors) and samurai (retainers)
  • Grew powerful by making alliances
  • Became powerful enough to intervene in the central court

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