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Heian-kyo: The Heart of Japan's Golden Age

2 1. 1 lnt r odu c t i o n
In Chapter20. you lcarned thut othcrAsian cultLrres inl'lucncc'd Jlpln. No* you'll scr'ltuut uniquclv Japancse culturctloucrctlfronrthc 9th to thc llth centurics. As 1ou havc lcarncd. Japanis closc'cnough t() tlr!' nlainland ol Asia to be aflcctcd b1 culturul ideusliont theconlincnt. Al thc sanc tinre. thc wutcrs scparating Japan lronrthc nrainllnd hclpcdprotcctthc Japanc'sc ll)nl conqLrcst bv othel Asian pct> plcs.As a rcsult.Japanrenraincd politiclllv intlepentlent and hatl thc chilnceto dn clon its oun ci."ilization. For nlostol the lllh century. thc city ol Nlra $as Japan's inrpcriul clpilirl.[)ufin-s uith Chinr broughtnranvnr.!\ culturll idcu\ k) Jlp n. 79-1. thistimc.contucts theernpcror Kantnru nrovcd thc capital to Hciln-k1o.(r(r'o rrrclns eit\ in Jlpuncs!'.) Thiscrcnt nrarks thc st rt ol lhe Heian period, rihieh lastcd Lrntil Illt5. Thc Hcianpcr iodis oticn cullcdJlpun'sGolden Age. [)urin-u tl]istinlc. aristoents lcd a grcattlourishingol Japunesc cultulc.l'hc'lristocllts prircd bc uty. elccancc. and eorrcctntiulncrs. Orer tinrc.thcl de'r'clopcd ne* formsol litcraturcand art. Pocts $rotcdclic tely aboutlcelings andthe ll'a-sile bc utics of naturc Courtwon.rcn composed diaries andothcItvpeso1'nonfiction. Paintc'rs invented antl scr.rlplors ncwstvlcsof lt. Perli)nners enlerlaincd lhc court u ith ne\\ kind:rrl rrrurie. tlurrec. unddnrrrrl. ()lThc brilliant culture the pcriotl Hcian rtill inllucnccs Jrprncsc irrl rlrd lilc trrd;r1. lrr this yor.l chapter, will lcarnnrorelbout Japan's GoldcnAgc. You'll look athou Hciurt rist(,crilt\ lircd und howthcy crcltcd new kinds o1' Japancse lrrt and literutur c. Hcian-k1'o: Thc Heartol Japan's GoldcnAgc 129

21.2 A New Capital

Duringthe 8th century, the Buddhist priests of Naragained a greatdealof influenceovertheJapanese court.In 784,the emperor Kammudecided to movehis capipan tal awayfrom Nara,in because he powerwasdamaging thought thepriests' to the govemment. The emperor alsowantgrander ed a larger, city for his capital. The first siteKammuchose was Nagaoka. about30 milesfrom Nara.But the movewastroubled from earlyon.As poured money in to buildthenewcity, rumorsof corruption flew. People said the landhadbeenacquired througha deal with a rich Chinese family.The sitealso seemed to be unlucky, because the emperPhoenix Hall was oncepartof a grand temple near Heian-kyo. or's family sufferedillnessesat this time. ln 794, the emperor stopped work on the city. Once again he orderedthat the capital be moved. This time Kammu chosea villageon the Yodo River.The sitewas both lovelier than Nagaokaand easierto protect from attacks.Kammu beganbuildinga new city he calledHeian-kyo, "The Capitalof Peace andTranquility." Heian-kyo becamethe first truly Japanese city. Today it is called Kyoto. Like Nara, Heian-kyo was laid out in a checkerboardpattern like the Chinese city of Chang'an. Built on a grandscale,the walled city was lovely and was set in forestedhills, amid streams, waterfalls, and lakes. It had wide, tree-lined streets.Shrinesand templesblendedwith the area's naturalbeauty. Heian-kyo's crisscrossing streetswere modeled after those of Chang'an, but the city's architecture wasJapanese. In the centerof the city were palacesand govemment offices. Wealthy Heian families lived in mansionssurroundedby beautiful gardenswith artificial lakes.The groundsof each home coveredthree to four acresand were enclosed by a white stonewall. Inside the mansions,large rooms were divided by screensor curtains and connectedwith open-air covered hallways. Simplicity was consid-

coriuption dishonest orillegal practices, especially involving m0ney

ered beautiful, so there were few objects on the wood floors other than straw mats and cushions.The Jananese did not use chairs. Daily life was very formal, and conect mannerswere extremely important. For example,a Heian lady sat behind a portable screen. The screenhid her from view while she talked and took part in life around the house.An unmarried lady would permit her suitor to seepastthe screenonly after a romancehad becomeserious.

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21.3The Rise of the Fujiwara Family

were the political and During much of the Heian period,aristocrats cultural leaden of Japan.By the mid-9th century,the real power in the imperial court shifted from the emperorto aristocraticfamilies. The mostimportantof thesenoble families werethe Fujiwara, who controlled Japanfor nearly 300 yean. The Fujiwara were neveractually rulers.The Japanese believedthat theemperor'sfamily was descended from Japan'ssungoddess. This gavethe royal family a specialright to govern.But the Fujiwarahad otherways of exercisingpower. First,beginning in 858,the Fujiwaramaniedmanyof theiryoung into the royal family. They also madesurethat sonsof daughters Fujiwararoyal wives werechosento be emperors. the Fujiwara Second, acted asadvisorsto the emperor.In reality they had morepower than therulersthey guided.They often coaxedolder emperors to retire so youth thata child or could take the throne.Then the Fujiwararuled as regents in the young emperor'sname. The most successful Fujiwara leaderwas FujiwaraMichinaga,who ledJapan from 995 to 1028.He neverhad an offrcial role in the govHowever, manhadtherespect of all emment. this smart,ambitious him. He was the father-inlaw of four emperors and the grandamund father of threemore.He lived in greatwealthand luxury. Michinaga righdysaid,"This world, I think, is indeedmy world." peoplein Japan's Michinaga id one of the best-known history.During bistime in power,the Fujiwarafamily became evenricher.They built polaces, After Michinaga's his sonbuilt a mansions, andtemples. death, temple that came to be called Phoenix Hall. It likely eamed this hmous orme because it wasshaped like a bird in flight. Partof thetemplestill Golden Age. strnds todayasa beautifulrcminder of Japan's family usedtheir powerto betlertheirown lives. TheFujiwara theyalsokeptpeace in Japan for nearlythreecenturies. This llowever, period. Japanese cultureblossom duringthe Heian lracehelped

Michinaga, Fujiwara oneotthemost powerful leaders during Japan s Goldn Age, wasvery woatthy. Inthis pag6 from thediary of Lady Murasaki, Michinaga is ontertained byboats on pond a large at hishome.

21.4 Social Position in the Heian Gourt

Rank was highly important during the Heian period. A person's rank was determinedalmost completely by what family he or she came from. Being born into a high-ranking family matteredmore than personal qualities or skills. There were nine main ranks in the Heian court hierarchy.High coun nobles filled the top three ranks.Thesenobles were appointedby the emperor,and they dealt directly with him. Less important officials filled the fourth and fifih ranks. Nobles in all theseranks receivedprofits from rice farms throughoutthe countryside.They also receivedmoney from taxespaid by peasantfarmers.The sixth through the ninth ranks were filled by minor officials, clerks, and experts in such fields as law and medicine. The nine main ranks were divided into classessuch as senior and junior. upper and lower. In all, there were some 30 subranks.Each rank brought with it specific privileges and detailedrules about conduct. Members of difl'erentranks had different types of housesand carriages. Rank determinedthe number of servantspeople had and even the number of tblds in the fans they carried. Men of the first, second,and third ranks carried fans with 25 folds. Men of the fourth and fifth ranks used fans with 23 folds. The l'ansof those in lower ranks had l2 folds. Noble women in higher ranks had to helpthemwiththeirperservants sonal needs frommorning to night. This preciseranking systemalso determinedsuch mattersas what color clothing a noble could wear and the height of the gatepostin front of his family's home.In addition,if a personwas found guilty of a would be. crime. rank determinedhow harshthe sentence

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21.5 Beauty and Fashion During the Heian Period

Heiansocietyprizedbcauty. elcgance. and tirshion. To bc described as.r'oli (good).peoplc hadkr come fiom an imponant f amrly. They also had rc knk niceand be sensitive to beautyir poetry.and art. Individuars nature. judged by how lood their were tlsle was.The ability lo reco_gnize beauty was valued olcr quulities likc generosity and honcsty. Both men and wonrengroouted thenrselves with gleat care.Small. poinlcd wcrc considered beards attractivc on nralecourtiers. wornen. For long hair u as an impo111|1 bcdulylci|lurc. Idcull). a wontan's hair woLrld grou longcr thansheuas lall. ol lhis tirrc crrnThc Jupunese sidered white teethun ttrrc(ive. sobothnrenand wollrclrcarelirlly blackened their tecth.Thcy used a dyc madelionr iron lnd othcr ingredients soakedin lcu or vinegar. How one sntellcdwas also very signilleant. so both rnel and womcn wore scents. Perllntc conrpelilions ucrc frcquentand popular. guarded People their scentrccipes carclllly. For wonten.nrakeup rvasalso inrpollarrt. \Vomenuscdwhite lace po\r'der to make themsclvcs look r er1.palc.Ovcr lhc chalky powder. a Heiun womanput k)uclres of red on h!'r chccks. Thcn shc painted on a smallred mouth.Shealso pluckedout hcr ('vcbro$ s and painted on a selin.iustthe righ( spoton her lirrchcad. A woman's clothingneeded to be bcaLrtilul. An arislocratic woman might wearas many as l2 silk undcr-robc.s lt a timc. Whcn sherode in a caniage. shemight dilnglca \\ rist so thitt pcoplccoultl seethe lovely layers of coloredsilk. Thelove of beautyalso showedin Hciln alchirectLrre. calligraph. poetry. dndafiwork.Concernwith ti)|nr und bctuty was so sreatthat couniers sometintes pcrlirrnrc'd stylircd ditnecs as plrt ol their othcial duties. painted Long hair, eyebrows high ontheforehead, andbright redlips weresigns ol beauty during the period. Heian

courtir a member ofa ruler's c0un

Hcian-kyo: Thc Hcartof Japan's GoldenAge


Noblemen, dressed in silkrobes and courthats,enjoya gameof ,temazl Theobject of the game wasto keep

21.6 Entertainment at the Heian Court

Heian-kyo's aristocrats hadplentyof leisure time for sporting events, games, andcontests. Men enjoyed watching horseraces, archery conthe ballin the air as longas possible tests, youngmenof great In sumowrestling, andsumowrestling. weighttry to throweachotherto the groundor out of the ring. When the weather waswarm,menandwomenalike enjoyed watching boat races alongthe river that ranthrough the city. playeda gamecalledkemai, in whichthey of courtiers Groups kickeda leather ball backandfonh, keeping it in the air for aslong possible. played as They in the same elegant robes they woreat court. pieces Women usedthe stone of thepopularboardgamego to play a gamecalledrango.Theobjectwasto balance asmanystones as possible on onefinger. Eachof the manyfestivals andcelebrations on the Heiancalendar poethadits own customs. Many involvedcontests thattested athletic, ic, or artisticskill. For example, in the Festival of the Snake, cupsof wine werefloatedin a stream. Guests took a cup anddrankfrom it. Thentheyhadto think up andrecitea poem.Otherspecial daysfeajudged turedcontests that thebesGdecorated fans,the mostfragrant perfumes, the loveliest artwork,or the mostgraceful dancing. Dancingwasan important skill for Heian-kyo's nobles, since dance was part of nearlyevery festival. Bugakuprtormances were a popular form of entertainment. Bugakucombined with musicanddrama dance Bugaku dancers woremasks andactedout a simplestoryusingmemo rizedmovements. 234 Chapter 2l

21.7 Sculpture and Painting During the Heian Period

During the Heianperiod.artistscontinued to be intluenced by painters Chinese art. Gradually. however. sculptors and crcated stvles. their or,l'n Jaoanese Early Heiansculptors commonlymudean entirework tiom one pieceof wood. Latcr in this period.sculptors madc pieccsfronr carcfullyselected statues by carvingseparate wood and thenjoining them.With the help of assistants. partsin largequ ntities. sculptors could nrakethe separate As a result.they could createa group of sinrilarstatucs quickly and precisely. anist who workedtirr probablydevelopcd FujiwaraMichinaga. this technique. Jochomadeperhaps the greatest nasterpiece of Hcian sculpture. the Amida Buddha. This Buddha."The Lord of Boundless Light." was thc subiectof much populrr worshipin Japan. Jocho'sbeautifullycarvedstatuc expresses a sense of deeppeace and strcngth. In painting.Hci n arlistsconsciousllderclopeda Japanr.'se style, To distinguish it tiom Chinese-style art. they calledit "Japanese painting.'Painters lortuto-e,or drcu their scencs with thin linesandthenlillcd thcm in with brightcolors. Linesu'erenade quickly to suggest rnovemcnt. [n a restfulscenc.lines \\ere dru*n moredcliberately. At tlrst afiistsusedthe ne$'stvleto paint Buddhrst subjects. But ovcr tinrc they li)cused on nonreligious scenes. Thereuere lirur main typesof yanrato-c: landscapes showingthe places four seasons. of naturalbcauty.peoplc doingseasonal tasks.and scenes fronr liter"story (called paintings" ature ). The new style. of paintingwas usedto decorate walls. screens. and thc slidingdoors of houses and tenrples. Someof the ntost famous examples of yanlato-e. however. are scrollpaintings. A scroll paintingshowsa series of scenes tion right to leii. so that vie\r'ersseeevenlsin tinreorderas they unroll thc scroll.Scroll paintinghad beeninvenlcdin China. but Heianpainters addedtheir own distinctive For example. touches. they ofien showed scenes insidebuildingsliom above. asif the viewerwcre peeringthoughan invisible roof.

Thisstatue is joined made of pieces of wood. Thepegat the shoulder would have fit intothe armpiece.

Heian-kyo: The Heartol'Japan's GoldenAge


21.8 Writing and Literature During the Heian Period

Writing wasthe mostvaluedform of expression in HeianJapan. Everyone wasexpected to showskill in usingwordswell. Early Heian writerscomposed artful poems in Chinese. As time wenton, distinctly Japanese waysof writing developed, bothin daily life andin the creationof worksof literature. Writing in Dally Life Poetrywaspartof daily life in Heiankyo. People wereexpected to makeup poetryin public.If they could not think up a few cleverlinesto fit an occasion, othersnoticedthe poems failure.Men andwomencarefullycreated to charmeachother. When someone receiveda poemfrom a friend, family member,or acquaintance, he or shewasexpected to write a response. The reply ^ imagcty dsscriptivo or imagina- poemwassupposed to havethe same style,mood,and imagery as tivslangusgs, sspocially whon the original. 'pictures" used to inspire mental In the last chapter,you leamedhow the Japanese usedkanato write the syllables of their language with simplifiedChinese characters. In Heiantimes,thereweretwo waysof writing syllables, muchlike two separate alphabets. One,katakana, wasmoreformal.Men usedkatakanawhenthey wroteanything important. The second way of writing syllables wasftiragana. Characters in hiragana areformedwith simple strokes that makewriting andreading easier andfaster. Hiragana was mostlyseen as"women'swriting." Courtwomenfavored hiragana for personal writing,andsomeof themusedit to lastingworksof literature. create Overtime,hiragana took its place alongsidekatakana as part of Japan's writtenlanguage. Heianwriterstook careto present their work in a beautiful manner.Calligraphyskills were as importantas the ability to createpoetry.People believed thathandwriting revealed their character and goodness benerthanthe words they used.Calligraphy wasoftcn paper. displayedon colorful, handmade Sometimes the paperwas evenperfumed. Women Become Japant Leading W?itera The femalecompanions to thecourtiers of Heian-kyo were Murasaki Shikibu, here shown usuallyselected for their intelligence. They atherdssk, wasI lsading writr often took a greatinterestin literature.As a psriod. during thsHeian wrote She result, womenled the floweringof a golden The Tale ol theGenji, often called the ageof Japanese literature in the l0th andllth . world's firstnovel. centunes.

236 Chapter 2l



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21.9The End of the Heian Period

The Heian period is known asJapan'sGoldenAge of peace.But despitethe glittering imperial court, problemswerebrewing that would bring an end to the Heianperiod. Aristocratsin Heian-kyolived very well, but in Japan'srural areas rnostpeoplewerequite poor.The peasants' farming and other work supported Heian-kyo'srich. Even so, the wealthy looked down on the poor and ignoredtheir problems. While the rich focusedon culture in Heian-kyo,eventsin the countryside beganto weakenthe Heian court. The practiceof giving large estates to top noblesslowly reducedthe emperors'power.Thosewho paid no axes. After a time, tax-freeland was quite ownedtheseestates common.The govemmentcould no longer collect enoughtaxesto supportthe emperor. Japan'srulersbeganto lose control. Banditsroamedthe countryside, Peopleof different religionsbeganto bandtogetherto attackand mb eachother.The govemmentwasnow too weak to supplylaw enforcement.Estateownerscreatedtheir own police and armiesto protecttheir lands.The profits fron landowners'estates went to paying the warriors insteadof supportingthe emperor. By the 12thcentury the power of somelocal lords rivaled that of imperial govemment. Fighting broke out over control of the weakened the land. Meanwhile,variousclansstruggledfor power in the capital. By 1180, therewascivil war in Japan. The wealthy noblss during thHeian In I 185,MinamotoYoritomo,the headof a military familn seized psriod problems poor power.A new erabeganin which military leaderscontrolledJapan, ignored the ot people inJspan's rural areas. You will readmore aboutthis era in the next chapter.


21. 1O T h e E f f e c t o f t h e He ia n Pe r io d on J apa n T o d a y
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21.11Ghapter Summary
ln this chapter. 1ou learncd bout the GoldenAge ol Japancse the culture. During thc Hcian p!'riod.aristocrals----cspecially court.Tllcy crcated the irnperial farnily rlontinatcd Fujirvara Japanese. thatwas uniqLtcly' a cullure ol Hcian-kvolived in grett Iuxurl'.They prized The aristocrats new craatcd antl corrcctllltnners.Heianartists beautl. ele-t:rncc. and puintinl. C()ttn$otllcll \\ rote tbrns ol scLrlptLtre Japancse lit!'rJture. uurks ol Japltncsc classic The Heianpcriodcntlctlin ciril rvarand the rise ol ncu nilitarl created In the ncxt chlptr'r.vou $ill learnhou thcseleildcrs Ieadcrs. in Japnn. culture a warrior


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