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Heian Classical - 800 - 1186

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In 794 A.D., the capital was moved to what is now present-day Kyoto. It was called the City of Peace - Heian-jo. The Mikados continued to make this their home until the 1868 revolution. At the end of this period, Yoritomo established the shogunate and all authority was transferred to Kamakura in the eastern part of Japan.

 

This was a time of rich prosperity. The ruling classes succumbed to the riches and became indolent and lazy, neglecting their needs of government for the pursuit of pleasure. Learning flourished while morals became lax and this is also reflected in the literature of that time. Perhaps you are beginning to see how closely tied the literature of Japan is to its historical development.

 

Literature of this time was written and read only by the governing caste and it reflects an effeminate, pleasure-loving, cultured and refined perspective. It consisted of poetry, fiction, diaries and essays in a style known by the Japanese as Zuihitsu or "following the pen".

 

Japanese women at this time exerted considerable literary and political influence - in fact were dominant in many ways. The majority of the literature of this time period was written by Japanese women.

 

It is during this time that Japanese writing went through an important change and Katakana and Hiragana were developed. This simplified the Chinese characters and related them more to the actual spoke language.

 

The end of the ninth century and first part of the tenth century saw a revival of Japanese poetry. Some famous poets during this time were: Yukihira, Narihira, Otomo no Kuronushi, Ki no Tsurayuki, Oshi Koji, Henjo, and Ono no Komachi (a poetess).

 

The Mikado Daigo required an anthology of the best poetry of the time. The Department of Japanese Poetry, which included Ki no Tsurayuki, collected poems into an anthology known as the Kokinshiu (Poems, ancient and Modern). It was completed in 922 and contained over 1100 poems. The poems were arranged into the following categories: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Felilcitations, Partings, Journeys, Names of Things, Love, Sorrow and Miscellaneous. The majority of these were Tanka - only five were Naga-uta.

 

Tanka from the "Kokinshiu"
"Who could it  have been
That first gave love
This name?
'Dying' is the plain word
He might well have used."

 

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