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Heian Period In Japan: Feminine Vernacular Literature

1120 words - 5 pages

Preceded by the Nara Period, Heian Japan was the apogee of Japanese aristocratic culture. This period had a well-defined system of hierarchy and order that contributed a large deal of importance to society at that time. Works of poetry and fiction were valued in society. Despite the integration of Chinese influences into Japanese culture, distinct Japanese nativity still managed to bloom in some works of art. Dissecting the dualism of gender, it was widely accepted that women wrote in traditional Japanese style, termed kana, and men wrote in the “borrowed” Chinese language. What this means is that women were utilizing the “everyday” language of Japanese common people; whereas, men were ...view middle of the document...

The excerpt which is entitled “Snow” showed a Japanese winter from the luxury of a veranda; a roofed structure that generally seemed to be a sign of wealth. Alongside this setting, Shōnagon is accompanied by a brazier and a sense of comfort, serenity, and possibly even carelessness. Which, it can be assumed, was a luxury of the upper class.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, from the Heian Era, is noted as the first novel ever made, worldwide. It is the most praised piece of literature from this period. Photos from the 12th-century Tale of Genji Painting Scroll provide a glimpse into the culture of that time, though they were produced more than a century after the novel was written. Fashion and architecture can both be extracted from the scrolls, and show the intricate robes of a woman’s attire. These robes would have been heavily layered, and their shades reflected the changes of the seasons. This also mirrors “The Beauty of the Seasons”, by Shōnagon, and exhibits the intricate detail paid towards the natural world, as they followed it much like a pattern. Since they had the opulence to do so. Even in the painting from the Bamboo River chapter scroll exudes hues of red, yellow, pink and green, this insinuates the presence of a particular and specific season, and the most colorful of them all: spring. It’s important to note that not only would their robes be excessive and layered, their hair was also long and flowing. This essence of “covering up” conveys the concept that women were a sight for only their fathers and husbands.
Women Changing in Japan explains that though the education of women in Heian Japan was restricted, the areas that they were granted the ability to study, became something that they excelled in. This is especially so with penmanship, and clarifies why their literature is still prominent, even to modern historians. This novel also sheds light on religion of this era. The Heian Period brought with it the height of Buddhism. Among one of the many Chinese influences, Buddhism taught and preached values throughout Japan that strayed from traditional Chinese methods. As it is discussed in this novel, the authors points out that Japanese Buddhism jabbed fingers in the direction of women, ultimately dubbing them “inherently evil”. This generalization can be condensed...

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