2 BackgroundThe Japanese imported the Chinese writing system but used it to produce their own distinct literature. They also adopted the concept of a state headed by a divine monarch, a government system based on administrative statues and laws, Buddhism as a state religion, courtly culture, medicine, and the culture of painting, calligraphy, and tea.The image is a portrait of O no Yasumaro, a civil servant and historian in early Japan, drawn by Kikuchi Yosai. Yasumaro edited the Kojiki, the Record of Ancient Matters, written in Chinese style and characters.
3 Chinese-Style Writing vernacular JapaneseChinese-style writing, kanbunBuddhist clergy and imperial administrationinflection and use of characters/ alphabet“brush talk”The Japanese used the Chinese writing system to produce texts in two literary languages: vernacular Japanese and Chinese-style writing (called kanbun, or “literary Chinese”). Chinese was the official language of the imperial administration and the Buddhist clergy, so it was associated with high status, serious purpose, and male authorship. Chinese-style writing is noninflected and would require the Japanese reader to perform a translation by adjusting the phrase to Japanese word order and adding inflections as needed. Vernacular Japanese, by contrast, mixed characters used for their sound value only. Because one language was nonalphabetic, Japanese ambassadors could not make oral requests for things but could communicate using “brush talk” (conversations through written messages).The image is a letter from Kublai Khan (of the Mongol Empire) to the king of Japan, before the Mongol invasions (1266). It is written in Chinese-style writing. Todai-ji, Nara, Japan.
4 Nara Court (710–784) Yamato clan, 710 C.E. Chinese city planning influencewriting and political influenceRecords of Ancient Matters, 712 C.E.Chronicles of Japan, 720 C.E.By the eighth century, the Yamato clan had established hegemony over most of Japan in the Nara Basin; in 710, Nara became the first stable capital, modeled on Chinese capitals with a quadrangular grid of large avenues and a large palace complex to the north. With the help of scribal specialists, they turned the medium of writing into a political tool that helped them enforce central control. The two earliest longer texts produced in Japan were historical chronicles that traced Yamato rule back to the age of the gods and their creation of the Japanese islands. Records of Ancient Matters (712) was written in the vernacular and connected the Yamato clan to Amaterasu, the sun goddess. Chronicles of Japan (720) was written in Chinese-style and used yin-yang cosmology to explain the emergence of the Japanese archipelago.The image is a photograph of Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist temple established in 669 that was moved to Fujiwara in 672 to imitate the orthogonal grid pattern of Chang’an. It was the Fujiwara’s head temple that held influence over the imperial government during the Nara Period and Fujiwara rule.
5 Religion Shinto, “Way of the Gods” Buddhism Confucianism The “Way of the Gods,” called Shinto in Japanese, is rooted in early Japanese folk religion and is concerned with the veneration of sacred sites in nature, the exorcism of evil-doing spirits, and purification from polluting forces. Buddhism, which originated in India, reached Japan via China and Korea, and was adopted by Yamato rulers in the sixth century C.E. to promote the welfare of the state. Confucianism also held broad appeal, by promoting an ethics of benevolent behavior and self-cultivation; it emphasized the importance of social hierarchies and the value of filial devotion toward one’s parents.The image shows Izanagi (male) and Izanami (female), by Kobayashi Eitaku (1885). They were called by the gods and asked to create Japan through their union and the birth of their children as islands of Japan.
6 Heian Court Culture (794–1185) imperial court and Buddhist clergynew capital at Kyoto, 794 C.E.“Capital of Peace”scenarios in literaturecourt diarieslanguage and contentAs a result of struggles between the imperial court and the Buddhist clergy, the court moved to a new capital in 794: Heian-kyo (“the Capital of Peace”) in modern-day Kyoto. Heian literature was produced for the capital elite, rarely extending to the countryside. Court diaries, written in Chinese-style, meticulously recorded the daily court routine, whereas women’s diaries recount the polygamy and literature that accompanied lovers’ trysts.The image shows the Battle of Dan No Ura, 12th century. The battle took place in 1185 between the Genji and Heike; the Heike were defeated, which led to the end of their fight for control, and to the establishment of the military government in Kamakura.
7 Aristocratic Women highly educated segregation from men/ gender assymetryHeian imperial court lifeAristocratic women of the period were knowledgeable in Chinese literature, and Murasaki had learning in vernacular literature, including waka poetry, women’s diaries and tales. In Heian Japan, men and women were strictly segregated; women were to marry and bear children, and a noblewoman’s days were spent behind curtains, away from the male-dominated world. Because marriages tended to be political and economical arrangements, spouses tended to seek love elsewhere, and men held several wives at different establishments.Caption reads from the series “Tale of Genji in Fifty-four Chapters” by Utagawa Hiroshige (1852) in Japan’s National Diet Library.
8 Waka Poetry 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern seasonal phenomena romantic lovecommemorative purposescontestsEmperor DaigoThe Kokinshu, 905Aristocratic women usually received a thorough education in waka poetry (classical Japanese verse set in the pattern of syllables). Waka relied heavily on seasonal phenomena and romantic love, both for intimate purpose and to commemorate court events or praise the emperor. By the tenth century, waka poetry was the canonical court genre. Waka contests entertained the aristocracy and poets wrote waka on screen paintings in the imperial palace. Emperor Daigo sponsored the first waka anthology, The Kokinshu, in 905, and emperors through the fifteenth century commissioned 21 waka anthologies.The image is a portrait of Emperor Daigo, from the Muromachi Period. Sanbo-in of Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.
9 Kana SyllabaryThe ninth century saw the invention of the kana syllabary, which profoundly changed Japanese literature. It introduced a script that became specifically associated with women. The characters used phonographically for sounds were replaced with a letter standing for a syllable. Inflections could be captured in the curvier hiragana script, whereas foreign loanwords from Sanskrit and Buddhist vocabulary could be transcribed in the square katakana. Both kana scripts expanded Japan’s vernacular literature.The image shows the Japanese alphabet using different scripts, from the French encyclopedia of Denis Diderot, eighteenth century.
10 Fujiwara ClanThe Fujiwara gained positions of great influence by inserting themselves as regents between the emperor and the court administration. Because they married their daughters into the imperial family, their daughters secured educations of the highest distinction and were provided with the most talented ladies-in-waiting. Both Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon served in the rival households of two Fujiwara daughters, demonstrating that female literary talent was instrumental in the success of the male members of the clan.The image is a detail from a twelfth-century illustrated hand scroll of Murasaki’s diary, which gives a glimpse into the dress and domestic situation of women at the Heian court.
11 Medieval Japan and Warrior Rule twelfth century civil warHeike and Genji warrior clansshogun rule through feudal systemrole of Buddhist minstrelspatronage of the artsIn the latter half of the twelfth century, the Heian world fell apart due to civil war between the Heike and Genji warrior clans, who vied for control over court and capital. Whereas the emperor remained in Kyoto with his court, military rulers (shoguns) ruled the country through a feudal system of domain lords and their samurai. Buddhist minstrels sang of the valiant deeds of the refined courtly Heike—the eventual losers—and their wild and uncouth opponents from the east—the victorious Genji. Shoguns became generous patrons of the arts, sponsored Zen monasteries, and funded theater performances and Noh playwrights.The work depicts the Heike and Genji forces clashing at Ishibashiyama within sight of Mount Fuji, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Edo Period). Walters Art Museum.
12 Warrior Rule (continued) increased access to educationwarrior valuesretreat from government and cityChomei, “An Account of a Ten-Square-Foot Hut”Kenko, Essays in IdlenessCompared to the aristocratic Heian Period, more people now had access to basic education, and honor, self-sacrifice, prowess, and loyalty to one’s lord were emphasized. Active involvement in the government was uncertain and no longer based on hereditary status, and artists like Chomei and Kenko retreated outside the city, writing that Buddhist faith and artistic pursuits alone can address the uncertainties of life.The image is a picture of Kenko, by Kikuchi Yosai.
13 Japan 700–1400Japan is a series of islands with its own distinctive cultural and artistic traditions, though in many ways what makes Japanese tradition distinctive is how it has been adopted and then modified from its continental neighbors, China and Korea. For example, Japan adapted the Chinese writing system and used it to produce literature in two literary languages: vernacular Japanese and “literary Chinese.” The Nara Court (710–784) became an important center for writing during this time, and this continued into the Heian period (794–1100), when the capital was moved to modern-day Kyoto in Works like Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji (NAWOL, Volume B) provides intimate details of court life during this time period.
14 Test Your KnowledgeWhich two writing systems were used in classical Japan?a. vernacular Japanese and “Literary Chinese” b. vernacular Chinese and “Literary Japanese” c. vernacular Japanese and “Literary English” d. vernacular Japanese and “Literary Japanese”Answer: ASection: Continental Culture and Bi-LiteracyFeedback: The two writing systems used in classical Japanese culture were vernacular Japanese (associated with poetry and prose that expressed emotion) and Literary Chinese (used for official, or “important,” purposes and associated with high status).
15 Test Your KnowledgeRuling from the fourth through the eighth century, the Yamato clan commissioned the production of “historical” texts for what purpose?a. to celebrate Japan’s literary culture b. to record familial relationships c. to legitimate Yamato rule d. to entertain the reading publicAnswer: CSection: The Literature of the Nara Court (710–784)Feedback: The Yamato clan used “historical” texts to connect its rule to ancient Japanese history and folklore in an attempt to legitimize its growing rule over Japan. This marks one early political use of writing in Japan’s literary history.
16 Test Your Knowledge Heian waka was a form of what? a. Japanese vernacular b. prose c. poetry d. dramaAnswer: CSection: Heian Court Culture (794–1185)Feedback: Waka is a form of poetry with a strict syllabic pattern for each of its lines:
17 Test Your Knowledge The Tale of Genji was written by ___________ . a. a man b. a woman c. we don’t know d. court poetsAnswer: BSection: Heian Court Culture (794–1185)Feedback: The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, is often considered the world’s first “novel.” It was written by an aristocratic woman and provides great detail about life in the Heian court. Recall that Japan’s literary culture was uniquely accepting of female authors.
18 Test Your KnowledgeLiterature of Japan’s medieval period tended to be dominated by what kind of themes?a. domestic b. political c. allegorical d. militaryAnswer: DSection: Medieval Japan and Warrior RuleFeedback: Because Japan was ruled by various warrior clans, the literature tended to reflect this emphasis on warfare and heroic deeds in battle. The Tales of the Heike is a good example of a work infused with the warrior ethos.
19 This concludes the Lecture PowerPoint presentation for The Norton Anthology of World Literature