Heian period


Heian period

(794–1185) Period of Japanese history named for the capital city of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). It is known mainly for the flourishing culture of the court aristocracy, which devoted itself to the pursuit of aesthetic refinement as displayed in poetry and calligraphy. Murasaki Shikibu's contemporaneous novel The Tale of Genji depicts that life. A less refined view of Heian Japan is offered in one portion of Konjaku monogatari, a collection of stories and folktales. Aesthetics were also emphasized by the Shingon Buddhist sect, which, along with the broadly syncretic Tendai (Chinese Tiantai) sect, replaced the earlier Nara Buddhist sects in influence. Pietism gained popularity in the late Heian, leading to the founding of the Pure Land sect by Honen. Politically, civilians dominated until 1156, when warriors were called in to settle a political dispute and never left. A brief period of rule by the Taira military clan ensued. See also Fujiwara family; Gempei War; Sugawara Michizane; Taira Kiyomori.

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