Contrast The Life Of The Heian-Era Courtier With That Of The Kamakura Samurai

Heian Epoch

Features of the period of Heian is reduction of a role of the emperor in a political life of the country, usurpation of the power by an aristocratic family of Fujiwara, occurrence of the esoteric sects of the Buddhism and formation of a new social status – the Samurais.

"The most striking feature of the aristocratic society of the Heian capital was its aesthetic quality. It is true that it was a society composed of a small number of especially favoured people, but it is none the less remarkable that, even in its emptiest follies, it was moved by considerations of refinement and governed by a rule of taste."

Ruling of Fujiwara

In the eighth century, the struggle for the control over the central government between the aristocracy and the Buddhist monks has become aggravated. The role of the monarchical house gradually fell into decay. In this connection, aspiring to get rid of the Buddhists’ influence on the capital area of Nara, Emperor Kammu in 794 year has transferred the country capital into the city of Heian - «the world and calmness capital» which in due course began to be called as Kyoto. The history has begun with the basis of this city and has ended with the formation of the first shogun ate, this period is called the period of Heian (794 - 1185).

The Emperor has begun the reforms directed on updating of "the lawful state" and suppression of an aristocratic arbitrariness in regions with a new capital. It has been established a severe supervision by the centre of observance «the Law on delivery of allotments» in provinces. Peasants have been released from military service, and instead of them the local nobility, which formed groups of Samurais, had to carry out a protection of the provincial administration. Series of military campaigns against local population of the south of Kyushu and the north of Honshu have been besides authorized, with the purpose to expand borders of the Japanese state.

Occurrence of the Samurais and the Insei System

In Heian, in the absence of internal or external threat for the central government, Japan had no regular army. However, a whole safety level in the country, especially in the remote regions, was low. With a view of protection of the land against the attacks of robbers, the local nobility has started to form the armed groups called the Samurais. Mainly the capital aristocrats, who were with the subordinated soldiers in relations of the mister and the servant, became leaders of such groups. Among those groups, the most known were those who left childbirth of Tajra and Minamoto.

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New movements of the Buddhism

In Heian, the experts of esoteric, the Buddhism and the new Buddhist were extended in Japan. Among them sects, the Tendaj ("the Heavenly eminence") and the Shingon ("the True word") were the main ones. The first has been based by the monk Site in 806 - 807 years together with building of its central monastery of Enryaku-ji on a grief Hiei near to the capital. The second sect has arisen by efforts of monk Kukaja in 816 year: he has erected a temple complex of Kong%u014Dbu-ji. Both doctrines were a projection of the Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist schools. Their distribution in Japan was promoted by the emperors and the governmental aristocrats.

The arrangement of the center of the sect of Tendai near to the capital has transformed it into a Buddhist community of Japan of that time. The mountain with the Hiei monastery was the original intellectual center - "medieval university" of the country. It also served as a jail of rebellious employees. Due to active contacts with a court yard and the government, monks of the sects often took a direct part in taking of political decisions. Unlike Tendai, the center of Shingon was too far from the capital. However, the popularity of the Buddhism has been won in Japan by the selfless activity of its monks and pupils.

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“One of the many reasons why the Heian period is important for Japanese cultural history is because its poetry, collected in the court-commissioned anthology Kokin Wakashu (compiled c. 905 C.E.), became the model for poetic forms and themes in all the subsequent centuries”

In the end of an epoch of Heian, in connection with the crisis of the central power, economy disorder, constant civil strife and wars, in Japanese society the eschatological beliefs have extended. It was reflected in two main sects of the country which has entered into a long crisis. The majority of temples of Tendai and Singon has turned to communities which had their own private possession, troops of the armed monks of the S%u014Dhei and the people among aristocrats and the government. These communities increasingly interfered with a policy, and were interested in religious and philosophical problems ever less. As a consequence, from the end of the12-th and the beginning of the13-th centuries, these sects were criticized by many leading monks of that time, who have based new "Protestant" schools of the Buddhism, such as J%u014Ddo-sh%u016B and Nichiren.

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The Period of Kamakura (1185-1392).

“Until quite recently, studies of Kamakura Japan have tended to overstate the warriors' achievement, by creation of a new form of government with the simultaneous destruction of the old.”

The end of the 12-th century has brought serious changes in a political and religious life of Japan and, of course, in its art. Elegance and an aestheticism of the court yard of Kyoto was replaced or, in traditions of a "special" board, "has received an addition" in the form of new, severe and courageous board – shogun ate of Kamakura. Though the capital nominally remained to be Kyoto, the shogun to Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199) has founded the headquarters in the city of Kamakura and for 25 years has established a rigid system of military dictatorship and feudalism. The Buddhism, which became so difficult and ritualized that was obscure for simple laymen, also has undergone serious changes, which completely were not a promising protection to arts. The sect of Iodo («the Pure Earth»), a version of honoring of Buddha Amid, under the direction of Honen Syonin (1133-1212) reformed hierarchy of Buddhism and deities and has given a hope of rescue to all who simply trusted in Amid. This doctrine of easily achievable paradise has been simplified by other monk, Sinran (1173-1262), the founder of the sect of Sin, which recognized later that the indulgence of Amid was so great that there was no necessity for fulfillment of religious certificates, simply enough to repeat a spell "Namu Amid Bhutsu" (the first word means to "submit"; the next two - "Buddha Amid"). Such a simple way of rescue of the soul was extremely attractive, and now millions use it. Generation after the militant preacher Nichiren (1222-1282) which named the sect, has refused this simplified form of religion. Its followers esteemed S%u016Btra of the Lotus, who did not promise an instant and unconditional rescue. In sermons on quite often concerned political themes, and its belief and offered reforms of church and the state have pleased a new military class in Kamakura. At last, the philosophy of the Zen, which has arisen in the 8-th century, has started to play an increasing role in Buddhist thought of that period. The Zen underlined the importance of meditation and contempt for any images, which could help a person in its aspiration to incorporate good luck.

So, it was time when the religious thought has limited a quantity of products of painting and a sculpture, which had been necessary for a cult before. Nevertheless, during the period of Kamakura one of the finest products of the Japanese art has been created. As stimulus - concerning the people to new dogmas, instead of love inherent in Japanese art, but a key to a solution served in doctrines as those. Really, there were the products of the reason of creation, many of those full of life and energy sculptures and works of painting - portraits. Though the philosophy of Zen could consider usual subjects of a religious cult as a barrier on a way to enlightenment, the tradition of honoring of teachers was quite comprehensible. The portrait itself could not be a worship subject. Such a relation to a portrait was peculiar not only to the Zen-Buddhism: many attendants of the sect of the Pure Earth were esteemed almost as Buddhist deities. Thanks to a portrait there was even a new architectural form – the Mieid%u014D, or a portrait chapel. A rapid development of realism was completely in the spirit of the times.

One of the most popular plots, was Raygo (the desired arrival), where Buddha Amid with the companions was represented, going down on a cloud on the deathbed to rescue the soul of the believer and to transfer it to paradise. Paints of such images have often been strengthened by unprofitable gold, and the wavy lines fluttering capes, curling clouds gave sensation of movement of the descenting Buddha.

Secular painting also reflected a spirit of the age. Narrative rolls of the late-Heian period in reserved coloristic scale and graceful lines told about romantic outbursts of prince Gendzi or about entertainments of court ladies conducting a solitary way of life. Now bright paints and vigorous dabs of artists of an epoch of Kamakura represent the fights and the conflicting clans captured by flame palaces and scared people, running from the attacking armies. Even when the religious history developed, the images and icons were not so numerous, though much historical evidence about travel of the sacred people and the miracles created by them was spread. In registration of these plots it is possible to find out a growing love to the nature and admiration of native landscapes.


In Heian Epoch, the structure of country rule was changed. The most fundamental changes were, firstly the change of the capital. In the government structure the appointment process was changed. Before the beginning of the Heian Epoch, the Chinese exam system was in a common use, so that every official had to pass exams for getting preferment. In political life the domination of Fujiwara nobility took place. Moreover, every office became monopolized and ancestral. The main criterion was gentility instead of cleverness. In economics, there was a huge grow of private ownership of lands. In Heian Epoch, the conscription of peasantry was finished and creation of a new social layer – samurai started. The low-ranked aristocrats, who were good in military arts, became the base of that layer. Besides, the Heian Epoch was a time of growth of the prose and poetry.

In Kamakura Epoch, there was a growth of the samurai estate. All the power was transferred from aristocracy to samurai. Moreover, there was a huge change in art: - Yugen and the main idea was a beauty of mysterious and secret things. Domination of the military aristocracy led to creation of new theatre for their demands.

Furthermore, all moments of life were fully linked with the ruling clan.



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