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Unformatted text preview: s a pessimistic view of this existence as a place of foulness and suffering that is perhaps even more emphatic than the one given in the Heike. The phrase “ten-foot-square hut” refers to the exceedingly modest dwelling on a mountain outside the capital that Chòmei finally constructs for his home in the effort to renounce all worldly attachments and thus prepare himself for entry into Amida’s Pure Land paradise upon death. In the end, however, he sadly admits that he has failed to find complete release from earthly things and, in fact, has become attached even to his little hut. As William La Fleur has discussed, the hut recurs throughout the Hòjòki as a carefully crafted metaphor for the Buddhist idea of impermanence and, indeed, for life itself, which, in all its aspects, is fleeting and uncertain.2 The recluse retiring to a hut in the wilderness or away from areas of human habitation is a familiar figure in Chinese history, literature, and art, found most conspicuously perhaps in the guise of the Taoist who leaves society and seeks to become one with nature. Recluses and huts also appear in earlier Japanese literature, but it was the Hòjòki that established them—especially the hut—as medieval ideals. For Kamo no Chòmei, the construction of a hut of absolute minimum size and quality represented his rejection of materialism to make himself ready, as just noted, for Amida’s Pure Land paradise. But even in Chòmei we can observe a tendency to transform what is supposed to be a mean hovel into something of beauty based on an aesthetic taste for “deprivation” (to be discussed later in this chapter) that evolved during medieval times. How The Canons of Medieval Taste 93 Chòmei the poet aestheticized his hut, perhaps unconsciously, can be observed in the following partial description of it from the Hòjòki: I laid a foundation and roughly thatched roof. I fastened hinges to the joints of the beams, the easier to move elsewhere should anything displease me. . . . Since first I hid my traces here in the heart of Mount...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.

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