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small plots of land, usually not more than two and a half acres or so in
size. The typical shinden mansion consisted of a main building facing
southward—the shinden or “living quarters” of the master of the family
—and three secondary buildings to the east, west, and north. All four
structures were raised about a foot above the ground and were connected
by covered corridors. There were also two additional corridors leading
southward to miniature fishing pavilions that bordered on a small lake
with an artificial island in its center. The lake was usually fed by a stream
flowing from the northeast, often under the mansion itself, and it was by
the stream’s banks that the courtiers enjoyed gathering for poetry parties. At such parties, a cup of rice wine was floated downstream and, as
it came to each guest, he was obliged to take it from the water, drink, and
recite a verse.
Like modem Japanese homes, those of the Heian courtiers had partitions, sliding doors, and shutters that could readily be removed to make
smaller rooms into larger ones and to open the whole interior of a building to the out-of-doors. Also, like most homes in Japan today, the shinden
were sparsely furnished. Although chairs were coming into general use in
China about this time, they were not adopted by the Heian Japanese
except for certain ceremonial purposes. A few chests, braziers, and small
tables were the only objects likely to be left out in the open in shinden
rooms and not stored away after use.
One item of furniture that was unique to courtier society was the socalled screen of state, behind which ladies ensconced themselves when
receiving visitors. Conspicuously depicted in the twelfth-century picture
scrolls based on The Tale of Genji, the screens of state were wooden
frames, several feet in height, with draperies hung loosely from their
crosspieces (a screen of state can be observed in the foreground of fig.
27, p. 85). They could be easily moved about, and often came to represent the final fragile barrier to the Heian gallant in his quest to consummate a romantic liaison. 4 The Advent of a New Age The haniwa...
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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.
- Spring '13