27we can glimpse screens and doors pictorially

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Unformatted text preview: and geography, and carried them in ever greater numbers back to Japan. By the time of the Taira supremacy, collections of Chinese books had become important status symbols among upper-class Japanese. Kiyomori is said, for example, to have gone to extravagant lengths to obtain a 1,000-volume encyclopedia whose export was prohibited by the Sung. Some courtiers confided in their diaries that they had little or no personal interest in these books but nevertheless felt constrained to acquire them for the sake of appearances. Yet, the Chinese books brought to Japan about this time, in the thousands and even in the tens of thousands, not only provided the nuclei for many new libraries but motivated the Japanese to print their own books and to a great extent stimulated and made possible the varied and energetic scholarly activities of the coming medieval age. One of the finest artistic achievements of the middle and late Heian period was the evolution of a native style of essentially secular painting that reached its apex in the narrative picture scrolls of the twelfth century. The products of this style of painting are called “Yamato [that is, Japanese] pictures” to distinguish them from works categorized as “Chinese pictures.” Painting in Japan from the seventh to the ninth centuries, like art in general, had been done almost entirely in the Chinese manner. Portraits of people, for example, showed Chinese-looking features, and even landscapes were mere imitations of noted places in China. The evolution of Yamato pictures from the ninth century on constituted a transition from this kind of copying to more original painting that dealt with Japanese people in Japanese settings. Nearly all of the early Yamato pictures were painted either on folding screens or sliding doors. Regrettably, like the shinden mansions in which they were kept, none has survived. Yet there are abundant descriptions in the records of what they looked like; and in the background scenes of some of the later narrative scrolls—for example, the twelfth-century works based on The Tale of Genji (see fig. 27)—we can glimpse screens and doors pictorially decorated in the...
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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 UBC.

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