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Unformatted text preview: e practice of compiling national
histories was the general turning away from Chinese-derived institutions
and patterns of behavior that accompanied the cessation of official missions to the continent in the latter part of the ninth century. Also, in the
same way that the newly acquired capacity to write in Japanese with the
use of kana encouraged the keeping of private diaries, people at court
were inspired to record the historical events of their age in a more colorful, personally interpretive fashion. Although not precisely the same in
structure, the national histories had been patterned on the highly formal
dynastic records of the great bureaucratic state of China. Yet Heian Japan
had not become a bureaucratic state on the order of China; and the
Heian courtiers, lax in matters of national administration, had become
ever more introspectively absorbed with their own ceremonially oriented
life in the capital. It was only natural that, in history as in literature, they
should develop new mediums of composition more suitable to the expression of their sentiments concerning the public and private affairs of
Kyoto courtier society.
The new form of history writing that evolved at this time is called the
historical tale (rekishi monogatari); it was much influenced by the fictional tale, especially The Tale of Genji. A product of the blurring of history and literature, or fact and fiction, it can be regarded as a kind of
“embellished history.” The thinking that brought history and literature
together in this form is revealingly suggested in a scene from the Genji
itself. In this scene, Genji visits Tamakazura, one of the ladies living in
his Kyoto residence and the one who is most given to reading romantic
tales (monogatari). After first teasing Tamakazura about allowing herself
to be deceived by stories that she knows perfectly well are not true,
Genji, becoming serious, says: “Amid all the fabrication [in monogatari]
I must admit that I do find real emotions and plausible chains of events.
. . ....
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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