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Unformatted text preview: as the best of worlds possible in this life. Genji and
his companions were not much given to philosophical speculation but
seem instinctively to have accepted the implications of esoteric Buddhism
that ultimate truth or reality lay in the very splendor of their own existence. Genji in particular represented the perfection of the Heian courtier,
and upon his death, as the opening lines of the book’s second part lament,
there was no one to take his place.
Among Genji’s successors, we find new doubts and psychological uncertainties that alter the tone of the novel: there is almost a presentiment
in the book’s latter part of the momentous changes that within a century
or so were to bring about the decline of courtier society and the rise of a
provincial warrior class. Some historians have suggested that Heian aristocratic society, even at its peak, was unbearably stultifying to all but the
privileged few—mostly members of the Fujiwara and imperial families
—who could aspire to advancement at court; that, despite the idealization
of court life in the earlier chapters of The Tale of Genji, there was discontent among many courtiers over their lot. No doubt the rumblings of the
military in the provinces, which mounted steadily during the eleventh
century, were also disquieting to the courtiers in spite of their outward
show of aloofness toward provincial affairs.
While the term monogatari was applied during the Fujiwara epoch to
such differing literary works as poem-tales and novels, it was also used
for a new type of historical writing. The Nihon Shoki had been produced
by the Nara court as the first of what was intended to be an ongoing
series of official histories of Japan, much like the dynastic histories of
China. As it turned out, six such national histories, covering up to the
year 887, were actually compiled. All were written in Chinese and, with 68 The Court at Its Zenith the exception of the Nihon Shoki, were notably dull, consisting as they
did of a dry recitation of the facts and events of court government.
One reason for abandonment of th...
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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