Before long their passion for this traditional form

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Unformatted text preview: n those in the provinces. To accept and occupy a provincial post, the courtier was obliged not only to forsake the comforts and cultural attractions of the Heian capital, but also to suffer diminished status and even risk social opprobrium. For want of opportunity in Kyoto, some courtiers had no alternative; moreover, the possibility of acquiring new wealth in the provinces was tempting. But for a member of the upper nobility, life away from the capital was almost unthinkable. Even if given an important governorship, he would be apt either to send a deputy in his place or simply direct the vice-governor, usually a local magnate, to look after the administrative affairs of the province. The epoch of the tenth century and most of the eleventh was one of “power and glory” for the Fujiwara regents. It was also an age when the Japanese brought to maturity their classical culture. Although it owed much to its Chinese antecedents, this culture was nevertheless genuinely unique and a true product of the native genius. Of all the arts that flourished at court during the Fujiwara epoch, the one that most embodied its creative spirit was literature and, in particular, poetry. The ninth-century craze for Chinese verse waned with the trailing off of relations with the continent, and the courtiers turned their attention once again to the waka. Before long, their passion for this traditional form of poetic expression was revived to the point of near insatiability and they devoted themselves endlessly to composition both in private and in the company of others at poetry contests, where teams of the right and left were called upon to compose on given themes. The ability to recognize a waka allusion and to extemporize at least passable lines became absolutely essential, not only in the more formal tests of poetic competence to which the courtier was put, but also in everyday social intercourse. Probably no other society in history has placed so great a premium on versification. Inseparable from the revival of interest in the waka, and indeed the development of Fujiwara literature in general, was the evolut...
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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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