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Unformatted text preview: tivity by the Taira greatly speeded
the process of transmission.
One of the earliest and most important results of this new wave of
cultural transmission from the continent was a revival of interest in Japan
in pure scholarship. The Nara court, following the Chinese model, had
founded a central college in the capital and had directed that branch
colleges be established in the various provinces. The ostensible purpose
of this system of colleges, which by the mid-Nara period had evolved a
fourfold curriculum of Confucian classics, literature, law, and mathematics, was to provide a channel of advancement in the court bureaucracy for sons of the lower (including the provincial) aristocracy. But in
actual practice very little opportunity to advance was provided, and the
bestowal of courtier ranks and offices continued to be made almost
entirely on grounds of birth. Before long, the college system languished,
and the great courtier families assumed responsibility through private
academies for the education of their own children. Moreover, as the courtiers of the early Heian period became increasingly infatuated with literature (that is, belles-lettres), they almost totally neglected the other fields
of academic or scholarly pursuit. Courtier society offered scant reward 84 The Advent of a New Age to the individual who, say, patiently acquired a profound knowledge of
the Analects of Confucius; yet it liberally heaped laurels upon and promised literary immortality to the author of superior poems.
The Sung period in China, on the other hand, was an exceptional age
for scholarship, most notably perhaps in history and in the compilation
of encyclopedias and catalogs of art works. This scholarly activity was
greatly facilitated by the development of printing, invented by the Chinese several centuries earlier.
Japanese visitors to Sung China were much impressed by the general
availability of printed books on a great variety of subjects, including history, Buddhism, Confucianism, literature, medicine,...
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- Spring '13