Fortunes that prospered yesterday may decline today

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Unformatted text preview: [The monogatari] have set down and preserved happenings from the age of the gods to our own. The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki) and the rest are a mere fragment of the whole truth. It is your [monogatari] that fill in the details.”16 To Genji, Nihon Shoki and the other national histories told only part of the story of the past: the great events and happenings. The details about how people actually lived, felt, and thought had to be filled in by others in a “plausible” manner. The first of the historical tales was A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga Monogatari), written in the mid-eleventh century by the court lady Akazome Emon (dates unknown), who unabashedly modeled her work, in structure and style, on the Genji. Whereas the six national histories were written in Chinese, Flowering Fortunes is in Japanese. And the fact that the author of this first historical monogatari was a woman is fitting, since The Court at Its Zenith 69 women had already taken the lead in writing a new kind of fiction—the fictional monogatari—by taking advantage of the capacity to write the Japanese language presented by the invention of kana. Covering the period from about 946 until 1028, Flowering Fortunes is a woman’s-eye view of events and affairs at the Heian court, including marriages, births, deaths, personal rivalries, and romantic liaisons. Its title refers to the flowering fortunes or flourishing of the Fujiwara, especially under Michinaga (966–1027), who is generally regarded as the greatest of the imperial regents. The awe with which Akazome Emon beholds the resplendent Michizane is well expressed in the following passage: Those who prosper must decline; where there is meeting, parting will follow. All is cause and effect; nothing is eternal. Fortunes that prospered yesterday may decline today. Even spring blossoms and autumn leaves are spoiled and lose their beauty when they are enshrouded by spring haze and autumn mist. And after a gust of wind scatters them, they are nothing but debris in a garden or froth on the water. It is only the flowering fortunes of this lord [Michinaga] that, now having begun to bloom, will not be hidden from sight during a thousand years of spring hazes and autumn mists. No wind disturbs their branches, which grow ever more redolent with scent...
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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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