ASIA212Varley

It would be absurd to mistake a popular diversion for

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Unformatted text preview: onstruction on a retreat, called the Silver Pavilion (in contrast to Yoshimitsu’s Golden Pavilion), in the Higashiyama or Eastern Hills suburb of Kyoto (fig. 33). Though a dismal failure as a generalissimo, Yoshimasa was perhaps even more noteworthy as a patron of the arts than his grandfather, Yoshimitsu. In any case, his name is just as inseparably linked with the flourishing of culture in the Higashiyama epoch (usually taken to mean approximately the last half of the fifteenth century) as Yoshimitsu’s is with that of Kitayama. In certain cultural pursuits, most notably the nò theatre, the Higashiyama epoch added little to what had been accomplished earlier. Yoshimasa and his cronies loved the nò, and sometimes they arranged programs that lasted for several days. But the epoch produced no artists of the caliber of Kan’ami or Zeami, whose works proved to be so lofty that they tended to inhibit further development. One art that was brought to its highest level of perfection in Higashiyama times was linked verse (renga). The idea of two or more people alternately (or consecutively) composing the 5–7–5 and 7–7 syllable links of a waka and stringing them together one after another was not new. The Heian courtiers had occasionally engaged in sessions of linked verse composition for their own amusement, and the pastime became even more popular at court during the Kamakura period. But it was not until the fourteenth century that linked verse was given any serious consideration as an art. By this time, the creative potential of the traditional waka, upon which countless generations of Japanese had lavished such unstinting love, was at last exhausted. The waka cliques at court dictated such rigid rules of composition that they throttled the efforts of even the most imaginative poets. It was partly because linked verse offered freedom from such restrictions that poets and would-be poets turned increasingly to it in the Muromachi period. Still another reason for the spread in popularity of linked verse from the fourteenth cen...
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