Mono no aware or simply aware appeared as a phrase of

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Unformatted text preview: into loneliness; or when, having been dearly loved, they are neglected.8 In all his actions the Heian courtier aspired to miyabi—courtly refinement—and it was this quality that became the most enduring aesthetic legacy of Japan’s classical age. Even after rough provincial warriors rose to become the new rulers of the land in the late twelfth century, they instinctively responded to and sought to perpetuate the courtly tradition as epitomized in miyabi. The turbulent centuries of the medieval age produced many new cultural pursuits that catered to the tastes of various classes of society, including warriors, merchants, and even peasants. Yet, coloring nearly all these pursuits was miyabi, reflected in a fundamental preference on the part of the Japanese for the elegant, the restrained, and the subtly suggestive. There is indeed a strong temptation to assert that miyabi—as first codified, so to speak, in the poems of the Kokinshû—has constituted the most basic theme in Japanese aesthetics. As one Western authority has observed, “Nothing in the West can compare with the role which aesthetics has played in Japanese life and history since the Heian period”; and “the miyabi spirit of refined sensibility is still very much in evidence” in modern aesthetic criticism.9 Closely related to miyabi was the concept of mono no aware, which can be translated as a “sensitivity to things” or, perhaps, a “capacity to be moved by things.” Mono no aware, or simply aware, appeared as a phrase of poetry in the Man’yòshû of the Nara period, but did not assume its principal aesthetic connotations until the high age of Heian culture, beginning about the time of the Kokinshû. In the discussion of Shinto in Chapter 1, we observed that there has run through history the idea that the Japanese are, in terms of their original nature (that is, their nature before the introduction from the outside of such systems of thought and The Court at Its Zenith 61 religion as Confucianism and Buddhism), essentially an emotional people. A...
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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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