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Unformatted text preview: and the sea calm as dusk
approached. Lonely islands were shrouded in evening mists; the moon
floated on the sea. Cleaving the waves to the distant horizon and drawn ever
onward by the tides, the boats seemed to row up through the clouds in the
sky. Days had passed, and they were already separated far from the mountains and rivers of the capital, which lay behind the clouds. They seemed to
have gone as far as they could go. All had come to an end, except their endless tears.7 The Taira name has come down through the ages as synonymous with
the proud and the mighty who “will perish in the end, like dust before
the wind.” Indeed, they have even given rise to the popular saying “Even
the haughty Taira (Heike) will not last long” (Ogoru Heike wa hisashikarazu). But, in truth, the Taira have been to a large extent the victims
of the process of literary embellishment that the Heike underwent. There
is no historical evidence, for example, to suggest that Kiyomori was the
cruel, power-mad villain that the Heike makes him out to be; the Ise
Taira, as a warrior clan, were not nearly as inept militarily as they are depicted in the Heike; and the Taira as aristocratized, courtier-warriors reflects not so much historical fact as the artistic tastes of the Muromachi
period (the fourteenth century), when what became the most widely disseminated version of the Heike was compiled.8
Taira ascendancy at court in Kyoto was brief, and contributed little if
anything to the improvement of rulership in Japan. But in one of their
major pursuits—overseas trade and intercourse—the Taira opened the
door to a new flow of influence from China that significantly affected both
the direction and the tempo of cultural developments in medieval Japan.
Although official relations with the tottering T’ang dynasty had been
terminated in the late ninth century, contacts with the continent were
never completely severed, and throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries private traders continued to operate out of Kyushu, particularly the
ancient port of Hakata. Moreover, the Heian court, even though it steadfas...
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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.
- Spring '13