Rather in the japanese tradition such qualities come

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Unformatted text preview: nd in stressing the emotional side of human nature, the Japanese have always assigned high value to sincerity (makoto) as the ethic of the emotions. If the life of the emotions thus had an ethic in makoto, the evolution of mono no aware in the Heian period provided it also with an aesthetic. Ki no Tsurayuki, in his preface to the Kokinshû, was the first to describe the workings of this aesthetic. For example, when inquiring (in the opening passage of the preface, quoted above) whether anyone can resist singing—or composing poetry—upon “hearing the warbler sing among the blossoms and the frog in his fresh waters,” Tsurayuki said, in effect, that people are emotional entities and will intuitively and spontaneously respond in song and verse when they perceive things and are moved. The most basic sense of mono no aware is the capacity to be moved by things, whether they are the beauties of nature or the feelings of people, a capacity that Tsurayuki, at least, believed would directly lead to aesthetic expression. Because of the particular Japanese liking, already noted, for the perishable beauties of nature and because of the acute Japanese sensitivity to the passage of time, mono no aware has always been tinged with sadness and melancholy. Some commentators have sought to convey this sense by translating the phrase as the “pathos of things.” But this is misleading, because it suggests that things can inherently possess qualities like pathos or a pathetic beauty. Rather, in the Japanese tradition, such qualities come into being only when people perceive them in things. In other words, the Japanese have traditionally tended to the belief that beauty is not in the object but is evoked by the subject (i.e., the perceiver). In addition to reviving interest in Japanese poetry, the use of kana also made possible the evolution of a native prose literature. The origins of the mature prose of the Fujiwara epoch can only be roughly identified, although they seem to lie primarily in two early kinds of works, the so-called tale (monogatari) and the private diary (nikki). The term “monogatari” has bee...
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