ASIA212Varley

The decision to leave nara was apparently made for

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Unformatted text preview: on of a native culture, this did not happen. But Chinese nevertheless continued to hold much attraction for the Japanese, both as a classical language and, in poetry, as a means to express those ideas of a complex or abstract nature for which the waka was totally inadequate. The earliest anthology of Chinese poetry by Japanese, the Kaifûsò (Fond Recollections of Poetry), was compiled in the mid-Nara period, about the same time as the Man’yòshû. An example taken from this anthology is the following piece, “Composed at a Party for the Korean Envoy”: Mountain windows scan the deep valley; Groves of pine line the evening streams. We have asked to our feast the distant envoy; At this table of parting we try the pleasures of poetry. The crickets are hushed, the cold night wind blows; Geese fly beneath the clear autumn moon. We offer this flower-spiced wine in hopes To beguile the cares of your long return.9 3 The Court at Its Zenith In 794 the court moved to the newly constructed city of Heian or Kyoto, about twenty-eight miles north of Nara. The decision to leave Nara was apparently made for several reasons. Many people at court had become alarmed over the degree of official favor accorded to Buddhism and the manifold opportunities presented to Buddhist priests to interfere in the business of state. Their fears were particularly aroused when an empress (Shòmu’s daughter) became closely involved with a faith-healing priest named Dòkyò (d. 772). Before the loss of his patroness, who died in 770, Dòkyò rose to the highest ecclesiastical and ministerial positions in the land and even sought, through the pronouncement of an oracle, to ascend the throne itself. Dòkyò thus achieved notoriety in Japanese history as a commoner who blatantly challenged the imperial family’s sacrosanct claim to reign exclusively over Japan. The Dòkyò affair appears to have convinced the court of two things: that Nara, with its many Buddhist establishments and its ubiquitous priesthood, was no longer satisfactory for the conduct of secular affairs; and that henceforth the line of succession to the throne should be confined s...
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