ASIA212Varley

The last of the hj regents for example is reputed to

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Unformatted text preview: ions a century earlier. Viewed impartially, the missions that were sent periodically to China from Yoshimitsu’s time until the end of the Muromachi era were not only commercially profitable, they also provided a steady and highly significant flow of culture from the Ming to medieval Japan. The Zen temples of Kyoto took the lead in the first phase of intercourse with Ming China. These institutions were excellently suited, owing both to their intimate ties with ruling circles of the shogunate and the general interests and training of their priesthoods, to serve as traders and cultural emissaries to China. One important result of their cultural involvement with China about this time was the production of a large body of literature and scholarship that is rather loosely termed Gozan (Five Zen Temples) literature.23 Composed entirely in Chinese, the poetry and prose of the leading Gozan writers have been judged by many critics as excessively imitative and pedantic (and far removed from the proper activities of a branch of Buddhism that theoretically eschewed intellectualism and the written word). There can be no question, on the other hand, of the great value of the research and pure scholarship undertaken by the Gozan temples. In addition to exegetical studies on Buddhism and Confucianism, they compiled dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference-type materials that provided the groundwork for nearly all subsequent scholarly activity in premodern Japan. By far the most splendid cultural achievement of the Kitayama epoch was the nò (“talent” or “ability”) theatre. The precise origins of nò, a form of drama based on the dance, are unknown; but it is certain that they were highly diverse, and that nò derived from influences both foreign and native, aristocratic and plebeian. Among the earliest of such influences were various types of dance, music, and theatrical entertainment —including juggling, acrobatics, and magic—imported from China during the seventh and eighth centuries. One of these Chinese imports was converted and ossified by the Japanese into a solemn and...
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