Underlying the japanese preference for perishable

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Unformatted text preview: . Of the four seasons, spring and autumn are preferred, the former as a time of celebration of the beginning or renewal of life and the latter as a moment signaling the ultimate perishing of all life and beauty. But, whatever the season, it has been the element of change that has mattered most. A courtier of the fourteenth century expressed this sentiment when he wrote that it is precisely because life and nature are changeable and uncertain that things have the power to move us.8 Although the Japanese taste for spring and autumn may at first have been nearly equal, autumn, the season when things perish, possessed an The Introduction of Buddhism 47 inherently greater allure; and with the passing years—and especially the arrival in the late twelfth century of the medieval age of fighting and disorder—autumn (and its portent of winter) assumed supremacy. Then, as we shall see, poets and others sought to press their senses “beyond beauty,” and to find aesthetic value in the realm of the lonely, the cold, and the withered. Underlying the Japanese preference for perishable beauty is an acute sensitivity to the passage of time. Indeed, the “tyranny of time” has been a pervasive theme in literature and the other arts. It is a tribute to the aesthetic and artistic genius of the Japanese that they were ultimately able, as just suggested, to use this theme to extend their tastes beyond the range of conventional beauties to things, such as the withered and worn, that have literally been ravaged by time. In addition to composing poetry in their own language, the early Japanese also wrote verse in Chinese. The difficulties of writing in a foreign tongue are obviously enormous; yet, Chinese culture was held in the highest esteem by the Japanese, and for a time, especially during the early ninth century, it appeared that the courtiers might cease entirely their literary efforts in the Japanese language and devote themselves exclusively to composition in Chinese. Fortunately for the evoluti...
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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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