Japan Language and Literature
The privilege of reading and writing was only of high society, so Japanese classical literature reflects an elegant, cultured and refined court. The masterpieces of this period are those of the ladies of the court who wrote their intimate diaries, nikki, true literary testimonies of this time. Let us cite one of the oldest: Kagero Nikki (Diary of an ephemeral), by unknown author; and next to it, let us point out the Makura no Soshi (Intimate Sketches) of Sei Shonagon (n.965), maid of honor of the
Empress, daughter of a poet who collected everything she saw and heard; as well as the Guenyi Monogatari (The Story of Guenyi), a 4,000-page novel biography of a gentleman and his favorite, by Murasaki Shikiku (987-1074), which has always been widely read for its literary and psychological value (it has been compared to Proust’s novels).
A writer of this time, Kino Tsurayuki (10th century), author of a travel diary, Tosa Nikki (Sketches of a trip to Tosa), wrote for the first time in the style reserved for women, that is, without using Chinese. The court ordered to compose a new anthology with the most important poems of the two preceding centuries, Kokin Uaka Shú, written in 922 and considered a remarkable essay on poetic criticism. The chosen poets were courtiers, bonzes and ladies of the court.
Special mention is made of the group of six particularly admired poets. From the same time they are known historical accounts, as in China, under the name of Mirrors, and which are biographies of Emperors and high figures. The Eiga Monogatari (The glorious description of the Fuyiuara) and the Okagami (The great mirror) can be mentioned.
Kamakura period. The period that followed the refined and cultured Heian era was filled with fierce civil wars and feudal strife. The victorious clans installed the new capital in Kamakura, present-day Tokyo. This period (also called Kamakura) lasted from 1186 to 1332. The reign of the educated ladies of the court was followed by the era of warriors, the reign of the shoguns, the combative feudalism of the Minamoto and the Taira.
The literature of Japan saw the disappearance of the poems of the ladies of the court, replaced by deeds, epics such as that of Gempei Seisuiki (Greatness and decadence of the Guen and the Hei) written around 1190, and that of Heike Monogatari (The deed of the Hey). Japanese culture took refuge in monasteries, where Emperors and writers took up Buddhist habits to escape political unrest.
Let us mention Kamono Chomei (13th century), poet and hermit, author of Hoyoki, written in 1212, a work of Buddhist philosophy and meditations on life and, above all, the officer of the Imperial Guard and brave warrior who abandoned his family and his status to become a wandering monk-poet, Saigyó (1118-96). One can also cite the hermit monk Kenkó Hóshi (1283-1350), author of meditations on the vanities of the world and Thoughts of Taoist inspiration. The 1205 composition of an official anthology, ‘Shin Kokinshú (The New Kokinshñ), contains the best late Heian poems and Shinto and Buddhist texts. This anthology was the last of the Hashidaishú, the eight anthologies composed by imperial order.
The Manyóshú, the Kokin Uaka Shú and the Shin Kokinshü are the three great Japanese anthologies, the most esteemed and famous in Japan. The latest collection marks the decline of tanka poetry, as well as that of court literature. Finally, from this time we will cite the Fujiwara-no-sadaie collection (13th century) that became very popular, Hyakunin Ishu (one hundred poems by one hundred authors), selected verses from the s. vii to xiii.
In the Buddhist monasteries, the only repositories of good taste and culture of the time, it was born in the s. XIV the nógaku or not, lyrical drama that originated in the ancient Chinese-Korean sacred pantomimes, the kagura, in which the dialogues were introduced. These works were originally performed before the great Shinto shrines, and later in the palaces of the shoguns.
The viewer, text in hand, listened to the slow reciting of the choir and admired the slow and conventional gestures of the actors. They are not without action and even the cultivated Japanese need a long initiation to admire their deep meaning. In each session, five pieces are represented, among which farces (kyoguen) are interspersed as an intermission. It is a very esoteric theater, of Buddhist essence, that describes the instability of things and universal impermanence.
Bourgeois and popular literature. The new dynasty of the Tokugawa shoguns ended the civil wars of the Nambokucho (1332-92) and Muromachi (1392-1603) eras. The Tokugawa shoguns reigned from 1603 to 1868 and settled in Yedo or Edo (now Tokyo). It was two and a half centuries of peace and prosperity, which reflects literature, although without reaching the charm of the Heian period. Poetry passed from the court to the bourgeoisie and the people; towards the s. xvii song and dance pieces called kabuki were created.
Before there was already a puppet theater and popular dialogues, the yoruri, for which the authors dedicated themselves to writing plays. It has always been very popular in Japan. this puppet theater, which has its center in Osaka, from where it travels to the big cities. Kabuki is the modern form of popular theater. Chikamatsu Monzaemon was the great playwright of this genre. The shoguns protected the arts and favored literature. During the Korean expedition in 1597, new Chinese texts were introduced to Japan, as well as the printing technique. A whole team of sages spread the Confucian ethic and the Sung culture. The new Chinese humanism had great influence on Japan, once again impregnated with the culture of its powerful neighbor.
According to Youremailverifier, Japanese grammar was fixed by Moturi Norinaga with his comments from the Koyiki. The study of Shinto, the national religion, reduced work on Buddhism. There were two major schools of literature: the Sinologists, the Kangakusha, who opposed the J subject specialists, and the Wagakusha, which made the national literature resurface again. The tanka was gradually replaced by the haiku, which became fashionable, and by the renga, poems chained together.
Among the great poets of this time we can mention the group of the Six great poetic geniuses, the Rokhasen, and at their head Basho (164394), who perfected what at first was only a funny epigram turning it into a world full of mystery, of poetic feelings. Indeed, the haiku was the first element of a pleasant and sometimes humorous tanka. Since the 16th century, the first three verses of the tanka have been preserved and the haiku was built with a set of 17 syllables, made up of a five-syllable verse, another seven, and a new five-syllable verse.