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Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court Essay


The Heian period is considered to be one of the most remarkable periods when arts and especially literature flourished. This period is also associated with a very special role women played at the royal court. Some researchers claim that this was the period of certain empowerment of women as they occupied specific posts at the court (Ebrey et al. 208).

However, this was also the time when women shaped the very nature of Japanese literature and developed a very special literary style. Some works created at that time are still regarded as some of the most significant masterpieces of the world literature. Females made Japanese literature refined, intimate a bit subjective, but absolutely majestic.

During the Heian period women started playing a more active role in the Japanese society. However, this role was still secondary as males were regarded as superior members of the society. This was revealed in various fields. For instance, women were not taught Classical Chinese as that language was seen as “very much a male preserve” (Bowring 11).

It is believed that males were afraid of possible empowerment of women through their knowledge of the formal state language and, thus, males did not let women learn the Chinese language (Bowring 12). Though, it is also important to note that women were not deprived of education as they could use Japanese which was then a written language (Bowring 12).

The Japanese language was not spoken at that time and was seen as somewhat archaic. However, this was not an obstacle for women who started writing down their contemplations and observations, their dreams and aspirations. Soon Japanese prose became an example of the most refined language.

Women remained in the terrain males reserved for them. Females kept diaries where they shared their feelings and their viewpoints. These pieces were rather fragmented and addressed a variety of issues. This specific style had become classic soon.

For instance, during this period two major works, which are regarded as major masterpieces of the period, were written: Pillow Book by Sei Shonagun and Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu.

These works are very intimate but they are regarded as historical and literary works. As has been mentioned above, the authors expressed their feelings and their viewpoints. They also wrote about their life at the court and depicted events which had happened.

However, what is the most remarkable about the period and women’s role at the court is the refined style developed by female authors. Notably, Bowring claims that the language itself was one of the factors that contributed to development of such a refined style (12).

Admittedly, the written language was not spoken at that time and female authors had to use quite formal structures without making their works too ‘prosaic’. Of course, the language played a very important role. However, those were females who created the so-called “flowery language” (qtd. in Bowring 12). They had specific vision and specific style which combined formal structures, sincerity and emotions.

The style developed by female authors was really special and it became a model to follow. This style reigned throughout a century. This style did empowered women to certain extent as they became poetic reporters of the life during that period. The importance of literary works created by females was certain evidence that women changed the court significantly as they won a particular niche for females.

Works Cited

Bowring, Richard. Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, Anne Walthall and James Palais. East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2008. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, April 12). Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/influence-of-women-on-the-culture-of-the-heian-court/

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"Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court." IvyPanda, 12 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/influence-of-women-on-the-culture-of-the-heian-court/.

1. IvyPanda. "Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court." April 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/influence-of-women-on-the-culture-of-the-heian-court/.


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IvyPanda. "Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court." April 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/influence-of-women-on-the-culture-of-the-heian-court/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court." April 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/influence-of-women-on-the-culture-of-the-heian-court/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Influence of Women on the Culture of the Heian Court'. 12 April.

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