History of Japanese Art by Penelope Mason

In the third chapter of History of Japanese art by Penelope Mason, it covers three main topics such The Heian, the imperial palace, and the growth of Buddhist and Shinto arts. The chapter all supports the Heian period and the coming of native aesthetic. With the growth of Buddhism in Japan, it allowed for change in the cultural and political affairs of the nation. This sparked Japan to consciously change their artistic and cultural forms. This change flourished during the Heian period otherwise known as the capital of peace and tranquility.

The reason for the move from Heijon was due to the government wanting to distance the seat of secular powers from the six Buddhist schools. The government would then move to Nagaoka, although the move only lasted a decade due to a series of fires and misfortunes on the area. It was to be believed that the cause of this misfortune was due to two political enemy ghosts who were involved in the founding of Nagaoka.

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Due to that began the capital of Heian. It was in a geographically strong place surrounded by mountains and rivers. The Heian period was then divided into four centuries, the Early Heian (794)-951), the Middle Heian or Fujiwara (951-1086) and the Late Heian or Insei (1086-1185). During all three periods Japan had secluded itself from China in a sense that Japans government had passed China’s intellect and needed to flourish on its own. There was an emergence within their architecture, painting and sculpture.

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During the middle Heian, the Fujiwara began to take an active role in government opposing the Taika reforms. During the Fujiwara period Japan began thriving the government had the ability to thrive in poetry, and music.

During the late Heian period court life seemed to thrive within powerful leaders. During that period the emperor would dedicate a new Shinto worship hall every year and would also construct a Buddhist temple every 5 years. The life of an aristocrat during the Heian era was also very important. Structured of a life of polygamy women and men had very specific roles at court. Men were allowed to marry and procreate children to higher their rank at court, while women were at home with domestic duties. Polygamy during the Heian era was not only accepted but it was a social responsibility and political necessity. Interior design was a way to portray living accommodations and status wealth, many scrolls and including the film “The Tale of Genji” help the reader understand how interior design was an important element. Many artifacts such as the “Cosmetic Box” shown on page 106, contains a form style called maki-e (sprinkled painting) It is a 12th century box that portrays a popular motif of the Heian period. Most of the interior decoration show cased a symbol of wealth and class. Gardens were also important. A perfect example shown on page 108 demonstrates a scene in which Sugawara is in front of his father, there are visual examples of the garden and its bounty in greens and a stream is depicted flowing through the property. Festivities where usually held within the vicinity as shown in figure 135 a group of male noblemen are hosting a cockfight. This hand scroll was a 17th century copy by Sumiyoshi Jokei.

Literature and Calligraphy was also important to the noblemen. Even as a woman it was important to be educated in the sense of understanding literature and other forms of language studies. The Japanese syllabary known as the Hiragana was credited to monk Kukai (774-835) were used by both men and women. This syllabary encouraged women to read and write, they were not allowed to write in Chinese characters. It is why a lot of works were published in Hiragana. Poetry was also a sign of educated wealth, one’s reputation hung on the knowledge of poetry and writing. The famous Haiku evolved during this period using fundamentals like imagery and nature established a foundation for future writing styles. It was frowned upon to not know basic calligraphy for both gender roles.

A big important art form was Emakimino (papermaking) the process took sheets of paper and joined them together. The Emakimino usually was composed of text and imagery. It usually contained short stories of battle and love. The Japanese understood the importance of this art form. A great example was the creation of the “Genji Monogatari Emaki”. The scrolls where detailed and if translated in the English language would result in 1000 pages long. The scrolls contained two concepts one was “mono no aware” which translated into the pathos of things and the other one was “The tale of karmic consequences Genji generated”. The 5 sumigaki working on them had a difficult task to portray the imagery beyond the text. Illustrating different forms of emotion and intensity made the viewer understand the concept. The scrolls held different story scenarios either of nature and beauty or of the Genji.

In the early Heian period the Buddhist community felt that the schools of Nara where profiting the wealthy and weren’t actually focusing on enlightment and spiritual attainment. So, the newer schools decided to focus on Japanese Buddhism. Shingon architecture flourished within the Shingon school. The Tendei school brought forth different forms of enlightenment producing ideas concerning temple planning and architecture. Many portrait paintings were also popular with Toji. 7 paintings were preserved amongst the late Tang period (618-907) Such painting legitimized age and authenticity.

For example, #155 on page 129 depicts Nag bodhi which depict him as the greatest student that the Nagarjuna had. Sculpture also thrived during the transition from the Nara to the Heian period. Many of the sculptures where built for the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. Many of the great symbols were built in a large capacity to represent their importance in Buddhist culture. Many styles including Ichiboku (single block construction) advanced as an architectural method. Many rural temples had architectural art like the example shown on page 133 that was made out of cypress wood. This went greatly with the surrounding environment of nature. Temples were also a thriving art form. Many halls were filled with architectural designs and paintings. An example shown on page 152 shows the Konijikido Chusonji, Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefacture 1124) an extravagant temple that survived nature and forces. This proves the quality behind the infrastructures and their potency to survive. It was a hall of many that was used to worship in. the remarkable temple was surrounded by the Koromo river. Another great example was the “Haiden” worship hall which was rebuilt in 1607 after the original in 947. This is a form that has expanded and grown over the years. It never stops getting better.

Throughout the chapter Mason begins an understanding in the shift of government. There she describes a big shift in different art forms such as interior design, calligraphy, painting, sculptures and architecture. The gender roles between both male and female in the aristocratic courts. Mason describes the importance of status and knowledge that spread throughout the court. Artifacts symbolizing wealth were showcased within the house. The emergence of a new syllabary that would help encourage women to be more educated. Calligraphy enhancing the way that stories were recorded through paper making and the production of scrolls and how they were used. All of this tied in the capital of peace and tranquility because of its emergence in the arts.

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History of Japanese Art by Penelope Mason. (2021, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/history-of-japanese-art-by-penelope-mason-essay

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