Heian Japan (794-1185)

Emperor Kammu picked up his court, concubines, and entourage and moved the capital bag
and baggage out of Nara (as yet incomplete) to the new capital, Heian-kyo (near present day Kyoto.)
A capital of peace and tranquility, Heian-kyo marked a Japan that broke from slavish imitation
of Chinese models and defined cultural breakthroughs in many areas.

One of the most famous creations to emerge in Heian times was Lady Murasaki's charming novel of court life in the capital, The Tale of Genji. Visit the site indicated below for illustrations and chapter summaries of this work, which is considered the oldest novel in the world.


A twelfth century scroll, illustrating The Tale of Genji


A lady of the Heian Court


And Buddhism continued to play an influential role in the arts of Heian Japan, as seen in this Heian temple. The Gansen-ji is a temple situated in the recess of a mountain over a hill from the city of Heian-Kyo. In the Nara period, the emperor 's Holy Priest built the original temple. Further buildings were added in Heian period by the emperor Saga, as a token of his gratitude to Buddha for the birth of his son. In the grounds of the temple, numerous huge living rocks lie exposed, and the Magai-butu (an image of Buddha carved on the wall of a cliff) stands serenely in the stillness. In the hill at the back of the temple stands the Oku-no-in. Also, from the top of the Kaibuki-iwa (one of the huge living rocks), one can enjoy a sweeping view of the Southern Yamashiro plane, together with the wonderful view of the Kizu river.


Shrine in Kyoto

The samurai class which came to play a vastly dominant and influential role in Japanese history and culture began to emerge as something distinct in the Heian period. By this time, they fought effectively with bow and arrow on horseback and possessed swords of remarkable durability and sharpness.


For links on Heian Japan, visit






Background mandala: http://www.t3.rim.or.jp/~ramusa/mandara.html

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