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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

ARTCeramics did not advance in the Heian epoch

was a waterfall feeding the

lake, usually at its southern end; and at the eastern and western limits of the garden, respectively, a grotto for angling and a "hermitage of spring water"--a sort of picnic ground frequented on summer evenings. The great artist, Kanaoka, of the end of the ninth century worked at laying out these rockeries and tiny parks. A native school of architects, or more correctly carpenters, had arisen in the province of Hida. There was less temple building than in the Nara epoch and more attention was given to the construction of elegant palaces for court officials and nobles. But these were built of wood and were far from being massive or imposing. As in other periods of Japanese architecture, the exterior was sacrificed to the interior where there were choice woodworking and joinery in beautiful woods, and occasionally screen-or wall-painting as decoration. There was still little house-furnishing. Mats (tatami), fitted together so as to cover the floor evenly, were not used until the very close of the period; and then, too, sliding doors began to be used as partitions. The coverings of these doors, silk or paper, were the "walls" for Japanese mural paintings of the period. As the tatami came into more general use, the bedstead of the earlier period, which was itself a low dais covered with mats and with posts on which curtains and nets might be hung, went out of use, being replaced by silken quilts spread on the floor-mats. Cushions and arm-rests were the only other important pieces
of furniture.


In the Heian epoch, Court costume was marked by the two characteristics that we have seen elsewhere in the period--extravagance and convention. Indeed, it may be said that Chinese dress and etiquette, introduced after the time of Kwammu were the main source of the luxury of the period. Costume was extreme, not alone in being rich and costly, but in amount of material used. Princely and military head-dresses were costly, jewelled, and enormously tall, and women wore their hair, if possible, so that it trailed below their elaborate skirts. Men's sleeves and trousers were cut absurdly large and full; and women's dress was not merely baggy but voluminous. At a palace fete in 1117 the extreme of elegance was reached by ladies each wearing a score or so of different coloured robes. In this period the use of costly and gorgeous brocades and silks with beautiful patterns and splendid embroideries began.

Women at Court, and the Court dandies who imitated them, painted artificial eye-brows high on the forehead, shaving or plucking out the real brows, powdered and rouged their faces and stained their teeth black.


Ceramics did not advance in the Heian epoch, but in all other branches of art there were rapid strides forward. The development of interior decoration in temples, monasteries, and palaces was due to progress on the part of lacquerers and painters. Gold lacquer, lacquer with a gold-dust surface (called nashi-ji), and lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl were increasingly used. Thanks in part to the painters' bureau (E-dokoro) in the palace, Japanese painters began to be ranked with their Chinese teachers. Koze Kanaoka was the first to be thus honored, and it is on record that he was engaged to paint figures of arhats on the sliding doors of the palace. The epoch also boasted Fujiwara Tameuji, founder of the Takuma family of artists, and Fujiwara Motomitsu, founder of the Tosa academy. The sculpture of the time showed greater skill, but less grandeur of conception, than the work of the Nara masters. Sculpture in wood was important, dating especially from the 11th century. Jocho, possibly the greatest of the workers in this medium, followed Chinese models, and carved a famous Buddha for Michinaga's temple of Hosho-ji (1022). Jocho's descendant Unkei was the ancestor of many busshi or sculptors of Buddhist statues; and Kwaikei, a pupil of Unkei's brother Jokaku, is supposed to have collaborated with Unkei on the great gate-guardians of the Todai-ji temple. It is important to note that, especially in the latter half of the Heian epoch, painters and sculptors were usually men of good family. Art had become fashionable.

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