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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Originally an officer of the guards in Kyoto


at Kamakura, the Bakufu regents, Yasutoki, Tokiyori and Tokimune, earnest disciples of Buddhism, were building temples and assigning them to Chinese priests of the Sung and Yuan eras who reached Japan as official envoys or as frank propagandists. Five great temples thus came into existence in the Bakufu capital, and as the Chinese bonzes planned and superintended their construction, these buildings and their surroundings reflected the art-canons at once of China, of Japan, and of the priests themselves. The same foreign influence made itself felt in the region of literature. But we should probably be wrong in assuming that either religion or art or literature for their own sakes constituted the sole motive of the Hojo regents in thus acting. It has already been shown that they welcomed the foreign priests as channels for obtaining information about the neighbouring empire's politics, and there is reason to think that their astute programme included a desire to endow Kamakura with an artistic and literary atmosphere of its own, wholly independent of Kyoto and purged of the enervating elements that permeated the latter.

This separation of the civilizations of the east (Kwanto) and the west (Kyoto) resulted ultimately in producing asceticism and religious reform. The former, because men of really noble instincts were insensible to the ambition which alone absorbed a Kyoto litterateur--the ambition of figuring prominently in an approved anthology--and

had, at the same time, no inclination to follow the purely military creed of Kamakura. Such recluses as Kamo Chomei, Saigyo Hoshi and Yoshida Kenko were an outcome of these conditions. Chomei has been called the "Wordsworth of Japan." He is immortalized by a little book of thirty pages, called Hojoki (Annals of a Cell.) It is a volume of reflections suggested by life in a hut measuring ten feet square and seven feet high, built in a valley remote from the stir of life. The style is pellucid and absolutely unaffected; the ideas are instinct with humanity and love of nature. Such a work, so widely admired, reveals an author and an audience instinct with graceful thoughts.

In the career of Saigyo--"the reverend," as his title "hoshi" signifies--there were episodes vividly illustrating the manners and customs of the tune. Originally an officer of the guards in Kyoto, he attained considerable skill in military science and archery, but his poetic heart rebelling against such pursuits, he resigned office, took the tonsure, and turning his back upon his wife and children, became a wandering bard. Yoritomo encountered him one day, and was so struck by his venerable appearance that he invited him to his mansion and would have had him remain there permanently. But Saigyo declined. On parting, the Minamoto chief gave him as souvenir a cat chiselled in silver, which the old ascetic held in such light esteem that he bestowed it on the first child he met. Yoshida Kenko, who became a recluse in 1324, is counted among the "four kings" of Japanese poetry--Ton-a, Joben, Keiun, and Kenko. He has been called the "Horace of Japan." In his celebrated prose work, Weeds of Tedium (Tsure-zure-gusa), he seems to reveal a lurking love for the vices he satirizes. These three authors were all pessimistic. They reflected the tendency of the time.

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