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Heian Period

The Heian period (平安時代) is the last division of classical Japanese history that runs from 794 to 1185 AD. The Heian period is considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art and especially in poetry and literature. The name heian is a word that means "peace" in Japanese.

The Heian period is preceded by the Nara period and began in 794 after the movement of the capital of Japanese civilisation to Kyoto by the 50th emperor Kammu. It is considered a high point in Japanese culture that later generations have always admired. Also, the time period is also noted for the rise of the samurai which would eventually usurp the power of the emperor and start the feudal period of Japan. The Kamakura period began in 1185 when Minamoto no Yoritomo seized power from the emperors and established a bakufu, the Kamakura Shogunate, in Kamakura.

This period saw the flowering of the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism, founded by Kukai, as well as the Jodo Shinshu, or True Pure Land, school, founded by Shinran.

Heian Period Literature

Although written Chinese remained the official language of the Heian period imperial court, the introduction and wide use of kana saw a boom in Japanese literature. Despite the establishment of several new literary genre such as the novel and narrative monogatari (物語) and essays, literacy was only common among the court and Buddhist clergy.

The lyrics of the modern Japanese national anthem, "Kimi Ga Yo," were written in the Heian period, as was The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, accounted by many as the first novel. Murasaki Shikibu's contemporary and rival Sei Shonagon's revealing observations and musings as an attendant in the Empress' court were recorded collectively as The Pillow Book in the 990s. The famous Japanese poem known as the iroha was also written during the Heian period.

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