Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Heian Means To Me

NHK World TV - old illustration of Sei Shonagon
[This post has hyperlinks. Please feel free to click away!]

As a fan of Japanese culture, I go all out, going beyond the constraints of Anime and Manga --and this makes me a Geek, for those who still can't tell the difference with the term Nerd. 

I also tend to read, when time allows me, a lot of English-translated Japanese literature. I try to gravitate towards the contemporary but keep returning to the classics. 

When others claim to have read Shakespeare, I can say I have read "The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon". I blame publisher Grove Press for this. [The parent company is Grove Atlantic. Please check them out]
Grove Press is heavily reference and history title but do not let that daunt you. Their books are amazing, you will learn so many things in such enjoyable competent writing and they are quite friendly on Twitter too! :)  

"The Story of Lady Li" a Tang Dynasty short story, from my Grove Press collection of ancient Chinese literature -- during this dynasty, short stories had grown in popularity at this time, as well as some kick-butt jade sculpturing, I might add -- and this tale inspired me to write "Su Ling", which after some rejections, became my first published short story. 

But all roads lead... As the saying goes. Chinese culture was my gateway to other Asian cultures and their medias. Japanese animation, called anime (pronounced an-nee-may) by its fans both casual, intermediate, and hardcore, soon got me researching Japanese lit. 

Let me remind you that it's because animation from Japan is so thorough and steep in its cultural background, that it maddened me to watch these cartoons and struggle to understand what the meaning of this was versus the meaning of something else. 

Fast-forward to community college, and not only did I discover someone's discarded The Pillow-Book of Sei Shonagon, but reading this Heian Dynasty diary by an actual court lady was one of the most exciting books I had ever come across. Reading historical letters, diary entries, and somebody else's thoughts from a given time period has been the one thing that has kept history alive for me. To understand that history is not just a boring class of memorization of dates, tidbits, and figures. 

There were many references to the pillow book. The more I dug into the diary, I began to search for more information. Especially when Lady Murasaki came up and I learned she was the author of The Tale of Genji, the world's first novel. Yes, that's right. A Japanese noble woman invented the novel! 

And because it was a time that even women of high status could not learn the written language that the men could, many women invented their own lettering system and used this 'female alphabet' to write down in their diaries, write to one another, and write stories, as Lady Murasaki did.

This particular blog post was a long time in the making. It also explains why it is so hyperlink-heavy. I will speak more on this in another post. Please bear with me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment