The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan

The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan

by Ivan Morris


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Ivan Morris’s definitive and widely acclaimed portrait of the ceremonious and melancholy world of ancient Japan.

Using The Tale of Genji and other major literary works from Japan’s Heian period as a frame of reference, The World of the Shining Prince recreates an era when women set the cultural tone. Focusing on the world of the emperor’s court—a world deeply admired by Virginia Woolf, among others—renowned scholar of Japanese history and literature Ivan Morris explores the politics, society, religious life, and superstitions of the period.

Offering readers detailed portrayals of the daily lives of courtiers, the cult of beauty they espoused, and the intricate relations between the men and women of the age, The World of the Shining Prince has been a cornerstone text on ancient Japan for half a century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140550832
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/03/1985
Series: Peregrine Books
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ivan Morris studied Japanese language and culture at Harvard University while serving in the Intelligence Section of the U.S. Navy Reserves. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1951, he worked for the Far East Section of the BBC as well as for the Japan and Pacific departments of the British Foreign Office. He lived in Tokyo for several years, writing, lecturing, and teaching. In 1960 he joined what would later be renamed the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, where he served as department chair. He was elected a Fellow of St. Anthony’s College at Oxford in 1966. Morris published numerous books on Japanese history, literature, and politics and produced distinguished translations of classical and contemporary Japanese works. He died in 1976.

Table of Contents

Introduction Barbara Ruch ix

Preface xxi

Introduction by the Author xxiii

I The Heian Period 1

II The Setting 15

III Politics and Society 41

A The Emperors 41

B The Fujiwaras 47

C Society 63

D Administration 69

E Economy 72

F Provincials and the Lesser Breeds 79

IV Religions 89

V Superstitions 123

VI The 'Good People' and their Lives 141

VII The Cult of Beauty 170

VIII The Women of Heian and their Relations with Men 199

IX Murasaki Shikibu 251

X Aspects of 'the tale of genji' 265


1 Periods of Far Eastern History, and Rulers in Japan during the Heian Period 291

2 A Note on the Tenth Century 293

3 Is The Tale of Genji Complete? 298

4 Genealogical Tables 302

5 Murasaki on the Art of Fiction 308

6 Glossary 311

Bibliography 321

Index 325

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The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan (Kodansha Globe Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
orchid314 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very perceptive, well-written look at the cultural life of Heian Japan, c. 900-1100 AD. This was a society obsessed with aesthetics, where the colors on the sleeve of one's kimono were minutely analyzed for the coded messages they conveyed, and where poetry was an essential element of daily life (at least among the ruling elite). Highly recommended if you're thinking about reading The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon or tackling Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji.
thierry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very excellent and richly detailed overview of court life in Japan¿s Heian period approximately from the XVIII to the XII century which can serve as a companion to and is based on two novels, The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book, written during the period by court ladies (who wrote in Japanese while the men were busying themselves writing in bad Chinese). This treatment of the period thoroughly portrays Court life in all its saucy and titillating details (gums blackened with charcoal to look sexy, midnight romps through the imperial compound, beatitude state and tears in response to something beautiful). Given the remoteness of the period, it is quite extraordinary that such material is available, although much of the information pertains exclusively to a restricted and elevated section of the population. I found this book to be utterly engrossing chiefly because it successfully depicts a human experience which is so foreign and removed from our own as to be barely comprehensible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago