Art and Culture in Heian

          In the days of ancient Japan,a golden age arose. This was the Heian Period. During this golden age, art flourished. These arts included fashion, literature, visual art, (like paintings and calligraphy), architecture, performing arts, and even religion was something of an art. This all happened because of the new imperial court.

Japanese Nobles Begin the Art Movement:

          When the emperor of Japan moved to Heian, the nobles wanted to continue to be in good favor wit him. They created the imperial court, so they could live and serve close to his majesty. Because of this, they lived away from the common people, with lives of ease and privilege. Most of the nobles were supporters of the arts, and the courts became a great center of culture and learning, not just luxury.


        The nobles put great effort into their appearances. Their outfits were composed of silk with gold accents. Woman wore long gowns made of silk, which were cut in an expert way to show each of its 12 layers. They also had decorative fans, which were almost always painted with scenes of nature, such as flowers, trees, and birds. Now, the Japanese are still very colorful, and dress like we do, except it also wouldn't be surprising if you were to visit Japan and your waiter looked like he/she came out of a cartoon. Many dress like characters from anime (Japanese cartoons), which are very popular there.


        Nobles also took great care with their reading and writing. Writing in Japanese rather than Chinese was very popular among woman, who wrote in diaries about their days at court. This is the reason why many early works of Japanese writing were written by woman. One of the greatest works of early literature, The Tale of Genji, was written by Lady Murasaki and is considered the worlds first full-length novel, and one of the best.  It's about Genji's trips around Japan, and mostly about his love-life. Poetry was also very famous. One type of poetry that came from here is one composed of 5 lines, and would be written about nature.

Visual Art:

          The most popular visual art forms were paintings and calligraphy. The Japanese paintings has bold, bright colors and mostly illustrated stories. They even painted on doors and furniture rather than paper! Calligraphy is the art of decorative writing. The Japanese practiced this to make poems look as great as they sounded. Today, Japanese painting I'd considered one of the most beautiful art styles around. Not as many people do Calligraphy, but it is still considered a beautiful art. Also, Japan's poetry is probably why it's most famous. Where do you think Haiku came from?


Wanting to make their city beautiful, the nobles modeled Heian after the Chinese capital, Chang'an. You can really see the influence of the buildings in their temples. This is where the stereotypical look of Japanese buildings with the slanted roofs came from. Most buildings were made of wood with thatched or tiled roofs, and had gardens and ponds.

Performing Arts:

The performing arts got popular in Japan during the Heian period. People would gather to see musicians, jugglers, and acrobats. In the 1300s, a drama called Noh was created here. It combines music, speaking, and dance. In current day Japan, they do circuses and still continue the art of Noh.

Buddhism Changes:

Soon, even religion became art. Since poor people couldn't afford to do certain ceremonies, different forms of Buddhism arose. Pure Land Buddhism was popular among the common people, and consisted of repeating the Buddha's name over and over to achieve the enlightened state. In the 1100s, Zen came over from China. The people who practice Zen practice self-discipline and meditation.

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