Relying on Art In Heian Period of ancient Japan, arts, including literature and music, had profound affectations to aristocrats. The tale of Genji, a prose that focus on the livelihood of aristocrats, shows a variety of activities related to arts. In the tale of Genji, the most frequent appearance arts among aristocrats: poetry, Biwa and koto, are the indispensible components of their everyday lives in the plots depicted. They not only use them for entertaining (as what we do today), but also for other uses. The importance of these arts is exactly embodied by the functions of them using in that period: expressing emotions, communicating between women and men, and displaying the intelligence of a person.
Poetry occurred the most frequently in Heian period. First of all, Aristocrats regarded poetry as the media of expressing emotions and opinions. It is convenient to compose and record. Writing poetry was a culture of Heian period. People always improvise, facing with certain sight view and matter and they need to tell their feelings. When a man is leaving toward a distant place from his hometown, he said on the boat:
“How poignant now
For what lies behind-
The returning waves.”
From his words we can tell he is recalling the past sadly (The tale of Ise, pp. 73-74). When To no Chujo lost his son Kashiwagi because of serious illness, watching the cherry withered, he voiced his sorrow by “Drenched by the fall from these trees, I mourn for a child who should in the natural order have mourned for me.” It precisely conveys the feeling that To no Chujo was deeply grieved about the fact that his son passed away ahead of him. He though as a father, he should be the one left earlier. Others answered with poems as well to express the pity that kashiwagi was too young to leave. (The Tale of Genji, pp. 653-654) And most of the expressions told by poetry are sad. In my opinion, the poetry offers people a gorgeous way to express sadness indirectly with rhetorical words, which makes it vivid. Waka, a form of this kind of poetry, always contain the description of passing seasons such as spring and autumn to show the evanescence.
Secondly, exchanging poetries is an implicit way for women and men to communicate naturally, especially about love. As dialogue, it makes men and women close stimulate the adoration between them (Schirokauer pp.60). A surprising point is that women in Heian Period, different from Chinese women, could improvise poetries as well as men. Although the form of education is limited to women, even to the most gifted women writer at that time, women were allowed to learn basic knowledge and created excellent poetry. (Women of Ancient Japan, pp. 167) In the Heian period, the background is most of the marriages are political marriage in order to ally between familes. As a result, many people were forced to marry those who they did not love. And when they met the one they love, they exchange poetries. Nobody says love directly. The letters between kashiwagi and the third princess was a strong example of this point. When Kashiwagi was severe ill and felt like dying, he wrote a letter with a poem filled with love, asking the third princess for consolation; the third princess also wrote a poem to express her sorrow and love as last words she could say to him. (The Tale of Genji, pp. 637) Two people were connected by the poems. Also, the communications between the second princess and yugiri were similar. The second princess was sad for her loss of husband. However, yugiri, as her husband’s best friend, has some feelings for her, which was apparently inappropriate in that situation. Therefore, when yugiri used poems to illustrate that he was enamored of her, the second princess replied a poem with declination and her fidelity to her husband (The Tale of Genji, pp. 637). In the tale of Ise, there are many supports. Women and men use poems for the confessions of love. They confirmed…