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Historical writing in Japan was infused with new life and meaning with the appearance of two significant works casting the life and times of Fujiwara no Michinaga against a backdrop of dynastic history: Eiga monogatari and Okagami. Eiga monogatari is a history, yet it is written in kana and from what everyone think of as a feminine perspective. Like Eiga monogatari, Okagami is framed as a dynastic history written in kana, but the two differ markedly in form and narrative voice. Next, Gukansho was, written by Tendai Abbot Jien in 1220, penned just before the Jokyu uprising shook relations between the court and the fledgling Kamakura shogunate in 1221. Gukansho is presented as a history, divided into seven chapters. The first two trace the reigns from Jinmu through GoHorikawa, including lists of the ministers and Tendai abbots who presided during each reign. The chronology is followed by four chapters of narrative analysis of this history.
The eighth-century ritsuryo state system, with its system of ranks, ministries, and university, continued to operate throughout the Heian period and provided the framework for a court-based state system, which emerged at the beginning of the tenth century. One of the major characteristics of this court-based state was gradual concentration of power outside the capital in the provincial governors, drawn from middle-rank aristocrats, who were the fathers of women writers of this period. The early Heian period was marked by the continued prominence of Chinese-based literature and culture and the gradual introduction of vernacular cultural forms, particularly the court-based vernacular literature written in kana, a new syllabary, which flourished from the tenth century onward. One of the striking characteristics of the emergence of Japanese vernacular literature was the central role played by women writers who were closely associated with the imperial court in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, such as Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shonagon.
The degree to which Bai Juyi's poetry outshone that of his Tang contemporaries in the Japanese constellation of the poetic universe is quite remarkable and is not merely a reflection of the contemporary Chinese canon. The incorporation of Bai's poetry, and by extension other literary texts from China, into the Heian literary world view is reflected by Wakan roeishu, edited by Fujiwara no Kinto. Wakan roeishu is an anthology of poetry in Chinese or Sino-Japanese and Japanese organized in thematic rubrics. Compiler Fujiwara no Kinto juxtaposed waka with over eighth hundred couplets by Japanese and Chinese kanshi poets. Wakan roeishu is divided into two books, or volumes. The first book covers the four seasons, in gradual procession from early spring to the end of winter and the end of the year. The second book is a miscellaneous arrangement of often intriguing categories, from monkeys and recluses to courtesans and the color white.