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During the early medieval period the samurai were drawn to aristocratic and court culture of the capital, as the Heike had been. The prominent samurai waka poet was Minamoto no Sanetomo, who took an interest in Manyoshu-style poetry. One of the main characteristics of medieval literature is that much of it was produced by groups rather than by individuals, in military chronicles like The Tales of the Heike and the Taiheiki. Aristocratic literature in the medieval period was characterized by strong nostalgia for the Heian past and an emphasis on preserving court traditions. Two literary figures of the late Muromachi period were Shotetsu and the renga master Sogi, of uncertain origins, who wrote influential treatises on renga and numerous commentaries on the classics. Setsuwa literature were collected from as early as the Nara period and appeared in the late Heian period in the massive Konjaku monogatari shu. Buddhist writings in the Heian period were always written in Literary Sinitic.
In the early Heian Academy, talented scholars were sometimes able to rise to posts on the Council of State itself, but the hegemony of the Fujiwara Regents' House effectively ended literati political influence. During the mid to late Heian period, the collection Godansho contains many anecdotes illustrating the friction between hereditary scholars and unaffiliated students, as in this conversation about Sugawara no Fumitoki, scion of the Sugawara lineage, and Minamoto no Shitago, a less prestigious student from the same Letters curriculum. Another burst of glory for the traditional scholarly families was Oe no Masafusa, a child prodigy who tutored and advised three emperors, and was the first of his lineage to sit on the Council in over a century. Near the end of his life, Masafusa's student Fujiwara no Sanekane, began keeping a record of his conversations with his teacher, Godansho, an important influence on later setsuwa literature.
The first extant setsuwa collection is the aforementioned Nihon ryoiki, a Buddhist collection edited and compiled in the early Heian period. Godansho is a setsuwa collection that records stories narrated by Oe no Masafusa, one of the leading scholars and poets of the time. The systematic attempt to provide knowledge of the past, particularly of the aristocratic past, is evident in Kokon chomonju, which was edited around 1254 by Tachibana Narisue, a low-ranking aristocrat and literatus who received the secret transmission on playing the lute. Since one of the objectives of setsuwa collections such as the late Heian period Konjaku monogatari shu, edited by Gento, was to provide an encyclopedic worldview, centered on India, China, and Japan, these collections included stories from these three countries. The Kara monogatari, a late-Heian period setsuwa anthology perhaps edited by Fujiwara Shigenori, is a collection of poem-tale style adaptations from Chinese texts.
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