Heian Period (794 – 1185)
Considered one of the culturally richest epochs in Japanese history, the Heian Period saw the zenith of court high culture. It also saw the inception of the nascent samurai, or bushi, class, whose ascendancy would eventually spell the end of Japan’s gilded age when the Taira and Minamoto clans fought each other in the Genpei War (1180 – 1185). This period saw some of Japan’s most lasting art, including Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji and Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi), as well as a move away from Chinese style ink painting and towards the more colorful yamato-e style. Waka, a 31-syllable form of poetry, was also developed and popularized during this time. As a result of these and other artistic achievements, the Heian Period is still regarded fondly by many Japanese as the high water mark of Japanese culture.