Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Heian Period

(794-1185) The Heian period is a span of nearly 400 years extending from 794, when Emperor Kammu established Heiankyō (now Kyoto) as the imperial capital of Japan, to 1185, when Minamoto no Yoritomo's forces defeated those of the Taira family, thus setting the stage for the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate. The name of the period is taken from that of the capital and means "peace and tranquility." Heian has long been an established division of history, regarded as the apogee of the nation's aristrocratic age, which produced one of the world's most exquisitely refined cultures. During Heian times, Japan fully assimilated the elements of Chinese society that the architects of the Japanese state had long emulated. While the Chinese ideals never died out completely, in economics, government, and cultural style, the Japanese created indigenous institutions that bore only a slight resemblance to Chinese prototypes. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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