The Heian Period [平安時代] or heian jidai is the last division of classical Japanese history, which runs from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the rise of the capital of Heian-kyō (now known as Kyoto).
This is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism, and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and was noted for its art, especially poetry and literature.
Although the Imperial House of Japan had power on the surface, real power was in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful aristocratic family that married into the imperial family. Many emperors actually had mothers from the Fujiwara clan. heian (平安) means "peace" in Japanese.- - - -
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History of the Heian Period
The Heian period was preceded by the Nara period and began in 794 CE after the move of Japan's capital to Heian-kyō by the 50th emperor Kanmu.
Kanmu first tried to move the capital to Nagaoka-kyō, but a series of disasters befell the city, prompting the emperor to move the capital a second time, to Heian. A rebellion took place in China in the last years of the 9th century, making the political situation unstable.
Japanese missions to China were suspended and the influx of Chinese exports stopped, a fact that facilitated the growth of the independent Japanese culture called kokufu bunka.
Therefore, the Heian Period is considered a high point in Japanese culture that later generations always look up to. The period is also noted for the emergence of the samurai class, who would eventually take power and initiate the feudal period of japan.
Rise of the Military Class
Under the first courts, when military conscription had been centrally controlled, military affairs had been taken out of the hands of the provincial aristocracy. But as the system collapsed after 792, local power holders once again became the main source of military strength. The restoration of an efficient military system was done gradually through a process of trial and error.
At that time, the imperial court did not have an army, but rather depended on an organization of professional warriors composed mainly of oryoshi, who were appointed to an individual province and tsuibushi, who were appointed through imperial circuits or for specific tasks. This gave rise to the Japanese military class. However, final authority rested with the imperial court.
those who owned Shoen (privately owned) gained access to manpower, and as they gained improved military technology (such as new training methods, more powerful bows, better armour, horses, and swords) and facing worsening local conditions in the 9th century, the service military has become part of the life of the holder of the shoen.
Not only they, but also civil and religious institutions formed private guard units to protect themselves. Gradually, the provincial upper class was transformed into a new military elite based on the ideals of the bushi (warrior) or samurai (who serves).
Rise of Buddhism
Buddhism began to spread throughout Japan during this period through two main sects, Tendai and Shingon. Tendai originated in China and is based on the Lotus Sutra, one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism; The monk Saichō was the key to its transmission to Japan. Shingon is the Japanese broadcast of the Chinese school of Chen Yen. Shingon was brought to Japan by the monk Kūkai.
Emperor Kanmu himself was a notable patron of the Tendai sect. Kūkai impressed later emperors as well as future generations with poetry, calligraphy, painting, and sculpture. Shingon, through the use of symbols and rituals, had a wide appeal in the country.
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Economic situation in the Heian period
Despite all the cultural and religious development in Japan, the country's economic situation was dismal.
Until the year 1000, Fujiwara Michinaga could corner and dethrone emperors at will. Little authority was left to traditional officialdom, and governmental affairs were handled by the private administration of the Fujiwara clan.
At that same time, the Fujiwara clan proved to be incompetent in managing Japan and its provinces, as the economy was so weakened that the government could no longer issue currency and money was disappearing. Thanks to this, rice payment was implemented to replace local money.
The Fujiwara clan also failed to maintain adequate police forces, leaving thieves and other criminals to roam freely, which drastically affected the safety of travelers.
The end of the Heian Period
The aristocrats in Heian-kyo lived very well, but in rural Japan most people were quite poor. Peasant farming and other jobs financed the rich of Heian-kyo. Even so, the rich despised the poor and ignored their problems.
As the wealthy focused on culture in Heian-kyo, events in the countryside began to weaken the Heian court. The practice of giving large estates to superior nobles slowly reduced the power of emperors. those who owned shoes did not pay taxes. After a while, tax-free land was quite common. The government was no longer able to collect enough taxes to support the emperor.
Japan's rulers began to lose control. Criminals roamed the countryside. People of different religions began to band together to attack and rob each other. The government was too weak to provide law enforcement. the owners of shoes created their own police and armies to protect their lands. The landowners' profits were to pay for their private security rather than support the emperor.
In the 12th century, the power of some local lords matched that of the weakened imperial government. Disputes over land control erupted across the country. Meanwhile, various clans struggled for power in the capital. In 1180, there was a civil war in Japan.
In 1185, Minamoto Yoritomo, head of a military family, assumed power. A new era began in which military leaders controlled Japan, known as shogunate.