The Contrast of the Heian-Era Courtier and the Kamakura Samurai

Topics: Samurai, Fujiwara clan, History of Japan Pages: 6 (2046 words) Published: May 1, 2011
The Contrast of the Heian-Era Courtier and the Kamakura Samurai April 29, 2011

The Contrast of the Heian-Era Courtier and the Kamakura Samurai The major periods that shaped Japan’s history and future were the Heian-era of Aristocracy and the Kamakura period of Samurai. The Heian-era and the Kamakura period are interesting because of their differences in social structure, tradition, and culture. In the Heian era, the aristocrat’s social class was sought by many because of their social and cultural status. When the warrior rise in the Kamakura age the social classes change dramatically between aristocrat and warrior. The Heian-era (794-1191) was an age of self development in Japan’s culture and tradition. Before the Heian-era, Japan modeled China’s civilization because of their advancement in inventions and discoveries. “…Chinese economy had grown spectacularly, and in fields as diverse as rice cultivation, the production of iron and steel, and the printing of books, China’s method of production were highly advanced”( Bedford, 2009). Despite the economic growth China was going through civil wars that threaten Japan’s government stability. As the Tang Dynasty declined Japan turned away from Chinese tradition to develop their aristocratic society. As a result, Japan revised their former Chinese based government, and this brought about the Heian-era. The Kamakura period (1185-1333) was an age of military control within the government. Toward the end of the Heian-era nobles and imperials desire for power had no bounds. When the disputes between noble and imperials could not be solved through civil means, they sought the aid of warriors to fight their battles. As the governments weaken the warriors took control, and this brought about the rise of samurais also known as Feudal Japan. It is important to understand the social class of the Heian-era before analyzing the aristocratic society. Naturally the emperor claimed sovereignty over Japan. Government officials, warlords, and Buddhist members’ assisted the emperor in governing provinces and collecting taxes. Noble families like the Fujiwara were the highest members in the court. The Fujiwara family power did not exceed the imperial family but they manage to influence the emperor through marriage. The Fujiwara women would marry a member from the imperial family and produce imperial sons. The aristocrats were the next powerful group within Japan. The aristocrats were assigned many ranks, and the highest ranking was most often reserved for the emperor as an advisor. The rank of these nobles depended on their family/clan. The Fujiwara had to earn imperial prestige through marriage. Although some aristocrats’ class was stronger than other collectively, they processed noble prestige. The Buddhist clerks were the next powerful group. When, the emperors and nobility retire from their duties they sought positions in the Buddhist temples as monks. The Buddhist monasteries also possessed their own army of warriors which helped carried out government affairs. With the combine influence of the nobility and military the Buddhist exercised their influence. The warriors who will eventually become the samurais were the least powerful. The warriors consisted mostly of farmers who had lost their land because to heavy taxes imposed by governors. The warriors would form a clan together and rebel against the government. The imperial and nobles thought of the warriors as barbaric and often look down on their martial art. In the 11th century Kamakura samurai period the social structure suffered dramatic change due to power struggle among the noble class. During the Heian era three main clans struggled for control of the government, they were the Taira, Fujiwara, and Minamoto. The Fujiwara family who was very much in control of the imperial family was losing their influence. The women in the Fujiwara family could not produce anymore sons for the imperial family which caused a separation in...
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