Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 5
Kana Bungaku and Kanbun: Chinese Literature and the Development of Japanese Literature in the Heian Period
Organizer / Chair: Joshua S. Mostow, University of British Columbia

The purpose of this panel is to re-examine the relationship between the development of kana bungaku and classical Chinese literature in the Heian period. We will start with Imazeki Toshiko's discussion of the famous poet and poetician Ki no Tsurayuki. Imazeki argues that Tsurayuki constructs a Japanese poetics tha is a feminine alternative to the masculine Chinese literary tradition. Itô Moriyuki examines the evidence in the works of Murasaki Shikibu and Takasue's Daughter that both women were trained in Chinese literature, and that that training is manifest in their writing. Shinozuka Sumiko will look at the dialogic structure of Heian women's writing, arguing that it grew out of the seeming impossibility of dialogue between the sexes. Finally, Joshua Mostow will provide some starting discussion of the papers, along with briefly reviewing some of the work that has recently appeared in English on the issue of gender and genre in Heian literature.

1) Imezeki, Toshiko, Kawamura Gakuen Women's University. "Ki no Tsurayuki's Contribution: The Kana Preface and Tosa Diary"

Ki no Tsurayuki, a poet in the era of Kokinshû (Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry), was also a prose writer well read in Chinese classical literature. Ki no Tsurayuki's contribution to Japanese literature was such that without him Japanese literature would have followed a totally different historical path.

In Kana Preface to the Kokinshû, Tsurayuki discussed the function, uses, and characteristics of waka poetry. His discussion represented a challenge to the possibility of a new literary expression for prose in kana, beyond prose and poetry in Chinese characters. Based on and modifying Chinese poetics, Tsurayuki established an original poetics. The enlightening, moralizing, and practical features manifest in Chinese poetics are, so to speak, the logic of power. A masculine principle is at work in Chinese poetics' strong intention, will, and dominating power to educate and transform others with the identification of oneself with absolute justice. On the other hand, Tsurayuki declared a denial of power and confrontation, with harmony and peace constituting the function, use, and the characteristic of waka. Such features clearly represent the feminine principle.

It may be claimed that this poetic view of Tsurayuki was embodied in the Tosa Diary. In the Tosa Diary, Tsurayuki, under the pretence of writing as a woman, described a voyage on a boat. In this sort of an extreme situation on the boat, men and women of all ages make poems. The combination of the boat and the people, young and old, is highly metaphorical in the sense that the voyage in the Tosa Diary is a microcosm created to embrace men and women of all ages. The female pretence and expression in kana played a substantial role in the achievement of this superb piece of literature.

2) Itô Moriyuki, Hirosaki University. "On Education in the Chinese Classics and the Works of Murasaki Shikibu and Sugawara Takasue's Daughter"

I will attempt to shed some new light on education in the Chinese classics and the works of Heian women writers, especially the works of Murasaki Shikibu and Sugawara Takasue's Daughter. We can read in her Diary about Murasaki Shikibu's brilliant intelligence which surpassed that of her brother. But, as a woman, she expressed that there was no way for her to publicly display her erudition. From her first encounter with Chinese studies, Murasaki must have had mixed feelings about education in the Chinese classics for women. The relationship between such a complex about Chinese classics and the plot of The Tale of Genji is the first issue in this paper.

Next, I direct my attention to Sugawara Takasue's Daughter. Unlike Murasaki Shikibu, Takasue's Daughter describes neither her father nor older brother as a scholar, nor any instances in which she herself reads the Chinese classics in her memoir (Sarashina Nikki). Despite this, she is also thought to have composed The Tale of the Hamamatsu Counselor (Hamamatsu Chûnagon Monogatari) which takes place in part in China. Since she had never been to China herself, she must have utilized her command of Chinese literature to enable her descriptions of China. I will examine The Tale of the Hamamatsu Counselor in detail to consider Takasue's Daughter's education of Chinese classics.

3) Sumiko Shinozuka, Kyoritsu Women's University. "The Secret Beginning of Women's Literature in Japan"

Starting with the Kagerô Diary for diary literature, and reaching a peak with the Genji Monogatari for tale literature, many works were written by women in the Heian period. Why should this women's literature, unparalleled anywhere else in the world at such an early date, have come into being and flower? Various reasons have been advanced, however, perhaps one of the most important factors was that the authors of this literature lived at a turning point in Japanese women's history.

The latter half of the 10th through the 11th century was a period when the ancient ritsuryô system had ossified, and due to the establishment of the regency, power was concentrated in the hands of an extremely small number of high ranking aristocrats; consequently, the gap in status between high and middle widened and society as a whole became rigid. It may be said that members of the provincial governor's class, who were for the most part intellectuals and scholars, were aggravated by the sense that they were shut out and no matter how hard they scrambled, they could never hope to achieve success beyond their fixed status. And as for the women of this time, not only did they have to live with this sense of being shut out, but in addition to what men dealt with, their sense of tension and insecurity was increased by the polygynous marriage system and the denigrated view of women in Buddhism. Moreover, as distinct from the group consciousness of the matrilineal society that had been powerful up to that point, the situation forced them to think about making their own lives as individuals. It is in this sense, these women were living at a turning point in Japanese women's history.

North American women's studies scholar Shoshana Felman in her recent book what Does a Woman Want: Reading and Sexual Difference states, " Women through reading one another's stories create bonds with each other and through the sharing of stories belonging to them, they understand themselves with a sense of self that had not been apprehendable up to that point by any other means." This is her thesis, but it is also just what Heian women authors were engaged in, certainly they transcended the futility of dialogue with male society through writing their own literature, reading it together, sharing stories and this was the driving force in the literature they created.

Discussant: Joshua S. Mostow, University of British Columbia


list of panels