The Heian Dynasty 794-1185 AD

Japan's Golden Age of Peace

By Abdel Diab

The Rise of the Heian Dynasty

Emperor Kammu began the Heian era when he moved the imperial capital from from Nara to Heian (now known as Kyoto) in 794. He based the design of his new capital on the tang chinese imperial city of Chang'an, now called Xian.
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What does HEIAN mean

Heian means peace and tranquility, so the city was a peaceful capital

Isolation of Heian Japan

At this period of time, Japan was living self-sufficient isolation. It was closed to foreigners for more than 200 years and not a lot of trade has been going on.
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Timeline of JAPAN

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The period was characterized by the flourishing culture of the court aristocracy, which actively engaged I Nb the pursuit of the of aesthetic refinement, leading to new developments in art and literature. Different cultures have varied standards for female beauty. Some societies prefer women with stretched lower lips, or facial tattoos, or brass rings around their elongated necks. In Heian Era Japan, a beautiful woman had to have incredibly long hair, layer after layer of silk robes, and an intriguing make-up routine. The women of the imperial court in Heian Japan grew their hair as long as possible. They wore it straight down their backs, a shining piece of black tresses (called kurokami).

The Tale of Genji

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Social Classes

One of the most influential groups of the Heian era was the aristocratic Fujiwara family. The family played an important role during the Heian period, by succeeding in dominating the royal family by marrying female clan members to emperors. The literary classic The Tale of Genji was written by a member of the Fujiwara clan named Murasaki Shikibu, due to their involvement in encouraging an aura of courtly sophistication and the visual of literary arts. Scholars, astrologers, and bureaucrats tend to define the shining lights of the Heian era rather than the generals and famous warriors that marked many centuries that follow this period.
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During the Heian era, multiple religious beliefs were being characterized. A combination of Kami worshiping, spirit possession, Buddhism, and local traditions as we'll as moral and ritual practices derived from Confucianism and Daoism. Rhetoric of the ideal Buddhist monarch shaped political ideology, while rites of Kami worship portrayed the emperor as sacral king, and gender politics structured differences in men women's religious practice.
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During the first century of the Heian period, before the Fujiwara had secured their grip on power, there were several issues that occupied the concerns of the central government in Kyoto. They were the campaigns against the aborigines (Ainu), The reform of the land tenure and taxation system. Although the imperial family had regained control of the capital, the power of the central government over the outlying areas was fading fast. Filling these gaps were local strongmen,who were often distant imperial relatives. This was because in the early Heian period, the central government realized that there were so many relatives that it would go broke supporting them all, so they became certain to remove riches from the emperor by cutting off the financial support from the government
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Farming was the basic of the economy in Heian Japan and rice was the main crop. Prawns and lobsters were popular as well.

The popular drink of Heian was sake, or rice wine. This was a strong wine made from partly cooked rice that had gone moldy. The central government also fostered the development of the technology to establish irrigation systems that would increase yields from the field. Fishing was a major activity too. The Heian trade was very slight. They exported fine woods, products of the sea, and some weapons.

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Samurai were warriors that fought for their emperor and the daimyo (large landowners of Japan) and bushido was their code of honor.

Society was greatly affected by samurai and their lifestyles. Samurai taught and showed others that they were self-disciplined, strong, and had dignity.

They also developed new military tactics and protected the daimyo land and fought for shogun leaders.

Samurai were very up-to-date. Every time a new weapon was invented, it was mastered by them. By the 12th century, samurai war leaders rose in power. Samurai were trained even in peaceful tomes. Both men and women were trained, but only men got to go to war. Women were trained to protect their household.

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Bushido focuses on honor and freedom from the fear of death. Because of Bushido, Samurai couldn't do certain things. They could not attend certain types of entertainment because some were considered beneath them. Also, if samurai lost a war, failed to protect their leaders, or disobeyed their leaders, they were entitled to commit stepping, suicide by ritually stabbing themselves with a short sword.
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The Fall of Heian Japan

Giving estates to nobles reduced emperors power. landowners didnt tax and tax free land was common. No tax money means no money to support the emperor, which means the government didn't enforce the law. As a result, landowners had armies to protect their land which means that the landowners had more power than the emperor. At that point, The emperor was just a figurehead. Japan's rulers began to lose control and Bandits roamed countryside. Different religions robbed each other. the civil war began in 1180 and Minamoto seized power in 1185.
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Works Cited

Department of Asian art "Heian period (794-1185)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.

(Oct 2002)

"Samurai and Bushido." . A&E

Television Networks, n.d. Wed. 16 Mar. 2014