5 | Heian period (平安時代) 794 – 1192

Heian period (平安時代)   794 – 1192

Heian period(平安時代)started when the Emperor Kanmu(桓武天皇) moved the capital city to Heian-kyo(平安京) at 794, that is Kyoto(京都) today.

5 time line diagram

During Heian period, the Emperors ruled the country, yet early part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to Fujiwara family.  Fujiwara family managed their daughters to marry the Emperors.  This is called “Sekkan-ke” (摂関家), that means a guardian and a representative of the Emperor.  Around this time, their life style was elegant, refined and they had a graceful culture.  This is called Fujiwara culture.  Many essays and novels were written by females during this time.  Most famous one is “Genji Tales(源氏物語)” by Murasaki Shikibu(紫式部).  The Imperial court held ceremonies quite often, followed by elaborate and extravagant banquets.  Imperial social life became important.  Women had participated actively in those occasions.  Many high officials had several huge homes.  Those homes were inherited by daughters.  Mating procedures were different then.  First, a young woman and a man exchanges poems carried by their servants as a messenger.  Eventually, a young woman allows him to visit her for a short time from some distance.  Little by little, longer stay and closer.  When they decided to marry, a groom moves into the wife’s house.  Children are raised by wife’s family.  Those days (and next Kamakura period also), wife’s side of the family were considered important.  Female status was not low then.  The middle part of the Heian period, the Emperors regained their power over the imperial court, because their mothers were not from the Fujiwara family.  The latter part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to Heike family by managing their daughters to marry to the -shi became tyrannical and arrogant.  Genji joined with Fujiwara family and started a war against Hei-shi with Imperial court force, chased them and won the war at a place called Dan-no-Ura(壇ノ浦) at 1185.  This is called Genpei-Gassen (源平合戦).  This is the end of the Heian period.

This is the time, the shape of the swords changed to a curved shape. Until this time, swords were straight.  The study of swords is the swords made after the Heian period.  During this time, the elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords.  Their preference of their lifestyle appeared clearly on the swords.  The swordsmiths in Kyoto area were called Yamashiro School.  Their shape of the swords shows graceful line.  Yamashiro School represents the Heian period swords.