Heian Era: 794-1192

The capital of Japan was moved yet again, this time to Heian-ko "the capital of peace and tranquility." Eleven centuries later its name was changed to Kyoto.

During the early Heian period (794-897) the Emperors were strong and relationships continued with China.

The power of the emperors declined over time and one family of courtiers, the Fujiwara, ended up dominating the affairs of the state. Communications with China was suspended in 894 and the time from 897 on is referred to as the late Heian, or Fujiwara, period.

This was a time for Japan to develop its own culture and society. Literature flourished with novels, especially the Genji Monogatari or Tale of Genji. written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. It's considered the first Japanese novel, the first novel written by a lady of the Court, and is still read today. It talks about the clothing worn during this time along with other aspects of the society of the day.

Another book from about this time is the Makura no Soshi by Sei Shonagon. The English title of the work is the Pillow Book. This is another book by a lady of the court and gives further insight into the society of the upper classes of those times.

A particular form of Japanese poetry called the waka (31-syllable verse) was developed. New "Japanised" Buddhist sects were established. The Fujiwara family rose to power behind the throne.

There were major developments in yamato-e, or secular Japanese-style painting, especially illustrated scrolls which matched pictures to the unfolding of a story written in poetry or prose.

The nobles lost their power, and the governors of the provinces generally became corrupt and lazy. Public welfare was ignored and the court aristocracy became effete and useless. The owners of manorial districts formed bands of warriors for self-protection and this was the beginning of the samurai. Two of the leading clans were the Minamoto and the Taira families. Even monasteries began to maintain military forces.

An example of this growing power struggle was in the year 903 when Taira-no-Masakado, the leader of the samurai in the Kanto district, revolted against the government. He refused to pay taxes and established his own kingdom. He threw out the nobles and held power himself.

Only for a short time, though. The Kyoto dynasty ordered another bushi house to attack the Kanto kingdom. Masakado and his army fought bravely but were eventually defeated. This act basically tipped the power from the side of the sovereignty firmly into the hands of the samurai. This process continued until the Kamakura Shogunate was established in 1192.

One of the important things from this time period is the Gagaku, or court music, another thing introduced from China. It was only performed on special occasions and is still performed today at the Imperial Palace and at the great Shinto shrines. Lavish ritual feasts began to take place in temples and ended up being recorded in diaries and novels.

The Hoodo, or Phoenix Hall, at Uji, built in 1053.

Particular dates of importance

Saicho (767-822) and Kukai (744-839) were monks who traveled to China and returned, introducing new religious sects. Saicho brought back Tendai, and Kukai brought back Shingon (the True Word doctrine).

806-809: Emperor Heizei

809-823: Emperor Saga

816: Kongobu-ji temple on Mt. Koya founded by Kobo Daishi as the headquarters of the Shingon sect.

823: The Kyoogokoku-ji, or Eastern Temple, is established as the main Shingon temple by Kobo Daishi.

823-833: Emperor Junna

825: Japan imports Buddhist paintings of the T'ang era from China

833-850: Emperor Nimmyo

838: The last of the Japanese missions leaves for China's T'ang court

850-858: Emperor Montoku

853: Kudara Kuwanari, the first important Japanese painter, died.

858: Fujiwara clan achieves ascendancy at court. Yoshifusa has his nine-year-old grandson enthroned as emperor, with himself as regent with the real power.

858-876: Emperor Seiwa

876-884: Emperor Yozei

884-887: Emperor Koko

887-897: Emperor Uda

894: Imperial court ends official missions to China

887-930: Emperor Daigo

900-1000: Kana is developed, allowing prose works to flourish

ca 900: The first Japanese university is founded at Kyoto

905: Kokin-wakashu,a poetry anthology, is compiled

930-946: Emperor Suzaku

935: Taira no Masakado conquers most of the eight Kanto provinces and proclaims himself emperor.

940: Battle of Kojima, which ended the rebellion of Taira Masakado. He was killed by an arrow.

946: Tsuraguki, Japanese poet, died.

Emperor Murakami: 946-967CE

961: A Poetry Bureau is created to handle poetry tournaments. As many as 1500 amateur poets would compete with the winning verses added to the bureau's archives.

967-969: Emperor Reizei

969-984: Emperor En'yu

984-986: Emperor Kazan

986-1011: Emperor Ichijo

1010: The tale of Genji, written by Lady Murasaki, appears

1011-1016: Emperor Sanjo

1016-1036: Emperor Go-Ichijo

1036-1045: Emperor Go-Suzaku

1045-1068: Emperor Go-Reizi

1057: Batle of Kawasaki. This was the first conflict of the Early Nine Years' War (1051-1063). Minamoto Yoriyoushi and Minamoto Yoshite attacked Abe Sadato. Abe Sadato won, driving off the Minamoto.

1062: Siege of Kuriyagawa. Minamoto against Sadato again, but this time the Minamoto won.

1068-1072: Emperor Go-Sanjo

1072-1086: Emperor Shirakawa

1086-1107: Emperor Horikawa

1086-1089L Siege of Jabezawa, Minamoto Yoshite against Kiyowara Ichira.

1107-1123: Emperor Toba

1123-1141: Emperor Sutoku

1141-1155: Emperor Konoe

1155-1158: Emperor Go-Shirakawa

1156: A dispute between rival warrior clans leads to open conflict in Kyoto causing considerable damage and suffering. This was part of a brief civil war known as the Hogen Incident. The Shirakawa-den palace was attacked, set on fire, and the defenders defeated.

1158-1165: Emperor Nijo

1159: Battle of Jeiji

1160: Siege of Sanjo Palace. Part of the Heiji Incident. The Minamato took the palace and captured the ex-Emperor Go-Shirakawa.

1160: Taira no Kiyomoir defeats the Minamoto and gains control

1167: Taira no Kiyomoir becomes Grand Minister

1165-1168: Emperor Rokujo

1168-1180: Emperor Takakura

1175: Jodo sect of Buddhism is founded by Buddhist priest Honen

1180-1185: Emperor Antoku

1180: First battle of Uji. Opening conflict of the Gempei Wars between the Taira and the Minamoto. The Taira defeated a group of warrior monks who were allied with the Minamoto.

1180: Siege of Nara. The Taira attacked the old capital and set fire to two monasteries.

1180: Battle of Ishibashiyama. Minamoto vs. Taira with the Taira wining.

1180: Battle of Fujigawa. Taira vs. Minamoto again near Mt. Fuji. The Taira troops withdrew at night thinking that the sounds of the wings of various birds was really an attack by the Minamoto.

1181: Battle of Sunomata. Taira vs. Minamoto with Taira winning.

1181: Battle of Yahagigawa. Taira vs. Minamoto with no set winner.

1183: Siege of Hiuchi. Taira attacking a small Minamoto fortress with the Taira winning thanks to a traitor in the Minamoto ranks.

1183: Battle of Kurikara. Taira vs. Minamoto with the Minamoto army winning this battle.

1183: Battle of Shinowara. Minamoto vs. Taira with Minamoto again winning the battle.

1183: Battle of Mizushima. Minamoto vs. Taira in a sea battle with the Taira winning.

1183: Siege of Fukuryuji. Minamoto vs. Taira with Minamoto winning.

1183: Battle of Muroyama. Taira vs. Minamoto with the Taira winning this time.

1184: Siege of Hojujiden. The Minamoto attacked the Hojujiden Palace in Kyoto and set fire to it.

1184: Battle of Ichinotani. The Minamoto attacked a Taira fortress. The Minamoto attacked by managing to get down a steep cliff and entered the fortress of its relatively unguarded side. Although the Minamoto won, the majority of the Taira defenders were able to escape.

1184: Battle of Kojima. Minamoto vs. Taira with the Minamoto army winning.

1184: Battle of Yashima. Minamoto vs. Taira with the Minamoto army winning but the Taira again escaping.

1185: Battle of Dan no ura. This was a major sea battle with the Minamoto winning decisively. It ended the Gempei Wars.

1183-1198: Emperor Go-Toba

1191: Tea arrives in Japan from China

1192: Zen Buddhism is introduced into Japan from China

1192: Shogunate established at Kamakura (The three shogunates were the Minamoto (1192-1333), the Ashikaga (1338-1573), and the Tokugawa (1603-1868).

Artwork from the priest Tobo Sojo. It's an animal caricature scroll whose actual meaning is not known. I think it's pretty funny, really, with the rabbits and monkeys enjoying themselves.

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