In the late twelfth century, Japanese people called the transitional period in which they were living the "age of warriors." Feudal clans fought civil wars, and warriors from the Kanto Plain rose up to restore the military regime of their shogun, Yoritomo. The whole of this intermediary period came to represent a gap between two stable societies: the ancient period, dominated by the imperial court in Heian (today's Kyoto), and the modern period, dominated by the Tokugawa bakufu based in Edo (today's Tokyo). In this remarkable portrait of a complex period in the evolution of Japan, Pierre F. Souyri uses a wide variety of sources-ranging from legal and historical texts to artistic and literary examples-to form a magisterial overview of medieval Japanese society. As much at home discussing the implications of the morality and mentality of The Tale of the Heike as he is describing local disputes among minor vassals or the economic implications of the pirate trade, Souyri brilliantly illustrates the interconnected nature of medieval Japanese culture. The Middle Ages was a decisive time in Japan's history because it confirmed the country's national identity.
New forms of cultural expression, such as poetry, theater, garden design, the tea ceremony, flower arranging, and illustrated scrolls, conveyed a unique sensibility-sometimes in opposition to the earlier Chinese models followed by the old nobility. The World Turned Upside Down provides an animated account of the religious, intellectual, and literary practices of medieval Japan in order to reveal the era's own notable cultural creativity and enormous economic potential.
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(178mm x 229mm x 13mm)
Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
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UK Kirkus Review »
For anyone already familiar with Japanese history, Pierre Francois Souyri's book is remarkable for the masterly incision with which he grafts a powerful narrative drive onto a comprehensive and complex analysis of perhaps the most turbulent 500 years in Japan's recorded history. For the non-specialist, Souyri's talent for mixing the dramatic with the intellectual paves the way for the discovery of a lost world, the echoes of which continue to shape modern Japan. Souyri starts in the late 12th century, at the beginning of the Kamukura period which marks the genesis of the warrior regimes, better known today as the Shogunates, and ends with the arrival of the Portuguese during the height of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The intervening era saw enormous change as feudal wars split the country and new forms of cultural expression developed - some of which, like the tea ceremony, came to epitomize Japanese traditions. Souyri traces the changes in detail, using a wide range of legal, religious and artistic records to build up an astonishing picture of Japanese society in all its ramifications. Kathe Roh's translation is pacey and accommodates the dense flow of fact and interpretive flourish with excellent clarity, and altogether this is a detailed and empathic study of an era that is inviting enough for the reader to overcome the challenge of approaching an exotic and alien intellectual terrain. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Pierre Francois Souyri
Pierre F. Souyri is Directeur des Etudes at the Ecole Francais d'Extreme-Orient.Kathe Roth is coeditor of Judaism: Myth, Legend, History, and Custom, from the Religious to the Secular.