Negotiating Nature at the Heian Court
This essay explores conceptual and cultural notions of “nature” in the Heian period and especially the many representations of nature in The Tale of Genji. Nature represented is nature codified; concrete nature imagery was employed in sustained ways to sketch the emotional state of protagonists. Yet nature could also trigger, rather than resonate with, emotional response. Central is a series of readings of the gardens of the Rokujō estate in The Tale of Genji; in turn, those readings are framed in a larger survey of garden design theory, practices, and uses in the Heian period. Gardens in this tale offer profound insights into both how Heian courtiers related to nature and the structure of its protagonists’ relationships. In this sense, “nature” and basic structures in the tale are intimately connected.
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