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Floating World in Japanese art history - Essay Example

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During the late 16th century a new class began to emerge in Japan, which was comprised of artisans, merchants and, in some cases, low ranking samurai. This new class gradually gained wealth and with that influence in society, and had money to spend to enjoy the arts and…
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Floating World in Japanese art history
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Download file to see previous pages Asai Ryoi wrote his famous Tales of the Floating World (Ukiyo-monogatari) in 1661 and describes the floating world thus: "Living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves, singing songs, loving sake, women and poetry, letting oneself drift, buoyant and carefree, like a gourd carried along with the river current” (History of Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print).
The floating world became a centre of refinement, art, culture and elegance and led the tone in a bourgeois society that gained the confidence to lead the taste in art and fashion. Although officially looked down upon by aristocratic circles, the world of courtesans, actors, entertainers and gentlemen of private means was more or less openly admired and copied. Japanese courtesans enjoyed a very high status in society, comparable perhaps, only to the very few privileged maitresses en titre at the French court during the 17th and 18th century, and the higher ranking courtesans were well educated in literature, music and the art of conversation as well as leaders in style and fashion. The pleasure districts of Edo (Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto provided a lively background and meeting place for the merchant class and the demimonde.
The most prolific era for the arts in Japan was the Genroku period from 1680 to 1730. Literature, painting, poetry, but also the sciences, flourished during this period and the arts were encouraged by the shogun (military ruler) whose seat was in Edo (Tokyo). At the time of the Japanese shogunate the emperor was sidelined – he was a powerless figurehead reduced to conducting ceremonies and composing poetry. His seat was in Kyoto, well removed from the centre of power in Edo. Japanese society was divided into four strata: the nobility (samurai), who held all political power, the peasants, who in theory were second only to the nobility, as they provided rice for the nation (Hibbett, 2002) and were therefore of fundamental importance, and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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