Japan in the Heian Period and Cultural History: Crash Course World History 227


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In which John Green teaches you about what westerners call the middle ages and the lives of the aristocracy...in Japan. The Heian period in Japan lasted from 794CE to 1185CE, and it was an interesting time in Japan. Rather than being known for a thriving economy, or particularly interesting politics, the most important things to come out of the Heian period were largely cultural. There was a flourishing of art and literature in the period, and a lot of that culture was created by women. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu was the classic piece of literature of the day, and it gave a detailed look into the way the Aristocrats of the Heian period lived. While this doesn't give a lot of insight into the lives of daily people, it can be very valuable, and the idea of approaching history from a cultural perspective is a refreshing change from the usual military or political history that survives from so many eras. Citation 1: Morris, Ivan, The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan. Vintage Books. 2013. p. 5 Citation 2: Morris, p. 14 Citation 3: Morris, p. 67 Citation 4: Morris, p. 114 Citation 5: Morris, p. 147 Citation 6: Quoted in Morris, p. 112 Citation 7: Morris, p. 198



Tags:
Japan Heian Period Edo Period Murasaki Shikibu Hokkaido Kyoto Heian-kyo Emperor literature nobles aristocracy prince princess books scrolls poetry John Green Vlogbrothers AP History World History Heian Period (Event) Documentary Tokyo



武道館
"Can you imagine a world in which rich people systemically receive lighter sentences for crimes committed than poor people?" You mean like now?
The Misfitt
Summary of world history in one sentence: "Knock knock, it's Europe"
Marco Zwinkels
So who is gonna be the next shogun ? Vote now on now on your phones! And everybody voted so hard that the caught fire and burned down.
Iván Astigarraga
how about "sunrise laaand"
Alltime Conspiracies
Really interesting period of history. Good job!
Arisa Kawano
Wow this was very nicely put together. I'm a Japanese girl going to a Japanese high school but the heian era was actually the main part of my finals. What the Japanese school system concentrates on is specific dates and names of people and events tho so this was a very nice rap up of it all esp since we never compare anything to europe. Having a westerner cover your countries history was a very interesting video. Also something that I would like to add for insight from a Japanese scholar is that the stories written by women in this era such as genji monogatari etc. are still studied intensely in Japanese high schools. Except ofcourse the Japanese language has evolved so much that we learning how to read it is basically like an english speaker learning how to read latin.
Xeon897
Rich people hired Samurai; Poor people who could not hire Samurai did not hire Samurai.
Living Tar
In the year -1,000,000,000, japan might not've been here
fernando torrera
So japanese nobility were basically Emo
Thomas Thaxton
Japanese history is so interesting to me.
Compile
knock knock It's United States
Abby Ritter
I get that there's a habit of associating feminism with female supremacy, and that being opposed to feminism is being opposed to that supremacist attitude, but if you call John Green a feminist for acknowledging the achievements of women at a time when it was very hard for women to have any achievements, you're right, he is, but if you then criticise him for it, using feminist as an insult in that context, you are not arguing against female supremacy, you are arguing against women's achievements being acknowledged. You are arguing against women being important. You are not promoting equality or fighting against supremacy, you are promoting sexism.
Jack Evans
"Can you imagine a world in which rich people systemically receive lighter sentences for crime committed than poor people." Sounds like America.
Bleh
Please do Ethiopian history. they have such an interesting past, yet no one ever talks about it
EduraD
H I R E A S A M U R A I
ferieso
I've been seeing phrases from bill wurtz's history of japan video in the comments and I love it
ishattered.ghosts
Oh god, I didnt know there were so many bill wurtz watchers.... I LAUGHED MY ASS OFF!
JK
Cities that exist : - Hiroshima X - Nagasaki X - Some others
Ann Boylen
"Can you imagine a world in which rich people systemically receive lighter sentences for crimes committed than poor people?" That one made me laugh milk through my nose.
へᄉへ
3:42 holy shit that's Kim Jong Un
oubaida obi
they died in a tornado
MagnuMagnus
What is it with aristocracy and inbreeding?
Red Gina
Japan is an island by the sea, filled with volcanoes, and it's ~B E A U T I F U L~
ユーネト / Yuuneto
I really want Game of Thrones Japan now
Attila the Fun
Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Compared to Europe Goddamn it, compare it to its more immediate neighbors like China, Korea and maybe India and the middle East. I understand why you compare Heian Japanese society to Europe but come on, don't you think comparing with the immediate neighbors is also important?
Varoon
He is trying so hard not to be eurocentric but by always making comparisons with Europe, he is actually defeating his goal Bringing everything back to Europe, even if it is to portray Europe in a "negative" way is still eurocentricism The only way to not be eurocentric is actually to be indifferent to Europe especially when speaking on a subject completely unrelated to Europe or the West...
Ke Ni
I'm also in awe that Japan has so many strong female historical characters and contributors to history. The Sun in Japan is female, did you know? It really is so rare! And especially seeing as how modern Japan is horrifically male-centred in business, politics, and domestic life (although many women wear the pants at home).
Turnip
"How bout i do anyway?"
yjhm yhj
It's interesting how female writers were there in Asia while not much in other places
LibraWarrior
Heian era Japan was so peaceful, elegant, tranquil, and overall, beautiful. No matter what people say, everyone has their own opinions. It was time the arts and ideals to push for women rights ! It was very peaceful and people actually elegant and very polite, makes me wonder where all that went now in days.....its a shame that such teachings are being lost same as tradition....
milesbennettdyson
The last half of John's video about heian noblewomen living under "patriarchy" is disingenuous. When the 0.01% are privileged, they are ALL privileged. Heian women weren't "forced" to wear heavy (incredibly rich and elegantly designed) clothing, they *competed* with each other to wear the best clothing, much as the men did. Same with long straight hair, which it should be remembered had to be cared for and tended by handmaidens and servants to maintain its sheen and luster. Further, heian women were dominant consumers of poetry and art of the age, mainly *because* they were the leisure class's leisure class; they were not required to participate in military or political matters, so they were free to spend their time pursuing the epitome of leisure pursuits. John seems to be rewriting heian women's chase after extreme luxury as a struggle, while not doing so with the men. Why not? Because reporting history is second to reporting politicized narratives here. "Crash" course indeed.
Apples
is that the palace that burned down because everyone voted too hard?
BosonCollider
Hey John! Could you please do a crash course economic history next? As in, the Dutch tulip mania, the British South Seas bubble, the rise of the Rothschild, ect ect. Money is an often ignored aspect of world history which is really the key to explaining many of the events that happened. When applicable it is really a much more concrete subject to talk about than "resources" in the abstract. It also is likely the aspect of history that is most applicable to the modern world. Scientific discoveries happen once and permanently improve things, wars become less common as our world become more peaceful, culture and memesets changes. Financial crises on the other hand are something that are just as much of a problem now as they were four centuries ago and there are many lessons to be learned that are still applicable today.
A Shitbucket To Put Stuff In
And root for the blues... not the greens.... does anyone else get it?
Sitizen Kane
I am aware that women were usually the ones that were writing during this era but I also heard that when they did write, they were not allowed to use chinese characters when they wrote- which led to the use of the "less civilized" japanese syllabatory hiragana.
Eric N
Is that a pro Genji?
TheZalor
I'm not sure if it is accurate to say that "most of the cultural achievements were done by women" (I'm paraphrasing here). Certainly the Tale of Genji and the Pillow Book are two famous works done by Heian women, (interesting sidenote, the respective authors of both those works were actually rivals). Waka poetry was practiced by men and women, but it was usually men who were responsible for imperial sponsored compilations of poetry. Furthermore, waka poetry was allowed by women because it was poetry written and recited in Japanese. But composing Chinese poetry was done by many Heian poets as well. And at certain points in the Heian period it was more respected than waka poetry. And usually only men learned Chinese (since it was the language they conducted business with). There may have been more women writing in prose, (like Murasaki), but this was generally because prose was looked at as trashy-pop art. Fun to read, but not respected. Poetry was what was big, and I'm fairly certain it was men who played a larger role in composing and editing official court poetry.
Based Libertarian
Okay, I'm about halfway through the video and I just want to say... Go is awesome. Very fun. It's like a simpler version if Chess but with more strategy. I have a board but no one ever wants to play,
That one guy who sacked Constantinople
Like clocks, and guns, and *JESUS*
Ruiqi Mao
While you touched on the notions of women being the early story tellers in Japan and that they operated within the restraints of a patriarchy, you failed to note the real achievement of these early pioneers. As you pointed out, the patriarchy dictated that the men write in essentially Chinese, it was the early women writers who, barred from learning that language, developed the Japanese language--as we know it today--as a direct result. Here the meek didn't so much inherit the world so much as they created their own. Eventually, of course, males followed their lead as Chinese fell out of favor.
Greg Keal
open the country stop having it be closed
Garrett Carpenter
"The nice thing about doing boring ceremonial work at night is that there was a lot of wine." Sake, John, Sake.
Dante's Disco Inferno
7:40 Pikachu, Sailor Moon, and Hello Kitty. I approve.
Xai CricketEmpress
THANK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!! I cannot TELL you how many times I've searched for Japanese History BEFORE the Muromachi and came up with next to NOTHING! I went out of my way to purchase a Japanese History textbook and never got to finish it because my bag got stolen. I didn't get to pick it apart like I would have once I read through it. THANK YOU for covering SOMETHING other than the Age of Samurai!
Kun Shun
Interestingly, Heian sounds like 黑暗 in Chinese, which makes it sounded like the dark age. ( I checked it, and Heian is translated to 平安 in Chinese, which means safe/peacefu.
AmiEvil
Are you sure this isn't current U.S. history disguised as Japanese history?
Harlley Gurrola
Anyone notice the illustrations of Pikachu and Sailor Moon in the thought bubble at 7:39-7:40?
Syahrul Anwar
turn on the subtitles minute 8:43 instead of the heian period at least culturally was dominated by women particularly murasaki shikibu it translated to the heian period at least culturally was dominated by women particularly more sucka shit! hahaha
Blaine Drummond
Sounds a lot like Tumblr.
Max Tan
We want a playlist about japan history! JAPAN HISTORY only!
tyler
bill wurtz is better
Jiggy
Crash Course World History 2 has been very preachy.
Brain Bites
Very informative stuff! I always enjoy learning about Japanese history. Also, Thought Cafe is doing a super awesome job. 
C3- KO
The Mongols have invaded China! *We've invaded China* said the Mongols. *Please respect us, or we might invade you too* _Okay_ said Japan. And so the Mongols invaded Japan, but died in a tornado. Then they tried again and had a nice time fighting with the Japanese, then died in a tornado.
Nebojsa Galic
So basically it is a period where Japan was ruled by Kardashians and Paris Hilton?
Satopi3104
it's hilarious that what you see while John talks about upperclass women having the right to the manor rights during the Heian period is a print of courtesans from Edo Japan, which started about 500 years after the end of the Heian period, which itself was 500 years long. Major facepalm.
unseethed
muh patriarchy
1veggiemonster
LOVE the cartoon that starts around 7:30! Props to the animator! Pokemon, Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon prizes! And the derp who shot himself with an arrow! Bwahahaha!
Chris Killian
Much better than Europeans? Why not compare them to Australian aborigines? Or Mayans. Kinda harping on the Europeans a bit aren't we?
maxandsyd14
This video is kind of worthless thanks to Bill Wurtz.
Adam J
Patriarchy?  Well, done with Crash Course, thanks for the World History.  But I don't want to be lectured to with your political ideology.
CerealKillerOats
I wanted to learn about the heian period, not how great women are.
ChonosTack
Watch Princess Kaguya. it's around heian era.
FritzII
The people in here make me laugh. I would PAY to see these anti-feminist take a college course like Cultural Anthropology, Minority Studies, Women's Studies, or most humanities classes for that matter! They wouldn't last through the first day before their heads exploded!!!   
Name Here
It was during this time that women invented Japan's first syllabary based writing system, Hiragana, still in use today.
Jon
We get it, you don't like the historical focus on Europe, hence the little monologue at the start of every episode, yet you insist on comparing everything to Europe and then moaning about how much worse Europe is/was.
Tanay gaur
Make a video on pirates
Inachu Ikimasho
But what Mr. Green does not mention is the original Ainu were partially jewish and a few hundred years later jew went back to japan. The original Ainu had blue eyes and were Russian jewish asian mix and then when the asian invasion happened and then a few hundren years later the jewish moved to Japan and were only allowed to live in the mountains and were the people responsible for the japanese to make the scary masks of monsters/ghosts with big noses. One of the very first mountains named in Japans history was Mt. Moriah and a shrine that is older than 1,400 years old has been there at the foot of the mountain which has the Hanukkah as the symbol of the mountain has been a destination point for all those years. Later in history the jews were allowed to come down and live in Kyoto which is why not all but the Kyoto population people have more often very large noses VS the locals from Osaka or Tokyo.
Khai
before I watch this video, the only things I know about japan is earthquake, samurai and anime. Thank you crash course world history for the knowledge.
Noel Z
Is it weird that I'm not even Forced, to drink from the cup of defeat anymore? I just keep it on my end table, and have a few sips throughout the day XD
Benito Faggotini
Buddhism in Japan came from one of the three kingdoms of Korea. Lots of cultural and religious objects like statues or swords found in Japan today are sent from Korea, not China. Buddhism came to Korea from China then to Japan from Korea
NothingIsSacred
3:43 Guy on the right looks like Kim Jong-Un! Either that or I've been watching too many NK videos lately...
Cranston Snord
Is there any mention of Godzilla in the Tale of Genji?
Pugiron
No one in Europe owned land except the king. The feudal lords rented the land by paying in military support
Jevon Hosea Thenadi
Could you do a crash course about the history of Indonesia?  I thought that it might be interesting.
Camilla Chopinet
Is "dilettante" a word that Americans understand?!😂
Raina Ramsay
So if these ranks applied to .1% of the population, and there were that many gradations of rank, and given the population of Japan at the time... How many of those rank divisions had, like, 2 people in them?
Mr. Boma's Balloons
I could have used this 3 weeks ago when I was teaching this period to my 7th graders!
SudsyMedusa53
1:40 Ah yes, the genji. Giant enemy crabs and massive damage. Good times.
Joseph Park
this didnt rly help me with history of japan he just talks about girl rights
Robert Perlini
love the series again a reminder canada recently voted #1 on earth, again. we do not seek to be the best, just works out that way. anyways just letting you know the insults (whether intentional or not), do not phase us in canada. peace
Azzy
Poetry, music, calligraphy, literature... so basically, these women were forced to only study the things which--statistically speaking--women with complete freedom to study whatever they want choose to study? The horror! Darn those men who were denied access to education or only allowed to study things that would increase their production value! Those poor women were only allowed to immerse themselves in the highest forms of leisure activities! Sure, all the men in the paintings are lugging around carts, sacks of lumber, and agricultural goods, or digging/plowing, or going to war, but can you imagine how _heavy_ those dresses must have been?
LuluAMV3
Hey look it is highschool politics, but Japanese and historically significant. History does repeat itself.
Dev S
So a bunch of corrupt crony incest socialite snobs who had nothing better to do other than be sad and broody is a sign of being well bred to write depressing poetry. in modern standards, they sound devoid of humanity.
Brian Hutzell
A bit of modern-day melancholy poetry: “I'm a cork on the ocean Floating over the raging sea How deep is the ocean? … I'm a rock in a landslide Rolling over the mountainside How deep is the valley? … I'm a leaf on a windy day Pretty soon I'll be blown away How long will the wind blow? … Until I die These things I'll be until I die” - Brian Wilson
Luana
Your videos are informational and all but I really wish you would stop mispronouncing (and misspelling) the names of Japanese people. For example: Murasaki Shikibu is not Murasaka Shikibu, and Ieyasu Tokugawa (in the other Japan video) isn't Iyeasu Tokugawa.
Kyon
If you're the prince of a country, who joins the army, generals and kings will play a big part in your life.
Ohtori
Lovely segment!  I feel like most non Japanese literature majors skip over Heian-kyo in favour of the Edo period.  Also, while I love 'Tale of Genji' I'm glad you also mentioned Sei Shounagon because her 'Pillow Book' is amazing.  If 'Genji' is idealized court society 'Pillow Book' is about real life and how things don't always work the way you want them to.
Vrixton Phillips
Still gotta love that episode from the beginning of Genji, where Genji's mom needs to go see the emperor, but her rival has had a maid put a rotten pear in the hall leading away from her chambers, so she's stuck there, and the anxiety of being so hated by a peer disturbs her so that she goes home, has genji, and dies.
Kattenelvis
Renicanse video: The renicanse didnt exist because it only affected the really rich. Oh but this happened? -_-
I’m a Gaint Wonka Bar
#WhereAreTheMongals
Holy Doggo
'"The emperor didn't really care, he was off somewhere writing poetry"
Justin Kennedy
It would make me very happy if you did an episode on the Maori culture.
Sandouras
Off topic, i know, but is it ok if i ask for an episode on Revolutionary France, and another on Prussia, particularly Frederick the Great? Yeah, yeah, i know, i'm shallow for wanting to hear about big generals and wars.
Reika
I love this!  I kind of also wish that the lesson incorporated more of the influence of Confucianism, which was part of the reason for the political system and why women in particular stayed indoors among other things like why they were all related to each other.    All people generally did stay indoors too, but I feel like there could have been more discussion or emphasis on how being able to pursue the arts and such was a symbol of high class because it meant you had the time to do it. The lower classes were illiterate and did not write themselves because learning to become literate was not essential to their survival since lower classes were primarily laborers.  The division in the nature of work is also marked by sun exposure which is why aristocrats usually try to stay indoors because sun exposure and getting a tan means that you actually work outside and are "low class".  Perhaps it's not a big deal to you to talk about this, but I think it's an important discussion because such belief systems are true across Asia and why "white skin" is popular.  A lot of Eurocentric Westerners incorrectly assume that the obsession with White skin has to do with "whitewashing" and wanting to imitate Caucasians and maybe that's true for other cultures, but it is totally not for Japan or any other Asian nation.  It is because since ancient times, having white skin was a sign of affluence because it meant you weren't doing hard labor by working outside.  I know this is a more history focused lesson, but I really feel like knowing that historical context also helps people today to better relate to each other in modern times. Also, the make up of Heian-kyo according to historical record was supposedly based off the capital of Tang China, according to my professor, so it's actually really hard to talk about the Heian period without discussing China.  I mean, there's a discussion of writing and how women's writing dominated, but linguistically speaking there's differences in how the written language was used because historically katakana and kanji were used for official government documents and actual court business, so it was only studied by men, so women usually only knew hiragana and when we're looking at documents and studying them, you can kind of infer a lot about the document you're looking at just based on the alphabet being used. I'm pleased that part of the lesson included that the ability and right to write for women was a unique phenomenon in how the Heian Japan patriarchy played out.  It was a distinctly unique trait that unfortunately died out over time as the aristocracy fell out of favor.  At the same time, I feel like there could have been more expressed in how Murasaki Shikibu's work and Sei Shonagon's were kind of more or less competing with each other because they were in competing salons vying for the Emperor's attention.   In addition to that, as much as their works are some of the prominent bodies of work that Japanese historians study, I feel like there should be more talk about the significance poetry played in that.  A large amount of Genji is filled with poetry when it comes to describing scenes, feelings, and relationships between characters especially in critical moments.  There are also sites out there solely dedicated to the poetry in Genji and nothing else.  I also feel like this is significant in terms of understanding Japanese literature because in the West, we tend to think more of haikus, which is a result of the Tokugawa era influence that you mention earlier in the episode, but really, waka poetry was the jam back in the day.  Haikus are really just a shortened form of waka. XD This is a lot, but generally I think this is a great overview for starters.  It'd be nice if there'd be a greater expansion on Japanese history because kids in school really don't learn enough about world history and other cultures at all until they get to college, which some never even attend.
Leo Bat
Of course it was a patriarchy, all civilizations are patriarchal. Patriarchy is the natural form of social organization for human, and the exceptions tend to work pretty bad.
Smedley Butler
Why hasn't he done a video on the Polish , they saved Europe twice! Once from the ottoman empire in 1683 and again against the Soviets in 1920.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus
Somehow I get the feeling that this entire video was specifically planned in order for John Green to try to make a feminist point out of otherwise interesting history. 
Khaye Ayubann
Yu call dat a fan? DEES eez a phan!
Windows Vista
You're only saying that they were better than the European women, what about the Middle eastern women