Luxurious Layers: Kimonos of the Heian Court overview photo

Luxurious Layers: Kimonos of the Heian Court

  • Type:Campbell Gallery
  • Duration:Temporary

(date) 9/27/2003–12/15/2003

The Heian Period (794–1185 CE) saw Japanese culture come into its own. During earlier eras, the court had borrowed much from China: Buddhism, Confucianism, arts, government organization, and the Chinese language itself. As relations waned with the Chinese government, the Japanese aristocracy altered these aspects of culture to fit their own values and sensibilities. An adapted writing system allowed for the first truly Japanese literature. Early Heian leaders maintained ties with the Chinese court, but later courts cut ties with the mainland and began to develop their own distinct cultural styles and traditions.

The Late Heian Period is renowned for the court’s emphasis on sophistication and refinement, especially in clothing, writing, and music. Specific formulas defined beauty and a proper sensitivity to nature. Nowhere were Japanese sensibilities more strikingly visible than in the clothing worn by the members of the Heian Court. Here, color and pattern met texture and form in a remarkable fashion.