Early Japan and Korea
This chapter introduces the history of Japan and Korea up to about 1600 c.e. Early Japan owed much to the prior development of civilization in Korea, and the two were closely tied. By the eighth century the first real Japanese state, on the Yamato Plain between modern Osaka and Kyoto, built a Chinese-style capital at Nara and toward the end of the century moved it to a new site at Kyoto, then called Heian. Heian court culture was elegant and refined but largely limited to the capital, where Lady Murasaki wrote The Tale of Genji. Monastic armies sometimes intervened in factional conflicts and, thus, became power brokers. By the end of the Heian period, contending armies dominated politics. Buddhism continued to act as a vehicle for Chinese culture, including Buddhist art. The coming of Buddhism accelerated the spread and use of Chinese characters, not only for Buddhist texts but for other purposes as well.