Saturday, 26 October 2013

Why TheHeianPrincess?

Today I had the idea to write about why I sometimes choose the username 'TheHeianPrincess' for things like Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. and 'HeianGirl' if my username is over the character limit for some websites haha. I've been asked a few time what it means or why I chose it so I wanna go on a little history lesson! I normally despise history but this time it's fun and pretty, I assure you!


So, the Heian period was a period in Japanese history from around 794AD to 1185AD. The emperor at the time, Emperor Kammu, moved the Japanese capital city to Heian-kyou (now known as Kyoto) and the period was named after that. It is considered one of the highest points in Japanese history/culture and is widely admired and remembered fondly as the height of cultural arts, the rise of the samurai and the peak of the imperial court. 'Heian' means 'peace and tranquility' in Japanese. Pretty!

I'll skip all the super history stuff like the imperial family, Fujiwara Clan etc. as, whilst interesting, it's nothing you can't learn without a quick Google and I'd only be regurgitating from the Wiki article anyway.


If you're particularly book orientated, you might have heard of the Heian period from Lady Murasaki Shikibu or Sei Shonagon. Both were female writers in the Heian period and Lady Murasaki is cited as being the first female novelist and actually writing what was considered the first novel ever, The Tale of Genji. Sei Shonagon wrote The Pillow Book, which is a diary-like book all about luxurious court life. Murasaki and Shonagon were considered rivals at the time. Both women wrote books that are probably the best depictions of the Heian period we will ever get and it provides useful insights to traditional Japanese court life, gossip and trends in the Heian period.

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Geiko (geisha) Kimina of Miyagawa-cho dressed as Lady Murasaki Shikibu and geiko Kikuno as Sei Shonagon.

Once the imperial court was at its highest in the 11th century, courtiers had very little to do and were encouraged to take up artistic endeavors. These included the standard painting, poetry, music and calligraphy but expanded to more in depth, trend based arts of mixing fragrances and incense and layering their clothes in particular colours and patterns depending on the mood, season and occasion. Women had rigid fashion rules which included floor length hair, whitened skin, eyebrows that were completely plucked off and redrawn higher up as little black smudges, blackened teeth and intricate layers of kimono (coordinated by the aforementioned colours and patterns that were in trend at the time). Up to twelve different layers of kimono were worn depending on the occasion/event, who was going and how high ranking you were! Junihitoe was the fanciest form of dress for the most high ranking ladies and included the twelve layers of kimono! Ladies who would have worn this include the empress, princesses, wives of court officers and high ranking servants. They would only wear junihitoe for very important events, occasions and when meeting people equally or more high ranking than them.


So basically I love the idea of the Heian period - as if you couldn't tell! It sounded like a romanticised time where, if you ranked high up, you lounged around, played games and gossiped with friends, applied make-up, brushed your floor length hair, coordinated different coloured and pattern kimono layers, mixed perfumes, wrote poetry and played musical instruments for however long you pleased.

To some it might sound lazy but it fits with the stereotypical ideals of princess life which is why I chose the username TheHeianPrincess as being a princess in the Heian period sounds heavenly!

It is one of my ambitions to go to one of those dressing up studios in Japan and be dressed as a geisha. There is also one that dresses you in traditional Heian period clothing including the junihitoe which I would love to do as well. I would love to try Heian style make-up and dress - the make-up wouldn't be so hard but there is, unfortunately, no occasion that calls for twelve layers of kimono! Plus I would either have to make or buy them myself which would be very costly for a simple one time hobby.

I have read 'The Tale of Murasaki' by Liza Dalby, which is a telling (although it's probably very filled in and exaggerated a little) of Lady Murasaki's life and I relate to Lady Murasaki a lot. She was considered a bit weird growing up as she was very intelligent, fluent in Chinese (which was the language of the court and normally excluded to women) and adept at poetry, calligraphy and music. She didn't really relate to many people as she was thought to be a bit pretentious (probably nothing to do with her personality, just because she was smart), awkward, difficult to approach and scornful so she found it hard to make friends. She didn't really want to get married and only got married in her mid to late twenties, or perhaps her early thirties which was very unheard of. I have found it hard to relate to people and was considered strange and not worthy of being friends with when I was growing up but I'm getting better at being able to talk to people and maintain a normal level of human interaction haha. I also consider the opposite sex to be weird, single minded and unsettling and was prepared to spend my entire life alone if it meant I was happy and comfortable until I had a chance meeting with my current, first and only partner almost four years ago.

...Okay, I will stop rambling now as you have probably left and gone to reblog gifs of kittens on Tumblr or something! But I just wanted a little insight into my current username and a bit of history for a change haha! However, I am swaying towards 'Meian-hime' as a username a little! 'Meian' commonly means 'light and dark' in Japanese but I chose it because it means 'gloom' too so it can be seen to translate as 'Princess Gloom' or 'Light & Darkness Princess' which is pretty cool! It also translates to 'good idea' which is the dealbreaker haha! However, I don't feel it is a good choice for something like a blog or where I will be giving my username out a lot so I will probably keep it to solitary accounts and forums.

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