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Japan 4: 枕草子, Makura no Sōshi

Wenceslau de Moraes talks about how, a thousand years ago in Japan, "the feminine element burned intensely ... in social and literary life." Outside of the court, neither men nor women cared for letters and kept to their farms, their arms, their homes. In the court, good-for-nothing men "indulged in useless matters of etiquette and intrigue" or, if they were scholarly, "studied the Chinese classics and wrote books in Chinese" (just like medieval Europeans studied the Latin classics and wrote books in Latin). Men thought it was unworthy to write in Japanese, but fortunately they let the women do so. The ladies "utilized ... deliciously this opportunity" and "thanks to the peculiar qualities of the sex: subtle observation ..., emotional delicacy,... affection, pity, pardon..," wrote wonderful light diaries and essays.

Makura no Soshi is a "pillow book" of random thoughts written by Sei Shōnagon during her time in the court of Empress Sadako around 1000 A.D.

She classifies things by their qualities:

A desolate thing: "a person who waits for someone late at night, and who hears a discreet knocking at the door. With an unquiet heart, he sends to know who it is. But it is another, with no connection..."

A detestable thing: "a visitor who chatters for a great while, at the moment when we are in great haste."

Things that touch our hearts: "to go past a spot where someone is amusing children; lying alone in a room where a delicate incense is being burnt; after having washed the hair and put on makeup, to put on a dress which is well-perfumed with incense, even when nobody looks at us."

A thing that gladdens our heart: "when we wake up in the night, to drink a cup of water."

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