Book Details

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    • January 2006
    • 9780231130578
  • 224 Pages
  • 10 Illustrations

  • Paperback
  • $26.00


    • November 2003
    • 9780231130561
  • 224 Pages
  • 10 Illustrations

  • Hardcover
  • $90.00


    • November 2003
    • 9780231503860
  • 224 Pages
  • 10 Illustrations

  • E-book
  • $25.99

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion

The Creation of the Soul of Japan

Donald Keene

Yoshimasa may have been the worst shogun ever to rule Japan. He was a failure as a soldier, incompetent at dealing with state business, and dominated by his wife. But his influence on the cultural life of Japan was unparalleled. According to Donald Keene, Yoshimasa was the only shogun to leave a lasting heritage for the entire Japanese people.

Today Yoshimasa is remembered primarily as the builder of the Temple of the Silver Pavilion and as the ruler at the time of the Onin War (1467-1477), after which the authority of the shogun all but disappeared. Unable to control the daimyos--provincial military governors--he abandoned politics and devoted himself to the quest for beauty. It was then, after Yoshimasa resigned as shogun and made his home in the mountain retreat now known as the Silver Pavilion, that his aesthetic taste came to define that of the Japanese: the no theater flourished, Japanese gardens were developed, and the tea ceremony had its origins in a small room at the Silver Pavilion. Flower arrangement, ink painting, and shoin-zukuri architecture began or became of major importance under Yoshimasa. Poets introduced their often barely literate warlord-hosts to the literary masterpieces of the past and taught them how to compose poetry. Even the most barbarous warlord came to want the trappings of culture that would enable him to feel like a civilized man.

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion gives this long-neglected but critical period in Japanese history the thorough treatment it deserves.

About the Author

Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and has been hailed in the NYTBR as "the century's leading expert on Japanese literature."

Keene's multifarious learning and engaging manner illuminate the improbable story of the fastidious aesthete whose taste has been so important in forming the look of the modern world.

Keene has crafted a small gem that provides a fresh and penetrating study of 15th-century Kyoto and the role of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.... Keene is a master at placing Yoshimasa in his time and drawing out the cultural influences flowing from the Silver Pavilion. A well-written and accessible essay. Highly recommended [for] readers at all levels interested in Japanese history and culture.

[An] elegant, incisive new biography... Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion is a dense little book, packed almost to overflowing with information, and one that richly rewards the careful reader. Keene is a graceful, entertaining companion, writing with a refreshing lack of pomposity.... Yet the book is always authoritative and lucid. Anyone curious about the development of the legendary style of Japan will find it an invaluable and charming guide.

With such admirable industry did then Yoshimasa create "the soul of Japan." And his assiduity has been matched by that of Keene, who in this short and elegant book contributes a popular account of the man and his times.

Donald Richie

Keene has outdone himself with this exceptional book, which is based on the idea that the modern Japanese aesthetic was the creation of an exceptionally incompetent fifteenth-century shogun.

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion gives this long-neglected but critical period in Japanese history the thorough treatment it deserves.

This is a book not only for all students of Japanese history but also for all who want to understand what Keen calls "the soul of Japan."

Hugh Cortazzi

Keene, the prominent scholar of Japan, brings together a masterful account.

Yumi Sakugawa

ChronologyShoguns of the Ashikaga FamilyIntroductionYoshimasa and the Silver PavilionNotesBibliographyIndex