The World Turned Upside Down

Medieval Japanese Society

Pierre François Souyri. Translated by Käthe Roth

Columbia University Press

The World Turned Upside Down

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Pub Date: September 2003

ISBN: 9780231118439

336 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£25.00

Pub Date: September 2001

ISBN: 9780231118422

336 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

The World Turned Upside Down

Medieval Japanese Society

Pierre François Souyri. Translated by Käthe Roth

Columbia University Press

In the late twelfth century, Japanese people called the transitional period in which they were living the "age of warriors." Feudal clans fought civil wars, and warriors from the Kanto Plain rose up to restore the military regime of their shogun, Yoritomo. The whole of this intermediary period came to represent a gap between two stable societies: the ancient period, dominated by the imperial court in Heian (today's Kyoto), and the modern period, dominated by the Tokugawa bakufu based in Edo (today's Tokyo).

In this remarkable portrait of a complex period in the evolution of Japan, Pierre F. Souyri uses a wide variety of sources—ranging from legal and historical texts to artistic and literary examples—to form a magisterial overview of medieval Japanese society. As much at home discussing the implications of the morality and mentality of The Tale of the Heike as he is describing local disputes among minor vassals or the economic implications of the pirate trade, Souyri brilliantly illustrates the interconnected nature of medieval Japanese culture.

The Middle Ages was a decisive time in Japan's history because it confirmed the country's national identity. New forms of cultural expression, such as poetry, theater, garden design, the tea ceremony, flower arranging, and illustrated scrolls, conveyed a unique sensibility—sometimes in opposition to the earlier Chinese models followed by the old nobility. The World Turned Upside Down provides an animated account of the religious, intellectual, and literary practices of medieval Japan in order to reveal the era's own notable cultural creativity and enormous economic potential.
A masterful synthesis of current scholarship... brilliant... excellent. Herman Ooms, Journal of Asian Studies
Souryi dexterously handles historiographical controversies with a light and kindly touch. Choice
Thought provoking.... Whoever wants to get a broad picture of the current state of the art in the field of Japanese medieval history should read this book. Reinhard Zöllner (of the French edition), Monumenta Nipponica
The World Turned Upside Down is an indispensable addition to the growing corpus examining this vital era when the Japanese world truly did seem to be in total upheaval. History
A solid social history filling a void in the present English literature on social history in the Japanese Middle Ages. James Guthrie, Sixteenth Century Journal
Pierre Souyri does not burden the reader with detail that a new student will simply be unable to absorb, but tells interesting stories that will linger in the memory...I am pleased that Professor Souyri has produced this book and I believe it will be a useful aid to undergraduate teaching... Tom Nelson, School of Oriental & African Studies
Chronology of Japanese History with Emphasis on the Middle Ages
1. The Curtain Rises
2. Social Dynamics in the Late Heian Period
3. The Crisis in the Late Twelfth Century
War
4. Kamakura: The Warrior Regime
5. Kamakura: A Society of Questions
6. Kamakura: A Society in Transformation
7. The Second Middle Ages: The Turning Point of the Fourteenth Century
8. Warriors, Pirates, Peasants, and Priests
9. The Splendor and Misery of the Muromachi Century: The Culmination of the Ashikaga and the Development of Trade
10. The Splendor and Misery of the Muromachi Century: New Uprisings, New Culture
11. The Sengoku Period: Communes, Religious Leagues, and Neighborhood Associations
12. The Sengoku Period: Warlords Seeking Power
Glossary of Japanese Words and Names

About the Author

Pierre F. Souyri is Directeur des Études at the École Français d'Extrême-Orient.Käthe Roth is coeditor of Judaism: Myth, Legend, History, and Custom, from the Religious to the Secular.