The Pillow Book

Sei Shōnagon in a later 17th century drawing
Sei Shōnagon, illustration from an issue of Hyakunin Isshu (Edo period)

The Pillow Book (枕草子 Makura no Sōshi?) is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi (定子) during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.

In it she included lists of all kinds, personal thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on her contemporaries. While it is mostly a personal work, Shōnagon's writing and poetic skill makes it interesting as a work of literature, and it is valuable as a historical document. Part of it was revealed to the Court by accident during Shōnagon's life. The book was first translated into English in 1889 by T. Purcell and W. G. Aston. Other notable English translations were by Arthur Waley in 1928, Ivan Morris in 1967, and Meredith McKinney in 2006. The Dog Pillow is an Edo period parody.


Other pillow books

More generally, a pillow book is a collection of notebooks or notes which have been collated to show a period of someone or something's life. In Japan such kind of idle notes are generally referred to the zuihitsu genre. Other major works from the same period include Kamo no Chōmei's Hōjōki and Yoshida Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa. Zuihitsu rose to mainstream popularity in the Edo period, when it found a wide audience in the newly developed merchant classes. Furthermore, it gained a scholarly foothold, as Japanese classical scholars began customarily writing in the ‘’zuihitsu’’ style. Reputable authors from this movement include Motoori Norinaga, Yokoi Yayu, and Matsudaira Sadanobu.[1]

The Narrow Road to the Interior by Japanese American poet Kimiko Hahn bridges to a western perspective. Eleanor Bron and Heather Mallick have both used this form to collect essays. Aidan Chambers' novel This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn is based on the concept of the pillow book. In the case of the fictional character Cordelia Kenn, it shows her life and thoughts so that her daughter can relive her past.

There is a 1996 film of the same name by writer/director Peter Greenaway, which tells a modern story but references Sei Shōnagon's literary work. The film stars Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor.

The Pillow Book is also the name of a series of three radio thrillers written by Robert Forrest and broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour Drama. These are detective stories with Sei Shōnagon as a principal character and feature many of her lists.[2]

See also



External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Pillow Book — est un film franco britannique de Peter Greenaway sorti en 1996. Sommaire 1 Synopsis 2 Résumé détaillé 2.1 Les premiers pas de Nagiko …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Pillow Book — Título The Pillow Book (España) Escrito en el cuerpo (Hispanoamérica) Escrito en la piel (Venezuela) El libro de cabecera (México) Ficha técnica Dirección Peter Greenaway P …   Wikipedia Español

  • The Pillow Book — (cuyo título hace referencia a la costumbre japonesa de guardar en las almohadas, que eran de cerámica o de madera huecas, los diarios íntimos) es una película casi poema de carácter iniciático en la que Nagiko narradora y protagonista va… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • The Pillow Book —    Comédie dramatique de Peter Greenaway, avec Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida, Ken Ogata.   Pays: Grande Bretagne   Date de sortie: 1996   Technique: couleurs   Durée: 2 h 05    Résumé    C est sur la peau de ses amants que Nagiko écrit ses …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • The Pillow Book — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Die Bettlektüre Originaltitel: The Pillow Book Produktionsland: Großbritannien Erscheinungsjahr: 1996 Länge: 126 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Pillow Book (película) — The Pillow Book (cuyo título hace referencia a a costumbre japonesa de guardar en las almohadas, que eran de cerámica o de madera huecas, los diarios íntimos) es una película casi poema de carácter iniciático en la que Nagiko narradora y… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • The Pillow Book (film) — Infobox Film name = The Pillow Book caption = director = Peter Greenaway producer = Kees Kasander writer = Peter Greenaway starring = Vivian Wu Ewan McGregor Ken Ogata Yoshi Oida Hideko Yoshida Judy Ongg music = cinematography = Sacha Vierny… …   Wikipedia

  • Pillow Book, The — (Makura no Sōshi)    by Sei Shōnagon (ca. 1002)    The Pillow Book is considered by contemporary scholars to be one of the two great literary monuments of the Japanese HEIAN PERIOD (the other being MURASAKI SHIKIBU’s TALE OF GENJI). SEI SHōNAGON …   Encyclopedia of medieval literature

  • Pillow Book — ▪ work by Sei Shōnagon Japanese  Makura No Sōshi        (c. 1000), title of a book of reminiscences and impressions by the 11th century Japanese court lady Sei Shōnagon (q.v.). Whether the title was generic and whether Sei Shōnagon herself used… …   Universalium

  • pillow book — /ˈpɪloʊ bʊk/ (say piloh book) noun 1. (in Japan) a book of sexual instruction, often with journal entries and observations, thought of as being kept under the pillows of a bed. 2. a collection of personal notes, jottings, reflections on life, etc …   Australian English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.