Kristina Buhrman (Florida State University)
Drums, solar position, and paper reports: The expansion of early medieval beliefs about temporal orientation as seen in construction rituals and the 12th-century sato dairi.
This paper examines the interaction of divination and techniques and technologies of time measurement and management in the Insei Period (1086 – 1221), and how these practices changed and spread to new social contexts with the rise of private courts, and particularly with the institutionalization of the sato dairi .
The selection of auspicious times and the avoidance of inauspicious times strongly motivated time measurement practices in premodern Japan: from the affirmation of the importance of divinatory notes on official calendars in a decree of 810 to the compilation and circulation of almanac guidebooks (大雑書 ōzassho) in 19th century, we see the enduring appeal of such forecasting. During the Heian Period, sources attest to growing concern with increasingly elaborated systems of temporal forecasting, culminating with guidebooks compiled in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. While some of this interest can be attributed to growing wealth and elaboration of particular kenmon power blocs, the ongoing spatial and social reformulation of the capital also played a role: as private households became recognized political centers—particularly those courts of the regent and In—rituals and technologies that had previously been restricted to the court of the tennō spread to new spatial and social contexts. Specifically, the shift from the dairi palace complex to sato dairi or “rustic palaces,” meant that construction activities on buildings in the capital proper became increasingly formalized, employing both onmyōji to announce time and drums to regulate it, emulating official construction rituals. The spreading need for correct and more regulated time just as the court’s monopoly on determining time itself was weakening is a wider context that reveals the ways in which cultural change is driven not simply from the top down or bottom up, but through an interaction of social forces in both directions.