Sei Shonagon

Sei Shonagon became popular through her work The Pillow Book, a collection of lists, gossip, poetry, observations, complaints written during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.

The Pillow Book was the Hein era’s blog. It was begun casually as a sort of private notebook / diary and only after 996 when its existence became known at Court did  it develop into a more deliberate and literary work.

Sei Shonagon was a contemporary and erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel, The Tale of Genji, fictionalized the court life that Lady Shonagon captures so vividly in her diary. The Pillow Book contains her reflections on royal and religious ceremonies, nature, pilgrimage, conversation, and poetry. Lady Shonagon shares character sketches and the things she both loves and loathes. Her style is so eloquent, her wit so sharp, even the briefest fragments enchant us.