Sei Shonagon

Sei Shonagon sĕē shōˈnäˈgōn [key], c.966?-?, Japanese poet and essayist of the mid-Heian period. She is best known for her Makura no sôshi [pillow book], a collection of anecdotes, reflections, aesthetic assessments, and anecdotes of court life, written from her experiences serving at the court of the empress Teishi. The more than three hundred entries provide invaluable insight into contemporary court ceremony, intrigues, and politics. In addition to its historic interest, the Makura no sôshi is a literary masterpiece, displaying a sharp wit, deft expression, and spontaneity. After the death of her patroness, Sei Shonagon left the court and married a provincial governor, becoming a Buddhist nun upon his death.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Asian Literature: Biographies