The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

The Pillow Book (, Makura no Sshi) is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 1000s in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.
The work is a collection of essays, anecdotes, poems, and descriptive passages that have little connection to one another except for the fact that they are ideas and whims of Shnagon’s spurred by moments in her daily life. 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personal work, Shnagon’s writing and poetic skill makes it interesting as a work of literature, and it is valuable as a historical document. Shnagon meant her writing in The Pillow Book for her eyes only, but part of it was accidentally revealed to the Court during her life: “she inadvertently left it [her writing] on a cushion she put out for a visiting guest, who eagerly carried it off despite her pleas.” She wrote The Pillow Book as a private endeavor of enjoyment for herself; it seemed to be a way for her to express her inner thoughts and feelings that she was not allowed to state publicly due to her lower standing position in the court. Though Shnagon never intended her work for eyes other than her own, through the centuries it has become a famous work of literature. 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.