The Nara period (奈良時代,Nara jidai) of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794.Empress Genmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō (present-day Nara). Except for a five-year period (740–745), when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kanmu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784, before moving to Heian-kyō, or Kyoto, a decade later in 794.
Most of Japanese society during this period was agricultural in nature and centered on villages. Most of the villagers followed a religion based on the worship of natural and ancestral spirits called kami.
The capital at Nara was modeled after Chang'an, the capital city of Tang China. In many other ways, the Japanese upper classes patterned themselves after the Chinese, including adopting Chinese written system, fashion, and the religion of Buddhism.
Concentrated efforts by the imperial court to record and document its history produced the first works of Japanese literature during the Nara period. Works such as the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki were political in nature, used to record and therefore justify and establish the supremacy of the rule of the emperors within Japan.
With the spread of written language, the writing of Japanese poetry, known in Japanese as waka, began. Over time, personal collections were referenced to establish the first large collection of Japanese poetry known as Man'yōshū sometime after 759. Chinese characters were used to express sounds of Japanese until kana were invented. The Chinese characters used to express the sounds of Japanese are known as man'yōgana.