Chapter 11: Japanese Art before 1392 Douglas Chin AP Art History Mrs. Uttendorfer
Some essentials about Japan
Human habituation records are dated to 28,000 BCE during the Paleolithic period.
Some pottery dates to 10,000 BCE, making it the oldest known.
First traces of historical writing date to around the first century CE.
Originally the archipelago of islands that makes up Japan were attached to mainland Asia and the Sea of Japan was a lake.
Glacial melting caused lowlands to flood and in turn isolated Japan.
Throughout history Japan has kept a policy of isolation, but in ancient times it had extensive connections with Korea and China.
Each period had some new cultural transformation; be it the introduction of Buddhism in the Asuka period to the severing of foreign ties and the rise of central government in the Heian period.
11-2: Vessel (no name)
From the Asahi Mound in the Toyama Prefecture (a province). Height: 37.4 cm.
Jomon; ~ 2000 BCE.
Ceramic/clay pottery with jomon styled details and texture.
The incised patterns are highly geometric, similar and repeated, but not perfectly symmetrical, typical of late Jomon pottery.
Like most late Jomon pottery, this vessel’s rim is flamboyant, asymmetrical, and shows the mastery of Jomon potters.
11-3: Dogu statue
This nameless statue is just one of many dogu statues. Height: 25.2 cm.
From Kurokoma, in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Jomon; ~ 2000 BCE.
Like all dogu figures, this one has a large face, small compact body, it is very abstract and has animalistic qualities.
These figures are speculated to have of served as symbolic effigies (one would transfer an illness to it, then smash it, thereby eliminating the illness).
11-4: Haniwa statue
This is just one example of many haniwa statues.
It is from Kyoto. Height: 68.5 cm.
Yayoi and Kofun period; ~ 500 CE.
Unglazed clay or ceramic statues.
Never perfectly symmetrical, expressive through its simplicity. In the form of humans and animals.
These were placed on top of artificial hills which were covering tombs.
11-6: Horyu-ji temple complex
Asuka period, ~ 607 CE. In the Nara Prefecture.
This Buddhist wooden temple was created by Prince Shotoku.
Has a kondo (golden hall) and a five-story pagoda.
Inside there is the Tamamushi Shrine which contains several paintings celebrating tales of Jakata (stories of Buddha).
Tori Busshi created the Shata Triad which is also inside the temple. This is a bronze sculpture of Buddha with a clear influence from Chinese styles.
Todai-ji temple complex [no #]
Nara period; ~ 752 CE.
This massive complex in the capital Nara was once the largest wooden structure in the world.
All of its structures were meant to worship Buddha and only one of its pagoda’s could fit in the Horyu-ji complex.
11-10: Womb World mandala
This is just one of many mandalas.
From To-ji Kyoto. Dimensions: 1.83 by 1.54 m.
Heian period; ~ 800 CE. Esoteric Buddhist art.
This elaborate colored silk piece depicts the hierarchy of the Buddhist deities.
Dainichi, the universal Buddha, was always in the center and was later then accompanied by other minor buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Esoteric Buddhists used these in various religious functions.
11-11: Byodo-in temple complex
From Kyoto Prefecture, in Uji Mountains.
Heian period; ~ 1053 CE. Pure Land Buddhist art.
Temple has thin wooden columns giving it a sense of airiness.
An artificial pond in the shape of the Sanscrit letter ‘A’ lies in front of it.
Inside is a wooden statue of Amida Buddha created by Jocho. It was constructed by the joint wood method . Separate pieces were placed together, rather than having the figure carved from one solid block of wood.
This is a perfect example of “men’s hand” style of Secular painting. It is attributed to Toba Sojo.
Focus is on outdoor scene. It is satirical with plenty of visual humor.
The lines are crisp and clean and there are no brush strokes other than those that are needed to depict the scene.
11-16: Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace
Kamakura period; ~ 1200 CE. Handscroll, ink and colors on paper. Dimensions: 41.3 by 699.7 cm.
Energetic battle depiction that captures the brutality of the attack.
Lively lines, refined brushwork, and vivid coloration.
All these elements help portray the political turmoil that was brewing throughout Japan at the time.
Combines elements of both styles of Secular painting; brisk lines of “men’s hand” and the aerial view point of “women’s hand”.
11-19: Monk Sewing
Zen Buddhist art; ~ 1300 CE. Ink on paper. Attributed to Kao Ninga. Dimensions: 83.5 by 35.4 cm.
Great example of Zen Buddhist ideals and art.
Monks used to be so revered that they had servants carry out simple tasks for them.
However, Zen Buddhists believe in individualism and independency. So the monk here is mending his own garment, he carries out this menial task for himself and by himself.
Yayoi and Kofun period; ~ 400 CE.
Clay figure, unglazed.
Its simple geometry and abstract rendering make it similar to a common votive statue.
The body is undecorated and not textured, but the mane has slight parallel lines symbolizing the hairs.
This figure has riding gear on it, such as a saddle and reins, perhaps symbolic of the person’s horseback riding skills in the tomb underneath it.
Most likely created in the Heian period; ~ 1100 CE. Color on silk.
This silk piece depicts a part of the Lotus Sutra. Salvation for women was promised and a goddess or holy priest would carry it out. It may have been a work in an upperclass Kamakura household though.
The figure in the piece has simple aura like shapes around her head, symbolizing divinity. Her clothes are extremely decorative with vibrant colors and many intricate details. She perches in a floating lotus flower as well, symbolic of spiritual awakening.
She was either extremely high up on the social ladder or a humanistic portrayal of a deity.
Gonzo, Teacher of Kukai
Heian or Kamakura period; ~ 1100 CE. Colors on silk.
Depicts Gonzo, teacher of Kukai.
Kukai was one of the earliest spreaders of Esoteric Buddhism.
Kukai found his own monastery at Kongobuji on Mount koya. He was a huge force in the introduction of Esoteric Buddhism in and out of Japan.
The fact that Kukai’s teacher, who was a modest Nara Buddhist himself, had himself depicted in a silk piece shows the importance of religion and the impact of Buddhism as a whole on Japan.
The writing on top and Gonzo’s relaxed and carefree pose indicate the harmony he has achieved by his Buddhist faith.