Japanese Arts Part 1

Japanese art, term for art in the field of Japan.

Japan v. a. from China (adoption of Chinese culture and writing; introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century), but also from Korea. The import of foreign art forms and styles was followed by particularly creative epochs of adapting and training specifically Japanese forms and techniques in all branches of art. Depending on the connection to religious ideas (Shintoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, especially Zen) or to social classes, different styles could coexist.

Early days

According to constructmaterials, Japanese prehistory and antiquity can be divided into the following periods:

1) Jōmon culture (” string pattern”, 10th millennium to 3rd century BC). Hand-formed ceramics with pressed-in string patterns have been preserved from this period, towards the end partly in bizarre shapes (spherical jugs and bowls) and dense geometric decoration (spiral pattern), which is also characteristic of the peculiar stylized clay figurines (dogū) and masks of the later Jōmone epochs. Jewelry made of bones, horn, animal teeth, shells, clay and stone has also been preserved.

2) Yayo era (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD), named after the first site (in Tokyo) of this culture, which was probably carried by immigrants, with Chinese bronze mirrors (Kagami), weapons and bells (Dōtaku), which are decorated geometrically and figuratively. There was also found ceramics fired from red clay, some painted, polished, with a cord or comb pattern, v. a. as gifts in barrows. The use of the turntable was adopted by Korea; Coin additions allow an exact dating.

3) Kofun period (3rd century to 538), named after barrows with a keyhole plan. These were limited with clay cylinders, which were later crowned with figures (Haniwa). In addition to bronze objects and hard-fired ceramics (Sue ceramics), jewelry, weapons, armor, horse harness and others were also found as grave goods. Some grave chambers have geometric, partly also figurative incised or painted wall decorations that show Korean influence.

Asuka and Hakuhō times


With the adoption of Buddhism (Buddhist art) during the Asuka period (538–645), the Chinese and Korean influence increased. The Shinto architecture, however, preserved early historical architectural styles in the shrines of Ise and Izumo in wooden pile construction with a veranda, gable roof, cylindrical transverse timbers over the ridge and long towering crossed gable rafters. Buddhist temple monasteries based on the Chinese model have been built since the end of the 6th century. In contrast to Korea (Korean art), temple complexes from this period with the axial arrangement of the buildings have been preserved in Japan, such as the Shitennōji in Osaka from 588, which, along with the Hōryūji near Nara (founded in 607), is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.

Typical of these temples is the wooden post construction with bracket beams and projecting tiled roofs. Early Buddhist sculpture, especially wood and bronze, is heavily influenced by Korea and the style of the Chinese Weidynasty. In the Hōryūji remained inter alia. The bronze cast of the Yakushibuddha (607) and the archaic-strict Shakatrias (623) by the sculptor (Busshi) Tori and the painting of the Tamamushi shrine as an example of religious painting based on the Chinese model. In the Hakuhō period, Japan was directly related to the Chinese Tang Empire, but the sculpture still follows the forms of the pre-Tang period (sculpture of the Bodhisattva Miroku made of wood in the Kōryūji in Kyōto, as well as in the Chūgūji in Nara; both in the middle of the 7th century). The yakushiji (founded in Asuka in 680, moved to Nara in 718) also dates from this era. The wall paintings of the “Golden Hall” (Kondō) of the Hōryūji (around 700) in the mature Tang style (almost completely destroyed in a fire in 1949) are strongly reminiscent of the Indian wall paintings in Ajanta.

Nara time


During this time, too, the art almost completely followed the “classical” style of Chinese seaweed art. Only a few buildings have survived from the huge temples of the capital Nara, which was laid out in a chessboard-like manner according to the Chinese model (Chang’an): a simple prayer room (Hokkedō, 733), treasure house (Shōsōin, before 756) and the Tengaimon gate of the state temple Tōdaiji; Main hall (Kondō) of the Tōshōdaiji and others. Only the symmetrical floor plan of the imperial palace is recognizable. About 200 sculptures have been preserved. The huge bronze cast of the 16 m high Daibutsu des Tōdaiji (consecrated in 752) has been restored and re-cast several times.

The Yakushitrias of Yakushiji (early 8th century, bronze) are shown in a perfect, round plastic, loosened form. The new materials dry varnish (Kanshitsu) and clay enabled both monumental and dramatically moving figures that v. a. Represent protective deities. The priest portrait was added as a new genre. As a result of the growing importance of wooden sculpture, the realistic representation of Chinese origin was lost towards the end of the 8th century and the blockiness of the figures increased. The robe was designed into wavy fold ridges.

Japanese Arts 1