Pre-literate japanese culture, Humanities

Pre-literate Japanese Culture

Jomon (11-3rd century BCE.) Comes from the word "rope-patterns." Much of pottery from this period included rope patterns. Not very polished/sophisticated artistically. Pottery was very rustic. Mostly hunter-gathering villages - no visible settled remains. Huge pile of shell fish in one of the sites - relied on gathering shells? Burial remains: not much distinction in the way people were buried = not much social stratification.

Yayoi (3rd BCE - 3rd CE). Named after marshy plains near modern day Tokyo. First evidence of rice cultivation, came from the mainland. Metals started to come in - bronze, etc. revolutionized Japanese culture: more powerful weapons. Interesting pattern for Japan. Because Japan was isolated, technology and change was in dramatic form. The art form (pottery) was in greater sophistication: more aesthetic in their appearance; large jars. Burial: pack corpses into large jars and piled stones on top: tradition might have come from Korea. Water separating the tombs that surrounded it -> what can we make of this? Had to say why they would do this: because it was hard labor, and only a highly stratified society can produce such.

Rice cultivation First evidence is from the Yayoi period.

Key-holed shaped tombs Yayoi period; stupendously large burial mounds - was as large and as long as 1000 yards.

Tomb or Kofun Period (3rd-7th century) Tombs near modern day Osaka.Many items that related to horses; horsegears, lot of weapons buried within.

Horizontal vs. vertical cosmology What view of afterlife do they reflect? Horizontal cosmology-"over the sea motif" or vertical cosmology-earth and heaven or syncretism of the two? The gods came across the sea=horizontal and the gods came from the heavens is the vertical cosmology

Mounted warrior class  - the change between Yayoi and Tomb came about with the rival with the new classes with mounted warriors. Items symbolic of their royal status: comma-shaped jewels called magatamas, and mirrors and swords; resembled almost perfectly the Korean clans. Became the ruling clans and established regional aristocracy.

Uji aristocratic noble clan headed by a warlord. Each clan direct descendent of its clan kami, or patron god. Kami can also refer to nature spirit. 

                        Be occupational communities that supported the uji. Divide within nobles

                        and commoners: commoners did not have a last name but was referred

                        to by the nature of their occupation. "San" to whatever profession the

                        person belongs to: accentuate the social divide, nobles had clan names.

                        More dramatic increase in social stratification -> sets up the feudal


Yamato State (6th-8th C.E.) patroned by Amato-Rasu or sun goddess. Loose hegemony. More dominant because they formed important alliance with Paekche in Korea and received innovated weapons and tools. Used Buddhism to enhance authority and legitimacy. Whenever sungoddess' prestige is affirmed, it reinforces the political clan. Clear symbiotic relationship between myth and political authority.

Kojinki and Nihonji Kojiki: "Record of Ancient Matters" (712). Nihonji: "Chronicles of Japan" (720). 2 sources give information about Japanese beliefs. Produced in 8th century C.E., or much later. Why? Political legitimacy has to come with having a history; you have to have history to connect to. They were an effort to create history, a way to enhance its legitimacy. History plays into statecraft.

Amaterasu vs. Susano-o Myths of  Japanese Imperial Lineage. Amaterasu directly descended from the 7th generation of kamis. Legend of Izanagi and Izanami, one male and one female: credited for creating the islands of Japan and responsible for producing all the different kamis in Japan. Izanami at one point dies in the middle of childbirth -> husband descends to netherworld to look for his wife: disgusted b the sight and smell, enagages in purification, ritual cleansing which is prominent in Shinto. He later gives birth to Amaterasu through his left eye, and then gives birth to Susano-o through his nostrils. Susano-o is a kami for Izumo clan.

Clan kamis Responsible for the welfare of the clan. Myth::politics. Contest between kamis was a contest between clans.

Yamato vs. Izumo clans The contest between the two clans was basically a contest between Amaterasu (Yamato) and Susano-o (Izumo). Susano-o was associated with several transgressions: went into Amatorasu's realm and destroyed rice patties&ridges; went into the palace and defecates all over - violation of sacred place; skins a pony backwards and throws the pony down into the palace which causes one of the maidens to strike against the weaving wheel and have her genitals cut off. Before, Amaterasu tolerated all this, but the third transgression vexes her -> retreats into a rock cave, hides in there, causing a long lasting solar eclipse because she's a sungoddess. World goes dark, and other kamis create a scheme to bring her out - ritualistic dancing, increase ecstasy and one kami takes off the clothes and when Amaterasu peaks out, kamis give her a mirror, saying that there is a greater god. Ameterasu comes out in curiosity, then is held down by gods -> light comes back. Therefore, Yamato clan asserts supremacy over the Izumo clan based on this legend. However, in fact, Izumo clan was culturally more advanced, because of their region - Yamato was using the mythology to compensate their own insecurity.

Posted Date: 2/28/2013 1:55:54 AM | Location : United States

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