Japan Art History

What years defined the Jomon Period in neolithic Japan?
10500 – 300 BCE

Name the specific type of pattern that is characteristic of Jomon pottery.
Chord-patterned with sticks and rope. Bean applique design called toryumon that later developed into linear applique and a finger nail-like impression.

What was the pottery mostly used for?
Boiling starchy tubers and plants.

The use of breakable pottery suggests what?
A semi-sedentary lifestyle where their hunter-gatherer culture was subject to minimal movement of the tribes.

(Monument 1) The flame-rimmed motif came from which sub-period of Jomon and where, with what dimensions? What was the flame-rimmed motif called? What was its use?
Middle Jomon, 2500 – 1500 BC.

12 & 1/8 inches tall, from Niigata prefecture. It was called “kaen-doki” and had ritual significance.

What years defined the sub-period of Late Jomon and what were the developments?
Late Jomon, 1500 – 1000 BC saw the rise in ritual activity with increased burials, clay figurines using an erased chord-marking technique called “surikeshi jomon” whereby some areas of the clay are smoothened down.

Firing in a reduced atmosphere was also developed.

What were the clay figurines called and what were they used for?
They were called “dogu” and were probably talismans for health, child-birth, or funerary objects, toys, etc.

What years defined the Yayoi Period?
300 BC – 300 AD.

What were the bronze bells called and what were they called?
The “dotaku” were ritual bronze bells for agricultural rites. They were cast with images of agriculture – elevated granaries or scenes of rice being pounded and animals. The deer’s shedding of its antler velvet was a symbol of renewal of each cycle of life and harvest.

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What years defined the Kofun Period?
300 – 552 ce

What were the earthenware figurines called and what were their function?
“Haniwa” were terracotta figures arranged to delimit and protect burial sites.

What is a shinto shrine’s main purpose?
To house one or more shinto kani (spirits or natural forces).

(Monument 2) ‘Ise Grand Shrine’s Main Hall (Honden)’ of dimensions 10.9 x 5.5m, in the Mie Prefecture. When was this erected and who is it dedicated to?
Erected in 1st century AD, dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu who was the founder of the imperial family.

How often does it get rebuilt? Of what material, and when was the last time?
It is rebuilt of cypress wood every 20 years, 1993 being the last year.

What years defined the Asuka Period?
552 – 645.

What was the name of the powerful patriarchal family that Buddhism found favour with?
Soga family.

Asuka is a region located on the ___
Southern edge of the Nara Plain, thus their interconnectedness. Asuka was the centre of government activity which moved to Nara.

What years defined Nara Period? (Also called Hakuho Period)
710 – 784. There was a creation of symbols of authority inspired by Tang Dynasty.

Horyuji is a Buddhist Temple in Nara Prefecture, serving as a monastery and seminary. Who was it commissioned by?
Prince Shotoku (who overtook Soga power and also subsequently killed by them.)

The complex is made out of west and east, what are east and west called, and what do they hold?
The west is called sai-in, while the east is called to-in.
Sai-in holds the Kondo (Golden Hall), dimensions of 18.5 x 15.2 m, and the Five Storey Pagoda. To-in holds the Hall of Dreams.

Influences include _____.
Eastern Han to Northern Wei of China

What was the checkerboard street layout of Horyuji influenced by?
The Chinese capital of Chang’an acted as a template.

The introduction of Buddhism in Japan was a catalyst for _____.
large-scale temples using complicated techniques in wood.

The Kondo (Golden Hall) of Horyuji holds (Monument 3), (Monument 4), and (Monument 6) what are they?
‘Shaka Triad’, by Tori Busshi, sculpture dated 623 from the Asuka Period, made of gilt bronze, 46 inches tall.

‘Tamamushi Shrine’, dated 650, made of cypress and camphor wood with lacquer, 7 feet tall.

‘Amida Triad’, dated 710, mural.

(Monument 3) ‘Shaka Triad’ has an inscription. What does the legend on the inscription say?
It says the statue was created as a life-sized replica of Prince Shotoku, during his death, as a prayer for the ascent into the Pure Land.

Other than the inscription, why is the middle figure suggested to be Prince Shotoku?
Whilst Prince Shotoku is deitified here as Shakyamuni Buddha, it is known to be Shotoku because of the left hand gesture that is not found with any other Buddhist image.

The Yakushi image to the right of the main figure has an inscription identifying it as _____.
Prince Shotoku’s father, thus now at least two figures constitute this family portrait, elevating the men as Buddhas and the women as Bodhisattvas.

(Monument 4) ‘Tamamushi Shrine’ derives its name from the _____ because of _____.
Tamamushi beetle, because it was once ornamented with the beetles but have been removed.

What is the function of the Tamamushi Shrine?
To house Buddhist paintings or scrolls, in this case, a statue of Kannon.

On the left plinth of the Tamamushi Shrine is a painting called ______.
‘Jataka of The Hungry Tigress’, made from ink, pigment and lacquer. A Buddha jumps into a ravine to save a litter of cubs from being eaten by their starving tiger-mother in an act of selfless compassion. It is conveyed through a continuous narrative in one scene.

Where else is this method of pictorial story-telling found?
On Indian stupas and Chinese cave paintings at Dunhuang.

(Monument 6) Who are the figures in the mural of ‘Amida Triad’, circa 710?
Painted on the wall of the Kondo (Golden Hall) is a mural of Amida (Buddha of West Paradise) sitting on a bejewelled throne with Kannon on the left and Seishi on the right. Seishi is another Bodhisattva usually paired with Kannon as attendant to Amida.

Describe the Five Storey Pagoda in the sai-in part of Horyuji.
it is 32.45m high with a 20x20m base, with designs unique to Asuka Period.

What method is used to build the Five Storey Pagoda?
Mortise and tenon method.

The pagoda signifies the connection between spiritual and material world through the _____.
Building supporting the central column instead of vice versa.

How does the pagoda reveals influence of western origin?
The columns supporting the base of the pagoda show entasis (slight curvature) which was used in classical Greek structures.

(Monument 5) Scene of the Great Debate of Yuima & Monju, dated 711, clay over wood & metal. What is being conveyed here?
A mountain scene with rolling clouds as a site of gateway of non-dual Dharama. Yuima asks ‘How do Bodhissatvas enter non-dualism?’ and each monk in attendance gave an answer. Monju asks the same question and Yuima says nothing, thus conceding that to be the answer to non-dualism.

What years defined the Heian Period and what characterized this period?
794 – 1185. It was characterized by beauty being the measure of a person’s goodness. Aristocrats powdered their faces and blackened their teeth. Male ideal was faint facial hair while the women’s mouthes were small with raised eyebrows. There were many improverished people too.

Vajrayana Buddhism (Diamond Vehicle) was at its height, what is the main idea of this?
It is an esoteric belief, the reliance on sacred texts called tantras. These are practiced in Tibet and some parts of Japan. It involves esoteric visualisations, symbols, rituals under tutelage of a master, with emphasis on mantras, mudras and mandalas, deities with wrathful violent natures and multiple heads/limbs. This meditative and monastic path is contrasted to Mahayana Buddhism (which believes in merit gaining and the attainment of Buddhahood through sincerity).

(Monument 7) Standing Medicine Buddha (Yakushi), circa 793. Made of cypress wood with traces of paint. 67 inches tall. Describe its origin.
Belongs to Heian Period, its function is religious and iconic in nature. It is made from cypress, a sacred material, through the ichiboku zukuri method of single block carving. The neck is characterized by 3 rings, and has a fleshy face and body like that of the style in Northern Zhou. It represents the Heian Period’s most formal and unapproachable.

(Monument 8) Identify these minature looking pagoda and kondo.
Pagoda & Kondo in Muroji, early 9th Century.

Explain their placement in the environment they are in and the structures.
In the Heian Period, temples were relocated to the mountains due to the lack of space and the growing population. They were scaled down and set into the natural surroundings, a reassertion of Japanese aesthetic preferences. The Kondo is divided into two spaces, the inner for the initiated and outer is for the novices. The structures have connections to Esoteric Buddhism through the Shingon sect, acting like a hut for monks to pray in. It stands at the top of Muroji’s stairway, presenting elegant expressions. This Kondo has a sense of horizontal balance as compared to the Kondo at Horyuji which has vertical movement.

(Monument 9) Identify and analyze these mandalas.
‘Kongokai (Diamond World) & Taizokai (Womb World) Mandalas’ from Toji, Kyoto, circa 9th century, colour on silk, early Heian Period. They represent a pair of Wisdom and Compassion, cosmic transcendence in the depth of the patterns, which draw the eye into specific directions, initiating a meditative effect on the viewer. These are used in esoteric practices as an aid.

What years define the Middle Heian Period and what is it also called?
951 – 1086, also called Fujiwara. There came the emergence of Pure Land Buddhism, which is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism (merit gaining), the main character being the Amida Buddha of Western Paradise.

Byodo-in is a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, identify the famous hall.
Phoenix Hall, constructed in 1053 in the shape of a phoenix with a central hall flanked by twin wing corridors and a tail corridor, with a large artificial pond perhaps to simulate feng shui.

(Monument 10) Identify and analyze the Amida Buddha statue within Phoenix Hall.
‘Amida Buddha & entourage’, circa 1053 by Jocho, made from gilded cypress wood with lacquered cloth and gold leaf, about 3m tall. It was made with the yosegi-zukuri technique, the assemblage of separate carved pieces which allowed for time-saving and mathematical proportions. It was covered in cloth and painted in gold lacquer and leaf. The statue has a well-balanced shape with soft flowing robes. From across the lake, the figure appears to be floating, adding to the mystique of the Buddha of Pure Land. Around the central figure are 52 smaller Bodhisattvas floating on clouds, believed to be lacquered a variety of colours, playing instruments, seeming to serenade Amida. This reflects the artistry, grandeur and aristocratic essence of the Fujiwara clan.

(Monument 11) Identify and analyze the Amida Raigo Triptych.
‘Amida Raigo Triptych’ (Descent of Amida With Divine Attendants) dated late 11th Century, ink, colour, gold pigment and kirikane (cut gold leaf) on silk. Whilst esoteric and Zen Buddhism was a matter of personal and arduous effort, the salvation in Pure Land belief relied on the faith in divine compassion. This painting expresses Raigo (welcoming), depicting Amida & his two attendants Kannon and Seishi, descending to the world to accept a dying believer. The diagonal motion of the figures down and across the painting stands in stark contrast to the usually frontal view of most Buddhist images.

*important* (Monument 12) Identify and analyze this painting of a very large Buddha surrounded by others.
‘Parinirvana of The Buddha’, 1086, during Heian Period, ink on silk. Final nirvana occuring upon Shakyamuni of 80 years old at Beluva. Ananda saw Buddha ill, and stayed at the Capala Shrine, was fed by Cunda, a son of a goldsmith with a dish called ‘sukaramaddava’ (boar’s delight), either meant to be boar meat or truffles, after which he got dysentry but told Ananda not to blame him and also to disallow anyone from eating the left overs, which were then buried. They then moved to a grove of trees in Kushinagar, where he lay on a couch head to the North. Buddha laid on his right, foot over the over, with his head supported by his right hand. The sal trees bloomed. The painting is done in hieratic scale, with Buddha being the biggest and most important. There are many nobles, children and Bodhisattvas in attendance. “All compounded things are subject to decay, strive with diligence,” were his last words, then, serenely, he passed into parinirvana. The bodhisattva nearest to Shakyamuni’s head is probably Kannon, her expression is contrasted to the weeping figure below, Ananda. The Bodhisattvas have a greater understanding of Buddha’s entrance into Nirvana, whilst the weeping humans still hold on to worldy concerns. The animal figure on the bottom right corner depicts a cross between a pig and a lion, perhaps as Shakyamuni’s lion or reminiscent of his last meal.

What is emaki-mono and their types?
“Picture scroll”, a horizontal or vertially illustrated narrative, created during the 11-16th Century Japan. Emaki paintings during the late Heian Period of 1086 – 1185 can be categorized into
yamato-e (Japanese paintings)
emaki (illustrated handscroll)
onna-e (feminine style, indirect, subtle, plain-faced)
otoko-e (masculine style, direct, animated)
They are meant to be read right to left, one arm length at a time.

What is the ‘Tale of Genji’?
it is a classic literature piece attributed to noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th Century during the peak of Heian Period. it illustrates a unique depiction of the life of high courtiers. Prince Genji, the son of an emperor, is relegated to commoner status and becomes an imperial officer, the tale concentrates on Genji’s romantic life and describes the aristocracy of the time.

(Monument 13) Analyze the techniques used in making the ‘lllustrated Scroll of the Tale of Genji” (Genji monogatari emaki).
The 'Illustrated Scroll of the Tale of Genji', handscroll ink and colour on paper, dated 12th Century. Only 15% remains.
There is the employment of hikime-kagihana (dash for eye, hook for nose), a simplistic technique to render the faces of nobility in the Yamato-e. They are portrayed to be full-cheeked with eyes in a straight line, a small mouth and a hooked nose. There is little variation and complex human psychology is expressed through the atmosphere and mood created by the setting in the painting. This indirect way of rendering people is characteristic of the onna-e.
The scenes are composed in the ***inuki-yatai (blown away roof) style, used to depict a residential interior, rendering a building without roof for direct access to the scene within. Earliest use of this technique is found in the biography of Prince Shotoku.
Tsukuri-e (built-up pictures) are the technical method where first ink outlines are drawn, then thick opaque colour is applied to the entire painting, then the outlines are carefully redrawn over the outlines and important details are added.

Analyze the scene of Genji holding the baby in his arms.
In this scene, ***inuki-yatai is used to show the interior of a very delicate and intense scene. This 8,5/8 inch tall scroll reveals the luxury of Heian Period. Despite the hikime-kagihana style of the faces, the rolling folds of cloth and robes act as physical and emotional barriers, coupled with the awkward placement of tightly painting the scene at the top corner, reveal a conflicting situation where the son of 'Third Princess', Kaoru, is not Genji's son but Genji's nephew's.

(Monument 14) Identify and analyze a scroll that narrates the origin of temple on a mountain, its first and third parts.
‘Origin of the Temple On Mt Shigi’ (Shigisan engi emaki), late 12th Century, ink and colour on handscroll paper.
Part 1 is The Flying Granary/Storehouse. A tale of generosity. The depiction of the headman, oil press and clothings are indication of domestic architecture of the Heian Period. It is in the style of otoko-e where fluid lines and dynamic movement within the composition are hyperbolic of the faces, direct and humorous.
Part 3 is The Story of The Nun, where Myoren’s older sister sets out to look for her brother, retiring at the Great Buddha Hall at Todaji Temple. Shows mode of transport, people’s gossip, doing laundry by treading, domestic architecture and ordinary people’s lives. Ghost-like figures of the nun in the temple show the extended amount of time spent worshipping through the night.

Period in Japan from 11,000-400 B.C. that was characterized by a large hunter gatherer society. It is characterized by pottery decorated with a distinctive cord pattern.

Dogū are small humanoid and animal figurines made during the late Jōmon period of prehistoric Japan. Dogū come exclusively from the Jōmon period. By the Yayoi period, which followed the Jōmon period, Dogū were no longer made.

Three Sacred Treasures
The Imperial Regalia of Japan, also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, consist of the sword Kusanagi, the mirror Yata no Kagami, and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama.

Magatama, less frequently, are curved, comma-shaped beads that appeared in prehistoric Japan from the Final Jōmon period through the Kofun period, approximately ca. 1,000 BC to the 6th century AD

Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early 3rd century and the early 7th century AD. Many of the Kofun have distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds.

large hollow baked clay sculptures placed on ancient Japanese burial mounds

a Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century and incorporating the worship of ancestors and nature spirits and a belief in sacred power ( kami ) in both animate and inanimate things.

the gateway of a Shinto shrine, with two uprights and two crosspieces.

The site at which a kami has take up residence.The iwakura is usually represented by a wooden shrine within an enclosure.

a dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine.

Mahayana Buddhism
one of the two major traditions of Buddhism that originated in India. Pushes philosophies that encourages followers to seek enlightenment not for themselves alone, but for all sentient beings.

almond-shaped aureole of light surrounding the entire figure of a holy person.

a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies and statuary.

a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.

Buddha who is not an earthly manifestation, but is Buddhahood’s quintessential essence.

Eye-opening ceremony
Part of many Buddhist traditions, it is the ritual to enshrine a Buddhist sculpture, celebrated by the Shinnyo-en.

Silk Roads
an ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean

a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.

Dainichi Nyorai (Enjo-ji)
is known as the Supreme Buddha of the Cosmos in Esoteric Buddhist thought. He is the source from whom all other deities and everything in the universe emanate, as light does from the sun.

Is a celestial buddha described in scriptures, and is one of the four principle buddhas.

An idea that determines the age of the degeneration of the Buddha’s law, which some believe to be the current age in human history.

The main hall of Heian Period estates, and hence the style of architecture associated with those estates. Started in the Heian period,

is a horizontal, illustrated narrative form created during the 11th to 16th centuries in Japan. Combines both text and pictures, and is drawn, painted, or stamped on a handscroll.

Women’s pictures, epitomized by the Tale of Genji handscroll, typically deals with court life and courtly romance.

Men’s pictures, often deal with historical and/or semi-legendary events, particularly battles.

Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature written by the noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the early years of the 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period.

Translates to the one who serves. They were important military class that developed during the Heian period (794-1185).

a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan. Because of the military power concentrated in his hands and the consequent weakness of the nominal head of state (the mikado or emperor), the shogun was generally the real ruler of the country until feudalism was abolished in 1867.

Monoscenic Narration
a type of narrative that represents a single scene. There is no repetition of characters and there is only one action taking place. The scene is one that is easily identifiable in context of the narrative and is of significant importance.

Continuous Narration
a type of narrative that illustrates multiple scenes of a narrative within a single frame. Multiple actions and scenes are portrayed in a single visual field without any dividers. The sequence of events within the narrative is defined through the reuse of the main character or characters.

Simultaneous Narration
a type of narrative that has very little visually discernable organization to those who are not acquainted with its purpose.

paintings of the six realms of transmigration, which include the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, asura (demons), humans, and heaven.

Circle located above the head of a figure designating that they are a holy person.

Small humanoid and animal figurines made during the late Jōmon period

Japanese bells smelted from relatively thin bronze and richly decorated and thought to be only used as decorations for rituals

Megalithic tombs in ancient Japan with distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds.

Terracotta clay figures which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects during the Kofun period in Japan.

the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past

the Japanese word for the divinity; the supreme being.

literally “golden hall”, started to be used during the Asuka and Nara periods. A kon-dō is the centerpiece of an ancient Buddhist temple’s garan in Japan.

tiered building

is a Japanese Buddhist term indicating the seven halls composing the ideal Buddhist temple compound. This compound word is composed by the word shichidō (七堂?), literally meaning “seven halls”, and garan (伽藍?), meaning “temple”. The term is often shortened to just garan.

was an ancient janapada (kingdom) of Iron Age India.

Japanese for Amitābha buddha.

In Japanese, Guanyin is pronounced Kannon

is an appearance of Amida Buddha on a purple cloud at the time of one’s death

is a horizontal, illustrated narrative form of scroll.


(Women’s pictures) style of painting epitomized by the Tale of Genji handscroll, typically deals with court life, particularly the court ladies, and with romantic themes.

(Men’s pictures) style of painting often recorded historical events, particularly battles.

a school of Mahayana Buddhism, primarily a Chinese Buddhist lineage (known as Zen in China)

a Japanese branch of Pure Land Buddhism

Esoteric Buddhism based primarily on two Buddhist texts, the Mahavairocana Sutra (Japanese Dainichi-kyo) and the Vajrasekhara Sutra (Japanese Kongocho-kyo)

is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism.

is a style of Japanese painting inspired by Tang Dynasty paintings: include many small figures and careful depictions of details of buildings and other objects, the selection of only some elements of a scene to be fully depicted, the rest either being ignored or covered by a “floating cloud”, an oblique view from above showing interiors of buildings as though through a cutaway roof, and very stylised depiction of landscape.

chiefly composed of imaginative landscapes in the Chinese manner and illustrations of Chinese legends and tales

japanese screen

japanese sliding door

Japanese architectural style for mansion-estates

style of Japanese domestic architecture.

Japanese architectural style originally used for tea-houses

school of artists

school of art

Japanese woodblock prints

multi-colored woodblock prints

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Japan Art History. (2019, Jan 30). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/japan-art-history/

Japan Art History
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