KOFUN RELIGION

KOFUN RELIGION


Sharinseki

Aileen Kawagoe wrote in Heritage of Japan: “People of the Kofun age and from earlier times, had conducted many rituals of worship to the kami spirits of the mountains, sea, rivers and at roads through mountain passes which they thought tended to get blocked by “violent kami”. The many ritual objects found buried in riverbeds or at the feet of mountains are evidence of those customs.” [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com ]

“Throughout the land of Japan, as close-knit communities, people of the Kofun Period held and attended agricultural ceremonies such as festivals (Toshigoi) to pray for good harvests and thanksgiving festivals (Niname festival) which are thought to have been introduced by the toraijin immigrants. Ritual life and magic governed their lives. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“They worshipped solar and weather deities and venerated various kami spirits, mountain, sea and water deities, and continued the shamanistic practices and divination rituals from earlier Yayoi times. Rituals, for example, where deer bones were heated and burnt, and fortunes read and told from the cracks were practised all over Kofun Japan.” <^>

Kofun Burials, Kofun Burial Rituals, See Kofun Tombs

Yamato Period Wikipedia article on the Yamato period Wikipedia article ; Kojiki, Nihongi and Sacred Shinto Texts sacred-texts.com ; Book: Secret History of the Yamato Dynasty prnewswire.co.uk Imperial Household Agency kunaicho.go.jp/eindexList of Emperors of Japan friesian.com ; Buddhism and Prince Shotoku onmarkproductions.com ; Essay on the Japanese Missions to Tang China aboutjapan.japansociety.org . References: 1) The Chronicles of Wa, Gishiwajinden by Wes Injerd; 2) Wa (Japan), Wikipedia; 3) Excerpts from the History of the Kingdom of Wei, Columbia University’s Primary Source Document Asia for Educators. Asuka Wikipedia article on Asuka Wikipedia ; Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Asuka Historical Museum asukanet.gr.jp ; UNESCO World Heritage sites ; Map: Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Getting There: Asuka is accessible from Nara, Kyoto and Osaka by train.

Good Early Japanese History Websites: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Essay on Early Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Japanese Archeology www.t-net.ne.jp/~keally/index.htm ; Ancient Japan Links on Archeolink archaeolink.com ;Essay on Rice and History aboutjapan.japansociety.org

Good Japanese History Websites: ; Wikipedia article on History of Japan Wikipedia ; Samurai Archives samurai-archives.com ; National Museum of Japanese History rekihaku.ac.jp ; Japanese History Documentation Project openhistory.org/jhdp ; Cambridge University Bibliography of Japanese History to 1912 ames.cam.ac.uk ; Sengoku Daimyo sengokudaimyo.co ; English Translations of Important Historical Documents hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/iriki ; WWW-VL: History: Japan (semi good but dated source ) vlib.iue.it/history/asia/Japan ; Forums Delphi Forums, Good Discussion Group on Japanese History forums.delphiforums.com/samuraihistory ; Tousando tousando.proboards.com

Agriculture, Female Shaman and Ancient Religion in Japan

According to “Topics in Japanese Cultural History”: Agriculture was the foundation of all economic activity in Japan until the start of this century. The most important kami, therefore, were those associated with agriculture. In many localities during the Tomb period and later, villagers worshiped a pair of kami, one male and the other female. The thinking was that the fertility of these kami was closely connected with the fertility of the land and that such worship would help ensure a bountiful harvest. Sexual imagery in the form of depictions of male and female organs, often carved out of stone, was common in such worship. This imagery is still seen in numerous local festivals, although with the diminished importance of agriculture, religious depictions of sexual organs today are often regarded as aids for couples trying to conceive. [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org *~*]


Amaterasu

“The leaders of locally powerful clans worshiped these agricultural deities since the livelihood of everyone in the area depended on good harvests. In time, many of these clans (uji) came to regard these agricultural deities as their ancestral founders. Local agricultural deities, in other words, became the ujigami (uji-founding kami) of the major local clans. As the confederation of clans in the Yamato area extended its hegemony over the other uji and peoples of the Japanese islands, their ujigami became more widely known. *~*

“Of particular importance, of course, was the Yamato royal family, whose ujigami was Amaterasu, a female solar deity (often called the "sun goddess"). Her "deity-body" (shintai--an object in which the kami spirit is thought to inhere) is housed at the inner shrine at Ise, near the coast of the old Yamato region. Worship of Amaterasu was an important duty of the Yamato king, who was as much a religious leader as he was a secular leader. After the Taika Reforms of 645, Amaterasu became, at least in theory, a kami of great importance for all of the Japanese islands. *~*

“Moving a few centuries back in time to the early tomb period, religious life seems to have been dominated by women with special spiritual powers. These women functioned as shamans and were often political leaders as well. Female leadership in religious and political life was common throughout many parts of East Asia prior to the spread of Confucianism and Buddhism. In Ryukyu, for example, female shamans (noro in Japanese; nuru in Okinawan) played a major role in local religious and political life until this century. The head priestess of Ryukyu (Kikoe-Ogimi) was nearly as powerful as the king until the seventeenth century. In Japan, by the time of the Taika Reforms, female shamans no longer played a role in the official state religious ceremonies. A few centuries earlier, however, female shamans sometimes served as leaders of the Yamato Kingdom.” *~*

Rejection of Yayoi Kami in the Kofun Period

Kawagoe wrote: A great and long-lasting famine had spread across the whole of East Asia just before the start of the Kofun Period, from around AD 190 to 220. It was around the time when priestess Queen Himiko had ascended the throne (climatic historians say this was a time of a Little Ice Age). In Japan, people everywhere joined their rulers in imploring for assistance from their kami, using the ritual bronze spearheads, daggers, and bells. But it must have seemed that the kami were deaf to their pleas for the years of famine did not come to an end. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“In those days in East Asia, there was a custom of practising regicide which meant that they killed their rulers whom they blamed for the plight they were in. The rulers of the Wa kingdom were probably killed one after another, but when that didn’t stop the famine, the people ended up rejecting the Yayoi kami as well. The rejection of Yayoi kami is thought to be why over much of Japan, whether in Tsukushi, Kibi or Yamato, ritual objects such as bronze bells and bronze spearheads were being broken and cast into rivers, or discarded inside abandoned houses or dumped or buried. <^>

“Since the Yayoi kami had been rejected, the rulers then needed to seek and reveal new kami to their people. It is thought that Queen Himiko had sent diplomatic missions to the Chinese kingdom of Wei and had probably imported new kami along with the gifts of “one hundred bronze mirrors” that symbolized them from the Chinese court. She may have revealed the new kami with the hundred mirrors which she then “displayed to people throughout all the land”.” <^>

New Post-Yayoi Religion and the Makimuku Shrine


Pottery from the Makimuku site

Kawagoe wrote: Historians believe that the new religion involved bronze mirrors and the construction of keyhole shaped tombs as religious structures. Queen Himiko’s reign had the effect of unifying many tribal or clan groups, and may also have brought about some common religious system that had the keyhole-shaped tomb as a central symbol. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“To accommodate the demands of this new religious system, a new architectural structure came to be built. Remains from the first half of the 3rd century of shrine-like raised buildings were discovered at excavations of the Makimuku site. The remains were examined and declared by shrine carpenters to be the ”prototypes of the shrine architecture”. The principal hall is gabled and faces directly west; it has a “central pillar” and “ridgepole-beam pillars”. The structure had secondary halls, both having their principal axes aligned in the same direction. The new structure resembled the Ise Shrine that was built centuries later. <^>

“Significantly, the Makimuku proto-type shrine was built in a style totally different from that of the Yayoi period and using the Chinese Wei scale of measurement and was the Lu Ban or North Star imperial copper shaku of “an auspicious, slightly longer Wei shaku than the type used in the period 240 to 248?. It had a numerical value of slightly under 32 centimeters.

“Another Early Kofun Period raised-floor building was discovered on a sand dune at Nagase Takahama, in Tottori Prefecture. It was huge with post holes two to three meters in diameter, so that it probably supported a tall building over 10 meters high. It was a square building over 5 meters long on each side, surrounded by a quadrangular fence 16 meters long on each side and at the front was a stairway. It was clear the building was set apart for other than everyday function and it is found with a miniature bronze mirror in it. <^>

Kofun-Era Purification Rituals and Food Offerings

Kawagoe wrote: “Aqueduct systems have been found at the Makimuku and Hattori sites. These are thought to have been facilities to provide clean water for offerings to the kami in water purification rituals. These aqueduct systems usually comprising of wooden pipes to channel in sacred pure water, wooden boards and troughs to control the flow of the water, and stoned pavements and a pebbled central area for purification rituals – continued to be constructed and used well into the fifth and sixth centuries. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


Makimuku mask

“Some common water rituals involved the placing of miniature clay vessels at water spouts and floating talc ritual objects (placed inside bowls) down irrigation channels. The Hitachi no kuni fudoki suggests how such a water purification rite might possibly have been conducted: “When couriers and the like were making their first visits to the province, they first rinsed their mouths and hands, then faced east and did reverence to the kami of Kashima, after which they were able to enter”. <^>

“Along the Makimuku River, various ritual sites showed evidence that rituals involving large numbers of pottery and wooden products were conducted, around or possibly inside raised-floor buildings. “As a large number of rice-cooking as well as eating utensils, pots and clay vessels found at one Makimuku site, it is thought that a ritual was performed in which the people hulled and boiled rice, and heaped the rice in a bowl and partook of a communal meal with the kami. They also brought weaving implements for weaving new garments as kami offerings. Other ritual objects were wooden bird-shaped and wooden boats. This rite and the utensils used are similar to those of the later Niiname harvest festival where joint food offerings of food were made by powerful regional families. <^>

“At another site around a giant camphor tree on the bank of the Miyamae River, a large quantity of pottery (1,000 pots out of 2,500 ceremic vessels) from the 3rd century were found. Some of the pottery was not local but from the Kinki, Kibi and San’in areas in the east of Matsuyama, suggesting that food might have been cooked in some kind of celebration for people from other regions – in what was a communal ritual of eating food together with the kami (as suggested by the miniature bowls and cups). The practice of conducting rituals with pottery vessels containing food offered at the base of sacred trees was probably a common religious ritual practiced in many parts of Japan at the time. According to fragment of the Yamashiro no kuni fudoki text, the tree is considered sacred to which kami descend. <^>

“The Isonokami practised cultic rites involving a spirit-shaking chinkonsai ritual. The main deity of the Isonokami was Futsunushi-no-Mikoto, or “the Master Shaker”, this figure appears in the chronicles as a military figure who pacifies for the court the spirit of rebellious local deities. The keepers of Isonokami, the Mononobe clan are thought in some quarters to be of Korean lineages (kingdom of Silla) connected with the transmission of military and sericulture technologies, and shrines bearing the spirit shaking names are known to extend from Okinoshima, off the coast of Kyushu to the Inland Sea near Ise.

Kofun-Era Rituals Change Over Time

Kawagoe wrote: “Ritual objects of the day changed in popularity according to the prevailing religious beliefs of the times. By examining the important Munakata clan’s shrine on the island of Okinoshima which was a state ritual site with strong connections to the Yamato kings, a changing pattern of ritual offerings over the centuries can be seen: 4th – 5th centuries: Magatama beads, mirrors, knives and swords, (green nephrite) bracelets, iron weapons and tools, steatite items were offered on top of iwakura boulder-top altars to invite the kami to descend to these altars. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

6th – 7th centuries: Japanese copies of Chinese bronze mirrors, personal belongings, horse ornaments, pottery, metal miniatures and steatite items were popular as ritual objects. 7th – 8th centuries: Gold rings, horse ornaments, iron, ingots (similar to those found in tombs in the Korean Silla kingdom). Fragments of a Sassanian Persian glass bowl have been uncovered. Purification rites appear to have been conducted partly in the open and partly at the base of boulders, using ritual items of steatite, metal miniatures of weaving and spinning implements. Two Eastern Wei gilt bronze finials in the shape of dragon’s heads and fragments of a Tang dynasty 3-coloured long-necked Chinese vase. 8th – 9th centuries: Worship was carried out at open-air altars with ritual offerings that included: bronze mirrors, bronze bells (suzu), locally made steatite objects of humans, horses and boats, imported pottery, metal miniatures and bronze coins minted in Japan. <^>


Makimuku site

“Rites involving the offerings of large quantities of talc objects such as talc swords and mortar shaped beads, previously practised in tomb rituals became widespread in the fifth century in open village ritual settings or altars. For example in the early sixth century village of Nakasuji, in Gunma Prefecture, within the ritual place inside the village residential compound, rituals were carried out in which wild boar were sacrificed and placed on top of rocks from the river, around the rocks were three talc mortar beads. At another of the village’s ritual places to the southeast and outside the residential compound, in front of another rock arrangement stood Haji bowls: haji jars, small jars, pedestaled bowls, bowls, and pots. Inside the bowls were fifteen talc mortar-shaped beads. At yet another ritual site south of this spot were three riverbed rocks where sacrificial wild boar had also been offered up. <^>

“Elsewhere in Japan, the popular use of talc ritual offerings were replaced in the latter half of the sixth century by clay ritual human and horse figurines which were usually floated downstream in a river during certain festivals, usually combined with the drinking of a sake brew. In some cases, the purpose was to appease the kami that caused turbulence in the waters upstream, and in other cases, the purpose was a purification rite carried out on a sacred purificatory river. <^>

“Some very rare field rituals to field kami included horse sacrificial offerings and roosters painted on field embankments. Vermilion-lacquered roosters made of wooden boards have been found inside the moats of an early Makimuku burial mound. It is likely that the roosters were decorative ornaments hung on the pillars and were used during the wake ceremony to pray for the dead person’s return to life. Clay rooster shaped haniwa have also been found in some early kofun burial mounds. <^>

“Thus it can be seen ritual objects and the rites and customs themselves also waxed and waned in popularity over time. When kings first derived their authority from their spiritual roles, mountaintop shrine worship were the order of the day, but as their authority and power grew through more secular, through military prowess and victories, burials of personal items and horse and military symbols replaced the ritual offerings that accompanied ancestral worship and tumuli rites symbolic of the buried king’s authority. This eventually paved a smoother path for acceptance of Buddhist ideas at the end of the Kofun age.” <^>

Kofun-Era Fortune-Telling Wild Boar Bone

In February 2015, Japanese researchers announced they found a wild boar bone believed to have been used for fortune-telling sometime between the late 3rd century and early 4th century among the ancient Makimuku ruins in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture. The Japan News reported: “According to the Research Center for Makimukugau, the wild boar bone, or bokkotsu, was found in a hole at the ruins, which is known as one of the potential spots of the legendary Yamataikoku kingdom. Bokkotsu has been discovered in sites around the nation, but it was the first found at the Makimuku ruins, which was believed to be the political centre at the period. "The bone suggests that ancient fortune-telling may have been passed down from generation to generation, and developed into a nationwide religious service at that time," said a spokesman for the research centre. [Source: Japan News/Asia News Network, February 8 2015 ^|^]

“In ancient times, animal bones were burned for fortune-telling, with the shape of cracks left on the bones serving as a guide to the future. This style of fortune-telling was depicted in the Chinese documents of the "Gishi Wajin-den" (The Record of Japan in the History of Wei). The bokkotsu found this time was 16.7-centimeter long and 6.7-centimeter wide in its widest area and is believed to have been taken from the right shoulder of a wild boar. It was found in a one-meter-deep hole at the ruins. Part of the bokkotsu is missing, and no cracks remain in the bone, but three marks on the bone show that a burned rod was pressed against it. ^|^

“The late 3rd century is believed to be the era of Queen Toyo, the successor of Himiko, the powerful queen of the Yamataikoku who also conducted religious rites of the kingdom. "Bokkotsu is believed to have been used for fortune-telling on important occasions, such as war, marriage and burial," said Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology. "There is a possibility that Toyo was involved" in the fortune-telling, Ishino added.” ^|^


Kofun swords


Kofun-Era Sacred Swords and Talc Objects

Kawagoe wrote: “Swords appear to have been particularly revered objects deposited at some shrines. According to Nihon shoki, Susano O no Mikoto’s sword used to kill the legendary eight-headed serpent was deposited at Isonokami during the 4th century. A famous gold-inlaid sword, the shichishito or seven-pronged sword from the 4th century, still stored at the Isonokami shrine today, is thought to be the shichishito sword mentioned in the Jingu chapter of the Nihon shoki that was presented by Paekche king’s grandson along with a seven knobbed mirror and a message to open up relations between the two countries. Experts have determined from the inscription on the sword that the sword was made in Paekche in 369 A.D. and presented by a Paekche king to the Yamato ruler and then placed in the Isonokami storehouse. Entries made in the 35th year of Suinin’s reign in the Nihon shoki records say that Emperor Suinin’s eldest son had ordered a thousand swords made and stored at Isonokami. The Monobe clan founded by Prince Inishiki became custodians of the Isonokami treasures, thereafter holding military roles and power.” [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“In the fifth century, a new ritual of hanging perforated discs, talc-shaped sword-shaped objects and talc mortar-shaped beads (used in units of ten thousands) were hung from tree branches of the sacred sakaki tree. (This ritual replaced the earlier custom of hanging mirrors, swords and cylindrical beads from trees). The Kofun people spent many hours producing ritual objects in what was a huge industry and trade of the finished products. The Soga site in Kashihara City, Nara was a factory site where many talc and other stone ritual objects were made and then distributed to the rest of the country. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Talc ritual objects were popular from the second half to the 5th century to the first half of the 6th century and were used many different kinds of ritual ceremonies. The Nihon shoki records several contexts in which the ritual was carried out: Before meeting the Emperor Keiko, Lady Kamunashi pulled up a sakaki tree and hung eight handfuls of swords on the top branches, eight spans of mirrors on middle branches and eight spans of beads on the lower branches. Emperor Chuai tells how Kumawani, ancestor of the lord of Tsukushioka, hung ten handfuls of swords on a 100-branch sakaki to show his allegiance. The latter reference suggests that religious rituals had evolved taking on political dimensions for the ritual was practised to affirm allegiance to the divine or spiritual authority of Yamato rulers.” <^>

Spiritual Role of Kofun-Era Kings


Emperor Nintoku

Kawagoe wrote: Local chieftain kings and village leaders all derived their authority from their roles as priests of agricultural rites for the worship of “heavenly and earthly kami of land and grain”, that is, agricultural kami at appointed shrines. As a centralizing state emerged during the Kofun age, the king or emperor at the apex of that state, even as Buddhism took hold in Japan as a new religion, could not ignore his role as the supreme kami-worshipping priest. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“The Yamato state’s earliest kings are strongly connected to worship at the Omiwa Shrine where the ancient rites for the worship of the kami of Mt Miwa was carried out. The Omiwa Shrine, as another early prototype of the shrine, had no central hall of worship (shinden) for the enshrinement of its “kami body”(shintai) because Mt Miwa itself was worshipped as the kami body. Of the six burial mounds built at the base of Mt Miwa, the fifth of them is believed to belong to King Suijin. <^>

“According to Nihon shoki, King Suijin was a ruler who gave serious attention “to the worship of kami and to his heavenly duties”. The king had sought help from the kami regarding the calamities that were upon the kingdom at the time, and he received a revelation through a shamanic princess who conveyed the message from the kami speaking through the princess, that the calamities would cease if the kami were to be worshipped. When asked who the kami was, the reply came, “I am Omono Nushi no Kami worshipped within the borders of Yamato [and residing on Mt. Miwa]. According to the text, the calamities ceased after the requisite rites were held. <^>

“Mountain worship rituals were performed by rulers from the shrine at the base of the mountain. According to the Hitachi no kuni fudoki a peg was used as a marker to show that above that point onwards was the place of the kami while parts below the peg marker could be made into fields for human cultivation. This is thought to reflect the new ritual revolution where new kami now occupied the foot of the mountain so that the ancient mountain kami was moved to the mountaintop. By the latter half of the fifth century, the ornamental Y-shaped peg-markers were buried in taboo areas along with komochi comma-shaped magatama as mountain worship rites declined during the increasing powerful and secular regime of later Yamato kings. <^>

It was recorded in the Nihon shoki’s entry for Kinmei’s reign in 552 with reference to the emergence of Buddhist beliefs as a new alternative religion:“The kings of this country have always conducted seasonal rites in honor of the many heavenly and earthly kami of land and grain. If [our king] should now honor the kami of neighboring states, we fear that this country’s kami would be angered.”

Isonokami Jingu and Kofun-Era Shrines

Kawagoe wrote: “Many new shrines were built during the Kofun era. The most important part of the shrine were the raised buildings set apart from daily uses to function as sanctuaries or storage houses for ritual objects. Many such shrine storehouses were discovered at Makimuku site or at the Nagase Takahama site. A particularly notable and early shrine was the Isonokami Shrine... Scholars believe that many of the kingdom’s weapons as well as sacred items and treasures, including the divine sword “Futsunomitama” and the shichishito sword gifted by a Paekche king to the ruler of Yamato, have been stored in Isonokami Shrine since at least the late 4th century. The most important buildings of shrines of the early centuries after the first millenium, were the warehouses. Entries made in the 35th year of Suinin’s reign in the Nihon shoki records say that Emperor Suinin’s eldest son had ordered a thousand swords made and stored at Isonokami. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


Isonokami shrine

The god Futsu-no-mitama-no-ookami, enshrined in Isonokami Jingu Shrine, is the deification of the sword said to be owned by the god Takemikazuchi-no-kami. Futsu-no-mitama-no-ookami has been known from ancient times as the god who protects the state and keeps peace among the people, as well as being the patron god of the accomplishment of all things. [Source: Isonokami Jingu Official Website */*]

In Japanese mythology it is said that this god (the sword god) contributed to the subjugation of the country, and also defeated false gods and rebels on the eastern campaign of Emperor Jimmu (the mythological first emperor, said to have been enthroned in the 7th century B.C.) . Thereafter, Emperor Jimmu commanded Umashimaji-no-mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe clan said to be the head of the warriors, to enshrine this sword eternally within the imperial court. Later, during the reign of Emperor Suijin (around the 1st century B.C.) the sword was transferred from the court to Takaniwa of Isonokami-furu, the present site, and this was said to be the origination of Isonokami Jingu Shrine. */*

Since then the emperors worshipped this shrine, donated many weapons in preparation for any emergeney in the state and prayed for harmony in especially during times of war. The shrine also received the worship of famous generals and warriors. Many clans offered sacred treasures to the storehouse called Hokura and prayed for the safety of the imperial family and for the peace of the state. */*

The most sacred area within the compounds of Isonokami Jingu Shrine is the Kinsoku-chi (literally, “forbidden area”) , where the sacred sword was originally buried in its very center. In 1874 an excavation was conducted and many important ancient weapons and ornamental beads called magatama were unearthed, which were designated as national treasures or objects of important cultural property. */*

Isonokami Shrine enjoys very high status. The keys to the main building and gate of the shrine are kept in the imperial court. Also as with Ise Shrine, an imperial messenger representing the emperor was sent upon its construction. Furthermore, Ise Jingu Shrine and Isonokami Jingu Shrine were the only shrines allowed to use the title “Jingu” (grand shrine) before the Nara Period (710-784 A.D.). */*

Confucianism and Buddhism Enter Japan in the Kofun Period


Asuka period Buddha head

Between the 4th and 6th centuries, trade and Japanese military intervention in Korea led to the introduction of Confucianism, the Chinese language, and Chinese writing to Japan. By learning to read Chinese characters, early Japanese learned about Chinese medicine, astronomy, and time keeping.

From the 5th and 6th centuries Japan’s emerging nation-state was based on Confucian concepts of centralized imperial rule, Confucian ideas such as harmony, loyalty, duty, maintenance of social order, provided a philosophical underpinning for Japan’s samurai society.

Buddhism was probably first introduced to Japan in 538 A.D. when a ruler from the Korean kingdom of Paekche, attempting to form an alliance with the Yamato clan, sent some Buddhist texts as a gift. At first the religion was rejected by Shinto priests on the grounds that it was foreign kami, but later it was accepted by members of the Japanese court and used as a political tool to help unify their kingdom.

Along with Buddhism came Buddhist styles of painting, sculpture and architecture from the Asian mainland. Buddhism is credited with introducing art to Japan and dominated aesthetic life until the 17th century.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; Makimuku stuff: archaeology.jp

Text Sources: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, figal-sensei.org *~*; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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