あ:culture

03/15/2019

About the conquest of the Emishi by the Imperial Court from the 7th century to the early 9th century

Since the 7th century, the Imperial Court had been trying to conquer the Emishi, who lived in northern Japan and had not assimilated to the Court’s rule.
 
Therefore, official defense-sites called Josaku were constructed along the Mogami river and along the Japan sea coasts in north-east Japan. Some Josaku were actual castles and others were smaller structures. These facilities had governmental buildings for administrative offices and warehouses.
 
Many farmers in Kanto region were moved to areas around Josaku for the development. On the other hand, captured Emishi were forced to move to the areas west of Kanto-region.
 
In 780, an Emishi lord Azamaro Koremori who had previously submitted to the Konin Emperor raised an army against the Court, because Emishi were being severely discriminated against.
 
Azamaro burnt down Taga-castle which was an important military base in today's Miyagi prefecture. After this battle, many wars broke out between the Court and Emishi.
 
In 789, the Court dispatched a large army commanded by a high ranking-general, Kino-Kosami, to conquer Emishi living in the Izawa region, which is located around the middle basin of the Kitakami river.
 
Castles_for_emishi_conquering_in__2
 
Nevertheless, the Imperial army suffered a crashing defeat by Emishi's resistance which was led by an Emishi great lord, Aterui.
 
In 802, the Court dispatched troops commanded by Shogun Tamuramaro Sakanoue. He built Izawa castle in the region where Aterui was headquartered.
 
Aterui had many soldiers but he surrendered to Sakanoue without fighting. Although the reason why Aterui surrendered is not exactly known, it is said that Sakanoue was a great strategist who could persuade Aterui to surrender peacefully.
 
Sakanoe also respected Aterui as an outstanding leader, and therefore, petitioned the Court to spare the Aterui's life. But the petition was refused and Aterui was executed.
 
Thereafter, Sakanoue used Izawa castle as the main military base to conquer northern Japan.
 
In 803, Sakanoue built Shiwa-castle in the upper basin of the Kitakami river, consequently, rule of the Court was extended to today's Akita prefecture.
 
As a matter of fact, two big projects by the Court, conquering Emishi and building the capital in Kyoto became heavy burden on people and the Court's finance.
 
Therefore, the Kanmu Emperor broke off these two projects in 805.
※Some details about Sakanoue
 
Shogun Tamuramaro Sakanoue was the founder of Kiyomizudera-temple in Kyoto.
 
This temple is a very popular sightseeing spot and registered as a World Heritage site.
 
This temple was originally built in 780.
 
According to a book written about the origin of this temple, a monk, Kenshin, had a dream in 778.
 
In the dream, an old man told Kenshin that he should go to northern Kyoto and find clean water.
 
Following the message in the dream, Kenshin visited northern Kyoto and found a waterfall at Otowa mountain where Kenshin met the man he had seen in his dream.
 
This man said he lived on the mountain and trained as a Buddhist monk.
 
He asked Kenshin to create a wooden Kannon statue and protect this holy waterfall, and then, the old man disappeared.
 
Kenshin believed the man was the embodiment of Kannon.
 
Thus, Kenshin created a wooden Kannon statue and protected the waterfall.
 
Two years later, in 780, Tamuramaro Sakanoue visited the area to hunt deer.
 
He met Kenshin at the waterfall. Kenshin admonished Sakanoue against hunting in this holy area and told him about the Kannon's virtue, Kannon is believed to save and protect people.
 
Since Sakanoue deeply impressed with Kenshin's preaching, Sakanoue built a temple on Otowa mountain and enshrined the Kannon statue there.
 
He named the temple Kiyomizudera, which means a temple of clean water.
Kiyomizudera-temple was burnt by fires many times.
 
Kiyomizu_temple_3
 
Today's Kannon statue in this temple is believed to have been created in the 13th century.
 
This statue is enshrined in a closed room in the main building of the temple, so visitors cannot see it, but they can see a replica placed in front of the closed room.
 
In Kiyomizudera-temple, visitors can also see that waterfall which Kenshin found. This waterfall is called Otowa-no-taki, and it is believed that the water has special power.

08/22/2018

Artifacts in the 8th century

Shosoin is a treasure house of Todaiji-temple and it is famous for owning treasures created in the 8th century.
 
Main art treasures in Shosoin were the Shomu Emperor’s collection.
 
Those items were donated to Todaiji-temple by his wife, Komyoshi-Empress Dowager, after the Shomu Emperor passed away.
 
There are various items in Shosoin, such as clothes, furniture, musical instruments and weapons.
 
Those items are very well preserved, in particular a five-string biwa decorated with turtle shell and seashell or precious metal inlay.
 
These treasures show that the Imperial Court communicated to not only Tang-China but also countries in West Asia and South Asia.
 
These indicate that the Court's cultural level was very high and the Court took part in the international community in those days.
 
In addition, one million small wooden pagodas and printed scriptures were created by the Shotoku Emperor’s order.
 
These scriptural passages are considered the world oldest printed items, although it is still unclear whether these were printed with wooden block or sheet copper.
 
These scriptural passages were put inside the wooden pagodas and show both the excellent artistic skills in those days.
 
It is said that these wooden pagodas were donated to the ten great temples such as Todaiji-temple and Horyuji-temple, but only Horyuji-temple has continued to preserve these items until today. 

08/12/2018

Paintings in the 8th century

Japanese paintings in the 8th century were strongly influenced by Tang-China's art, which had a voluptuous and elegant expression.
 
Representative works are "Portrait of Beautiful lady under the tree” owned by Syosoin, which was a treasure house of Todaiji-temple, and a painting of "Kissyoten”, Goddess of Beauty, owned by Yakushiji-temple.
 
In addition, E Ingakyo, "Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect" owned by Jobonrendaiji-temple is said to be the origin of picture scrolls, which were often created from the 9th century to the early 14th century.

08/05/2018

Statues created in the 8th century

Many statues created in the 8th century have expressive faces and well-balanced bodies.
 
Statues created in that century were not only made of gilt bronze or wood, but also made of clay or dry lacquer.
 
Compared to earlier times, these last two techniques were improved to a high level in the 8th century.
 
Clay statues were created by putting clay on a wooden core.
 
Dry lacquer statues were created by putting linen on a model with lacquer, and removing the model from the lacquered linen later.
 
Todayji-temple has a dry-lacquer statue, Fukukensakukannon, clay statues, Nikko-bosatsu statue,  Gakko-bosatsu statue, and Shitsukongo statue in Hokkedo.
 
Kofukuji-temple has dry lacquer statues, such as the ten great disciples of Buddha and the eight legions including Asyura-statue.

08/01/2018

Art in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the Imperial Court, nobles and big temples spent so much money on art related to Buddhism.
 
Many magnificent buildings were built, such as big temples and palaces, which used stone foundations and roofing tiles.
 
Some representative examples are Denpodo in Horyuji-temple, which was originally a noble's residence, a lecture hall in Tosyodaiji-temple, which was originally a part of the palace in Heijyo-kyu, Hokkedo in Todaiji-temple, a main hall in Tosyodaiji-temple and a treasure house in Syosoin
 
All these buildings are well-balanced and majestic.

07/23/2018

Educational institutions in the 8th century

In the 8th century, educational institutions were established for educating officers.
 
Daigaku was established in the capital and Kokugaku were established in regions.
 
Students of Daigaku were children of nobles and children of the Court officers who worked as clerks.
 
On the other hand, many students of Kokugaku were children of Gunji, officers of local governments.
 
Graduates from Daigaku needed to pass exams to become officers of the Court.
 
Students of Daigaku learned scriptures of Confucianism such as the Analects of Confucius and the Book of Filial Piety.
 
This subject was called Myogyo-do. In addition, students learned laws and it was called Myobo-do.
 
They also learned how to pronounce scriptures of Confucianism in Chinese, calligraphy and mathematics.

Tanka poetry, Japanese five line poem

Tanka is a Japanese five line poem.
 
The poems were created by various people from the Emperor to farmers in the 8th century.
 
Manyo-syu is a anthology of Tanka composed of 4500 poems created until 759 AD.
 
The anthology contains not only Tanka created by nobles but also created by common people in Eastern Japan.
 
Tanka created by people from Eastern Japan is called Azuma-uta, which means poems of eastern Japan, and Sakimori-uta, which means poem of Sakimori, who were soldiers of garrisons in Kyusyu dispatched from eastern Japan.
 
In those days, commoners in Eastern Japan often suffered from severe poverty.
 
They expressed their suffering very clearly in their poem. Hence, these poems reach people's hearts. 
 
However, in those days, many common people couldn’t read and write, so most Tanka poetry created by common people were written down by officers of the Court.
 
Therefore it is considered many of these were readjusted by officers.

07/22/2018

Classical Chinese poetry

Classical Chinese poetry was created in Japan using the poetry style developed during the the Han dynasty.
 
In the 8th century, nobles and officers of the Japanese Court needed to learn classical Chinese poetry, because it was considered one of the requisites for well-educated people.
 
In 751 AD, a poetry anthology Kaifuso was compiled based on the writings of the Japanese Imperial Court. This is the oldest extant anthology of classical Chinese poetry compiled in Japan.
 
The anthology contains classical Chinese poetry created by Ootomono-miko prince, Otsuno-miko prince and Nagaya-o who was a grandson of the Tenmu Emperor in the late 7th century.
 
In the 8th century, Omi-no-Mifune who was a relative of the Emperor, and a nobleman, Isonokami-no-Yakatsugu, were known as excellent creators of classical Chinese poetry.

07/17/2018

Regional geography books, Fudoki in the 8th century

In 713, regional geographies called Fudoki were created in each regions by order of the Genmei Emperor.
 
Fudoki contained information about regional products , origins of the names of mountains, rivers, fields and ancient legends.
 
Fudoki of five regions, Hitachi, Izumo, Harima, Bungo, Hizen still exist.
 
Izumo's Fudoki is almost complete.

07/04/2018

About Japan's history books created in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the system of centralized government was established under the Ritsuryo-code, which  contained criminal laws and the regulations about governmental organization.
 
And then, the national government created several books about Japan's history to show the process of Japan's development.
 
One of the books, Kojiki, was created by the order of the Tenmu Emperor in 712. The Tenmu Emperor made Hieda-no-Are, an expert of memory,  remember stories from the oral tradition of the Yamato Imperial Court. And then Hieda told the stories to a scholar O-no-Yasumaro and Yasumaro wrote down them by Chinese characters. Kojiki contains stories from the origin of Japan to the early 7th century.
 
A second book, Nihonshoki was completed in 720. This book was compiled by a prince of the Tenmu Emperor, Toneri-Shinno. It contains historical stories from the origin of Japan to the late 7th century, but the book focused more on the consolidation of political power and the rights of succession to the throne. The book was organized in chronological order, written in classical Chinese style because it imitated to the style of Chinese history books
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