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Type of publication: Straipsnis / Article
Author(s): Grendaitė-Vosylienė, Greta
Title: Raitelis ir žirgas Japonijos kultūroje : archeologinės medžiagos analizė
Other Title: Rider and horse in Japanese culture: an analysis of archaeological material
Is part of: Darbai ir dienos, 2008, nr. 49, p. 9-24
Date: 2008
Abstract: Before the phases of foreign receptivity, China was a magnet for Japan, Korea, and other peoples of eastern Eurasia. It would be fallacy to think that the flow of cultural influence was all unidirectional from the China Mainland eastwards to the Peninsula and the Japanese Islands. Although the contact and exchange were multidirectional, there were periods of intense interaction and periods of relative isolation between these areas. The present essay discusses the early time when Japan was in complex interaction with the Korean Peninsula and China, from where the expert technicians, administrators and religious practitioners have come and got assimilated with the Japanese society. Cultural innovations in the Japanese Islands were integrated with Jomon practices so that the Yayoi culture was a wholesale importation from the Asian continent. The burial forms expressed a new belief system and social order. Cultural transformation by all means was most apparent in the Kofun period of mounded earth tombs. The tradition of building such tombs in Japan began in the 3rd century in the Nara Basin (homeland of the Yamato state) and spread westwards. Yamato, the first state to evolve in Japan, was consolidated by the introduction and adaption of the Chinese administration system that is clearly reflected in the burial goods. In order to establish the political relationship, the items of prestige were exchanged among the nobles. An extremely valued possession was the horse with its garment pieces. Crossing from Korea, horse-riding people used to leave their possessions in the tombs by the latter half of the 5th century. Although their own tomb style is the typical 6th-century style of the stone passageway and chamber, until local craftsmen could be trained to build such tombs Koreans at first deposited the trappings in the earlier style tombs with small stone-lined receptacles near the top of the mound. Excavations in Japan provide the hard evidence for horse sacrifice, an act specifically prohibited in the Japanese Chronicle (Nihon Shoki), which states that it was carried out at the owner‘s death. The live burials were proscribed, and the haniwa – clay cylinders and funerary sculptures – were ordered instead. Throughout the Kofun period these low-fired clay sculptures were erected on the tomb surface. Haniwa horses, sometimes placed in an entire line, stood guard on the tombs. They also might have signified a public statement of status, wealth, and privilege. The horse was represented in three different haniwa forms: wearing a full set of decorative garment; without it; and, on rare occasions, carrying a rider. The horse furniture and ornaments are found in many tombs, showing the prevalance of horsemanship in Yamato times. When we look at the haniwa horse, we are struck with the similarity between its trappings and those in present-day use. The saddle and stirrups, the bridle and bit are practically the same nowadays in Japan. Horses came to be used as strategic equipment in mounted warfare, thus horse trappings were developed. The earliest trappings had more of a practical use for riding. The later ones are larger and more ornamental, especially the rump and bit ornaments. The stirrups seem to outnumber other trappings but get less notice than the fine gilt-bronze decorated pieces. The stirrups are occasionally larger than those in Europe, but the shapes do not differ very much. The bits are of a closer resemblance. The gilt-bronze bridle-bit with small bells from the Otani tomb (Wakayama) is one of the finest in Japan. Its S-shape can be traced to Scythian sources suggesting continuing cultural contact and exchange across the Eurasian steppes. The elegant floral patterns derive from the 6th-century work in China. The same tomb also revealed the only horse helmet found in east Asia from this period. The saddle bows and frontlet from the Maruyama and Nagamochiyama tombs (Osaka) are probably the oldest horse trappings in the Yamato area, if not in all of Japan, and are undoubtedly foreign-made. The men shown riding horses are very rare in the period of tomb-art. This kind of depiction has been represented in some of the haniwa pieces. Horse-riding figures are also found in the decor of ceramic vessels. Representing a symmetrical scene of a man holding the reins of two horses, the clay sarcophagus was found inside the Hirafuku tomb (Okayama). The horse-riding nobles have bolstered the economy through the horse breeding. They ultimately ensured their position by socially scaling the important families, setting the precedent for the graded nobility of the later times. Horse-riders made the major cultural contributions: they brought into Japan the first horse paraphernalia, introduced a new type of pottery, then had workmen instructed how to build the stone chamber tombs, where the simple decorations has been added to. The Takehara tomb (Fukuoka) is typical of the painted tombs in Kyushu for the technique of applying colors – black and red – directly to the stone. A horsemanship has been clearly depicted in this painting scene as well.
Appears in Collections:Darbai ir dienos / Deeds and Days 2008, nr. 49

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