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Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures

Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures: Issues on the Historical Archaeology of Ancient Japan

William Wayne Farris
Copyright Date: 1998
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  • Book Info
    Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures
    Book Description:

    The Japanese have long sought inspiration and legitimacy from the written record of their ancient past. The shaping of bygone eras to contemporary agendas began at least by the early eighth century, when the first court histories, namely theKojikiand theNihon shoki,were compiled.

    Since the late nineteenth century, historians have extensively mined these texts and other written evidence and by the late 1970s had nearly exhausted their meager sources. Fortunately for all those interested in uncovering the origins of Japanese civilization, archaeologists have been hard at work. Today, thanks to this postwar "archaeology boom," Japan historians have never been closer to recreating the lives of prehistoric peasants, ancient princes, and medieval samurai.

    Sacred Texts and Buried Treasuresoffers substantial new insights into early Japanese history (A.D. 100-800) through an integrated discussion of historical texts and archaeological artifacts. It contends that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades permit scholars to develop far more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when they were heavily dependent on written sources.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6422-4
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-IX)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. X-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The central contention of this book is that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades have enabled historians to develop much more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when scholars depended mostly on written sources. This truth is evidenced in four areas of inquiry: the hoary question of Yamatai; Japan-Korea relations; the creation of Chinese-type capital cities; and the appropriation of Chinese governing arrangements. These topics illustrate the broad process of historical evolution from a simple to a complex society, a process that in Japan’s case is best viewed as occurring in two stages.

    Japan’s philosophers...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Lost Realm of Yamatai
    (pp. 9-54)

    The location of Yamatai is one of the oldest and most heated controversies in Japanese scholarship. Compiled in a.d. 280 from Chinese emissaries’ reports, the description of Yamatai figured in the Japanese court’s political agenda in the early eighth century as authors tried to fit its ruler into an unbroken line of divine sovereigns.¹ When interest in the ancient past revived in the eighteenth century, Yamatai became a major scholarly concern, with writers placing the “country” in Kyushu or the Kinai according to their beliefs about the antiquity and strength of the imperial dynasty. From 1868 to 1945, the volume...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Ancient Japan’s Korean Connection
    (pp. 55-122)

    After Himiko died around a.d. 250, Japan entered a “century of mystery” without written records. This gap is unfortunate, because archaeological finds suggest that the archipelago was undergoing important changes. The close of the third century marks the inception of the Tomb age, which scholars usually divide into early (the 300s), middle (the 400s), and late (500–645) eras. During these 350 years, the size and number of elite burials grew enormously, and grave goods indicate that many items became available on a hitherto unimaginable scale. New or expanded technologies included the ferrous industries, horsemanship, hydraulic engineering, the potter’s wheel...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Capitals
    (pp. 123-200)

    The spring of 701 was a momentous time for the Japanese court. In the first month, after a hiatus of thirty-two years, the government reaffirmed an earlier decision to learn directly from China by sending an embassy to the Tang dynasty. Ten more official missions traveled to Chinese capitals during the next 150 years to report on East Asia’s most advanced civilization. Then, in the third month of 701, aristocrats finished compiling the Taihō Code, Japan’s initial comprehensive edition of Chinese law. Anxious to increase its power at home and fearful of invasion from abroad, the court sought more thorough...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Wooden Tablets
    (pp. 201-232)

    The year 1961 was one of the most memorable dates in the study of ancient Japan. As Kishi Toshio describes it:

    The time was January 1961 and the falling snow danced above the excavation site at Heijō Palace. To think that, even in Japan, just like China, wooden tablets(mokkan)with writing on them were used in place of paper. Furthermore, they appeared in large numbers from the earth. This was something that we researchers had never imagined in our wildest dreams….

    The importance of these wooden tablets … was that they rejuvenated the study of ancient Japanese history, which...

    (pp. 233-240)

    This book has combined both historical and archaeological sources to trace Japan’s development from about a.d. 100 to 800. Chapter 1 examined the long-standing controversy over Yamatai as seen in Chen Shou’sHistory of the Wei Dynasty. Historians framed the original debate, mining the “Account of the Wa” for clues as to the location and nature of the “queen’s country” even as early as the Edo period. By the twentieth century, historians had divided into two camps: one postulated that Himiko was nothing more than a village shaman from northern Kyushu, while the other argued that Yamatai was located in...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 241-296)
  12. Character List
    (pp. 297-300)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-322)
  14. Index
    (pp. 323-334)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-335)