The Kofun period follows the Yayoi period. The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this era. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period. The Kofun period is the oldest era of recorded history in Japan; as the chronology of its historical sources tends to be very distorted, studies of this period require deliberate criticism and the aid of archaeology.
The Kofun period is divided from the Asuka period by its cultural differences. The Kofun period is characterized by a Shinto culture which existed prior to the introduction of Buddhism. Politically, the leader of a powerful clan won control over much of Honshū and the northern half of Kyūshū and eventually established the Imperial House of Japan.
Kofun are defined as the burial mounds built for the people of the ruling class during the 3rd to 7th centuries in Japan, and the Kofun period takes its name from these distinctive earthen mounds. The mounds contained large stone burial chambers. Some are surrounded by moats.
Kofun come in many shapes, with round and square being the simplest. A distinct style is the keyhole-shaped kofun, with its square front and round back. Kofun range in size from several meters to over 400 meters in length. Clay figures called Haniwa were buried under the circumference.
The oldest Japanese kofun is said to be Hokenoyama Kofun located in Sakurai, Nara, which dates to the late 3rd century. In the Makimuku district of Sakurai, later keyhole kofuns (Hashihaka Kofun, Shibuya Mukaiyama Kofun) were built around the early 4th century. The trend of the keyhole kofun first spread from Yamato to Kawachi (where gigantic kofun such as Daisenryō Kofun exist), and then throughout the country (except for Tōhoku region) in the 5th century. Keyhole kofun disappeared later in the 6th century, probably because of the drastic reformation which took place in the Yamato court; Nihon Shoki records the introduction of Buddhism at this time. The last two great kofun are the Imashirozuka kofun (length: 190m) of Osaka, which is believed by current scholars to be the tomb of Emperor Keitai, and the Iwatoyama kofun (length: 135m) of Fukuoka which was recorded in Fudoki of Chikugo to be the tomb of Iwai, the political archrival of Keitai.
While conventionally assigned to the period from 250 AD, the actual start of Yamato rule is disputed. The start of the court is also linked with the controversy of Yamataikoku and its fall. Regardless, it is generally agreed that Yamato rulers possessed keyhole kofun culture and held hegemony in Yamato up to the 4th century. The regional autonomy of local powers remained throughout the period, particularly in places such as Kibi (current Okayama prefecture), Izumo (current Shimane prefecture), Koshi (current Fukui and Niigata prefecture), Kenu (northern Kantō), Chikushi (northern Kyūshū), and Hi (central Kyūshū); it was only in the 6th century that the Yamato clans could be said to be dominant over the entire southern half of Japan. On the other hand, Yamato's relationships with China is likely to have begun in the late 4th century, according to the Book of Song.
The Yamato polity, which emerged by the late 5th century, was distinguished by powerful clans (豪族: Gōzoku). Each clan was headed by a patriarch (氏上: Uji-no-kami) who performed sacred rites to the clan's kami to ensure the long-term welfare of the clan. Clan members were the aristocracy, and the kingly line that controlled the Yamato court was at its pinnacle. Powerful clan leaders were awarded kabane, a title that denoted a political rank. This title was inherited, and used instead of the family name.
The Kofun period of Japanese culture is also sometimes called the Yamato period by some Western scholars, since this local chieftainship rose to become the Imperial dynasty at the end of the Kofun period. Yamato and its dynasty however were just one rival polity among others throughout the Kofun era. Japanese archaeologists emphasise instead the fact that, in the first half of the Kofun period, other regional chieftainships, such as Kibi were in close contention for dominance or importance. The Tsukuriyama Kofun of Kibi is the fourth largest kofun in Japan.
The Yamato court ultimately exercised power over clans in Kyūshū and Honshū, bestowing titles, some hereditary, on clan chieftains. The Yamato name became synonymous with all of Japan as the Yamato rulers suppressed the clans and acquired agricultural lands. Based on Chinese models (including the adoption of the Chinese written language), they started to develop a central administration and an imperial court attended by subordinate clan chieftains but with no permanent capital. The famous powerful clans were the Soga, Katsuraki, Heguri, Koze clans in the Yamato and Bizen Province, and the Kibi clans in the Izumo Province. The Ōtomo and Mononobe clans were the military leaders, and the Nakatomi and Inbe clans handled rituals. The Soga clan provided the highest minister in the government, while the Ōtomo and Mononobe clans provided the second highest ministers. The heads of provinces were called Kuni-no-miyatsuko. The crafts were organized into guilds.
The Yamato court had ties to the Gaya confederacy, called Mimana in Japanese. There is archaeological evidence from the Kofun tombs, which show similarities in form, art, and clothing of the depicted nobles. Based on the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, Japanese kokugaku historians claimed Gaya to be a colony of the Yamato state, a theory that is now widely rejected. More likely all these states were tributaries to the Chinese dynasties to some extent. However, Chinese scholars point to the Book of Song of the Liu Song Dynasty, written by the Chinese historian Shen Yue (441-513), presenting the sovereign of Japan as the suzerain of the Gaya Confederacy. This interpretation is also widely rejected even in Japan, "As Egami (1964) notes, it may look very strange that the names of six or seven states listed in the self-claimed titles included Chin-han and Ma-han which had preceded, respectively, the states of Silla and Paekche. Perhaps the King of Wa had included the names of six or seven south Korean states in his title merely to boast of the extent of his rule. But Wa Kings could not have included the names of nonexistent states." Other historians have pointed out that there is no evidence of Japanese rule in Gaya or any other part of Korea. The biggest problem with the book of Song and book of Sui is that many of the volumes of the books were missing and re-written later in a biased manner. In addition the Gaya do not have official contact with the Chinese until after the period this book is referring to making this timeline of events impossible. It is difficult to make any sense of what the relationship was like in the past.
In recent years, kofun containing jade have been found in Japan, Baekje area and Gaya confederacy area.
Territorial expansion of Yamato
In addition to archaeological findings indicating a local monarchy in the Kibi Province as an important rival, the legend of the 4th century Prince Yamato Takeru alludes to the borders of the Yamato and battlegrounds in the area. A frontier was obviously somewhere close to the later Izumo province (the eastern part of today's Shimane prefecture). Another frontier, in Kyūshū, was apparently somewhere north of today's Kumamoto prefecture. The legend specifically states that there was an eastern land in Honshū "whose people disobeyed the imperial court", against whom Yamato Takeru was sent to fight. That rivalling country may have been located rather close to the Yamato nucleus area itself, or relatively far away. The modern-day Kai province is mentioned as one of the locations where prince Yamato Takeru sojourned in his said military expedition.
Northern frontier of this age was also explained in Kojiki as the legend of Shido Shogun's (四道将軍: Shoguns to four ways) expedition. Out of four shoguns, Ōbiko set northward to Koshi and his son Take Nunakawawake set to eastern states. The father moved east from northern Koshi while the son moved north on his way, and they finally met at Aizu (current western Fukushima). Although the legend itself is not likely to be a historical fact, Aizu is rather close to southern Tōhoku, where the north end of keyhole kofun culture as of late 4th century is located.
During the Kofun period, a highly aristocratic society with militaristic rulers developed.
The Kofun period was a critical stage in Japan's evolution toward a more cohesive and recognized state. This society was most developed in the Kinai Region and the easternmost part of the Inland Sea. Japan's rulers of the time even petitioned the Chinese court for confirmation of royal titles.
While the rulers' titles are diplomatically King, they locally titled themselves as Ōkimi (Great King) during this period. Inscriptions in two swords, Inariyama Sword and Eta Funayama Sword had records of Amenoshita Shiroshimesu(治天下; "ruling of Heaven and Earth") and Ōkimi(大王) in common, to be a ruler that the bearers of these swords were subjected to. It reveals that rulers of this age also grasped religious authorities to justify their thrones through heavenly dignities. The title of Amenoshita Shiroshimesu Okimi was used up to 7th century, until being replaced by Tenno.
Clans of the Yamato Court
Many of the clans and local chieftains that made up the Yamato polity claimed descent from the imperial family or other tribal Gods. The archeological evidence for such clans is found in the Inariyama sword, on which the bearer recorded the names of his ancestors to claim its origin to Ōbiko (大彦) who was recorded in Nihon Shoki as a son of Emperor Kōgen. On the other hand, there are also a number of clans claiming origins in China or the Korean peninsula.
In the 5th century, the Kazuraki clan (葛城氏), descending from the legendary grandson of Emperor Kōgen, was the most prominent power in the court and intermarried with the imperial family. After Kazuraki declined in the late 5th century, the Ōtomo clan temporarily took its place. When Emperor Buretsu died with no apparent heir, it was Ōtomo no Kanamura who recommended Emperor Keitai, a very distant imperial relative who resided in Koshi Province, as the new monarch. However, Kanamura resigned due to the failure of his diplomatic policies, and the court was eventually controlled by the Mononobe and Soga clans at the beginning of the Asuka period.
Chinese and Korean immigrants who were naturalized in ancient Japan were called toraijin. They introduced many aspects of Chinese culture to Japan. Valuing their knowledge and culture, the Yamato government gave preferential treatment to toraijin. The elements of Chinese culture introduced to the Yamato Imperial Court are very important. According to the book Shinsen Shōjiroku compiled in 815, a total 154 out of 1,182 noble families in the Kinai are on Honshū Island were regarded as people with foreign genealogy. The book specifically mentions 163 were from China, 104 such families from Baekje, 41 from Goguryeo, 6 from Silla, and 3 from Gaya. They might be families that moved to Japan between the years A.D.356-645.
Many important figures were also immigrants from China. Chinese immigrants also had considerable influence according to the Shinsen Shōjiroku, which was used as a directory of aristocrats. Yamato Imperial Court had officially edited the directory in 815, and 163 Chinese clans were registered.
According to Nihon Shoki, the Hata clan, which was composed of descendants of Qin Shi Huang, arrived at Yamato in 403 (the fourteenth year of Ōjin) leading the people of 120 provinces. According to the Shinsen Shōjiroku, the Hata clan were dispersed in various provinces during the reign of Emperor Nintoku and were made to undertake sericulture and the manufacturing of silk for the court. When the finance ministry was set up in Yamato Court, Hata Ōtsuchichi (秦大津父) was in charge of accounts as a minister of it.
In 409 (the twentieth year of Ōjin), Achi-no-Omi, the ancestor of the Yamato-Aya clan, which was also composed of Chinese immigrants, arrived with people from 17 districts. According to the Shinsen Shōjiroku, Achi obtained the permission to establish the Province of Imaki. The Kawachi-no-Fumi clan, descendants of Gaozu of Han, introduced aspects of Chinese writing to the Yamato court.
The Takamuko clan is a descendant of Cao Cao. Takamuko no Kuromaro was a center member of Taika Reform.
Among the many Korean immigrants who settled in Japan beginning in the 4th century, some came to be the progenitors of Japanese clans. According to Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the oldest record of a Silla immigrant is Amenohiboko, a legendary prince of Silla who settled to Japan at the era of Emperor Suinin, perhaps around the 3rd or 4th century.
Korean immigrants also include the Baekje royal family. King Muryeong of Baekje was born in 462, and left a son in Japan who settled there. According to the historical documents in the Nihon Shoki, his father was sent to Japan as a hostage.
Chinese, Korean and Japanese wrote accounts of history mostly in Chinese characters, making original pronunciations difficult to trace.
While writing was largely unknown to the indigenous Japanese of this period, the literary skills of foreigners seem to have become increasingly appreciated by the Japanese elite in many regions. The Inariyama sword, tentatively dated 471 or 531, contains Chinese-character inscriptions in styles used in China at the time, leading to speculation that the owner, though claiming to be a Japanese aristocrat, possibly could have been an immigrant. Few historians who helped write the Book Korean Impact on Japanese Culture: Japan's Hidden History states "Inariyama sword, as well as some other swords discovered in Japan, utilized the Korean 'Idu' system of writing." The swords "originated in Paekche and that the kings named in their inscriptions represent Paekche kings rather than Japanese kings." The techniques for making these swords were the same styles from Korea.
The cavalry wore armour, carried swords and other weapons, and used advanced military methods like those of north-east Asia. Evidence of these advances is seen in Haniwa(埴輪), the "clay ring" placed on and around the tomb mounds of the ruling elite. The most important of these haniwa were found in southern Honshū - especially the Kinai region around Nara prefecture - and northern Kyūshū. Haniwa grave offerings were made in numerous forms, such as horses, chickens, birds, fans, fish, houses, weapons, shields, sunshades, pillows, and male and female humans. Another funerary piece, the magatama, became one of the symbols of the power of the imperial house.
Introduction of material culture to Japan
Much of the material culture of the Kofun period is barely distinguishable from that of the contemporaneous southern Korean peninsula, demonstrating that at this time Japan was in close political and economic contact with continental Asia (especially with the southern dynasties of China) through Korea. Indeed, bronze mirrors cast from the same mould have been found on both sides of the Tsushima Strait. Irrigation, sericulture, and weaving were also brought to Japan by Chinese and Korean immigrants who are mentioned in the ancient Japanese histories. For instance, the Hata clan, of Chinese origin, introduced sericulture.
Towards Asuka period
The Kofun period gave way to the Asuka period in mid-6th century AD with the introduction of Buddhism. The religion was officially introduced the year 538, and this year is traditionally taken as the start of the new period. The Asuka period also coincided with the reunification of China under the Sui Dynasty later in this century. Japan became deeply influenced by Chinese culture, adding a broader cultural context to the religious distinction between the Kofun and Asuka periods.
Relations between the Yamato court and the Korean kingdoms
Chinese and Korean records
* According to the Book of Sui, Silla and Baekje greatly valued relations with Wa (Japan) of the Kofun period, and the Korean kingdoms made diplomatic efforts to maintain their good standing with the Japanese.
* According to the Gwanggaeto Stele, Silla and Baekje were Client state of Goguryeo. However part of the stele can be translated in 4 different ways depending on how you fill in the missing characters and where you punctuate the sentence.
This has caused controversy between the two nations.
* According to the Samguk Sagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms), Baekje and Silla sent their princes as hostages to the Yamato court in exchange for military support to continue their already-begun military campaigns; King Asin of Baekje sent his son Jeonji in 397 and King Silseong of Silla sent his son Misaheun in 402.
* According to the Book of Song, a Chinese emperor appointed five kings of Wa to Supervisor of All Military Affairs of the Six Countries of Wa, Silla, Imna, Gara, Chinhan, and Mahan in 451.
* According to the Nihon Shoki, Silla was conquered by the Japanese Empress-consort Jingū in the third century.
* According to Nihon Shoki, The prince of Silla came to Japan to serve the Japanese Emperor, and he lived in Tajima Province. He was called Amenohiboko. His descendant is Tajima mori.
* According to Kojiki Nihon Shoki, In Emperor Ōjin's reign, Geunchogo of Baekje presented Stallions and Broodmares with Horse trainers to the Japanese emperor.
The archaeological record, and ancient Chinese sources, indicate that the various tribes and chiefdoms of Japan did not begin to coalesce into states until 300 AD, when large tombs began to appear. Whether or not there were contacts between western Japan and Korea or China is still debated. Some describe the "mysterious century" as a time of internecine warfare as various chiefdoms competed for hegemony on Kyūshū and Honshū. Even more complicating is the Nihon Shoki referencing the Koreans to be the progenitor of Yamato. Due to these conflicting information nothing can be concluded for the book of Song or Nihon Shoki.
Whether the princes sent to Japan should be interpreted as diplomats or hostages is debated. but that interpretation is questionable since the ruler of Japan Emperor Tenno's grandmother was Korean. Due to the confusion on the exact nature of this relationship of whether the Koreans were family to the Imperial line or hostages and the fact that the Nihon Shoki is a compilation of myth make it difficult the evaluate. In Japan the hostage interpretation is dominant. Other historians like the ones who collaborated in the works for "Paekche of Korea and the origin of Yamato Japan" and Jonathan W Best who helped translate what was left of the Paekchae annals have noted that these princes set up school and took control of the Japanese Navy during the war with Koguryeo as evidence of them being diplomats with some kind of familial tie to the Japanese imperial family and not hostages. In addition, the translation of these documents are difficult because in the past the term "Wa" was derogatory meaning "midget pirate" or "dwarf pirate". It is difficult to assess what is truly being stated it could have been a derogatory statement between 2 warring nations. Nothing definitive can be concluded.
There is no evidence of Japan ever having been sophisticated enough to control any part of Korea during the time of Jingu. However there is archaeological evidence of Koreans going to Japan during this time, According to the book "Korea and Japan in East Asian History", such as finding horse sculptures, bronze mirrors, painting and iron-ware. The question that always comes up for the international community is why would a Japanese culture that doesn't have Korean ceramic ability or horses yet have horse sculptures in their tombs.
According to the book "Paekchae of Korea and the origin of Yamato Japan, "The prince of Silla was the ancestor to the Japanese Emperor. The translation of "Nihon Shoki Vol.6" was added and Amenohiboko is described in Nihon Shoki as a maternal predecessor of Empress Jingū, whose controversial legend says that she defeated Silla in the 5th Century. This is highly inconsistent, as Jingū is said to have lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and she is supposed to have died in 269 AD which would make her 300 to 400 years old. These conflicting information make it difficult to understand these records. "天日槍對曰 僕新羅國主之子也 然聞日本國有聖皇 則以己國授弟知古而化歸之 Amehiboko was said to have stated 2 possible translations depending on how you puntuate the sentence and how you evaluate the syntax. 1. "I am a prince in Korea. I heard that there was saint's king in Japan. To become a vassal of the king in Japan, I transferred the country to younger brother." Again in the past the original text and not modern Japanese or Korean translations, will lack past tense/present tense and words like transferring or transferred or transfer would be impossible to interpret. This same sentence can be 2. "I am a prince in Korea. I heard that there was a saint's King in Japan to become a vassal. The king in Japan I transfer the country to my younger brother." Obviously the first version would be the one that Japan favors. Is the sentence stating that a Korean prince loves his younger brother calling him a saint and ordaining his younger brother to be his vassal and to rule as the King of Japan or is it the other way around. Again, it is difficult to conclude anything.
According to the Book of Song, a Chinese emperor appointed five kings of Wa to the position of ruler of Silla in 421, but what is confusing is that immigrants from Silla are the progenitor of Japanese ruling class according to the Nihon Shoki. In addition, the book of Song and the book of Sui can not be possible because many of the states considered to be Japan's vassal such as Chinhan and Mahan did not exist in the same time period as the vassal king of Yamato. In addition, the Book of Song was incomplete with missing volumes and filled in centuries later in a biased manner for political reasons. Also, Silla did not have official contact with the Song/Sui until the 6th century making this 4th to 5th century statement impossible. "As Egami (1964) notes, it may look very strange that the names of six or seven states listed in the self-claimed titles included Chin-han and Ma-han which had preceded, respectively, the states of Silla and Paekche. Perhaps the King of Wa had included the names of six or seven south Korean states in his title merely to boast of the extent of his rule. But Wa Kings could not have included the names of nonexistent states." Other historians also dispute Japan's theory, claiming there is no evidence of Japanese rule in Gaya or any other part of Korea. Another problem with the book of Song and book of Sui is that many of the volumes of the books were missing and re-written later in a biased manner. It is difficult to make any sense of what the relationship was like in the past. Japan of the Kofun period was very positive towards the introduction of both Chinese culture and Korean culture. Chinese and Korean immigrants played an important role in introducing elements of both Chinese civilization to early Japan.
The special burial customs of the Goguryeo culture had an important influence on other cultures in Japan. Decorated tombs and painted tumuli which date from the fifth century and later found in Japan are generally accepted as Korean peninsula exports to Japan. The Takamatsuzuka Tomb even has paintings of a woman dressed in distinctive clothes, similar to wall paintings from Goguryeo and Tang Dynasty China. In addition, Chinese astrology was being introduced during this time.
According to the Book of Song, of the Liu Song Dynasty, the Emperor of China bestowed military sovereignty over Silla, Imna, Gaya, Chinhan, and Mahan on King Sai of Wa. However, this theory is widely rejected even in Japan as there is no evidence of Japanese rule in Gaya or any other part of Korea. After the death of King Kō of Wa, his younger brother Bu acceeded to the throne; King Bu requested to have Baekje added to the list of protectorates included in the official title bestowed upon the King of Wa by mandate of the Emperor of China, but his title was only renewed as "Supervisor of All Military Affairs of the Six Countries of Wa, Silla, Imna, Gara, Chinhan, and Mahan, Great General Who Keeps Peace in the East, King of the Country of Wa." This entire statement is impossible because Chinhan and Mahan did not exist in the same time period as Silla, Baekje when the vassal Kings of Yamato were supposed to rule. As Egami wrote in 1964 "But Wa Kings could not have included the names of nonexistent states." In addition, Silla did not have official contact with the Song/Sui until the 6th century making this 4th to 5th century claim not possible. Due to the lack of evidence, and the confusion of whether the Wa were the descendants of Koreans, again no certain information is discernible.
Chinese chronicles note that horses were absent from the islands of Japan; they are first noted in the chronicles during the reign of Nintoku, most likely imported by Chinese and Korean immigrants.. According to some accounts, the horse was one of the treasures presented when the king of Silla surrendered to Empress Jingū in the Nihon Shoki. Other accounts contend that there is no evidence of this from Silla, and the king who supposedly surrendered dates to the 5th century, thus making Empress Jingu 200 years old. The Nihon Shoki states that the father of Empress Jingu was Emperor Kaika's grandchild, and her mother was from the Katuragi clan. In addition, the Nihon Shoki states that a Korean from Silla, Amenohiboko, was an ancestor of Jingu so both the Nihon Shoki and the Chinese chronicles relating to Japan are difficult to interpret. In addition, there is no evidence of Japanese war with Korea or any Japanese presence in Korea at this time and the Japanese did not have actual knowledge about horses until well after this time.
Keyhole kofuns were also recently discovered in the Gaya confederacy region of the Korean peninsula. This has caused scholars to begin examining the shared relationship between the Yamato and Baekje during the 3rd and the 7th centuries AD, including the method of tomb construction. While a variety of theories exist, most have come to the conclusion that there was sharing of culture and construction methods both directions. For example, earrings discovered in Silla and Kaya tombs are very similar to Japanese earrings dated to the Kofun period, "The ultimate source of such elaborate techniques as granulation is probably the Greek and Etruscan goldsmiths of western Asia and Europe, whose skills were transmitted to northern China and later to Korea. The resemblance of earrings found in Japan in the Kofun period (ca. 3rd century - 538 A.D.) to those from Silla and Kaya tombs suggests that such articles are imported from Korea." Spread of Chinese civilisation, Han styles of tomb construction were gradually adopted in all three kingdoms of Korea, mainly from the 4th century onwards. The tombs in the southern part of Korea and Japan appear to have a relationship. However, all the kofun-style tombs discovered in Korea have been dated as younger than those found in Japan.leading Japanese scholars to insist that those found in Korea were either built by Japanese immigrants or influenced by culture brought by them. but the advanced artifacts found in Japan's kofun tombs are Korean, so scholars have not been able to conclude anything about the direction of transfer.
Japan restricting access to Gosashi tomb
In 1976 Japan stopped all foreign archaeologists from studying the Gosashi tomb which is suppose to be the resting place of Emperor Jingu. Prior to 1976 foreigners did have access. Recently in 2008, Japan has allowed controlled limited access to foreign archaeologists, but the international community still has many unanswered questions. National Geographic wrote Japan "has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea"
The Haniwa (埴輪?) are terracotta clay figures which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects during the Kofun period (3rd to 6th century AD) of the history of Japan.
During the Kofun period, a highly aristocratic society with militaristic rulers developed. The cavalry wore iron armor, carried swords and other weapons, and used advanced military methods like those of Northeast Asia. Many of them are represented in Haniwa figurines for funerary purposes.
The most important of the haniwa were found in southern Honshū - especially the Kinai region around Nara - and northern Kyūshū. Haniwa grave offerings were made in numerous forms, such as horses, chickens, birds, fans, fish, houses, weapons, shields, sunshades, pillows, and male and female humans. Besides decorative and spiritual reasons of protecting the deceased in his afterlife, these figures also served as a sort of retaining wall for the burial mound.
Because these haniwa display the contemporary clothing, hairstyle, farming tools, and architecture, these sculptures are important as a historical archive of the Kofun Period.
The origin of Haniwa
The origin of haniwa started during the latter part of the Yayoi Era around the Kingdom of Kibi. During this time special earthenware figurines and bowls started to appear on top of the tombs of leaders. The early sculptures exceeded 1 meter (3 feet) in length. They consisted of a cylindrical portion which represented the torso, and a skirt-shaped portion at the base, which represented the legs. Many times a special insignia or pattern would be displayed on the torso. Sometimes an obi would be placed around the torso portion of the sculpture. These sculptures are thought to have been used as part of a funeral ritual. Other than the Kibi area, the only other place these sculptures were found was in the Izumo province.
During the latter part of the 3rd century AD, these sculptures started to appear on top of the imperial grave mounds in the Kinai region. During this time more elaborate haniwa would appear along with earthenware bowls. It is believed that the movement of these sculptures and haniwa from the Kibi region to the Kinai region is indicative of an increase in the importance.
Later development of the Haniwa
During the earlier part of the Kofun period (latter 3rd century A.D.) the only earthenware haniwa were of the cylindrical variety; however, towards early 4th century AD, shield and other tool-shaped haniwa started to appear. Additionally, during the middle Kofun period (mid-5th century C.E.) shrine maiden, horse, dog and other animal-shaped haniwa were introduced. As the practice of having ceremonial burial mounds declined in the mid 6th century C.E., haniwa became rarer in the Kinai region; however, the haniwa were still made in abundance in the Kantō region.
Significance of the Haniwa
Originally, the cylindrical type haniwa were set on top of the funeral mounds, so it is believed that they had a purpose in funeral rituals; however, as the haniwa became more developed, they were set towards the outside of the grave area, and it is thought that they were used as boundary markers to mark the borders of the gravesite.
There is a theory that the soul of the deceased would reside in the haniwa, as the earlier haniwa were placed on top of the funeral mounds. There are haniwa that are equipped with weapons and armor, and these are also thought to be containers for souls. The armor and weapons would serve the purpose of driving away evil spirits and protecting the buried ruler from calamity. Because the horse and animal shaped haniwa were normally neatly arranged into a line, it is believed that they were part of a sending-off ceremony.
The Haniwa in modern society
Although the religious implications of the haniwa have largely declined in modern society, the sculptures are still prized by many for their aesthetic and historical significance. The works of Shojiro Ishibashi, for example, were heavily influenced by the haniwa. They have been accepted as "Pure Art", according to Time magazine. Beyond simple appreciation as artistic sculptures, modern popular culture has, in some cases, even portrayed the haniwa as containing an actual sentient entity and not just as a simple empty sculpture. The most common portrayal depicts the haniwa with a rounded, pot-like shape, bearing two deep eyes, a wide mouth, and two featureless "arms" on opposite sides of the "pot".
The portrayal of living haniwa has - since the late 1990s - become widespread, being featured in trading cards, video games, and television. However, as with many modern portrayals of ancient spiritual beliefs (such as the banshee), the cultural aspect of haniwa is almost always overlooked. Instead, in many of the depictions, the haniwa is primarily presented as a ghostlike, malevolent creature, without attempting to retain the historical aspect of the haniwa's religious nature.
From Wiki pedia
Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation
http://en.wiki pedia.org/wiki/Wiki pedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License