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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures offers 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. This is evidenced in the four specific areas of inquiry on which the author focuses his study: the age-old question of Yamatai, the "lost" realms of the third-century Queen Himiko; the controversy over Japan-Korea relations between 350 and 700; the creation of capital cities during the age of apprenticeship to Chinese civilization between 645 and 800; and the appropriation of Chinese-style governing arrangements during the same era. Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures effectively illustrates how archaeology and history have mutually informed, guided, and revised each other's postwar research on ancient Japanese society. It synthesizes the enormous amount of data accumulated by postwar archaeologists, only a small portion of which has ever reached a Western audience.

Excerpt

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.

HISTORIOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW

Japan's philosophers and statesmen 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 late seventh century, when members of the ruling elite compiled first A Record of Ancient Matters (Kojiki) and then The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon shoki). These books describe how a dynasty unbroken for ages had come to rule over divinely chosen islands. That interpretation survived over the next millennium despite the political decline and impoverishment of the imperial family.

Historical studies reached a new level of sophistication after 1700, when scholars of National Learning (kokugaku) performed philological and literary exegeses of ancient texts. Several writers envisioned a pure and innocent age of unique Japanese virtues before Chinese influence poisoned people's hearts . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.