The ancient native art of Japan has been revealed by numerous accidental finds and by excavations of prehistoric and protohistoric sites, including many burial mounds. Relics comprise earthen vessels, bell-shaped bronzes called dotaku, haniwa clay figures, armor and horse furniture, gilt-bronze personal ornaments and the like. Many of the relics are of interest primarily to archeologists, but others show remarkable artistic talent and are of absorbing interest to art lovers. Some critics regret that these early native art forms were replaced almost totally in the course of Japan's sweeping adoption of continental civilization.
It is also worthy of note that bronze mirrors and other objects of Chinese and Korean origin or style are excavated from the same sites, evidence that Japan even in ancient times was linked with Chinese civilization over the bridgelike peninsula of Korea.
ASUKA PERIOD (522-646)
The introduction of Buddhism from China in the middle of the sixth century. chiefly by way of Korea, brought a dawn of civilized society to Japan. The rulers and statesmen of Japan in the Asuka period were greatly impressed by the advanced philosophy of Buddhism and by Buddhist art, as well as by the form of government, social structure and other aspects of Chinese civilization. They welcomed scholars, priests, artists, masons, gilders and other men of professional skills from Korea and China. Many of these professional men settled in Japan to pursue their trades and to teach the Japanese.
Among artists from the continent was Tori Busshi, the sculptor who cast the principal bronze images in the Golden Hall at Horyuji. Through his works the style of the Chinese Northern Wei dynasty was established in Buddhist sculpture of the Asuka period. There are extant today a number of other gilt-bronze and some wooden statues from this period, of which examples are displayed in the present exhibition. When closely studied, these statues reveal variations in style which indicate that Tori's was only one of a number of styles from which Japanese apprentices were able to choose.
Buddhist temples founded in the Asuka period in and about the capitals of the time were centers of art and learning. These temples were filled with art objects and historic documents, enough of which have been preserved to indicate the magnitude of Buddhism's contribution toward the advancement of early Japanese civilization. It is remarkable, moreover, that a number of the wooden . . .