ARTS, CULTURE, THOUGHT, AND RELIGION
250–400: Early Kofun period. Confucian scholar Wani arrives from the Korean state of Paekche with eleven volumes of Chinese classic writings. He becomes tutor to the crown prince and becomes the first scribe. Literacy spreads very slowly at the Japanese court. In fifth- and sixth-century Japan literacy is possessed mainly by immigrant families from the Korean peninsula. Invaluable to the bureaucratic state, scribes are essential for keeping accurate records.
538 (or 552): According to tradition, Buddhism is introduced into Japan. By the end of the century it is firmly established as the official religion, politically valuable as a means to increase the authority of the rulers, and it leads to a spread of literacy. Elites vie with each other in constructing temples in the Asuka region and commissioning art works for them. Eating four-legged animals is banned for religious reasons, leading to a decrease in hunting. By the end of the century, Buddhism ends the practice of building Kofun tombs, which it sees as inappropriate. The tombs continue to be built in Kanto and Tohoku regions until the end of the seventh century.
554: In return for Japan's aid, the Korean kingdom of Paekche sends back specialists in Confucianism, Buddhism, divination, calendars, herbs, and music. Learning is apparently highly valued by Japanese of this era.
c. 585: Up to this time, inhabitants of Japan believe that malevolent native spirits (kami) cause calamities. With the arrival of Buddhism, they believe that plagues and disasters result from a failure to worship Buddha. Buddhism does not replace native religions of Japan and cults of sacred places and spirits centered at ancient shrine of Ise. Now known as Shinto (the way of the kami), these rites and shrines persist into the modern era.