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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Erected during the reign of Temmu

From the remotest times sericulture was assiduously practised in Japan, the ladies of the Imperial Court, from the Empress downwards, taking an active part in the pursuit. The wave of Buddhist zeal which swept over Japan in the eighth century gave a marked impulse to this branch of industry, for the rich robes of the priests constituted a special market.


It is recorded in the Chronicles that Tajimamori, a Korean emigrant of royal descent, was sent to the "Eternal Land" by the Emperor Suinin, in the year A.D. 61, to obtain "the fragrant fruit that grows out of season;" that, after a year's absence, he returned, and finding the Emperor dead, committed suicide at his tomb. The "fragrant fruit" is understood to have been the orange, then called tachibana (Citrus nobilis). If the orange really reached Japan at that remote date, it does not appear to have been cultivated there, for the importation of orange trees from China is specially mentioned as an incident of the early Nara epoch.


One of the unequivocal benefits bestowed on Japan by Buddhism was a strong industrial and artistic impulse. Architecture made notable progress owing to the construction of numerous massive and magnificent temples and pagodas. One of the latter, erected during the reign of Temmu, had a height of thirteen storeys. The arts of casting and of sculpture, both in metal and in wood, received great development, as did also the lacquer industry. Vermilion lacquer was invented in the time of Temmu, and soon five different colours could be produced, while to the Nara artisans belongs the inception of lacquer strewn with makie. Lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl was another beautiful concept of the Nara epoch. A special tint of red was obtained with powdered coral, and gold and silver were freely used in leaf or in plates. As yet, history does not find any Japanese painter worthy of record. Chinese and Korean masters remained supreme in that branch of art.


Commerce with China and Korea was specially active throughout the eighth century, and domestic trade also nourished. In the capital there were two markets where people assembled at noon and dispersed at sunset. Men and women occupied different sections, and it would seem that transactions were subject to strict surveillance. Thus, if any articles of defective quality or adulterated were offered for sale, they were liable to be confiscated officially, and if a buyer found that short measure had been given, he was entitled to return his purchase. Market-rates had to be conformed with, and purchasers were required to pay promptly. It appears that trees were planted to serve as shelter or ornament, for we read of "trees in the Market of the East" and "orange trees in the market of Kaika."


The Buddhist temple, lofty, spacious, with towering tiled roof, massive pillars and rich decoration of sculpture and painting, could not fail to impart an impetus to Japanese domestic architecture, especially as this impressive apparition was not evolved gradually under the eyes of the nation but was presented to them suddenly in its complete magnificence. Thus it is recorded that towards the close of the seventh century, tiled roofs and greater solidity of structure began to distinguish official buildings, as has been already noted. But habitations in general remained insignificant and simple. A poem composed by the Dowager Empress Gensho (724) with reference to the dwelling of Prince Nagaya is instructive:

"Hata susuki" (Thatched with miscanthus) "Obana sakafuki" (And eularia) "Kuro-ki mochi" (Of ebon timbers built, a house) "Tsukureru yado wa" (Will live a myriad years.) "Yorozu yo made ni."

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