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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

In the thirteenth century Fujiwara Tsunetaka


It is generally conceded that the Japanese surpass all nations in the art of making lacquer. They not only developed the processes to a degree unknown to their original teacher, China, but they also introduced artistic features of great beauty. Unfortunately, history transmits the names of Jew masters in this line. We can only say that in the days of Yoshimasa's shogunate, that is, during the second half of the fifteenth century, several choice varieties began to be manufactured, as the nashiji, the togidashi, the negoro-nuri, the konrinji-nuri, the shunkei-nuri, the tsuishu, and the tsuikoku. Choice specimens received from later generations the general epithet Higashiyama-mono, in reference to the fact that they owed so much to the patronage of Yoshimasa in his mansion at Higashi-yama.


To the Muromachi epoch belongs also the first manufacture of faience, as distinguished from unglazed pottery, and of porcelain, as distinguished from earthenware. The former innovation is ascribed--as already noted--to Kato Shirozaemon, a native of Owari, who visited China in 1223 and studied under the Sung ceramists; the latter, to Shonzui, who also repaired to China in 1510, and, on his return, set up a kiln at Arita, in Hizen, where he produced a small quantity of porcelain, using materials obtained from China, as the existence of Japanese supplies was not yet known. The faience industry found many followers, but its products all bore the somewhat sombre impress of the cha-no-yu (tea ceremonial) canons.


The architectural feature of the time was the erection of tea-parlours according to the severe type of the cha-no-yu cult. Such edifices were remarkable for simplicity and narrow dimensions. They partook of the nature of toys rather than of practical residences, being, in fact, nothing more than little chambers, entirely undecorated, where a few devotees of the tea ceremonial could meet and forget the world. As for grand structures like the "Silver Pavilion" of Yoshimasa and the "Golden Pavilion" of Yoshimitsu, they showed distinct traces of Ming influence, but with the exception of elaborate interior decoration they do not call for special comment.

A large part of the work of the Japanese architect consisted in selecting rare woods and uniquely grown timber, in exquisite joinery, and in fine plastering. Display and ornament in dwelling-houses were not exterior but interior; and beginning with the twelfth century, interior decoration became an art which occupied the attention of the great schools of Japanese painters. The peculiar nature of Japanese interior division of the house with screens or light partitions instead of walls lent itself to a style of decoration which was quite as different in its exigencies and character from Occidental mural decorations as was Japanese architecture from Gothic or Renaissance. The first native school of decorative artists was the Yamato-ryu, founded in the eleventh century by Fujiwara Motomitsu and reaching the height of its powers in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century Fujiwara Tsunetaka, a great painter of this school, took the title of Tosa. Under him the Tosa-ryu became the successor of the Yamato-ryu and carried on its work with more richness and charm. The Tosa school was to a degree replaced after the fifteenth century in interior painting by the schools of Sesshu and Kano.


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