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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Such seems to have been the case with the Ainu


It

must be premised that though so many kinds of implements are here enumerated, the nomenclature cannot be accepted as universally accurate. The so-called "hoe," for example, is an object of disputed identity, especially as agriculture has not been proved to have been practised among the primitive people of Japan, nor have any traces of grain been found in the neolithic sites. On the other hand, the modern Ainu, who are believed to represent the ancient population, include in their religious observances the worship of the first cakes made from the season's millet, and unless that rite be supposed to have been borrowed from the Yamato, it goes to indicate agricultural pursuits.

There is, indeed, one great obstacle to any confident differentiation of the customs and creeds prevalent in Japan. That obstacle consists in the great length of the period covered by the annals. It may reasonably be assumed that the neolithic aborigines were in more or less intimate contact with the invading Yamato for something like twenty-five centuries, an interval quite sufficient to have produced many interactions and to have given birth to many new traditions. An illustration is furnished by the mental attitude of the uneducated classes in Japan towards the neolithic implements. So completely has all memory of the human uses of these implements faded, that they are regarded as relics of supernatural beings and called by such names as raifu (thunder-axe), raitsui (thunder-club),

kitsune no kuwa (fox-hoe), raiko (thunder-pestle), and tengu no meshigai (rice-spoon of the goblins). Many of the neolithic relics show that the people who used them had reached a tolerably high level of civilization.

This is specially seen in the matter of ceramics. It is true that the wheel was not employed, and that the firing was imperfect, but the variety of vessels was considerable,* and the shapes and decorations were often very praiseworthy. Thus, among the braziers are found shapes obviously the originals of the Japanese choji-buro (clove-censer) and the graceful rice-bowl, while community of conception with Chinese potters would seem to be suggested by some of the forms of these ancient vases. Particularly interesting are earthenware images obtained from these neolithic sites. Many of them have been conventionalized into mere anthropomorphs and are rudely moulded. But they afford valuable indications of the clothing and personal adornments of the aborigines.

*Cooking-pots and pans, jars and vases, bowls and dishes, cups, bottles, nipple pots, lamps, braziers, ewers, strainers, spindles or drill weights, stamps, ornaments, images, and plaques (Munro's Prehistoric Japan).

What end these effigies were intended to serve remains an unsettled question. Some suggest that they were used as substitutes for human sacrifices, and that they point to a time when wives and slaves were required to follow their husbands and masters to the grave. They may also have been suggested by the example of the Yamato, who, at a very remote time, began to substitute clay images for human followers of the dead; or they may have been designed to serve as mere mementoes. This last theory derives some force from the fact that the images are found, not in graves or tombs, but at residential sites. No data have been obtained, however, for identifying burying-places: sepulture may have been carried out in the house of the deceased. Whichever explanation be correct, the fact confronts us that these clay effigies have no place in the cult of the modern Ainu. History teaches, however, that degeneration may become so complete as to deprive a nation of all traces of its original civilization. Such seems to have been the case with the Ainu.


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