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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Are occasionally found in the Yamato sepulchres


are not specially suggestive as to provenance, with the exception of a kind having a cross-arm like the halberd commonly used in China from the seventh century before Christ. Yamato armour affords little assistance to the archaeologist: it bears no particularly close resemblance to any type familiar elsewhere. There was a corset made of sheet iron, well rivetted. It fastened in front and was much higher behind than before, additioned protection for the back being provided by a lattice-guard which depended from the helmet and was made by fastening strips of sheet iron to leather or cloth. The helmet was usually of rivetted iron, but occasionally of bronze, with or without a peak in front. There were also guards of copper or iron for the legs, and there were shoulder-curtains constructed in the same manner as the back-curtain pendant from the helmet. Shoes of copper complete the panoply.

The workmanship of these weapons and armour is excellent: it shows an advanced stage of manufacturing skill. This characteristic is even more remarkable in the case of horse-trappings. The saddle and stirrups, the bridle and bit, are practically the same as those that were used in modern times, even a protective toe-piece for the stirrup being present. A close resemblance is observable between the ring stirrups of old Japan and those of mediaeval Europe, and a much closer affinity is shown by the bits, which had cheek-pieces and were usually jointed in the centre

precisely like a variety common in Europe; metal pendants, garnished with silver and gold and carrying globular jingle-bells in their embossed edges, served for horse decoration. These facts are learned, not from independent relics alone, but also from terracotta steeds found in the tumuli and moulded so as to show all their trappings.

Other kinds of expert iron-work have also survived; as chains, rings and, buckles, which differ little from corresponding objects in Europe at the present day; and the same is true of nails, handles, hinges, and other fittings. Tools used in working metal are rarely found, a fact easily accounted for when we remember that such objects would naturally be excluded from sepulchres.

There is another important relic which shows that the Yamato were "indebted to China for the best specimens of their decorative art." This is a round bronze mirror, of which much is heard in early Japanese annals from the time of Izanagi downwards. In China the art of working in bronze was known and practised during twenty centuries prior to the Christian era; but although Japan seems to have possessed the knowledge at the outset of the dolmen epoch, (circ. 600 B.C.), she had no copper mine of her own until thirteen centuries later, and was obliged to rely on Korea for occasional supplies. This must have injuriously affected her progress in the art of bronze casting.

Nevertheless, in almost all the dolmens and later tombs mirrors of bronze were placed. This custom came into vogue in China at an early date, the mirror being regarded as an amulet against decay or a symbol of virtue. That Japan borrowed the idea from her neighbour can scarcely be doubted. She certainly procured many Chinese mirrors, which are easily distinguished by finely executed and beautiful decorative designs in low relief on their backs; whereas her own mirrors--occasionally of iron--did not show equal skill of technique or ornamentation. Comparative roughness distinguished them, and they had often a garniture of jingle-bells (suzu) cast around the rim, a feature not found in Chinese mirrors. They were, in fact, an inferior copy of a Chinese prototype, the kinship of the two being further attested by the common use of the dragon as a decorative motive. Bronze vases and bowls, simple or covered, are occasionally found in the Yamato sepulchres. Sometimes they are gilt, and in no case do their shapes differentiate them from Chinese or modern Japanese models.

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