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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Except when they are cast with a garniture of suzu


might be supposed that in the field of personal ornament some special features peculiar to the Yamato civilization should present themselves. There is none. Bronze or copper bracelets,* closed or open and generally gilt, recall the Chinese bangle precisely, except when they are cast with a garniture of suzu. In fact, the suzu (jingle-bell) seems to be one of the few objects purely of Yamato origin. It was usually globular, having its surface divided into eight parts, and it served not only as part of a bangle and as a pendant for horse-trappings but also as a post-bell (ekirei), which, when carried by nobles and officials, indicated their right to requisition horses for travelling purposes.

*Jasper also was employed for making bracelets, and there is some evidence that shells were similarly used.

To another object interest attaches because of its wide use in western Asia and among the Celtic peoples of Europe. This is the penannular (or open) ring. In Europe, it was usually of solid gold or silver, but in Japan, where these metals were very scarce in early days, copper, plated with beaten gold or silver, was the material generally employed. Sometimes these rings were hollow and sometimes, but very rarely, flattened. The smaller ones seem to have served as earrings, worn either plain or with pendants.

Prominent among personal ornaments were magatama (curved jewels) and kudatama

(cylindrical jewels). It is generally supposed that the magatama represented a tiger's claw, which is known to have been regarded by the Koreans as an amulet. But the ornament may also have taken its comma-like shape from the Yo and the Yin, the positive and the negative principles which by Chinese cosmographists were accounted the great primordial factors, and which occupy a prominent place in Japanese decorative art as the tomoye.* The cylindrical jewels evidently owed their shape to facility for stringing into necklaces or chaplets. The Chronicles and the Records alike show that these jewels, especially the magatama, acted an important part in some remarkable scenes in the mythological age.** Moreover, a sword, a mirror, and a magatama, may be called the regalia of Japan. But these jewels afford little aid in identifying the Yamato. Some of them--those of jade, chrysoprase, and nephrite***--must have been imported, these minerals never having been found in Japan. But the latter fact, though it may be held to confirm the continental origin of the Yamato, gives no indication as to the part of Asia whence they emigrated.

*Professor Takashima has found magatama among the relics of the primitive culture, but that is probably the result of imitation.

**The goddess of the Sun, when awaiting the encounter with Susanoo, twisted a complete string, eight feet long, with five hundred magatama. Lesser Kami were created by manipulating the jewels. When Amaterasu retired into a cave, magatama were hung from the branches of a sakaki tree to assist in enticing her out. Several other reverential allusions are made to the jewels in later times.

***The jewels were of jasper, agate, chalcedony, serpentine, nephrite, steatite, quartz, crystal, glass, jade (white and green), and chrysoprase. Mention is also made of rakan, but the meaning of the term is obscure. Probably it was a variety of jade.


The pottery found in the Yamato tombs is somewhat more instructive than the personal ornaments. It seems to have been specially manufactured, or at any rate selected, for purposes of sepulture, and it evidently retained its shape and character from very remote if not from prehistoric times. Known in Japan as iwaibe (sacred utensils), it resembles the pottery of Korea so closely that identity has been affirmed by some archaeologists and imitation by others. It has comparatively fine paste--taking the primitive pottery as standard--is hard, uniformly baked, has a metallic ring, varies in colour from dark brown to light gray, is always turned on the wheel, has only accidental glaze, and is decorated in a simple, restrained manner with conventionalized designs. The shapes of the various vessels present no marked deviation from Chinese or Korean models, except that, the tazzas and occasionally other utensils are sometimes pierced in triangular, quadrilateral, and circular patterns, to which various meanings more or less fanciful have been assigned.

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