Asuka Era Exhibit

29Aug07

Crown from the Asuka Era Accessories exhibit.

The Asahi Shimbun reported in a small article that the Kashihara Archaeological Research Center Museum of Ikaruga Town, Nara Prefecture will host an exhibit of ancient accessories unearthed from the Fuji-no-Ki kofun tomb. The tomb was discovered untouched in 1988 and dated from the Asuka Period (approx. 538 to 710).

The highlight of the exhibition is a silver-chain pendant of 37.2 centimeters, found around the head. Artisans from Japan and the US helped to reconstruct the textile and jewelry that will be displayed on mannequins in the museum.

The Fuji-no-Ki tomb is located 300 meters west of the famous Horyuji Temple (great pics at http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/nara/HORYUJI.htm) also founded around the same time. It houses the oldest extant wooden building in the world, and was Japan’s first Buddhist temple.

At this time, the Nara Valley was a power center of a new continent-leaning elite who had adopted Buddhism imported via Korea and centralized political and religious power with new bureaucratic innovations likely also imported.

The latter half of the 6th century was a turbulent time of change in Japan. At the dawn of the 7th century work on the new capital at Heijyou-kyou, present-day Nara, was nearing completion. Until this period the capital moved with the death of the ruler, but after 710 this stopped. The design of the city was based on the Tang Dynasty capital of Chang’an, which at the time was one of the largest cities in the world and extremely cosmopolitan. Japan had just sent its first mission to the Chinese emperor in 600. Returning again in 607, this time the letter of introduction referred to Japan as the “land where the sun rises” which became an important psychological marker in history for the nation.

With these important missions, and the less formal interactions with the three Korean kingdoms of Paekche, Silla, and Goguryeo, new innovations from continental Asia were followed by new fashions, including the imposition of dress codes for bureaucrats and other elites according to new rank. The exhibition at the research center at Kashihara is a great place to catch a glimpse of what some of these fashions may have looked like.

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