2
BIPARTITE FORMS IN THE JAPANESE HISTORY OF ART


PRE- AND PROTOHISTORY
(Genshi-jidai)


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JOMON (7000 B.C. - 3. CT/BC)

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1a

1b1c

1d1e

1a-d
In the middle Jomon period, about 5000 B.C. a particular type of pottery is found widespread from South to North. It shows a strongly profiled lower part and an impressively formed dynamic upper part. Like flames or waves it jutts upwards from the upper ridge. Very likely these ceramics had fibrous prototypes. Probably used in demarcation rites related to fire, they for some reason were covered with clay (heaven and earth) which produced a new durable form type. Evidently the fibrous texture must have been important. It was continued in the new ceramic industry. If this hypyothesis is taken in the positive sense, we could formally consider the pottery, resp. its characteristics in terms of pro-portion. It would imply also a definitely vertical polarity. And very likely it defined some sort of polar axiality in the sense of an elementary axis mundi.


ANTIQUITY (Kodai)


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YAYOI (3. CT/BC - 3. CT/AD)

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2a2b

2a,b
The Japanese Yayoi period is characterised by the immigration of Mongolian populations who were mainly agrarian and who spread from the South to the Central, later Northern part of the archipelago. The Yayoi pottery shows more flattened traits, absence of strong profile in the lower part. The string pattern is preserved, but appears indicated as a texture only. The dynamism of the upper edge too is considerably weakened. It could mean that the functions of this pottery had shifted from the cultic to the more utilitarian.


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KOFUN (3.-7.) / YAMATO (5. - 7. CT)

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3a 3b
3c 3d
3e

3a-e
From about the middle of the 4th century A.D. large tombs were erected in the region of the Yamato plain in central Japan. Their contents speak of a new elitarian social level with strong contacts to the thentime continental cultures of Korea and China. But their outer 'keyhole' forms are characteristic for Japan. Horizontal polarity is expressed by the circle on one side, which is the factual burial site, and a triangle, trapezoid or rectangular part on the other side, which forms the entrance, sometimes characterised by a gate at the bottom line. In some types the coordination of the two parts is emphasised by a rectangular linear element slightly protruding at both sides at the geometrical intersection of both forms, maybe alluding to the rope of the tectonic prototype. The interpretation makes sense: the emperor (e.g. Sujin Tenno, 10th, at Tenri, Nara-ken, or Nintoku, 16th, Sakai, Osaka) is resting under a horizontally interpreted 'Yorishiro', a prebuddhistic sacred marker (see last chapter of this presentation).


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HANIWA

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4a4b
4c

4a-c
In the context of burials we find also a particular type of ceramics, the so called Haniwa pottery. They were used for the demarcation of burial sites. Most characteristically bipartite is the round example with a high flamelike protruding upper part. But similarly the roofs of rectangular housemodels are clearly articulated into a lower functional and a protruding upper part.


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OTHER SOURCES

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5a

5a
House structures found on bronze mirrors show clearly that roofs of granaries, houses and palaces were designed according to principles of pro-portion, or polarity.


6a

6a
On the inside walls of tombs of Southern Japan (Kyushu) paintings are found with unidentified objects painted. They are conventionally interpreted as arrow containers, but they could as well be taken as sacred toposemantic signs which we will show later (last chapter of this presentation).


7a

7a
The same can be said of the view showing a boat with sacred signs. In many presentday Shinto cult festivals mobile shrines are mounted on boats for the dynamic phase of the cult, e.g. for an excursion to an outside sanctuary (o-tabisho). The picture would show the same arrangement but with prebuddhistic types of toposemantic signs. Note that very similar pictures are also known from predynastic Ancient Egypt.


EARLY HISTORY

Asuka, Hakuho, Nara (552-794)

CLASSICAL JAPAN

Heian (Fujiwara) (794-1192)


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ANCIENT SHINTO SHRINES

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8a
8b 8c 8d
8e8f
8g 8h

8a-h
Though styles are fairly different among early Shinto shrines, it is a common characteristic that crosswise arranged wooden parts (chigi) are protruding over the ridge of the roof. In the case of Kasuga (Nara, 8f), Sumiyoshi (Osaka, 8g) and Izumo Taisha (8h) these X-like symbols are superposed on the roof as independent elements, whereas in the case of Ise, they are part of the roof construction (8a-e), thus giving us clear clues of the origins of these symbols: they must have something to do with the evolution of roof construction.


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TRADITIONAL RIDGE SYMBOLISM

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9a9b
9c9d

9a-d
To characterise the roof aesthetically and symbolically by emphasising protruding or dynamic elements exists also in rural traditions of Japan. It can not simply be explained by functional arrangements. Rather a very deeprooted tradition seems to prescribe locally specific arrangements related to the ridge of the roof.


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OTHER WAYS OF BIPARTITION

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11a

11a
In the imperial sanctuaries of Ise, bipartition is also found in temporal and horizontal relations. About every 20 years the whole shrine system is renewed. The sites of the old and the new buildings are side by side. Each site is rigidly organised according to the 'acces-place-scheme'.


12a

12a
The imperial sanctuaries of Ise appear in an 'inner' (in the sacred woods) and an 'outer' domain (in the town Ise). Evidently the concept of 'polarity' was and still is of greatest importance.


13a

13a
In some places within the Ise shrine precinct sacred markers of this type are found. A stone circle surrounds a short pole to which sakaki twigs are fixed with ropes. A Japanese historian of religion (Harada) reconstructed them as early types of demarcation of sacred places. They were later superseded by wooden buildings forming a new and more representative type of cultic markers (see Matsushita shrine below).


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POLAR DESIGN OF ANCIENT SHRINES

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14a

14a
The inside of the sanctuary is 'decorated' with clouds and dragons evidently under strong continental influence. Western interpretation would interpret this symbolism in the sense of 'cosmology'. But the concept is much wider than this as the following materials may show.


15a15b
15c15d

15a-d
Polarity appears also in plan and section of the sacred shrines of different styles. The roof often contrasts through its rounded forms (nagare = flowing) with the rectangular structure below. The open verandas contrast with the closed space of the sanctuary, the stairs play with the contrast above and below, distinguishing the upper level in its structural lightness from the massive ground. The inside space is often bipartite separating innermost and outer parts. Sometimes a contrasting entrance part is set up in front of the sanctuary. In fact, polarity is the 'design method' par excellence of the Japanese shrine. What is of highest value socially and ontologically represents this philosophy of the harmony of opposites (coincidence of opposites). In this context the example above, where the inside ceiling is painted with motives indicating heaven (clouds, dragon) is only one point of a much wider aesthetico-ontological concept. It was not simply imported from the continent, as the clouds and dragons suggest, but had its original substrate much earlier among the agrarian village cultures of the Japanese archipelago. The painted dragon and clouds theme was only a new variant of this age old philosophy.


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GATE AND SHRINE:
POLARITY OF ACCESS AND PLACE

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16a16b

16a,b
Of course, the gate (torii) of the Japanese Shinto shrine in general, as a gate-marker stands in opposition to the shrine building as a place marker. Both define the cultic space correlated to human performance of rites and cults.


17a17b

17a,b
This horizontal polarity is clearly shown when at festivals a ring made of reed (chi no wa) is set up in the frame of the torii or nearby. This ring implies purification, or cultic transition from a functional everyday space to a domain of ontologically high values. In a wider anthropological context we can call this horizontal polarity between gate- and placemarker 'access-place-scheme'.


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EARLY BUDDHIST ARCHITECTURE

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18a
19a

18a, 19a
One of the earliest Buddhist temples in Japan was the Horyuji near Nara (founded 607AD). In its eastern part we find this octogonous 'dreamhall' (yumedono) which was first built in the 8th century using Chinese circular pavillons as prototype. On top of its curved roof the 'jewel (hôju) symbolises the spirit of Buddha.


20a

20a
The introduction of Buddhism brought new techniques and new dimensions into Japanese architecture. The Todaiji of Nara, built under emperor Shômu between 724 and 748 AD was the largest Budhha hall and most important far-eastern centre of Buddhism. Its two fold roof is now focussed on the polar relation between Buddha who sits under a richly decorated 'canopy of heaven' and common humans who merely move under the covered corridors of the 'golden hall'.


21a

21a
Early pagodas in Japan are relatively simple and show three floors. Later they turn into five-floor types (Heian). This section of a five floored type shows clearly, that, in fact its essence is a sacred pillar (shinbashira) which carries Buddhistic cult ornaments at the top (sôrin) and indicates the place of Buddha's relics on which the pillar is erected. The roof construction supports and protects this pillar. We will see below that the essence, its toposemantic function and also the polarity of the pillar are nothing new. Buddhism merely continues and varies traditions well established in agrarian village cultures of Japan (see last part of this presentation).


22a22b22c

22a-c
The most impressive example to demonstrate bipartition is the way how Japanese architecture interpreted the organisation of columns imported from China (kara-yô, Tang style). Particularly in gate and pagoda architecture, the wooden pieces corresponding to what we call 'capital' are often formed into filigrane networks orgiastically extending into space to support the structure of the roof. Often allusions to the cloud theme can be clearly seen (22c). Thus the polarity of earth and heaven is indicated.


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PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURE
OF ESOTERIC BUDDHISM (MIKKYO)

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Esoteric Buddhism was introduced by the monk Kukai, also named Kobo Daishi, who, in 806 AD, founded the Shingon Sect in Japan. He had spent 2 years in China and had brought many writings, pictures, instruments and Chinese sacred practices with him. Based on his impulses a whole tradition of mandala type of pictures and sculptures was created. Three examples are given below.


23a

23a
Kokûzô bosatsuzô. Buddha as treasure in empty space (13th cent.). Buddha as holy figure sits on a lotus flower and the whole is placed on a strangely formed mountain (Meru?). The multicategorically polar structure of the picture is fairly evident.


23b

23b
Lotus seat of Buddha (rendai) ca. middle of 11th century. It consists of a round wooden board into which 'small and large enchantments (Amida-daijû-shôjû) were carved, thus, something spiritual, even if Buddha is not present!


23c

23c
Kasuga mandala. Ca. 1300. Early expression of syncretism between Shinto and Buddhism (Ryôbu Shinto). It shows the Kasuga shrine system in Nara with the sacred Mt. Mikasa. We show it here for its tectonic polarity: a sacred landscape is painted as a verticalised access-place-scheme.


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