The History of Japanese Art before 1333

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About this sample


Words: 993 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 993|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Art has existed for a long time and has influenced us in many ways. It helps us understand who we are, it tells us stories from centuries and give us the details of the life of the past. Back in the ancient times, art was used as a way to represent God, people, the difference between cultures and economic importance. There are many great artworks found throughout history, however, in this essay I will be talking about the Japanese art before 1333 and as to why the art during that period is still important and how it had impacted the Japanese culture.

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Many of the Japanese arts even till today is still considered to be important because it tells us about the different time period of the Japanese as it corresponds to social change. In the Heian period, art and architecture have become such a great influence in the Japanese culture. This is the time when Buddhism and new development of shrines begin. Buddhism was first originated in India in the late 6th century B.C. E by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a religion that most countries in Asia practice today. Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Korea on a visit to Japan. While on a visit the Korean brought an image of Buddha and a sutra scroll to present to the Emperor Kimmei (531-571) according to Linden a writer and teacher in Japan. The Emperor Kimmei took an interest in Buddhism. Soon Buddhism was adopted in Japan by Shotoku Taishi a Prince who ruled Japan in between 594-622. Throughout the establishment of Buddhism in Japan, it plays an important role in the development of the Japanese art and architecture which result in the creation of paintings, sculptures, new shrines and the discovery of many new things.

Since the practice of Buddhism began in the early Heian period, many of Heian artwork are still influenced by the Kamakura Period. The Kamakura period began in 1192 to 1333. It was ruled by the shogun, which mean military commander, according to Szczepanski a former writer and History teacher. During the Kamakura period, the samurai took control of the Japanese empire. Many of the artworks in this period were reflected in Buddhism. The artworks were images of Buddha which was painted on the walls of temples/shrines, paper and fabrics. There are also paintings which show the characteristics of the Japanese culture. These paintings come in many forms. One of them is the Yamato-e painting. The Yamato-e painting was inspired by the Tang Dynasty, which was originated from China. According to Yan an assistant Professor of Art History in Manhattan Community College states, “Yamato-e is defined by Heian-period screens and picture scrolls in a Japanese pictorial style”. This painting often shows nature, like plants and flowers, the palace as well as illustrated of architecture and people. Yamato-e was is one of the oldest paintings in Japan and are sometimes seen in the Kamakura period art. Beside the Yamato-e painting another great form of painting is the Emakimono. Emakimono or also called Emaki is a painted hand scroll that can be done on a paper or silk. This hand scroll displays battles, religion, and folktales.

Aside from painting there were also sculptures of statues which were mostly Buddha that were made from wood. Sculptures during the Kamakura period was very important and because of that there was a school of sculpture called the Kai School. Some of the sculptures from this period were influenced by China. One of the most famous sculptors of this era is Unkei. According to the article “Tokyo National Museum to Host Largest Exhibit to Date of Unkei, Genius of Buddhist Sculpture” by Anne Wisman, Unkei was a Japanese sculpture at the Kei School of Buddhist during the Kamakura period. He was born from Kokei who were also a very famous Japanese sculpture. Unkei was known for his unique Buddha carving and was one of the most greatest wood sculptures. Many sculptures of Buddhism were created after the creation of the Kai School. Soon Buddhism becomes the basis for many artworks.

Due to that reason there were many new architectures of Buddhism Temples. Some of the temples during that time were influenced by China style which has wide courtyards and symmetrical layouts. As time passed, temples were designed to their like. Not only that, but after the Genpei War there has been a huge impact on the architecture. The Genpei War is a civil war between the two samurai clans, the Taira and the Minamoto during the late-Heian which determine who is going to be the next ruler. After the damage of the war, many buildings were destroyed, so they have to re-build shrines/temples. Houses were built from wood and stone as well as large buildings like shrines. As for the samurai most of their buildings were built to secure military orders.

Another development that was built during the Kamakura period is the tea house and the tea ceremony which is related to Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is a Japanese school that was built during the Kamakura period to teach people about the Buddha nature like meditation, intuition and the meaning of life. Zen was from India, but later reach to China, Korea and Japan. Since the start of the Zen Buddhism School many of the Japanese arts have been influenced by it. These included flowers arrangement, calligraphy, painting, etc.

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Although there are not a lot of artwork found before 1333 or at the end of the Kamakura period, it still gives us enough detail about the Japanese history. What I found most interesting about the Japanese art before 1333 is the arrival of Buddhism and how it influenced the Japanese way of creating temples, paintings, sculptures, architecture and many other great artistic achievements during the early period. Even though Buddhism wasn’t the Japanses native religion, but since the introduction of it has changed both the Japanese culture and their art. Now many of the Japanses arts still represent it.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The History Of Japanese Art Before 1333. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from
“The History Of Japanese Art Before 1333.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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