Japanese / Figure of a Man / Tumulus period, 6th-7th centuryJapanese
Figure of a Man
Tumulus period, 6th-7th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: Japanese
Title: Figure of a Man
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 500
Creation End Date: 699
Creation Date: Tumulus period, 6th-7th century
Creation Place: Japan, Ibaraki Prefecture
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: earthenware with traces of pigment
Dimensions: H. 56 in. (142.2 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.199
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Rights: http://www.asiasociety.org
Context: This haniwa figure of a man was produced during the Tumulus or Kofun period (258-646). Kofun means "tumulus," and the period is named after the enormous tombs that were constructed for the ruling elite. These tombs were generally covered with large mounds of earth and were often in the shape of keyholes and surrounded by moats. Haniwa means "circle of clay"; the earliest examples, dating to the late 3rd century, were simply clay cylinders--larger versions of the base of this figure. Haniwa were placed at the top of the burial mound, in the center, along the edges, and at the entrance to the burial chamber. Examples in the shape of houses, animals, weapons, and ceremonial objects appeared in the late 4th century, and figural haniwa such as this sculpture were created in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries. They are most common in the Kanto region, the area around Tokyo, and were used there for a century longer than in other parts of Japan. The traces of red paint found on the earrings and coronet of this figure indicate that it was made in the Kanto region, as the use of this pigment is restricted to that locality.

The design on this figure's tunic was made by pressing and rolling twisted cords and cord-wrapped sticks into wet clay. The cord-impressed, or jomon, method of ceramic decoration developed in the Jomon period (c. 10,500-300 BCE), which derives its name from the technique.

Sculptures such as this one functioned both as attendants to the deceased and as symbols of his status and importance. The figure wears jodhpurlike pants under his long tunic. His beaded necklace and coronet were part of the formal civilian attire worn by high-ranking members of Tumulus-period society. The function of the comma-shaped object on the front of the tunic remains puzzling. It has been identified both as the hilt of a sword and a sickle. However, the shape of this object is different from that of early Japanese sword hilts, which were rectangular. It is also unlikely that such a high-ranking figure would have used a sickle, or that this tool would be a symbol of status. The commalike shape of this object raises another possibility: jade objects in this shape, called magatama, were made and used in Tumulus-period Japan. Although the precise meaning of these objects is also debatable, they were believed to have had some ritual or religious significance. While the object worn by this male figure is much larger than the magatama, its similar shape suggests that it may be a representation of some type of regalia, probably an object either of semiprecious stone or metal.

The distinctive keyhole-shaped type of tomb spread from the Osaka-Kyoto-Nara region on the main island of Honshu throughout Japan. Its diffusion is often interpreted as an illustration of the spread of political power from one part of Japan to another. During the Tumulus period, Japan, which had been divided into a series of loosely related domains, was gradually organized into a unified state with a central government located in the Kansai region. The arrival of immigrants from Korea and possibly other parts of mainland East Asia provided another impetus for changes in political organization and related burial practices during the Tumulus period.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 89.
Related Document Description: Calza, Gian Carlo. 'Musei: L'Asia in casa.' Antiquariato 34 (January 1983), p. 49.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 62, 99.
Related Document Description: Mayuyama, Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo: Mayuyama and Co., 1966, no. 422.
Related Document Description: Mayuyama: Seventy Years. Tokyo: Mayuyama and Co., 1976, vol. 2, p. 144, pl. 289.
Related Document Description: Meech-Pekarik, Julia. 'Notable Japanese Ceramics.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 430-31.
Related Document Description: Miki, Fumio. Haniwa. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1958, pp. 5, 19, 186.
Related Document Description: Miki, Fumio. Haniwa: The Clay Sculpture of Proto-Historic Japan. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1958-60, pp. 9, 157.
Related Document Description: Mowry, Robert D. 'Object of the Month: Haniwa Figure.' Orientations (August 1985), pp. 45-48.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.199
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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