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Life in the Kofun Period: Learning from haniwa figures

Life in the Kofun Period: Learning from haniwa figures
Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery   March 15, 2011 (Tue) - July 31, 2011 (Sun)

  
Man Playing Zither, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Niwatorizuka Tumulus, Mooka-shi, Tochigi, Kofun period, 6th century (Gift of Mr. Otsuka Shohei)

Haniwa terracotta figures were first made from the early Kofun period and were used in groups, solely for decorating monumental tombs. Early haniwa were limited to plain cylinder, jar, house and bird shapes as well as a few others. Later, articles owned by chieftains (quivers, shields, swords armor, boats, etc.) emerged, but no human or animal figures (excepting birds) were produced.

In the mid-Kofun period (mid-5th century), animal haniwa including horse, dog and wild boar as well as human figures, began to be produced in the Kinki (Nara and neighboring prefectures) region and spread to other parts of Japan. In the Kanto region particularly, numerous figurative haniwa have been widely found at both large and small tombs dated to the second half of the 6th century. The various clothes and hair styles of haniwa human figures distinguish their sex, profession and role. Both whole and half-bodied figures exist, and this distinction is thought to have been used to position figures according to their importance among the groups.

The Tokyo National Museum has many haniwa human figures, but intact pieces are few; most of them are either fragmentary or with certain missing parts. Nevertheless, those few intact figures show wide variety, ranging from musicians and figures with unique clothes to those with tattooed faces, or armored men and women dressed in a garment resembling a priest's robe. Some of these figures are of exceptionally fine artistic quality.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Head of Man with Beard, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Boyama, Itako-shi, Ibaraki, Kofun period, 6th century (Gift of Mr. Hara Tatsutaro)
Head of Man Wearing Hat, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Nohara Tumulus, Miyawaki, Nohara, Kumagaya-shi, Saitama, Kofun period, 6th century
Man Playing Zither, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Niwatorizuka Tumulus, Mooka-shi, Tochigi, Kofun period, 6th century (Gift of Mr. Otsuka Shohei)
Woman Carrying Boxes on Head, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Niwatorizuka Tumulus, Mooka-shi, Tochigi, Kofun period, 6th century (Gift of Mr. Sato Yukiya)
Woman Wearing Surplice-Style Costume, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figure), From Iwami, Miyake-cho, Nara, Kofun period, 6th century