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Change of Exhibits, Regular Exhibitions: Starting from December 6, 2022 (Tue)

Regular exhibitions at Tokyo National Museum are rotated almost every week. This page provides the latest information on the change of exhibits.
* Some works are exhibited for a longer period of time.


 Image of "Political Maturation and the Creation of Symbols of Authority" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - July 9, 2023 (Sun)

Around the end of the Yayoi period in the first half of the 3rd century, large burial mounds with regionally-distinct shapes began to appear in various areas from Kanto to Kyushu. Villages in Japan were changing to states, with some gaining the power to unify others. A Chinese historical document even noted that in 239 and 240, Queen Himiko, the ruler of Japan’s Yamatai Kingdom, sent envoys to the Wei dynasty.

During the latter half of the 3rd century, keyhole-shaped burial mounds of unprecedented size and construction began to appear in the Kinai region, with the largest concentration in the Nara basin. Objects symbolizing political authority, such as bronze mirrors and ornaments, accompanied those buried inside. These developments show that politics in Japan had matured under the new Yamato Kingdom, which was even more powerful than Yamatai. These burial mounds were constructed on a wide scale until the 7th century, giving this era the name Kofun (ancient burial mound) period.

The pottery of the Kofun period was haji earthenware. Unlike earlier Yayoi pottery, it was uniform in design and did not feature regionally-distinct decorative patterns. This section explores the beginning of the Kofun period through haji pottery and bronze mirrors that were brought from China and placed in burial mounds.

 Image of "The Yamato Kingdom and the Production of Symbols of Authority" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - July 9, 2023 (Sun)

From the 4th century, Chinese-style bronze mirrors were created in Japan and placed in burial mounds. These large mirrors were finely-crafted with unique designs, and, as this burial practice suggests, held special meaning in the Yamato Kingdom. Jasper, bronze, and stone copies of various ornaments were also buried in these mounds. They included distinctive hoe-shaped stone objects modeled after shell bracelets that were valued in the preceding Yayoi period. The Yamato government began creating such objects to show its political and religious authority. Moreover, certain objects, such as those made of jasper, were created with the aid of provincial clans.

Use of these objects and the construction of burial mounds for high-ranking rulers (these mounds featured stone chambers that were sealed from the top) spread from the Yamato Kingdom to the west. It is believed that provincial clans used these objects as evidence of their alliance with Yamato and as symbols of their own prestige.

The establishment and expansion of the Yamato Kingdom was also related to political developments in other East Asian countries. In China, the fall of the Western Jin dynasty ushered in the Sixteen Kingdoms period (316–420), while the three kingdoms of Korea – Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla– began to annex neighboring regions.

 Image of "Large Burial Mounds and the Increase in Metal Production" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - July 9, 2023 (Sun)

Around the end of the 4th century, large keyhole-shaped burial mounds began to appear around the Osaka plain and Nara basin. Royal authority was expressed through burial practices, with grand arrangements of haniwa tomb figurines displayed on these mounds. Central to these arrangements were house-shaped haniwa as well as those representing tools, weapons, and other objects. Moreover, the number of small- and medium-sized burial mounds containing metal weapons and armor began to increase, suggesting that connections between the Yamato Kingdom and provincial clans became more militaristic, and that these connections began to extend to lesser clans as well. Metal production also increased significantly as shown by the large amount of ingots placed in burial mounds.

Chinese records state that from 421, the Five Kings of Wa (Japan) regularly offered tribute to the Southern Dynasties and requested that their military titles in Japan and Korea be recognized in China. The mass-production of metal weapons and armor further suggests the inclusion of Yamato in an international order centered on China.

 Image of "The Rise of Provincial Clans and the Development of a Unique Culture" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - July 9, 2023 (Sun)

Local production of weapons, armor, and horse tack, which had originally been brought from Korea, began around the end of the 5th century. While gold and silver were often used in Korea, production in Japan was characterized by the extensive use of gilded bronze plates. From around the mid-6th century, unique metal objects such as large ornamental swords were also created. It is believed that these objects were distributed to provincial clans as proof of the Yamato Kingdom’s authority and as signs of an alliance.

 Image of "Late Burial Mounds and Influence from the Asian Continent" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - July 9, 2023 (Sun)

At the end of the 6th century, significant changes accompanied the shift from the Kofun to the Asuka (593–710) period. Rulers constructed round or rectangular burial mounds, which replaced the older keyhole-shaped variety. In the mid-7th century, octagonal burial mounds were created for the Kings of Yamato, the most powerful rulers in Japan. Moreover, small burial mounds for individuals, which consisted of a stone chamber with an entrance, were built in the Kinai region. These developments reflect significant changes in burial practices.

These “late burial mounds” featured the latest technology imported from the Asian continent. Earth was tightly packed to strengthen construction, cut stones were stacked to create walls, and lacquered coffins were used. Some of these mounds, foremost of which are Takamatsu and Kitora, had burial chambers with painted murals that reflected imported beliefs.

Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan in the mid-6th century, spread among powerful clans while temples such as Asukadera and Horyuji were constructed in Nara. Meanwhile, China was unified under the Sui in 581 and the Tang in 618. Japanese envoys dispatched to China brought the latest culture to Japan. In Korea, the kingdom of Baekje fell in 660 to the combined armies of Tang and Silla despite Japanese aid. The creation of a unified state continued in Japan during this time of international tension.

Asian Gallery (Toyokan)

 Image of "Chinese Textiles: Auspicious Birds" 
Room 5  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - March 5, 2023 (Sun)

In connection with the Chinese New Year, this exhibition presents textiles with auspicious bird patterns. Throughout history, Chinese textiles were decorated with images of birds associated with good fortune. These included everyday birds such as cranes and Mandarin ducks, as well as imaginary birds such as Chinese phoenixes. Textile patterns with birds are reflections of Chinese thought and culture, and they represent people’s wishes for peace, harmony, longevity, and other blessings.

 Image of "Asian Textiles: Textiles of Nomadic People from Asia" 
Room 13  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - March 5, 2023 (Sun)

These textiles were collected by Ms. Matsushima Kiyoe, a researcher of nomadic peoples who was passionate about the nomads of West Asia. She collected these items in West Asia from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Since ancient times, nomadic people lived itinerantly together with their livestock, moving around the plateau regions that stretch from northwestern India to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and from Iran to Turkey. Without fixed places of residence, they acted as tribes. The nomads were self-sufficient in all the necessities of their daily lives, therefore their clothes, bags, sheets for tents, and other textile items were all created by spinning the wool from their livestock, or by turning woolen fibers into felt. Each tribe also developed unique designs, so that they could indicate their tribes from a distance. In today’s world, the lives of nomads have also modernized, as a result of which their culture is gradually being lost.

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

 Image of "Woodwork, Lacquerware, Incense Woods, and Measuring Instruments" 
Room 4  December 6, 2022 (Tue) - February 26, 2023 (Sun)

Wooden and lacquered objects include examples of Buddhist ritual implements, furnishings, musical instruments, stationery, measuring tools, and arms & armor, which range in date from the 7th to 17th century. Among these are notable pieces from the 8th century like the Bamboo Cabinet, which was donated by the famous Hōryūji priest Gyōshin, and a sutra box decorated with marquetry that shows the beautiful grain patterns of its jinkō wood. The Seven-stringed Zither is also valuable for its ink inscription, which tells us it was produced in China’s Sichuan Province in 724. The inscriptions on the pieces of incense wood in this collection also have revealed important facts about Persia’s involvement in the trade of such wood. Through these works one can not only see the culture of Japanese decorative art but can also get a sense of the cultural exchanges that occurred within East Asia centuries ago.

Commentary Sheet (PDF)