Kofun jidai 古墳時代
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
The Kofun period (250 - 600). *Kofun 古墳 are the burial mounds or tumuli which are the most recognizable archaeological feature of the period and much of our knowledge derives from them. However, more recent discoveries , including settlements, agricultural fields and workshops for the production of ceramics and beads, tell us much about the daily life of the Kofun period. The construction of tumuli dates back to the late 3c and was restricted to certain areas, primarily the Yamato 大和 region. After the mid-3c, large keyhole-shaped tombs zenpou kouenfun 前方後円墳 were constructed for tribal chieftains.
Low-fired clay images haniwa 埴輪 were arranged on the surface of the mounds, but their function is not clear: they may have defined a sacred boundary or stabilized the outer edge of the mound. Haniwa forms include houses, boats, military gear, instruments and humans beings of all types and classes. The large tombs also contain great numbers of burial goods such as bronze mirrors, iron weapons, tools and jewellery. In the 6c and 7c many smaller ornamented tombs were constructed for local leaders and other people; these include the Takehara 竹原 and Idera 井寺 tombs in Kyushuu 九州 region and the Fujinoki 藤の木 and Takamatsuzuka 高松塚 tombs in Nara. Because of the significant cultural influence of Buddhism, most art historians place the terminal date for the period in the mid 6c when that religion was first introduced into Japan (see *Asuka jidai 飛鳥時代). Many Japanese political historians, however, consider the Kofun period to last until 710, when the Imperial capital was established at Nara (see *Nara jidai 奈良時代). Certainly tumuli continued to be constructed in remote areas long after the introduction of Buddhism, but they slowly died out as the custom of cremation became widespread. The Yamato Court, Yamato choutei 大和朝廷 era is included in the Kofun period. The Yamato Court era began with the formation of a loose federation of tribes in the Nara region during the 4c by the Yamato tribe. They expanded their power, eventually founding Japan's Imperial line. The Yamato Court period is thought to end with the Taika Reform, Taika no kaishin 大化改新 of 645-46.


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