Jomon Culture in Japan before Buddhism

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The artwork that I chose is Dogu (Clay Figurine). It was made during the final period of Jomon (ca. 1000-300 B.C.), Japan.

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Jomon people used earthenware ceramic technique to create it. Ordinarily, clay figurines portrayed human or animals. This Dogu generally comprises highly stylized females with extended bosoms, hips, and stomachs ventured. Although chapter 17 of the textbook mentioned the development of ceramic form in Jomon period, it mainly focused on outlining the earthenware vessels that applied clay coils and wave patterns, which did not deal with any earthenware figures. In my opinion, the Dogu should be contained in the textbook as an idealized representation of Jomon culture because it shows how Jomon people used clay to create figures that can be used as evidence to compare medium and human form with other cultures; the Dogu, known as the most spirited remarkable product of this period; and also shows how Jomon people described human gender through art.

In the textbook, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 15th Edition, author Fred S. Kleiner describes separate Japanese art before 1333 into two terms: Japan before Buddhism and Buddhist Japan. For Japan before the birth of Buddha, Jomon is mentioned as the art culture of Japan during the early and middle period. In the early period, the name “”Jomon”” is derived from the cord impressions used as decorating earthenware vessels. Jomon people were hunter- gatherers, and they enjoyed living settled. It provided them with great conditions to develop ceramic technology before they practiced agriculture. In middle Jomon pottery, most Jomon people lived in the mountains and they continued using ceramic form with higher development. Vessels were referred as a main artwork of this culture which served a variety purposes, from cooking to communal rituals. Although Dogu appeared in Middle Jomon period and then increased with huge amount in the Late and Final period, Kleiner did not mention any indication of the effects of Dogu during these times.

After studying the research, I have found out some information about Jomon culture that left out of the textbook. Most Jomon people were hunters so they used dogs as an important hunting tool, so they can track and retrieve animals in difficult and forested environments. Greater number of dog burials during the later Jomon period may reflect the dependence on hunting dogs . Besides, clay figures (Dogu) with animals and human form were found with large numbers from the Middle to Late and Final Jomon period which represented their importance in Jomon social. However, these figures were excavated in a broken condition, so they may have been a part of the figurine ritual in Jomon culture.

The first reason that my artwork should be added in the textbook is because it shows how Jomon people used clay to create human figures that can be used as valuable evidence for comparing medium and human form with the other cultures. The medium that people used in different cultures varies drastically. As we have studied before, early African population (500 BCE) used terracotta to create their figures such as human heads to help examine the use of scarification marks as a sign of beauty. During the 12th-11th century BCE in China, Shang artists used bronze casting to create standing figures with large staring eyes. However, for the Dogu, Jomon potters used their hands to create human figures out of clay with a simple standing form without much detail, standing half a meter tall. They are anthropomorphic, and their faces are not realistic depictions of human faces. This artwork will be helpful to better understand and to compare how Jomon people started to create human form amongst cultures.

Secondly, the Dogu, known as products with the most spirit during the Jomon period, were found as a variety of artifacts with different shapes such as the figure of mother cradling a baby, a goggle-eyed dogu, or the artwork shown on page 5 of my essay, a figure of a woman. These artifacts became a representation of figures, which were important for Jomon people. These clay figures were used for a variety of different reasons such as: a children’s toy, decoration, rituals or preparing afterlife. Most of them were broken when they were excavated which to this day, is a mystery that many researchers still study.

Lastly, my artwork shows how Jomon people started to describe the human gender through art. Clay figures have a ratio of existence to distinguish between the male and female form. However, researchers are still unclear if men and women are modeled to create Jomon clay figures because most figures have female body proportions. Jomon artists depicted the waist and hip areas of these figures as well as the breasts, swollen abdomens caused by pregnancy, or having pubic triangles. None of the Jomon male figures has clear genitals, however a significant amount of Jomon figures does not have ‘breasts’ designed to represent a male. Therefore, my artwork will help us to achieve a clear analysis of the cultural construction of male and female forms and gender in Jomon society.

In conclusion, Jomon culture proves to have importance in the history of Japanese art. Dogu helped define Japanese culture and represented a period in which Japanese historians and ancestry can reflect back on when collecting these valuable artifacts. Every country as described earlier in my text has their own unique art that helps define their culture and Dogu is just one in a handful of valuable treasures that can be found around the world.

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