Introduction on the Exhibition: The Culture of Japan

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relationship between Vietnam and Japan, an exhibition introducing the specialties of Japanese culture will be opened in Vietnam National Museum of History.

VNMH and KyushuNationalMuseum (Japan) have established the relationship for some recent years. The first co-operation was to hold successfully the exhibition “Vietnam – a great story” in Japan, 2013. In Jan. 2014, they will open another exhibition called “The culture of Japan” in 25 Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. The exhibition will introduce an overview on the special cultural tradition of Japan and the history of trade between Japan and Vietnam.

The exhibition will display collections in 9 themes:

1. Japanese ancient ceramics:

In Japan, the production and usage of terracotta ceramics appeared in 12.000 years ago. In Jomon period (12.000 – 2.400 years ago), the pottery was distinctive for its rope-cord patterns. In Yayoi period (300BC to AD 300), the pottery was more advanced in technique (using slow wheel) than Jomon pottery but less sophisticated in form. In Kofun period (during the 3rd to 7th centuries), the pottery was called Haniwa (coiled clay) and used for ritual purposes and served as a sort of retaining wall for the burial mounds.

Items displayed in the exhibition:

-Pot and Dogu figurine, Jomon period

-Pot, Yayoi period

-Haniwa horse figurine, Kofun period

2. Japanese ancient bronze

In Yayoi period, the wet rice agriculture and metallic tools were born and Japan acquired technical achievements from Korea and China. The bronze casting and iron melting were imported at the same time. While iron was used for working purposes, bronze was used for ritual purposes and making valuable objects. In Kofun period, there were no more uses of bronze weapons and ghantas in ritual ceremonies. However, bronze mirror was still popular and became a symbol of power. It was the most important burial object in the tomb mound made for leaders.

Items displayed in the exhibition:

– Bronze spear, Yayoi period

– Bronze ghanta, Yayoi period

– Bronze mirror, Kofun period

3. Buddhist sculpture art

Buddhism was brought to Japan from Korea in AD the 6th century as a Buddha statue and Buddhist texts were sent to as a diplomatic gift from the neighbor Paekche (a kingdom located in south west of Korea). It was matched with local belief and indulged by current government so it was developed quickly and created influences on the philosophy, arts and culture of Japan. Initially, Japanese Buddhist arts were affected from Buddhist arts of China and Korea. Nevertheless, by the end of the 8th century, it started to present its own style and characteristics.

Items display:

-Maitreya Buddha statue, Heian period, 12th century

-Buddha statue, Heian period, 10th century

-Amitābha Buddha statue, Kamakura, 12th – 14th century

-Devaraja (divine king) statue, Kamakura, 13th century

4. Objects for Buddhist ritual purposes

Buddhist rituals were increasingly developed requiring items served for ritual purposes. Buddhist music instruments such as ghanta used in pagodas, Buddhist practicing tools (Buddhist weapons) like ringed staff, varja (diamond)…represent for firmness of spirit and spiritual power.

Items display: ringed staff, water pot, diamond, Buddhist texts, bronze mirror…

5. Japan with the resistance war against Mongol

Mongol invaded Japan in two times, in 1274 and 1281. The first attack, Mongol sent 30.000 soldiers to south Kyushu, and the second, they sent 100.000 soldiers and 3500 ships. However, Mongol failed due to a big storm and strong resistance of Samurai. In this display, you will see some objects belonged to this war found in a sunken battleship that was excavated in 2011.

6. The diplomatic history between Vietnam and Japan

It is said that they have the cultural and commercial exchange since the 16th century. At that time, two governments exchanged diplomatic credentials and launched promoting policies for trade. Vietnamese government (Nguyen dynasty) allowed Japanese to take a trading street in Hoian and even could get marriage with Vietnamese and live long there.

Items display:

– Letter of credence to Hideyoshi government sent by Nguyen Hoang Lord to found trade relationship, 1591

– Shuishen business license granted to Japanese trading boats (to sail to Vietnam) by Tokugawa government, Edo period, 1614

– A painting of Shuishen boats to Southern Vietnam

– A painting of multinational people groups where Vietnamese and Japanese together appeared, Edo period, 17th century

7. Japanese pottery in Edo dynasty (17th – 18th centuries)

Japan developed terracotta instead of ceramics until 17th century. The ceramics was started by Korean who came to Arita, Hizen (now Saga, Nagasaki), Kyushu, Japan. Also at this moment, Chinese ceramics were decreased due to social upheavals, Japan had took this advantage by learning Chinese to develop its own technique and secure the export market of ceramics by co-operating with a Dutch company. From then, Arita became the biggest ceramics production centre in Japan. It was famous for 4 styles including Kakiemon, Nabeshima, Kinrande and Ko-Kutani.

Items display:

– Kutani plate, 17th century

– Kutani wine bottle with golden plated decoration, 17th century

– Kakiemon woman statue, 17th century

– Nabeshima plate

8. Samurai arts

Samurai warriors appeared in the 10th – 19th century in Japan. Samurai has made influences on history and culture of Japan. Their weapons are not only tools to combat but also artistic. They paid much attention to their uniforms to make them works of arts.

Items display:

– Guidebook to teach how to use fires, Edo period, 1629

– Gusoku helmet belonged to Samurai Kuroda, 18th century

– Hyougo sword, Kamakura period, 13th century

– Kogai hairpin, 19th century

– Kozuka sword

– Menuki sword mountings

9. Exchange collections and culture

In 1943 – 1944, TokyoRoyalMuseum (now TokyoNationalMuseum) and EFFEO in Hanoi agreed to exchange cultural heritages and art works. TokyoNationalMuseum now is still preserving Khmer sculptures. Collections from Japan sent to EFFEO have been saved in VNMH and we would like to display these collections in this exhibition:

-Nō and Kyogen masks

-Nabeshima pottery plates

There will be around 70 objects in this exhibition. Other activities of cultural exchange between Japan and Vietnam will be also taken place at the same time.

The Exhibition will be opened at Jan 16 to March 9, 2014 at VietnamNationalMuseum of History.

Nguyen Quoc Huu

English: Tran Trang