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Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures

Issues on the Historical Archaeology of Ancient Japan

William W. Farris

Publication Year: 1998

The Japanese have long sought inspiration and legitimacy from the written record of their ancient past. The shaping of bygone eras to contemporary agendas began at least by the early eighth century, when the first court histories, namely the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki, were compiled. Since the late nineteenth century, historians have extensively mined these texts and other written evidence and by the late 1970s had nearly exhausted their meager sources. Fortunately for all those interested in uncovering the origins of Japanese civilization, archaeologists have been hard at work. Today, thanks to this postwar "archaeology boom," Japan historians have never been closer to recreating the lives of prehistoric peasants, ancient princes, and medieval samurai. Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures offers substantial new insights into early Japanese history (A.D. 100-800) through an integrated discussion of historical texts and archaeological artifacts. It contends that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades permit scholars to develop far more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when they were heavily dependent on written sources.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Acknowledgments [Includes Timeline and Map]

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p. ix

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pp. 1-8

The central contention of this book is that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades have enabled historians to develop much more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when scholars depended mostly on written sources. ...

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1. The Lost Realm of Yamatai

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pp. 9-54

The location of Yamatai is one of the oldest and most heated controversies in Japanese scholarship. Compiled in A.D. 280 from Chinese emissaries' reports, the description of Yamatai figured in the Japanese court's political agenda in the early eighth century as authors tried to fit...

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2. Ancient Japan's Korean Connection

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pp. 55-122

After Himiko died around A.D. 250, Japan entered a "century of mystery" without written records. This gap is unfortunate, because archaeological finds suggest that the archipelago was undergoing important changes. The close of the third century marks the inception of the Tomb age...

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3. Capitals

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pp. 123-200

The spring of 701 was a momentous time for the Japanese court. In the first month, after a hiatus of thirty-two years, the government reaffirmed an earlier decision to learn directly from China by sending an embassy to the Tang dynasty. Ten more official missions traveled to...

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4. Wooden Tablets

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pp. 201-232

The year 1961 was one of the most memorable dates in the study of ancient Japan. As Kishi Toshio describes it:
The time was January 1961 and the falling snow danced above the excavation site...

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pp. 233-239

This book has combined both historical and archaeological sources to trace Japan's development from about A.D. 100 to 800. Chapter 1 examined the long-standing controversy over Yamatai as seen in Chen Shou's History of the Wei Dynasty. Historians framed the original...


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pp. 241-295

Character List

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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-322

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 323-333

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864224
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824819668

Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 45843055
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures

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Subject Headings

  • Japan -- Capital and capitol -- History.
  • Japan -- Antiquities.
  • Inscription, Japanese.
  • Wooden tablets -- Japan -- History.
  • Japan -- Relations -- Korea.
  • Korea -- Relations -- Japan.
  • Japan -- History -- To 794.
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