Essay on Kofun Burial Mounds in Ancient Japan

836 Words Sep 18th, 2013 4 Pages
Kofun Burial Mounds in
Ancient Japan

“The practice of building sepulchral mounds and burying treasures with the dead was transmitted to Japan from the Asian continent about the third century A.D.” (B. Ford, 1987, p.24) Locally these mega structures were called Kofun Burial Mounds, titled after the Ancient Japanese period in which they were built, the Kofun Period (300 – 800 C.E.) The sites of more than 10 000 keyhole tombs still remain in Japan, though direct access to these tombs is difficult due to governmental conservation and practices. Kofun burial mounds, while not only serving as a place for family members to pay their respects to the deceased, reflected the social and economic status of their owners.

The Kofun period was
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Early Kofun-Period tombs in Japan were constructed on existing hilltops overlooking fertile agricultural land. “They originally functioned as a ‘glorified’ place for which folk-traditional funerary rights could be performed.” (N. Tamaru, 1996, p.79) J. Edward Kidder, renowned author of many books concerning Ancient Japan, commented in his book ‘Early Japanese Art: The Great Tombs and their Treasures’ that the burial facilities consisted of a wooden coffin buried directly into the summit of the mound or in a stone chamber. He established that to build this chamber a pit was sunk into the top of the mound and lined with brick-sized stones. Ceiling rocks were laid to seal the chamber and earth was mounded over the top. The Kondansha Encylopedia of Japan states that “in the late 4th century, tomb building spread further into eastern and northern Japan and to the western coastal areas.” Along with the practices expansion came various changes to the various aspects of the sepulchral mounds construction. “Large stone coffins were placed in the pit-style chambers or directly into the ground, and wooden coffins were imbedded in prepared clay enclosures rather than stone chambers.” (J. Kidder, 1964, p.19) The tombs assumed a larger variety of shapes; square, round, gourd-shaped and keyhole, each shape serving traditional and
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