|Geography was a key element in the cultural, social, and political development of traditional Japan, an island nation made up of 4 "home islands." Consider: the mountainous terrain and the seismic instability of Japan. How might these two characteristics influence Japanese history, especially in contrast to Japan's large neighbor, China.|
|In the imagination of many people who have never visited Japan, Mount Fujiama is a symbol of the geography and beauty of the island nation.|
It should be obvious from even a cursory glance at the map that Japan's proximity to China played a determining role in Japanese history. China, during its "long-golden" dynasties--especially the Tang (618-920 CE)--culturally influenced but did not militarily conquer Japan. The advent of Buddhism in the 6th century (during Sui times) complemented rather than competed with the "...set of folk beliefs and practices" that eventually became named as Shinto--Way of the Gods. (Smith, et. al. 13) Japanese artisans had already developed their own "natural building style in wood, [and]...inherent skill in pottery...and a preoccupation with masks." (Smith, et. al. 13) However, most historians agree that Buddhism had a profound impact on all of the Japanese arts. It is also generally agreed that Buddhism came to Japan from China via Korea.
However, long before China began to extend its cultural influences,
the Japanese developed their
own world view and belief system which became known as Shinto. For an excellent summary, visit
The site below is an excellent introduction to Japan and Japanese history:
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Asia. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, 1987.
Smith, Lawrence, et al. Japanese Art: Masteripieces in the British Museum. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Return to Top