世界の美術【Art From the World】

Many of the Elder Hostel groups from the U.S., want lectures on the art of Japan. This is very easy if we talk about modern art, or even medieval art. When we talk about the origins of art, however, we have to go back a long way. I usually start the lecture at a period about 250,000 years ago, with some of the first people who came here, and the religions that they must have practiced. The reason is that the art of Japan, and the world, has been based on religion, in some form or other, since it began.


The Neanderthals were not the first humans here, but they were the first with any identifiable culture. The first, original painting that has been found, dating from the late Jomon period, was a geometric lacquer design on pottery. Nothing older has been found. Older stone artifacts that have been found, show that Japan had the most advanced Stone Age of any other people! One more point is that Japan also had the oldest pottery in the world! These facts have all been proven by archeological findings.


The period at the beginning of the Christian Era was a very successful time for the transfer of art from the mainland of China and Korea, to Japan. The origin of that particular art, is the point of this essay. China was a huge, adventurous, and powerful country for long centuries before it discovered Japan. It had gone to the areas that are now Greece, Turkey, Iraq, and others that were Persia and Mesopotamia, in addition to other European countries. From those countries, they brought to China the artisans and craftsmen that helped to develop China’s own arts.


That is why we can sometimes see Greek or Persian designs in Chinese pictures. The dragon that everyone thinks is related to, and came from, China, really came from Mesopotamia! That fact is amazing, but true. It shows that art from the world did not originate in China, but in other parts of the world. We must keep a very open mind when dealing with the origins of, not only art, but everything else.

中国の絵画にギリシャやペルシャのデザインが見られるのはこのためです。 竜といえば、だれもが中国を連想し、中国で生まれたものと思っていますが、実はメソポタミアからやってきたのです。驚くべきことですが、事実です。このことからもわかるように、世界の美術は中国を起源とするのではなく、ほかの地域で生まれたのです。美術に限らず、ほかの何についても、物事の起源を知るには、素直な気持ちで臨むことが大切です。

The land that is now Japan, may well have been part of the mainland, at one time. The first people came from a different place. According to the myths, some of those places may well have been in the northern part of Europe. I will investigate this further in the future. In the recent past, we had artists that were really magnificent. Some of them were the Kano School of artists. They were great artists, and most of their art was based on Chinese art. This shows that most of the culture of Japan really came from other countries.


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