ASIA212Varley

Rice from this time on became overwhelmingly the main

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Unformatted text preview: moved into the alluvial lowlands, formed permanent farming communities, and became differentiated into social classes. Rice, from this time on, became overwhelmingly the main staple of the economy. It also exerted a profound influence on society, since, in the form of paddy field production, it required a great and unremitting input of physical labor. The units of the agricultural world—the farming family and village—became tightly organized groups, providing a bedrock stability to Japanese life at the basic level that has persisted into modern times. The use of metals, both bronze and iron, was also introduced to Japan in the early Yayoi period. Bronze was employed primarily for ornamental and iron for practical purposes. But probably the most important use to which metal was put, as we shall see, was the making of weapons, which brought a sharp increase in warfare and the consolidation of control over ever larger territorial units in late Yayoi times. The transition from Jòmon to Yayoi brought important changes in pottery making (fig. 3). The serene and elegant appearance of the new Yayoi pottery suggests that the civilizing influences that brought new technology to Japan in this age also advanced the mentality of its people. The untamed spirit reflected in the shape and ornamentation of some Jòmon pottery and in the dogû figurines was either lost or suppressed by the craftsmen of Yayoi. But perhaps the most striking difference between the two kinds of pottery is that in Jòmon the stress is on decoration, and in Yayoi it is on form. Many Yayoi pieces have no decoration at all, whereas others have bands of thinly incised geometric designs that contrast sharply in their simplicity with the typically florid patterning of Jòmon pottery. Pottery making in Japan, whose real origins lie in the Yayoi period, is of great importance in cultural history not only because of its inherent artistic worth but also because it is based on some of the most enduring values in the Japanese aesthetic tradition. Most peoples, as they progress techn...
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