Korean influence on Japanese culture

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The Korean influence on Japanese culture refers to the cultural influence of Korea upon Japanese culture. As Korean Peninsula was the cultural bridge between Japan and the Asian continent through much of history, it is inevitable and well-documented that at various times this influence would be felt in various aspects of Japanese culture. This influence was reflected most notably in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan from India via the Korean Kingdom of Baekje. Influence from Korea can also be seen in Japanese painting and architecture, ranging from the design of Buddhist temples to various smaller objects such as statues, textiles and ceramics.[1]


During the Asuka Period, the artisans from Baekje provided technological and aesthetic guidance in the Japanese architecture and arts. Therefore, the temple plans, architectural forms, and iconography were strongly influenced directly by examples in the ancient Korea.[2][3] In deed, many of the Japanese temples at that time were crafted in the Baekje style.[4] Japanese nobility, wishing to take advantage of culture from across the sea, imported artists and artisans from the Korean Peninsula (most, but not all, from Baekje) to build and decorate their first palaces and temples.[citation needed]

Among the oldest crafted items extant in Japan is the Tamamushi shrine, a magnificent example of Northern Qi Chinese art of that period.[5][6][7] The shrine is a miniature two-story temple made of wood, to be used as a kind of reliquary.[7] This shrine is so named because it was decorated with wings of the Yamato Tamamushi (jewel beetle) Yamato Tamamushi found in the Japanese Archipelago (excluding Hokkaido and the Okinawa Islands).[8][9] This accessorization by wings of tamamushi beetles set into metal edging was also practiced in the kingdoms of Korea.[10][11][12][13] [14][10] Sources indicate that this technique of tamamushi inlay is native to Korea.[15] The shrine's ornamental gilt bronze openwork, inlaid with the iridescent wings of the tamamushi beetle, is of a Korean type.[16]


The oldest Japanese Buddhist temple, Asuka-dera, constructed by craftsmen from the ancient Korean kingdom of Baekje in 588, was modeled upon the layout and architecture of Baekje.[17][18] And one of the early great temples in Japan, such as the Shitennō-ji Temple was based on types from the ancient Korea.[19][20] In 601, Prince Shōtoku began the construction of his palace, the first building in Japan to have a tiled roof. Next to it he built his temple, which became known as Hōryū-ji. He employed a number of skilled craftsmen, monks, and designers from Baekje for this project.[12][21] The temple became his personal devotional center where he studied with Buddhist priests Hyeja and Damjing from the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo; it also housed people who practiced medicine, medical knowledge being another by-product of Buddhism. Next to the temple there were dormitories which housed student-monks and teacher-monks.[22]

The first Horyu-ji burned to the ground in 670. It was rebuilt, and although it is thought to be smaller than the original temple, Horyu-ji today is much the same in design as the one originally built by Shotoku. Again, the temple was rebuilt by artists and artisans from Baekje.[22] The bracket work of a Baekje gilt bronze pagoda matches the Hōryū-ji bracket work exactly.[23] The wooden pagoda at Horyu-ji, as well as the Golden Hall, are thought to be masterpieces of seventh-century Baekje architecture.[22] Two other temples, Hokki-ji and Horin-ji, were also probably built by artisans of Korea’s Baekje kingdom.[24]


Kudara kannon

One of the most famous of all Buddhist sculptures from the Asuka period found in Japan today is the "Kudara Kannon" which, when translated, means "Baekje Guanyin."(Kudara is the Japanese name for Baekje[25]) This wooden statue was either brought from Korean Baekje or carved by a Korean immigrant sculptor from Baekje.[26][27][28] Ernest Fenollosa, American scholar of Asian cultures, describes the Kudara Kannon as “the supreme master piece of Corean creation”.[29] It formerly stood as the central figure in the Golden Hall at the Horyu-ji. It was moved to a glass case in the Treasure Museum after a fire destroyed part of the Golden Hall in 1949.[citation needed] "This tall, slender, graceful figure made from camphor wood is reflective of the most genteel state in the Three Kingdoms period. From the openwork crown to the lotus pedestal design, the statue marks the superior workmanship of 7th century Paekche artists."[30] The first and foremost clue that clearly indicates Baekje handiwork is the crown's design, which shows the characteristic honeysuckle-lotus pattern found in artifacts buried in the tomb of King Munyong of Baekje (reigned 501-523).[1] The number of protrusions from the petals is identical, and the coiling of the vines appears to be the same. Crowns of a nearly identical type remain in Korea, executed in both gilt bronze and granite. The crown's pendants indicate a carryover from shamanist designs seen in fifth-century Korean crowns.[30] Guanyin's bronze bracelets and those of the Four Heavenly Kings at the Golden Hall also show signs of similar openwork metal techniques.[citation needed]

Guze Kannon

The another Hōryū-ji statue, "Guze Kannon" is made of gilded wood in the Korean style.[31] The Kannon retains most of its gilt. It is in superb condition because it was kept in the Dream Hall(Yumedono) and wrapped in five hundred meters of cloth and never viewed in sunlight. The statue which had originally come from Baekje[32] and was held to be sacred and had remained unseen until it was unwrapped at the demand of Ernest Fenollosa, who was charged by the Japanese government to catalogue the art of the state and later became a curator at the Boston Museum.[33] Fenellosa also considered the Kannon to be Korean.[7] According to the record Shogeishō (聖冏抄), a compilation of the ancient historical records and traditions about the Japanese Prince Regent Shotoku Taishi, which was written by a Japanese monk Shogei (1341-1420), the 7th Patriarchs of the Jodo sect, Guze Kannon is a statue that is the representation of King Seong of Baekje, which was carved under the order of the subsequent King Wideok of Baekje.[34]

More examples of Korea's influence were noted in the New York Times, whose reporter writes when looking at Japan's national treasures like the "Hokan Miroku" sculpture which came from Silla[12][35] and has been preserved at Kōryū-ji Temple ; "It is also a symbol of Japan itself and an embodiment of qualities often used to define Japanese-ness in art: formal simplicity and emotional serenity. To see it was to have an instant Japanese experience. I had mine. As it turns out, though, the Koryuji sculpture isn't Japanese at all. Based on Korean prototypes, it was almost certainly carved in Korea"[36] and "The obvious upshot of the show's detective work is to establish that certain classic "Japanese" pieces are actually "Korean".[36]

In the 8th century, groups of Sculptors of Baekje and Silla origins participated in the construction works of Tōdai-ji Temple.[37] The bronze statue of Great Buddha at Tōdai-ji Temple was predominantly made by Koreans.[38] The Great Buddha project was supervised by a Korean Baekje craftsman, Gongmaryeo (or Kimimaro in Japanese) and had many Silla craftsmen from Korea working from the beginning of the project.[38] The Great Buddha was finally cast, despite great difficulty by virtue of the skill of imported craftsmen from Silla in 752.[39] Furthermore, Silla sculpture seems to have exerted considerable influence on the styles of the early Heian period in Japan.[37]


In 588, The painter's Baekga (白加) was in the member of the craftsman whom Baekje presented to the Japanese emperor,[40] and in 610 the Korean priest Damjing came to Japan from Goguryeo and taught the Japanese the technique of preparing pigments and painting materials.[41][42]

In the 15th century, facing slavery and persecution as neo-Confucianism took a stronger hold during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, many Buddhist-sympathetic artists began migrating to Japan. Once in Japan, they continued to use their Buddhist names instead of their birth (given) names, which eventually led to their origins being largely forgotten. These artists eventually married native women and raised children who were oblivious to their historical origins.[43] Many famous artists in Japan fall into this category.


Various metal-working techniques such as iron-working, the cuirass, the oven, bronze bells used in Yayoi period Japan essentially originated in Korea.[44] During the Kofun period, in the fifth century, large groups of craftspeople, who became the specialist gold workers, saddlers, weavers, and others arrived in Yamato Japan from the Baekje kingdom of Korea.[45][46]

Iron ware

Iron processing and sword making techniques in ancient Japan can be traced back to Korea. "Early, as well as current Japanese official history cover up much of this evidence. For example, there is an iron sword in the Shrine of the Puyo Rock Deity in Asuka, Japan which is the third most important historical Shinto shrine. This sword which is inaccessible to the public has a Korean Shamanstic shape and is inscribed with Chinese characters of gold, which include a date corresponding to 369 A.D. At the time, only the most educated elite in the Paekche Kingdom knew this style of Chinese writing"[1]

"Inariyama sword, as well as some other swords discovered in Japan, utilized the Korean 'Idu' system of writing." The swords "originated in Paekche and that the kings named in their inscriptions represent Paekche kings rather than Japanese kings." The techniques for making these swords were the same styles from Korea.[1][47]

Pottery and porcelain

Yayoi pottery derived from Final Jomon wares under the influence of the Korean Plain Pottery tradition.[48] Two basic kiln types — both still in use — were employed in Japan by this time. The bank, or climbing, kiln, of Korean origin, is built into the slope of a mountain, with as many as 20 chambers; firing can take up to two weeks. In the updraft, or bottle, kiln, a wood fire at the mouth of a covered trench fires the pots, which are in a circular-walled chamber at the end of the fire trench; the top is covered except for a hole to let the smoke escape.

In the 17th century CE, Koreans brought the art of porcelain to Japan.[49] Korean potters also established the Karatsu, Arita, Satsuma, Hagi, Takatori, Agano and Yatsushiro kilns in Japan.[50][51]

Satsuma ware

See also: Satsuma ware

It is documented that during Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea (1592–1598) Japanese forces abducted a number of Korean craftsmen and artisans, among them a disputed number of potters. Some sources claim only a few,[52] others claim many more.[51] Regardless of the number, it is undisputed that at least some Korean potters were forcibly taken to Japan from Korea during the invasions, and that it is the descendants of these potters who produced Satsuma ware.[53]


The ancient Japanese learned shipbuilding techniques under the direction of Korean engineers from the kingdom of Silla.[54][55] An immigrant group 'the Inabe', closely associated with shipbuilding, was made up of carpenters who had come to Japan from Silla.[56][57][58]

In the 9th century, conditions of sea travel from Japan to Tang dynasty of China improved because the relations with Unified Silla were now such that Japanese could take advantage of Korean ships, which were better built and better handled than their own.[59] Evidently, the Ennin's Diary suggests that Koreans were active in the international trade in the late Silla period and were considered the best sailors with the best ships of the day.[60][61] The monk Ennin noted Sillan vessels not only in a Japanese harbor or traversing the Yellow Sea but also carrying cargoes of charcoal from Shandong to Shuzhou within China.[62][63] At this time, the Japanese also recognized the superiority of Korean shipbuilding,[59] as we know of the Japanese envoys as well as student monks preferred to abandon their Japanese ships by obtaining ships constructed from Silla and also from orders sent in 839 by the Japanese court instructing Kyushu that the new ship should be built to the specifications of Silla Ships to stand up the storms.[64]


Ancient Koreans were commercially active throughout East Asia, and their mastery of navigation allowed them to pursue trade interests as far away as the East Indies.[65] In 526, a Baekje Korean monk Gyeomik traveled to India via the southern sea route and mastered Sanskrit, specializing in Vinaya studies. He came back with a collection of Vinaya texts to Baekje, accompanied by the Indian monk Paedalta(Vedatta).[66] During the later Silla, whence students traveled to Tang China in ships guided by the mariner's compass, in order to gain the knowledge of Chinese ethics and philosophy.[67]

In the 9th century, Japanese had not mastered the skill and knowledge necessary for safe ocean navigation in their part of the world.[64][68] Consequently, the Japanese monk-traveler Ennin tended to rely on the Korean sailors and traders on his travels,[60] at the time when the men of Silla were the master of the seas achieving Korean maritime dominance in eastern Asia.[69][70][71] The monk Ennin’s crossing to China on Japanese vessels and the whole catastrophic maritime record of the mission contrast sharply with the speed and efficiency with which Sillan ships quickly brought him back home to Japan.[68] Another indication of the gap in navigation skill between the Sillans and Japanese at this time was the employment by the Japanese embassy of 60 Korean helmsmen and sailors to help get the main party safely home.[68]

Maritime trade

It seems that commerce between East China, Korea and Japan was, for the most part, in the hands of men from Silla,[68] accompanied by Silla Korean hegemony over the maritime commerce of East Asia.[72] Here in the relatively dangerous waters on the eastern fringes of the world, the Koreans performed the same functions as did the traders of the calm Mediterranean on the western fringes.[68]

The Shōsōin is a great Japanese reservoir of the Oriental art of the 7th and 8th centuries when the art and culture of Asia reached the height of its development.[73] Among the Shōsōin treasures at Todai-ji in Nara there are more than 20 sheets of purchase orders (one dated as early as 752), indicating that the favorite luxury goods they imported from Korean Silla included perfume, medicine, cosmetics, fabric dying materials, metallic goods, musical instruments, carpets, and measuring tools.[74] Some were made in Silla; Others were of foreign origin, probably from Southeast Asia, India or South Asia.[74]


Japanese archaeologists refer to Ono Fortress, Ki Fortress, and the rest as Korean-style fortresses. Because of their close resemblance to the structures built on the peninsula during the same general period. The resemblance is not coincidental. The individuals credited by Chronicles of Japan for building the fortress were all former subjects of the ancient Korean Baekje Kingdom.[75] Especially throughout Tenji period, Japanese appears to have favored Baekje fortification experts from the immigrant kinship groups, putting their superior technical skills to use in fortifying Japan against a possible foreign invasion.[56]

Movable type printing

Though the Jesuits operated a Western movable type printing-press in Nagasaki, Japan, printing equipment[76] with many Korean technicians and their fonts brought back by Toyotomi Hideyoshi's army in 1593 from Korea to Japan was starting of its own movable-type printing.[77] That same year, a Korean printing press with movable type was sent as a present for the Japanese Emperor Go-Yōzei. The emperor commanded that it be used to print an edition of the Confucian Kobun Kokyo (Classic of Filial Piety).[78] Four years later in 1597, a Japanese version of the Korean printing press was built with wooden instead of metal type, and in 1599 this press was used to print the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan).[78]


During the reign of the Japanese emperor Kimmei, a Korean physician and several kinds of medicines were sent from Baekje to Japan to help avert the dread disease.[79] Baekje buddhist priest and physician[80] Gwalleuk came in the reign of the Japanese Empress Suiko, and brought books on astronomy, geography and calendrical science, which led to use of the calendar in Japan,[81] whereupon students were chosen to be educated in these sciences. He also taught medicine to the young students selected by the Japanese imperial court.[82]


In the field of Korean and Japanese music history, it is well known that ancient Korea influenced ancient music of Japan.[83] Since the 5th century, musicians from Korea visited Japan with their music and instruments.[84] Komagaku, literally "music of Korea", refers to the various types of Japanese court music derived from the Three Kingdoms of Korea and northern Korean state of Balhae,[85] later classified collectively as Komagaku.[86] It is made up of purely instrumental music with wind- and stringed instruments(became obsolete), and music which is accompanied by mask dance. Today, Komagaku survives only as dance accompaniment and is not usually performed separately by the Japanese Imperial Household.[87]


As early as the 5th century the Kudaragoto, which resembles the western harp, had been introduced from Baekje to Japan along with Korean music. It has twenty three strings, and was designed to be played in an upright position.[88] And the 12-string long zither Shiragigoto was introduced as early as 5th or 6th century from Silla to Japan.[84] However, today, the two instruments has fallen out of use by traditional music performers.

Some instruments in traditional Japanese music originated in Korea: Komabue is a six-hole traverse flute of Korean origin.[89] It is used to perform Komagaku and Azuma asobi[90](chants and dances, accompanied by an ensemble pieces). San-no-tsuzumi is an hourglass-shaped drum of Korean origin.[89][91] The drum has two heads, which are struck using a single stick. It is played only in Komagaku.


Literary scholars such as Susumu Nakanishi have speculated that Yamanoue no Okura, a well-regarded Man'yōshū poet, may have been an immigrant from the kingdom of Baekje.[92]

Since World War II, there have been numerous Zainichi Korean writers of Japanese.[92]


During the Asuka Period of Japan, scholars and monks from the Korean kingdom of Baekje served both as teachers and as advisers to Japan's rulers. In 552, King Seong of Baekje introduced to Japan a laudatory memorial consisting of the teachings of Buddhism, an image of Shaka Butsu in gold and copper and several volumes of the "Sutras".[93] After the initial entrance of some craftsmen, scholars, and artisans from Baekje, Emperor Kimmei requested Korean men who were skilled in divination, calendar making, medicine and literature.[79][94] During the 6th century, Soga Umako went to great lengths to promote Buddhism in Japan with the help of the Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla kingdoms of ancient Korea.[95]

Writing systems

Jindai moji, "the god age script," was claimed by a Shinto scholar in the 13th century that Japan had had its own system of writing before the introduction of Chinese characters, and this idea was taken up by several scholars of nationalists persuasion in the Tokugawa period who produced samples of the script to support their claims.[96] The discoveries of many varieties oí Jindai moji, during the late Tokugawa period, were forgeries done by Kokugaku scholars, who were feeling embarraced about adopting and adapting scripts from other cultures and unwilling to acknowledge that writing was one of the many of cultural appurtenances for which Japan was at first dependent on China and Korea.[96][97] Ironically, several Jindai moji, modeled on the Korean alphabet Hangul, are identical in shape and sound values to their Hangul models, and others are distorted versions.[97]

Imperial family

According to the Shoku Nihongi (続日本紀?), Takano no Niigasa, background of the naturalized clansmen Yamato-no-Fumito (和史?), was a 10th-generation descendant of King Muryeong of Baekje who was chosen as a concubine for Emperor Kōnin and subsequently became the mother of Emperor Kammu.[98][99] It has been theorized that the Japanese imperial line has Korean ancestry. As reported in National Geographic, Walter Edwards, professor of Japanese studies at Tenri University in Nara, states that "Blood links between Korea and the Japanese imperial family are documented from the eighth century. Even the current emperor [Akihito] has said that he has Korean ancestry." [100] Since 1976, foreign archaeologists have been requesting access to the Gosashi tomb which is supposed to be the resting place of Emperor Jingu, but these requests have been denied.[100] In 2008, Japan gave foreign archaeologists limited access to the site, but without allowing any excavation. As National Geographic wrote, Japan "has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea"[100]

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