Korean influence on Japanese culture

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The Korean influence on Japanese culture refers to the impact of continental influences transmitted through or originating in the Korean Peninsula on Japanese institutions, culture, language and society. Since the Korean Peninsula was the cultural bridge between Japan and the Asian continent throughout much of Far Eastern history, these influences, whether hypothesized or ascertained, have been detected in a notable variety of aspects of Japanese culture. Korea played a significant role in in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan from India via the Kingdom of Baekje. The modulation of continental styles of art in Korea has also been discerned in early Japanese painting and architecture, ranging from the design of Buddhist temples to various smaller objects such as statues, textiles and ceramics.[citation needed]


During the Asuka Period, the artisans from Baekje provided technological and aesthetic guidance in the Japanese architecture and arts.[1] Therefore, the temple plans, architectural forms, and iconography were strongly influenced directly by examples in the ancient Korea.[2][page needed] [3][page needed] 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 earliest craft items extant in Japan is the Tamamushi shrine, a magnificent example of Korean art of that period.[5][6] The shrine is a miniature two-story temple made of wood, to be used as a kind of reliquary.[6] This shrine is so named because it was decorated with iridescent beetle(Tamamushi) wings set into metal edging, a technique also Korean indigenous[7][8] practiced in Korea[9][10] and this technique of tamamushi inlay is evidently native to Korea.[11] The shrine's ornamental gilt bronze openwork, inlaid with the iridescent wings of the tamamushi beetle, is of a Korean type.[12]


The oldest Japanese Buddhist temple, Asuka-dera, constructed under the guidance of craftsmen from the ancient Korean kingdom of Baekje, from 588-596.[13][14] was modeled upon the layout and architecture of Baekje.[15] And one of the early great temples in Japan, such as the Shitennō-ji Temple was based on types from the ancient Korea.[16][17] 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.[18][19][page needed] 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.[20]

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.[20] The bracket work of a Baekje gilt bronze pagoda matches the Hōryū-ji bracket work exactly.[21] The wooden pagoda at Horyu-ji, as well as the Golden Hall, are thought to be masterpieces of seventh-century Baekje architecture.[20] Two other temples, Hokki-ji and Horin-ji, were also probably built by artisans of Korea’s Baekje kingdom.[22]


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 the Korean kingdom of Baekje[23]) This wooden statue was either brought from Korean Baekje or carved by a Korean immigrant sculptor from Baekje.[24][25][page needed][26] 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."[citation needed] 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).[citation needed] 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.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.[27] 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[28] 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.[29] Fenellosa also considered the Kannon to be Korean, who described the Kudara Kannon as "the supreme masterpiece of Corean creation".[6][30] 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.[31]

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[32][33] 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 Japaneseness 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"[34] and "The obvious upshot of the show's detective work is to establish that certain classic "Japanese" pieces are actually "Korean".[34]

In the 8th century, groups of Sculptors of Baekje and Silla origins participated in the construction works of Tōdai-ji Temple.[35] The bronze statue of Great Buddha at Tōdai-ji Temple was predominantly made by Koreans.[36] 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.[36] The Great Buddha was finally cast, despite great difficulty by virtue of the skill of imported craftsmen from Silla in 752.[37] Furthermore, Silla sculpture seems to have exerted considerable influence on the styles of the early Heian period in Japan.[38]


In 588, the Korean painter Baekga (白加) was invited to Japan from Baekje, and in 610 the Korean priest Damjing came to Japan from Goguryeo and taught the Japanese the technique of preparing pigments and painting materials.[39][page needed][40]

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.[citation needed] Many famous artists in Japan fall into this category. Yi Su-mun, who left for Japan in 1424 to escape persecution of Buddhists, painted the famous "Catching a Catfish with a Gourd". The famous Tenshō Shūbun of Shokoku-ji also arrived on the same vessel as Yi Su-mun.[41] The Korean painter Yi Su-mun, who as artist in residence to the Asakura daimyo family of Echizen in central Japan, was to play an important role in the development of Japanese ink painting:[41] He is reputed to have been the founder of the painting lineage of Daitoku-ji, which reached its apex at the time of the great Zen master Ikkyū and his followers.[42][43]

The Soga (曽我派), a group of Japanese painters active from the 15c through the 18c, also claimed lineage from the Korean immigrant painter Yi Su-mun, and certain stylistic elements seen within the paintings of the school suggest Korean influence.[44] Muncheong (or Bunsei in Japanese) was another Korean immigrant painter in the 15th century Japan, known only by the seal placed on his works extant in both Japan and Korea.[45][page needed][relevant? ]


Various metal-working techniques such as iron-working, the cuirass, the oven, bronze bells used in Yayoi period Japan essentially originated in Korea.[46] 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.[47][48]

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".[citation needed]

"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.[citation needed]

Pottery and porcelain

It has been theorized that Yayoi pottery derived from Final Jomon wares under the influence of the peninsular Korean Plain Pottery tradition.[49] 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.[50] Korean potters also established kilns at Karatsu, Arita, Satsuma, Hagi, Takatori, Agano and Yatsushiro in Japan.[51][52]


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.[53] Especially throughout Tenji period, Japanese appear to have favored Baekje fortification experts, putting their technical skills to use in fortifying Japan against a possible foreign invasion.[54]

Movable type printing

The Jesuits had introduced a Western movable type printing-press in Nagasaki, Japan in 1590, worked by two Japanese friars who had learnt type-casting in Portugal. Moveable type printing, invented in China in the 11th. century, developed from clay to ceramic, and then bronze copper-tin alloy based movable type presses. Refinements of the technology were further improved in Korea.[55] Toyotomi Hideyoshi brought over to Japan Korean print technicians and their fonts in 1593 as part of his booty during his failed invasion of that peninsular (1592-1595). [56][57] 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 Classic of Filial Piety:孝経.[55] Four years later in 1597, apparently due to difficulties encountered in casting metal, 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 first part of the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan).[55]


In the wake of Emperor Kimmei's dispatch of ambassadors to Baekje in 553, several Korean soothsayers, doctors, and calendrical scholars were sent to Japan.[58] The Baekje Buddhist priest and physician Gwalleuk came to Japan in 1602, and, settling in the Genkōji temple(現光寺) where he played a notable role in establishing the Sanron school,[59] instructed several court students in the Chinese mathematics of astronomy and calendrical science.[60] He introduced the Chinese Yuán Jiā Lì (元嘉暦) calendrical system (developed by Hé Chéng Tiān (何承天) in 443 C.E.) and transmitted his skill in medicine and pharmacy to Japanese disciples, such as Hinamitachi (日並立)[61][62]


In the field of Korean and Japanese music history, it is well known that ancient Korea influenced ancient music of Japan.[63] Since the 5th century, musicians from Korea visited Japan with their music and instruments.[64] Komagaku, literally "music of Korea", refers to the various types of Japanese court music derived from the Three Kingdoms of Korea later classified collectively as Komagaku.[65] 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.[66]


In the 8th century the Kudaragoto (百済琴?, literally, "Baekje zither"), which resembles the western harp and originated in Assyria, had been introduced from Baekje to Japan along with Korean music.[67] It has twenty three strings, and was designed to be played in an upright position.[68][page needed] And the 12-string long zither Shiragigoto was introduced as early as 5th or 6th century from Silla to Japan.[64] Both fell out of popular use in the early Heian period.[69]

Some instruments in traditional Japanese music originated in Korea: Komabue is a six-hole traverse flute of Korean origin.[70] It is used to perform Komagaku and Azuma asobi[71](chants and dances, accompanied by an ensemble pieces). San-no-tsuzumi is an hourglass-shaped drum of Korean origin.[72][73] The drum has two heads, which are struck using a single stick. It is played only in Komagaku.


Several Zainichi Koreans have been active on the Japanese literary scene starting in the latter half of the twentieth century.


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.[1] 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".[citation needed] 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.[74] 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.[citation needed]


Korean influence on Japanese laws is also attributed to the fact that Korean immigrants were on committees that drew up law codes. There were Chinese immigrants who were also an integral part in crafting Japan's first laws. Eight of the 19 members of the committee drafting the Taihō Code were from Korean immigrant families while none were from China proper. Furthermore, the structuring of local administrative districts and the tribute tax are based on Korean models.[75]


Chinese characters are generally used to represent meaning (as ideograms), but have also been used to phonetically represent words in non-Chinese languages such as Korean and Japanese. The practice of using Chinese characters to represent the sounds of non-Chinese words was probably first developed in China during the Han Dynasty, often to transcribe Sanskrit terms used by Buddhists. This practice spread to the Korean Peninsula during the Three Kingdoms period, initially through Goguryeo, and later to Silla and Baekje. These phonograms were used extensively to write local place-names in ancient Korea.

The history of how the early Japanese modified the Chinese writing system to develop a native phonogram orthography is obscure, but scribal techniques developed in the Korean peninsular played an important role in the process of developing Man'yōgana. [76] The established view is that immigrants from Korea and their descendants played a seminal early role in developing writing in Japan,[77] The man’yogana system,one of the most cumbrous ever devised,[78] would appear to owe a debt to Paekje in particular, the most culturally sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms,[79]

The theory that the man’yogana system is indebted to influences from the kingdom of Paekche in particular, though concrete data has been lacking, apparently reflect a scholarly consensus [80] Requests for assistance from Paekje scholars are conserved in the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki, which names two such formative immigrant figures, Atikisi (阿直岐) and Wani (和邇/王仁) in this regard. The pronunciation of Chinese characters at this period thus may well reflect that current in the Paekje kingdom.[81]

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 Kanmu.[82][83] 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." [84] Since 1976, 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.[84] In 2008, Japan gave 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"[84]

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