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April 28, 2003

Doutaku (ancient bells) Part 1

This is rather off topic but if anyone is interested in Ancient Japan then please read on for my explanation of the origin of Doutaku, ancient bells found in the burial murial mounds (kofun) in Japan. Doutaku are bell shaped items found mainly in central Japan. They are about 30-60cm tall. You can see a picture of the most famous find here on the 5th page of this Document http://www2.pref.shimane.jp/kodai/museum_e.pdf

They seem to be found burried on slopes a little way away from settlements. The were burried to hide them or perhaps as a form of offering. It is clear that they were deliberately burried. The ones found in Japan usually have a pattern on them showing turtles, birds, fish, dragonflies, waterboatmen. Doutaku are bell shaped since they are the same shape as the small bells that horseriders attached to their clothes. But the bells are about the size as would fit in your hand. Thus Doutaku are giant bells but it would seem that they are not functional as bells. They were things that people looked at rather than heard. It is presumed that they where used in some kind of ceremony. They were found almost exclusively in central Japan leading the Japanese philosopher Wasuji Tetsuro to conclude that they originated in a culture that flourished in that area. Recently however, some have been found in Kyushu. http://museum.city.fukuoka.jp/je/html/je179_01.html http://www.trussel.com/prehist/news164.htm Indeed the mold for some of the doutaku that are found in central Japan has been found in Kyushu. So it seems that they were made in Kyushu and take to central Japan. The small, functional bells called "Shoudoutaku" = small doutaku, are found a lot in northern Kyushu but they originate in Korea and before that China.


http://www.city.miki.hyogo.jp/tra-hi/sisek02d.htm


It is not difficult to imagine why one would want to make a bell. Bells make a noise. You can tell where your horse is on a dark night, you can summon people to a meeting. But it is difficult to understand why people would make giant replicas of bells. I believe, as I mentioned in my last post, Japan was invaded during the Yayoi period, and that this took place probably from Kyushu. The people that arrived were probably of Mongol descent related to the Khans that invaded China (and everywhere else). They were taller, had had wet rice growing (paddy field) technology and iron swords. It is clear (from DNA) that they inter bred with the people that lived in Japan prior to their arrival since modern Japanese are half Yayoi invader, half Joumon. Japanese historians have a tendency to talk about this period as if the Joumon people accepted technology from the mainland. It is all very peaceful. The Japanese like to think that they are descended from peaceful farmers. E.g. here on the page quoted above http://www2.pref.shimane.jp/kodai/museum_e.pdf "In about the 3rd or 4th century BC, a watershed change appeared in the lives and societies of our ancestors. This was the emergence of a true agrarian society, with the beginning of rice farming and the propogation of metal tools (iron and bronze). Rice farming, and the customs and traditions which developed with it, originate in the Asian continent and was transmitted to norther Kyushu through the Korean Peninsula. I am thinking more along the lines of the conquistadors or the Khans in China or Vikings. I hear that Kubla Khan (the son of Ghengis Khan) had a harem so large that he only slept with a woman once. The whole of China was searched for beautiful young women who werebrought to his court. He was very fat. Personally I imagine that these Yayoi warriors, probably men, that arrived in Japan to find a peaceful hunter gatherer society decimated it, raped, pillaged, took slaves, became overloards and probably at least one wife. Their swords would have allowed them to do so and I doubt that they would have had the "morality" to give up on this opportunity. In the "Wajinden" a Chinese history book of the period it is noted that society was heavily stratisfied such that when a lord walked down a road the "small people" would move off the road to the side and hide their faces crouching down to the ground as a sign of respect. By the Kofun period the rules of Japan were having tombs made for themselves as large as the pyramids in Egypt. There are fifty thousand burial mounds in Japan They came in waves over the period of 300BC to 600AD. The earlier arrivals had small bells for practical reasons. For some unknown reason the people in Japan started making giant replicas of these bells. It is a fair guess that these giant replica bells were used in ceremonies and that they may have been some sort of symbol of power or status. But why giant non functional bells? It seems to me that the giant bells may have been symbols indicating that one is descended or related or in someway connected to the overlords that came with the bells. Imagine if a GI invaded somewhere, rearragined the lives of the people and bred. Perhaps his descendants would be making giant baseball caps which they would put on parade in ceremonies. But I doubt that this theory would be popular with Japanese historians. Japanese historians have a tendency to talk about this period as if the Joumon people accepted technology from the mainland. It is all very peaceful. The Japanese like to think that they are descended from peaceful farmers. E.g. here on the page quoted above http://www2.pref.shimane.jp/kodai/museum_e.pdf "In about the 3rd or 4th century BC, a watershed change appeared in the lives and societies of our ancestors. This was the emergence of a true agrarian society, with the beginning of rice farming and the propogation of metal tools (iron and bronze). Rice farming, and the customs and traditions which developed with it, originate in the Asian continent and was transmitted to norther Kyushu through the Korean Peninsula. I am thinking more along the lines of the conquistadors or the Khans in China or Vikings. I hear that Kubla Khan (the son of Ghengis Khan) had a harem so large that he only slept with a woman once. The whole of China was searched for beautiful young women who werebrought to his court. He was very fat. Personally I imagine that these Yayoi warriors, probably men, that arrived in Japan to find a peaceful hunter gatherer society decimated it, raped, pillaged, took slaves, became overloards and probably at least one wife. Their swords would have allowed them to do so and I doubt that they would have had the "morality" to give up on this opportunity. In the "Wajinden" a Chinese history book of the period it is noted that society was heavily stratisfied such that when a lord walked down a road the "small people" would move off the road to the side and hide their faces crouching down to the ground as a sign of respect. By the Kofun period the rules of Japan were having tombs made for themselves as large as the pyramids in Egypt. There are fifty thousand burial mounds in Japan They came in waves over the period of 300BC to 600AD. The earlier arrivals had small bells for practical reasons. For some unknown reason the people in Japan started making giant replicas of these bells. It is a fair guess that these giant replica bells were used in ceremonies and that they may have been some sort of symbol of power or status. But why giant non functional bells? It seems to me that the giant bells may have been symbols indicating that one is descended or related or in someway connected to the overlords that came with the bells. Imagine if a GI invaded somewhere, rearragined the lives of the people and bred. Perhaps his descendants would be making giant baseball caps which they would put on parade in ceremonies. But I doubt that this theory would be popular with Japanese historians.

Posted by timtak at April 28, 2003 12:23 AM
Comments

Good point!

Posted by: John D at December 21, 2003 02:52 PM