Japan, a state-level, society emerged in the latter half of the seventh
century, A.D., having adopted the Chinese-style bureaucracy, called the
Ritsuryo system. The state grew to be
centralized when the Heijo Capital [modern Nara City] was chosen to be the
permanent capital of Japan in 710. Not
only the political system but also the structure of ceramic production changed
at the same time . This was particularly the case in the
production of Sue stoneware. The
stoneware was fired in a kiln, and it was technology adopted from the Korean
peninsula at the end of the fourth century, A.D. Until the sixth century, intensive production
took place at the Suemura kilns, under the control of the central polity of
Yamato, and their products were transported to various areas in Japan. Local copies of the Suemura products were
produced at other areas, but the scale of production was very small [2,3].
the seventh century, however, the local productions of Sue stoneware became
more active in various regions of Japan, and their distribution became local as
well [4,5]. On the contrary, Sue stoneware
produced in the Tokai region of the Pacific coast of central Japan, were
transported not only to the Heijo Capital, but also to eastern Japan [6-8]. This widespread distribution of Sue stoneware
the produced in the Tokai region is a characteristic phenomenon of the seventh
century. The author believes that, by
analyzing the spatial distribution of the Tokai Sue stoneware, we can approach
some aspects of the ancient Japanese society.
the Tokai region, there are four major kilns, namely from north to south,
Minosue kilns in the southern Gifu Prefecture, Bihoku kilns and Sanage kilns in
the central Aichi prefecture, Kosai kilns in the western Shizuoka prefecture. While
the Minosue, Bihoku, and Sanage kilns are located somewhat inland, the Kosai
kilns are located close to the Pacific Ocean.
Although their productions began on a small scale from the latter half
of the fifth century to the beginning of the sixth century, the production grew
to be a large scale in the seventh century.
Japanese archaeologists have pointed out that this increase in the scale
of production was a result of reinforcement by the state [6,9]. After that, the number of kilns decreased in
the latter half of the eighth century.
Sue stoneware produced in the Tokai region are distinguished from those
produced in other regions by the choice of very fine raw material clay,
scrupulous care paid to shaping or finishing surface, and characteristic shapes
such as flask bottle and long neck bottle.
It is, however, difficult to differentiate between those fired at Sanage
and those fired at Bihoku from the standpoint of raw material clay and vessel
morphologies. Consequently, in this
paper, the author treats these two categories as one group.
distribution of the Sue stoneware produced in the Tokai region changed from the
seventh to eighth centuries. It is
chronologically divided into three phases: phase 1: the early to middle seventh
century; phase 2: the late seventh to early eighth centuries; phase 3: the
middle and eighth century. In phase 1, large number of bottles were deposited
in graves, and bowls were few. Sue stoneware fired at Sanage and Bihoku were
often found in inland areas such as the old provinces of Mino and Shinano
[modern Gifu and Nagano Prefectures], and the author considers that these were
transported by mountain paths and rivers . A
pattern of the spatial distribution of Sue stoneware fired at Minosue is almost
the same as Sanage and Bihoku, but quantities were few. On the contrary, the Sue stoneware fired at
Kosai were found in large quantities in the coastal regions of the Pacific,
such as the old provinces of Sagami, Kazusa and Shimousa [modern Kanagawa and
Chiba Prefectures]. Because the Kosai kilns maintained easy access to the
Pacific Ocean, a Japanese archaeologist assumes that these were carried by
boats . Because the Kosai wares are found in
graves of presumably local elites, the possibility exists that the Kosai wares
were distributed by the local elites. At the same time in the Kazusa province
[southern Chiba Prefecture], the Kosai wares are found in areas where elite
graves were absent, but middle- and low-ranking graves were dominant. This suggests to the author that low or
middle-ranking elites were involved in trade as middlemen .
phase 2, the Sue stoneware production in the Tokai region increased rapidly.
The Tokai wares are found not only at the sites of palaces and capitals but
also in graves in local regions and particularly at the sites of local
governmental compounds. For example, the
Sanage and Bihoku wares comprise half of the assemblage of Sue stoneware table
wares at the site of Asuka-Kiyomihara Palace, occupied by Emperor Tenmu from
672 to 694 . Because the Sanage and Bihoku
wares decreased in the Mino and Shinano provinces, it is likely that potters of
Sanage and Bihoku switched their main customers to the palaces and capitals . As to the
Minosue kilns, the Sue stoneware stamped as “美濃国
[Mino-koku, meaning Mino province]” were produced. Because that inscribed Sue stoneware are
found in the Heijo Palace, one of Japanese archaeologists who participated in
excavations of the Heijo Palace suspects that the Minosue wares were brought to
the capital as tribute . In contrast, Sue
stoneware fired at Kosai are largely found at the sites of local government
offices as well as in graves. A possible background to these phenomena is that,
as the state bureaucracy and the local administrative organization developed,
larger numbers of bureaucrats and officials came to be hired, which resulted in
higher demand for Sue stoneware [8,12].
is also noteworthy that, while Sue stoneware bowls and bottles fired at Kosai
are found in the graves and at local government offices in Sagami, Shimosa, and
Kazusa provinces, flask shaped bottles and long neck bottles fired at Kosai are
mainly found in the graves in Mutsu province other northeastern regions which
were not governed by state. This leads the author to two hypotheses: 1] a
special value came to be attached to flask shaped bottles and long neck bottles
in the northeastern frontier regions; and 2] a trade system independent from
the centralized state was in operation in these frontier regions .
phase 3, the Sue stoneware production decreased at the Tokai region, and the spatial
distribution was no longer widespread.
These were only supplied for neighboring areas. Although long neck
bottles fired at Sanage and Bihoku are still found in the Heijo Capital, the
quantities are much smaller than in phase 2. The quantities found in other
areas are also slight. At Minosue, Sue stoneware inscribed with “府
[fu, meaning local administrative facilities]” or “寺
[tera, meaning a temple]” were produced instead of those stamped as “美濃国”
in phase 2 . Similarly, the Sue stoneware
fired at Kosai were rarely found in the remote areas in this phase. The author
speculates that, as the production systems of Sue stoneware in the capital and
in eastern Japan further developed in the middle eighth century and after,
long-distance circulation of the Tokai Sue stoneware became no longer
on the analysis of the distribution of the Sue stoneware produced in the Tokai
region from the seventh to eighth centuries, the author argues for the
following two points: First, from the
late seventh to early eighth centuries the Sue stoneware production could not
cope with the high demand resulting from the rapid increase in the number of
bureaucrats and officials. As a result,
Sue stoneware produced in the Tokai region were circulated in the capital and
eastern Japan. Second, the distribution of Sue stoneware fired at Kosai were
transported to various regions of eastern Japan through the hands of local
chiefs and low- or middle-ranking elites.
Furthermore, these were distributed to peripheral regions of northeastern
Japan by independent, local trade systems. This indicates that the central
polity did not control over the entire distribution systems in the process of
state formation, and there was some room for local chiefs to act independently
from the center. Previously, Ishimoda Sho [1912-1986], a prominent ancient
Japanese historian, pointed out that local chiefs remained to play an important
role even after the state became centralized . The author’s research into distribution of
Sue stoneware produced in the Tokai region has made considerable contribution
to the important point raised by Ishimoda.
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Citation: Takahashi T (2018) Trade of Sue Stoneware and Formation of Ancient State in Japan. Anthropol Open Acc: AOAP-130. DOI: 10.29011/AOAP-130/ 100030