The Japanese have long sought inspiration and legitimacy from the written record of their ancient past. The shaping of bygone eras to contemporary agendas began at least by the early eighth century, when the first court histories, namely the Kojiki
and the Nihon shoki,
Since the late nineteenth century, historians have extensively mined these texts and other written evidence and by the late 1970s had nearly exhausted their meager sources. Fortunately for all those interested in uncovering the origins of Japanese civilization, archaeologists have been hard at work. Today, thanks to this postwar "archaeology boom," Japan historians have never been closer to recreating the lives of prehistoric peasants, ancient princes, and medieval samurai.
Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures offers substantial new insights into early Japanese history (A.D. 100-800) through an integrated discussion of historical texts and archaeological artifacts. It contends that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades permit scholars to develop far more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when they were heavily dependent on written sources.
"Overwhelming, impressive, and compelling scholarship." --Choice
"The restriction of Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures to four topics allows for a good mix of archaeological detail and broader narrative. It also allows coverage of historiography, and in particular of the changing approaches within Japan to the more controversial topics, where archaeology has collided with religious and nationalist traditions." --dannyreviews.com
Author: Farris, William Wayne;William Wayne Farris
is professor of history and chairman of the Asian Studies Program at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.