Ancient Indian Influence on Japanese Culture (A Comparative Study of Civilizations)

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Item Code: NAF330
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Yoshihiro Kaburagi
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788121512305
Pages: 374 (33 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 Inch x 6.0 Inch
Weight 550 gm
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About the book

Since ancient times, Japan has assimilated through Buddhism from India, which led to the formation of Japanese civilization. Then have been mostly focused on Buddhism and its related architecture and fine arts. Yet the overall comparative study of the two civilizations has been rarely taken up in both the countries. However the recent closer relationship between the two countries attracts more attention of the history of their interchanges to deepan mutual understanding. This book provides a timely contribution to the current matter of concern. It deals with current matter of concern. It deals with ancient Indian influence on Japan synthetically both in moral and material cultures with Buddhist and non-Buddhist elements, for which the author intensively visited ancient sites and investigated archaeological art facts both in the subcontinent and Japan. Further it searches for the characteristics of the two civilizations on peculiarity and commonness. Thus it is expected for ancient interchanges among civilizations to throw light on deepening international relations under present’s globalization in its real sense of universality.


About the Author

Born in 1947, Yashihiro Kaburagi is a Japanese latecomer to the field of ancient history. In 1969 after graduation, he entered into work at Matsushita electric (Presently Panasonic), handling marketing over Asia. In 1997 he was assigned Deputy Managing Director of National Panasonic India, stationed in Delhi for two years. Then he had the opportunity to visit all over India, greatly impressed with diverse culture and nature of India. In 2002 at retirement, he decided to study ancient history, his long wish from boyhood, in India the scholarship under Indo-Japan Cultural exchange Programme, he could start his academic career from Master course at Punjab University, Chandigarh. Further he advanced towards PhD course there and finally in 2009 was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This book is his first ever publication for the PhD thesis. Now he lives near nara, ancient capital of Japan, serving as lecturer at Osaka University of Commerce and a member of Several societies the Indo-Japanese Association and Indian Archaeological Society, to boost cultural exchanges between India and Japan.



Perhaps no other country in the world has influenced the thought and actions of people to mould their way of life beyond its own frontiers, as has been done by India. When the countries like that of the. Greeks and Romans were dreaming of the world conquest through their famous monarchs like Alexander and Julius Caesar, in India the Mauryan King Ashoka sent his messengers to fat off lands with his message of peaceful co-existence through the practice of his dhamma, which was primarily an ideal code of conduct based on morality. It became an instant success across the world. A glance at history is sufficient to show that even before Ashoka and continuously after him the only conquest India ever believed in was that of the spread of its cultural ideas across the globe. It shall not be fair to call it the cultural superiority of India a many other cultures across the world had beautiful thoughts embedded in them and India was always as receptive of them. It can more appropriately be called an exchange of ideas, though the evidence indicates the outflow was much greater as compared to inflow.

The spiritual advancement of the Indians right from the Vedie time through that of the Buddha and afterwards made the county have an edge over the others. Indian preachers went abroad with message and received with great respect by the ruling class and the masses alike. Their introduction of Indian ideas attracted scores or Inquisitive foreigners to this land from time to time who carried back with them the finer traits they acquired in India. But the religion and philosophy was not the only field to attract foreigners. India had brisk international trade, with its luxury goods being in great demand both in the west and the east and often find echo in the writings of scholars like pliny. Along with it went the ideas of art and architecture, science and technology, mathematics and astronomy and so on.

The greatest Indian impact was made in the central Asia and the Southeast Asia including the countries like Tibet and Afghanistan. The vestiges of Indian impact can still be seen in all these countries both in the form of material remains and the lingering cultural traits. Very often the term “Indian colonization” is used with reference to the spread of Indian culture in ancient Southeast Asia and pre-Istamic Central Asia. It is a misnomer, as no political colonization of any of these lands was involved in it. Political colonization of India” for the same purpose is batted as it does not have any political hues.

A voluminous literature has gathered on the subject under discussion and the addition of another work may look superfluous. It has been pertinently pointed out by the author of the book in its preface; Japan seems to have been placed just as a part of the Far East in relation to the propagation of Buddhism. Hence the overall comparative study of the two civilizations has been rarely taken up in either of the countries. Probably this may be due to the difficulties to abstract the Indian elements in Japanese culture, mostly hidden behind the influences of China and other intermediary region. It was this idea of Dr Kaburagi Yoshihiro during our long discussions, after he had so laboriously completed his Master’s degree from the Punjab University without any background of the subject that made me agree to his pusuing it as a subject of his doctoral research. He did full justice to it. The extensive field-work trips undertaken by him to closely study India’s cultural past and intensive interaction with Indian people developed a rare insight in the author to compare and understand the two cultures. Taking a very wide perspective of the topic he extensively used material from the western histories to that of the far east of drive home his points, taking due note of all the factors be It ecological environment, trade and trace-routes, political and social movements, art and architecture or religion. As such the work for scholars and student alike. It gives me great pleasure in writing this foreword to the work of a scholar for whom it is indeed love for labour. I wish Yoshihiro Kaburagi great success in all his future ventures.



As H.W. van Loon phrases in the Story of Mankind history is the mighty Tower of Experience, which Time has built amidst the endless fields of bygone ages.

In ancient times Japan had enriched valuable experiences to assimilate foreign cultures particularly through Buddhism from India, which led to the formation of the Japanese civilization. Thus Japanese interests in ancient India have been traditionally focused on Budhhism, the Sanskrit language and the Indian philosophy. Further the comparative study between India and Japan has been intensively pursued in Budhist arts. In India, on the other hand, Japan seems to have been placed just as a part of the Far East in relation to the propagation of Buddhism. Hence the overall comparative study of the two civilizations has been rarely taken up in either of the countries. Probably this may be due to the difficulties to abstract the Indian elements in Japanese culture, mostly hidden behind the influences of China and other intermediary regions. Yet the recent closer relationship between India and Japan attracts more attention to the search of their histories for deeper mutual understanding. This book Ancient Indian Influence of Japanese Culture- A Comparative study of matter of concern. Namely the relevant phenomena of ancient Indian influence of Japanese culture have been investigated in this book through fact finding of interactions and identification of influences so as to abstract the commonness and peculiarity of the two civilizations.

The work had been divided into seven chapters besides the final chapter of conclusion. The first chapter contains the introduction background of ancient cultures and trade Routes of Japan and India. Attempt is made to clarify the peculiarity of ecological background, origin of culture, characteristics of culture, and the periodization and chronology of ancient cultural histories of Japan and India as the basis of comparative study. The second chapter contains the “Trade Routes and Influence of Intermediate Regions. Attempt is made to pick up the foreign cultural elements in ancient Japan, the human interchanges with foreign countries, the inland and maritime trade routes over Eurasia particularly silk routes, in relation to cultural propagations, and the peculiarity and influence of interchange regions, West, Central and North Asia Southeast Asia, China and Korea. Overall the importance of cultural interchange sphere and the large contribution of Budhhism are emphasized. The third chapter contains the comparison of political, economic and social movements as background of ancient cultures. Attempt is made to clarify the peculiarity and similarly between the two ancient histories through the overview of political economics and social movements in each period. The fourth chapter contains the comparison of metropolises as core of civilization. Attempt is made to search for the peculiarity and similarity between the two ancient urbanizations on the basis of the criteria of urbanization and the concept of city plan i.e., the formation and shift of capital in Japan, and the process of urbanization with archaeological features of settlements in India. The progress of urban planning and infrastructure, and the interaction with religious and cultural centres are emphasized. The fifth Chapter contains the “Development and Influence of Buddhism.” Attempt is made to trace the development of moral culture of Japan through the propagation and assimilation of Buddhism, particulary the amalgamation of esoteric Buddhism with native faiths like Shinto and Shugen-do. It is clarified how Buddhism became Japanized with manners and customs and cultural traditions. The sixth chapter contains the “comparison and influence on form, style, and Pattern, of Architecture and Fine arts with Emphasis on Materials. Attempt is made to pursue the development of material culture of Japan in architecture and fine arts under Indian influence with particular attentions to wood and stone materials. Comparison is made in wooden architecture, rock-cut architecture, sculptures, paintings, patterns, potteries, terracotta figurines, metalware, and glassware. The stone monuments in Japan and the treasures of shoso-in and Horyuji are emphasized. The seventh chapter contains the overview of types of Japanese and the Indian civilizations. Attempt is made to analyze the characteristics of the two civilizations through cultural tradition, social customs classification and foreign influence. The significance of inter-changes among civilizations is emphasized.

Meanwhile, I express my heartfelt appreciation to all the concerned people, institutes and facilities for their utmost support rendered to my academic life both in Indian and Japan. I thank particularly following persons.

Dr Asvini Agrawal, Professor and former Chairman, Department of Ancient Indian History, culture and Archaeology, Punjab University, Chandigarh, who has always motivated me not only as supervisor but also as guru of life; Dr N.K. Ojha, professor and Chairman, Punjab University, Chandigarh who Suggested me tackle the Comparative study between India and Japan; Dr. D.N. Bakshi, General secretary, the Indo Japan welfare and cultural association, Kolkata, who gave me his writings on Buddhist and Hindu iconographies as a pioneer of the Indo-Japan comparative study; Dr F. Yoneda, Professor, Kansai University, Suita, who has taught me the research methods of archaeology; Dr M.A. Konishi Professor Emeritus, Rikkyo University, Tokyo who has motivated me from the commoners viewpoints in Indology; Dr K. Yasummro, Professor, Osaka, who has inspired me from cross-cultural angles; and Mr. K Seki, former President, Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, Chigasaki, who has guided me on a global scale among nations and societies.

In fact, my research work would not have been started without the fellowship granted by Indian Council for cultural relations, Ministry of external affairs, the government of India. I thank specially Mr Gian Chand Garg for his advisable service through Chandigarh Regional office.

The original PhD thesis was completed at the cost of my absence mostly from home in Japan. I would like to share this happy occasion with my wife, Mariko, as she has kept on encouraging me through mutual devotion of the faith. Six year in Chandigarh, starting from MA, really fulfilled my long wish from boyhood to study ancient History.



Japan started its own historic era in the sixth century AD when Buddhism was introduction formally by Paekche, a kingdom in south western Korea. Since then Japanese culture has been formed largely by the assimilation of foreign cultures mostly through Korea and China. Even under the significant influence of the Chinese civilization as neighbor, the root of Japanese culture could be traced back to ancient India in its major elements not only in religions and philosophical background but also in social and cultural fields of Japanese way of life. Out of Indian origins, Buddhism gave the largest impact of influence, amalgamating non-Buddhist gave the largest impact of Influence, amalgamating non-Buddhist Indian and other foreign elements for a long way and period of propagation through west Asia, central Asia, Southeast, China, and Korea. Hence, it will be worthwhile to took over the formation of the two civilizations of India and Japan both in moral and material cultures more comparatively, systematically and comprehensively. Buddhist studies are apparently informative but not dependable alone. Rather, more attention should be paid to comparative aspects, such as indigenous origin versus foreign origin through root-finding, interchange, diffusion, propagation, assimilation and acculturation; and succession versus change through evolution, integration and amalgamation, and maturity in custom and tradition.

Accordingly, efforts are made to find out the traces of ancient Indian influences on Japanese culture directly or indirectly by way of comparative analysis through ecological environments, historical movements, intermediate regions, urbanization, Buddhism, and architectures and fine arts. Finally, it is pursued to conclude in overview the types of the two civilizations. Major data are used from secondary sources, in association with primary sources, by relevant methods in history, archaeology, anthropology, mythology, folklore, etc.

The biological approach of cultural zone to understand geographical and meteorological back grounds which decide human way of life in a respective region is necessary for fruitful discussion among several the theories. Special attention is paid to the large influence of the western region for both the civilizations, i.e. China directly or indirectly through Korea upon Japan and West Asia upon India. Discussion starts from the definition and relationship between culture and civilization, followed by the theories on civilization model in conjunction with ecological background both with natural and human factors, e.g. climate, agriculture, religion and ethos, material culture, regional units or zones, and interchange. Then the ecological environments are outlined with special emphasis on the nearness to the Korean Peninsula and mainland China and the influence of Asian monsoon in Japan; and the eco-zoning models and the agricultural pattern by monsoon in India. Finally the cultural characteristics are discussed with special emphasis on the influence of China, the concept of East Asian World, the roots of culture and the regional elements in Japan and the eco-cultural zones, Indianization and the similarity to Japanese culture in India.

Culture is the way of life of a particular society of group of people with integrated pattern of idea, belief, knowledge, custom, tradition and behavior, being transmitted to succeeding generations. Culture thus consists of language, rituals, ceremonies, symbols, taboos, codes, institutions, tools techniques, art, dress, music and literature. Etymologically culture comes from cultivating soul which extends various meanings like human education and mental refinement. On the other hand, civilization is the highly developed human society with structured division of labour. In anthropology, civilization is defined as an advanced socio-political stage of cultural evolution under a centralized government like a state supported by the taxation of surplus production. Etymologically civilization shares the same root with city, civil, and citizen. It becomes prosperous in the urbanized society by trade and commerce with the surplus production and accumulated wealth on top of agricultural and pastoral life-style. It tends to be universal, not attached to a peculiar race or region, and always holds the possibility to be replaced by another new universal existence, whereas culture inclines to be characteristic to a peculiar human or racial group. Yet, culture harmonizes with civilization in each era and transforms the shape to adapt itself more suitable to the movement of new era.




  Illustrations vii
  Foreword xi
  Preface xv
  Transliteration xix
Chapter I
Introduction - Background of Ancient Cultures and Trade Routes of Japan and India 1
Ecological Environments and their Influences on Human way of Life 2
Outline of Ancient Cultural Histories of Japan and India 18
Chapter II
Trade Routes and Influence of Intermediate Regions 48
Trade Routes to Stimulate Interactions Across Barries 52
Influence of Intermediate Regions 62
Chapter III
Comaprison of Political, Economic, and Social movements as background of Ancient Cultures 86
Ancient japan 87
Ancient India 98
Linear or Cyclic History 109
Chapter IV
Comparison of Metropolisers as core of civilization 122
Urbanization and city Plan 123
Ancient Capital of Japan 127
Ancient Urban Centres in India 140
Progress of Urban Planning and Infrastructure 157
Interaction with Religious and Cultural centres 158
Chapter V
Development and Influence of Buddhism 166
Hinduism 167
Buddhism 168
Mixture with Tantrism 176
Integration with native Religious elements 186
Chapter VI
Comparison and Influence on form, style, and Pattern of Architecture and fine arts with Emphasis on materials. 209
Architecture 210
Sculpture 217
Stone Monuments in Japan 228
Paintings 236
Patterns 241
Potteries and Terracotta Figurines 244
Metalware and Glassware 247
Foreign Influence on Treasures of Shoso-in Horyu Ji 251
Chapter VII
Overview of types of Japanese and Indian Civilizations 263
Formation and Succession of Cultural traditions 263
Cultural Traditions and social customs 268
Pilgrimage as Cultural and Social Imetus 275
Social Classification 280
Foreign Impacts on Cultural Traditions and social customs 286
Chapter VIII
Conclusion 298
  Bibliography 312
  Index 342

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