Saturday, March 12, 2011

Quick Updates with Historical Musings

Libby found a link to Tom Russell's paintings, mentioned below, at Rainbow Man gallery in Santa Fe. Good bio too.

Asian art seems a continuing interest to readers here. Eric Wilcox sent this Edo white gos. (The screens below are also Edo).

On the Edo era: David Zincavage links to an Economist piece by one Henry Tricks that starts in tranquility but ends more darkly:

"There is a deep-rooted respect for others, so ingrained that ground staff at Narita airport bow to departing planes as they taxi to the runway. And there is a subtle coercion, like an invisible hand on society’s collar, based on centuries of ancestor worship that has made many customs immutable. The attitudes have been shaped partly by the physical landscape of Japan, which packs one of the most crowded populations on earth onto narrow plains, bounded by sea and inhospitable mountains. For centuries the main activity has been rice farming, which requires communal planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, rather than the rugged individualism of American and European agriculture...."

"At times it feels as if the outside world does not exist. ...

[I]t is the Edo era, the peculiar two-and-a-half-century time capsule from 1603 to 1868, that casts the longest shadow. It was the time when a newly unified Japan turned its back on the outside world, shut its borders to almost all foreigners, stopped its people travelling abroad and forbade Japanese émigrés from returning to the country on pain of death. Each person was given his exact rank in society–in descending order: samurai, farmer, craftsman, merchant and outsider—and Japan went for 265 years without wars or revolutions. Much of this era is known as the sakoku jidae or “closed-country period”, and it was centred on Edo, now Tokyo, while the emperor was cloistered in Kyoto. At first glance, it seems like the epitome of the dark ages—a medieval equivalent of North Korea or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, ruled by an all-powerful family of shoguns, or military dictators, named Tokugawa. They handed on power for 14 generations, and kept the citizens in line through a byzantine network of spies and informants. The execution grounds can still be visited in Tokyo. Ordinary criminals might be crucified, boiled, burned or chopped in half: only the lucky samurai got to disembowel themselves.

"The gore, of course, has gone, but it seems to me that something of the Edo era shimmers just below the surface of modern Japan."

Not every society, even one that produces great artists and warriors, harbors the same dreams. Nor are all worthy ends worth some prices. But perhaps in times of terrible travail, as Japan is undergoing now, social cohesiveness may be an advantage...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The white gos produces nearly the same response as the little black Tazi by the Mongol yurt ... and I love the thoughts on Japan during the Edo period ... particularly poignant in the light of current news bulletins, yes?

Black Dog Lady