haniwa on stamps
Haniwa are: Iconic, fetishistic, historical, cultural, funerary, sublime, honorific, symbolic, representational, and just plain neat.

Table of Contents



"The Kofun, or Tumulus, period (c. A.D. 300-c. A.D. 500) is named for the mound-covered tombs of clan chieftains built during these centuries, which saw the gradual consolidation of central authority. Artifacts from these tombs, including armor and a variety of ornamental objects, reflect close contact with the Korean Peninsula during the period. The tombs were bordered by clay cylinders called haniwa, which were often mounted by simple but expressive clay sculptures, most notably human and animal forms."

Chronology of Japan's Fine Arts.

Japan: A Pocket Guide, 1996 Edition (Foreign Press Center)

At the two earliest known burial mounds, Chausuyama and Hiwasushime no Mikota , haniwa were found near the summit of the mound. Thus, haniwa are a distinctive element of the Tumulus Period. Tumuli were built throughout the entire are which is now Japan; haniwa have been found on all except those in the Northernmost areas.
The earliest forms were simple cylinders. Later, military implements, animals, and humans were represented (see my list of types). All of the forms have a charming simplicity. In part, this was due to the practical nature of the craft: after an important person died, many of these sculptures were needed before the burial ceremony. Also, they were intended to be seen from a distance. Still, haniwa have revealed many important details about life during this period.
The Kofun era faded out with the introduction of Buddhism. Bodies were cremated and no longer buried, and Buddhist priests wanted to re-direct the enormous resources from tomb-building into temple-building.

Images on the Internet

The following pictures were taken at an Archeology Museum by Dave(c). Elsewhere on the web:

Haniwa in the Modern World

These clay figures continue to captivate the imagination of modern people.
"Japanese Traditional course: C"
author unknown
An influence on sculptor Isamo Noguchi.


Several Japanese cities have Haniwa Festivals in November.
Note: Contributions to the 'Send Darin to the Haniwa Festival' Fund can be made in any amount. Contact me for more details.


The following museums just might have some Haniwa for you to see.
Haniwa Festival in November.
Archaeological Museum
Kokugakuin Malkovich University
Shibuya, Tokyo.
Dave says "You can read about it in Susan Pompian's great book, Tokyo for Free,
1998, Kodansha. (Don't miss the Meguro Parasitological Museum)."

Haniwa Garden
Heiwadai Park
Miyazaki, Japan
Kyoto National Museum

Peabody Essex Museum: Japanese Arts
haniwa from the Morse collection
of the Peabody Essex museum
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
Salem, Massachusetts 01970

Brooklyn Museum of Art
200 Eastern Parkway,
Brooklyn, New York, 1
Tel: (718) 638-5000, Fax: (718) 638-3731,
E-MAIL: bklynmus@echonyc.com
Asia Society Museum
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Has a small window in the Asian Peoples section, showing sample haniwa, and a miniature of a burial site. Not very well done, I'm sad to say.
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco,
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California
in The Avery Brundage Collection
Sackler/Freer Galleries ,
Smithsonian Institute
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560
Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive at 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560
Asian Collection:Japan from the Johnson Museum of Art,
at Cornell University
in Ithaca, NY

Historical Context

The time before Buddhism ( 552 A.D. or 538 A.D., the year that a messenger from Korea brought Buddhist teachings to the Emperor ) can be divided into three eras:
Jomon Period : 4500 B.C (?) -- 250 B. C.
The Stone Age people of Japan. Named for their pottery, which had a characteristic impression of rope.

Yayoi Period : 250 B. C. -- 250 A. D
Influx of ideas and people from the mainland (China, Mongolia, Korea). Rice cultivation, ceramics, politics.

Kofun period : 250 A. D. Burial mounds (Kofun, Tumuli) for Emporers and clan chieftans. Haniwa. Consolidation of tribes and clans. This period is also called "The Yamato Period" (in Schauwecker's Guide , anyway), which refers to the area which was the base of power during unification. The Yamato area is in present-day Nara prefecture, also known as the Kinai, Kansai, or Kinki area. (are you confused yet?).

See also:
Japan prehistory, from the Web Museum
Yayoi & Jomon
Timetable, in French; their dates seem to be un-adjusted.
Early Japanese history (lecture outline)