About the Yaichi Aizu
Yaichi Aizu became a lecturer on Asian
art in the Waseda University literature department in 1926 (Taisho 15). He was
an advocate of giving students access to actual art objects in order to help
them understand Asian art, and he himself collected many objects for use in his
lectures. The current collection includes and expands upon Yaichi Aizufs
original collection. It includes Chinese art from ancient times up until the
Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
The Yaichi Aizu Collection includes 395 meiki (Chinese burial goods), 208
mirrors, 54 Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC- AD 9, AD 25-220) Dynasty roof
tiles, and 532 rubbings of epigraphs. Below is a description of each of these
Meiki are clay and wood objects unearthed from ancient Chinese tombs.
They include figures of men and women, musicians, dancers, servants, household
animals, food, stoves and wells, buried underground as substitutes for the
actual objects. It was believed that in the afterlife, the meiki would turn into
the actual objects and people they represented, and the deceased would be able
to enjoy the amenities of his former life. Because they represent everyday goods
and people, meiki are a valuable resource for understanding the everyday life of
the ancient Chinese.
The mirrors in the collection are made of bronze or nickel. A great many
were made during the Warring States Period (403-221 BC), but their production
spans all periods of Chinese history. They were used as religious or ritual
implements. The designs on the back show everything from fantastic animals
representing certain families to elegant designs of birds and flowers, and it is
possible to know the period of the mirror by looking at these patterns.
The roof tiles in the collection are the round, decorated tiles from the
edge of the eaves of the roof. Some of them are half-circles rather than
circles, so they are called ghalf roof tiles.h In the Warring States Period
(403-221 BC), the tiles were decorated with images of Toutetsumon (a creature
from Chinese mythology) or with images of animals. During the Qin and Han
Dynasties (221 BC- 9 AD) Buddhism became popular in China, and roof tiles were
decorated with lotuses.
Finally, this collection contains many rubbings of the inscriptions and
epitaphs from bronze and stone monuments. These rubbings are an excellent
collection of masterpieces that could not otherwise be gathered in a museum.
The Yaichi Aizu Collection aims no only to appeal to aesthetic
sensibilities, but also to aid in the study of art history. Masterpieces and
objects of great beauty are collected all over the world, but here in this
collection, with its comprehensive coverage of Chinese art from the Qin through
Tang Dynasties, students can get a real understanding of the meaning of Chinese
art. These artifacts are the amazing results of modern Chinese archaeology.
Archaeology has changed a great deal from the time when Aizu was alive, but we
can admire the grandeur of some Tang art and the elegance of others, and the
contrasting simplicity and magnificence of Han art just as he did.
A great deal of privately held art was donated to this collection by the
relatives of the original chief of the library. During the war, just before the
Hall of Imperial Artifacts burned down, he moved the artifacts to a safe
location with the help of his friend, Shuusoudo. They saved a large number of
ancient roof tiles and epigraph rubbings from destruction. After the war, it was
Aizufs intention to place these objects in a museum so that his students could
study them and learn to curate them. Yaichi Aizufs dream has finally been
realized with the opening of todayfs Aizu Museum.
Original Japanese: Rei Yoshimura
English Translation: Rachel Storch