The Yaichi Aizu Collection

About the Yaichi Aizu Collection

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 Aizufs 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 genres.

              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 Aizufs intention to place these objects in a museum so that his students could study them and learn to curate them. Yaichi Aizufs dream has finally been realized with the opening of todayfs Aizu Museum.


Original Japanese: Rei Yoshimura

English Translation: Rachel Storch

Copyright (C) Aizu Museum, Waseda University 1998. All Rights Reserved.
First drafted 1998