Aztec and Japanese Comparison

The Arts

Aztec-Japanese Arts Comparison By: Nathanael Cummings


Both the Aztecs and Japanese have something that survived their ancient times. But these two were totally different when it comes to their sense in the arts.

Five types of Japanese arts are Noh drama, Sarugaku, Bunraku, Kabuki, and Kyogen. Their uses were/are for entertainment.


JAPANESE


Kabuki goes all the way back to the early seventeenth century. Okuni, a maiden consecrated to the most important shrine in Japan, the Izumo Shrine, in Shimane Prefecture, created and performed original dances and led a group of dancers of her own. Bunraku developed at the same time as Kabuki, and Bunraku has the same theme as Kabuki, drama. As a matter of fact, many of the most famous Kabuki plays were originally written for the puppet theater.

Western arts such as symphonic music and ballets are common in Japan, but many important traditional arts exist. Older adults are more into puppet theater and highly stylized drama. Kabuki is known for eye-catching sets and costumes. Like Noh, it mixes dance, music, and acting. The Japanese also attend musical concerts. Gagaku is one of the oldest types of Japanese music. It is played with string, wind instruments, and drums. A major part of Japanese culture is pop music.

In a well-known painting, Hokusai illustrates man’s relationship to the power of nature. The scene shows women in cargo boats, huddling together as a large wave is about to overtake them. Viewers of the piece look up into the center of the giant wave, while those in the boats seem powerless and scared. Mt Fuji can be seen in in the distance, looking almost peaceful, in contrast to the frightening scene in the ocean. The mountain still stands out with its snow-covered peak even with the large wave ruling over the picture. The brushwork was considered to be the key to great painting and decorative handwriting in the Japanese tradition. The more accomplished the brushstrokes the greater the work. One of the most interesting aspects of the ‘Great Wave’, is how Hokusai uses lines to create movement and space. The randomness of his brushwork really sets this work apart. The recreation of this work does a great job of maintaining the style of the original brushwork.

Haiku is a form of poetry, and writers portray scenes of life in Japan. Woodblock Printing is another type of art.

From the thirteenth century onward, retelling tales from the Heike Monogatari, the musical accompaniment of the Biwa was a popular pastime among the warrior class. Later in the fourteenth century, the new genre of Noh music appeared. At about the same time the Shakuhachi saw a revival when a Buddhist sect that had adopted it for religious music grew in influence. The other half of the sixteenth century witnessed a nationwide revival of performing arts by and for the common people.

An understanding of the natural world as a source of spiritual insight and an useful image of human emotion is a wide spreading characteristic of Japanese art. An occurring religious sensibility that long preceded widespread perceived that a spiritual realm was manifest in nature. Rock outcroppings, waterfalls, and rough old trees were viewed as the homes of spirits and were understood as their personification. This belief system gave way to much of nature with strong religious qualities. It cared, in turn, a sense of nearness to and close with the world of spirit as well as a trust in nature’s general charity. The pattern of the four seasons was deeply informative and it was shown to Japan, for example, that regular and above perfection were not normal guides. Everything was understood as subject to a cycle of birth, fruition, death, and decay. Imported Buddhist notions of lasting were thus merged with the occurring characteristic to seek instruction from nature’s general well meaning.


AZTECS



The Aztec Sun Stone, made in 1790, was discovered in Mexico City. this massive artifact was carved in the 15th century and this artifact is currently on display at Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. It depicts Tonatiuh (which is the center), the four previous sun gods, and the 20 days of the Aztec calendar, among many other symbols.

Aztec sculptors made deities in human form for pyramid shrines. They also fashioned human figures to carry banners or support tables, as well as realistic animals and plants for zoos and plant gardens. With this, they made stone furniture, platforms, and models of ordinary items that were not usable in their stone forms. Among these sculptures were sacrificial platforms such as the Calendar Stone, large stone vessels and boxes to contain offerings, miniature pyramids that represented seats, and stone models of wooden drums.

An Aztec obsidian mask, ca. 1450. This mask, in addition to the Aztec stone carvings, gold, and feather work, all pay silent honor to the gentle, quiet side of the Aztec life. Many leaders like Nezahualcóyotl of Texcoco and Moctezuma II, wrote poetry describing their fragile, insecure world. As Miguel Leon-Portilla has translated, an Aztec poet once wrote: "Truly do we live on earth? Not forever on earth; only a little while here."

The highest form of art in the Aztec culture was poetry. The Aztecs wrote lots of poems. Many of their poems were about the gods and mythology, but others were about everyday life. They called poetry "flower and song". The poetry and stories of the Aztecs were passed down verbally from ages to ages. They didn't begin to write down their poetry until after the Spanish arrived. The largest collections of Aztec poems were put together in the 1500s. These books include the Romances de Los señores de la Nueva España (Spanish for Ballads of the Lords of New Spain) and the collection of Nahuatl songs or poems, the Cantares Mexicanos (Spanish for Mexican Songs).

There are a lot of differences from the Aztecs and the Japanese, like how the Japanese used music and theatre like Kabuki and Bunraku. In contrast, the Aztecs used masks and sculptures like the Aztec obsidian mask and deities in human form. Their senses in the arts are different. But they do have something in common, like they both use poetry in their arts.
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