When Silla sent gilded saddles to Wa, their frames had rivets of a particular kind; in Wa, a clever armorer, perhaps in consultation with a Silla saddle-maker, adopted the rivets to make strong, flexible iron armor.1 When a Kaya potter had travelled to Kyushu and taught others how to make wheel-turned pots, Wa potters developed sue ware that spread throughout the islands and roofed the provincial temples of the Nara period. As the mainland tradition, itself the product of long centuries of interactions among different cultures, travelled to the peninsula and the archipelago, people changed it in creative ways. In the archipelago, the Hei’an regime chose to cut itself off from the rest of East Asia as Tang power faltered, and developed a fascinating literature that reveal is its elite culture.
Thumbnail: Handscroll, paint on paper, 1300-1325, fragment showing the Battle at Rokuhara (the sixth district of Hei’an/Kyoto) of 1159, from the Heiji Monogatari, “Tale of the Heiji.” Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain.