Design History of the Eurasian World

Mayumi Tsuruoka

Languages: English日本語

Since the Age of Discovery, Japan has been described as a “Far Eastern” country, the remotest island lying beyond India and Cathay (China). According to the ancient record in the Gishi Wajinden (late 3rd century) written by Chinese historians, the Wajin or far eastern islanders were primitive according to the world view of the dominant Chinese.However, taking another, wider cultural atlas, that of Eurasia, with a much longer time line, we find how rich the cultural transactions were, made between East and West before historic times, and we rediscover the Japanese archipelago taking an important geo-cultural place contributing to the art/ design history. The Eurasian continent, the largest landmass on the earth, which has nurtured the most diverse ethnic cultures connecting the continental heritages with those of islanders to create a fundamental aspect of art and design. Taking this Eurasian perspective, our research program regards Japan as another site of Eurasian art and design, important in the creation and production of Ornamental Design which represents the “Life Force,” inspired by Eurasian networks for thousands of years. To find such ornamentation forming beautiful images of fauna and flora, naturally our research concerns much the study of art of Animism which creates sacred images of nature spirits worshipped among the Eurasian people from the Celtic in Europe to the Japanese in the Far East. In our research, we have found that, for instance, “Attus”, the Ainu people’s garment from the northern island of Hokkaido, shared the fine spiral patterns reflecting very much those featured in the bridal costume of the Nanai people on the Amur River in the maritime province of Siberia. Such impressive design also reflects the lively silhouettes of “Animal Style” from the Eurasian Steppes, including Kazakhstan, the oldest nomadic cultural zone, which developed such vivid Animals designs. Our recent researching results shows that these spiral and animal designs were broadly used in northern Eurasia as a symbol of “Reviving”, commonly found in Celtic stone carvings from the extreme northwestern of the British Isles.
Our aim is not to investigate traditional designs from isolated ethnic groups, but to illuminate the broad design transactions between peoples to approach inner links of aestheticism across the Eurasian continent, ranging from those of Old Europeans, the Celts, the Steppes, and the Siberians to the Japanese, beyond the academic framework of the anthropocentric studies on history of art and design.

Go back to previous page