Banner image showing PRM Gallery

Edward Burnett Tylor correspondence in the Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections: Part I

Transcription of some of the letters from from PRM manuscript collections Tylor papers Box 11 A-F (excluding Boas and Fison). These are of relevance to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford. For a full catalogue of all Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections see here.:

1896.9.11896.9.1 Pottery vessel from Osaka, Japan. Donated by W.G. Aston in 1896.

W.G. Aston A6

William George Aston (1841-1911) Diplomat and Japanese and Korean scholar. In 1882 Aston was appointed consul at Nagasaki, Japan. In 1884 he was appointed Consul-General for Korea. See DNB entry here.


Dr Tylor / The Museum House / Oxford / England

[Added notes] 'WG Aston Nagasaki' [in purple pencil] 'Jap. Pottery' [in purple pencil] 'Written July 29.84' [in black ink]. The envelope is post-stamped 'Nagasaki June 18'.


[Note: Con [illegible] 24 / 84 / ask for Lilu [?illegible] / Oxford]


April 11. 1884

Dear Sir,

I enclose herewith Bill of Lading [insert] Parcel ticket [end insert] for a case containing some specimens of ancient Japanese pottery with a memorandum describing the contents. Mr Chamberlain, [1] of Tokio, informed me that you would like to have them for the Museum of the Anthropological Society. I am sorry that a complete figure is not to be had. The material of which they are composed is very friable, and only a very few specimens remain. I have only seen one myself. It was purchased from a Japanese collector for some £15-0-0 of our money, and I think much more would be required to get another. There are only 3 or 4 known to be in existence.

Yours very faithfully

W.G. Aston [2]


[Note: Dep. in Mus. Feb 22 1886]

Memorandum relating to some specimens of ancient Japanese pottery sent to Dr Tylor for the Museum of the Anthropological Society

No 1. is the lower part of one of the clay figures which were set up in ancient times round the sepulchral mounds of Emperors or other great personages as substitutes for the living persons which by a still earlier custom were buried alive round the tomb. It is taken from a misasagi or Imperial tumulus at Tarumi in the province of Harima which is believed to be the one referred to in the following passage of the Nihongi (Book IX 1st year of Jingo Kogu's reign) [insert] AD 201 [end insert] "When the Empress was on her way by sea to the capital to bury the Emperor (her husband Chinai Tenno, who had died in Kinshiu) Prince akosakasud Prince Oshi Kuma x x x x pretending that it was for the purpose of making a misasagi (Imperial tumulus) went to Harima where they constructed a misasagi at Akashi, weaving together boats with which they went to the Island of Awaji, and transported from thence stones with which they built it. Each of the men employed in this work was armed, and in this way they lay in wait for the Empress" The Emperor was of course never buried here but the tumulus remains. The story, however, has no great historical value. The nihongi, where it is found, was compiled in the beginning of the 8th century, and this tradition may be perhaps one or two hundred years older. It [insert] The tumulus itself [end insert] cannot be later than the end of the 6th century when an entirely different form of misasagi was introduced, but we have at present no means of knowing how much earlier it may be.

The [insert] several [end insert] fragments of which No: 2 is a specimen These clay cylinders are arranged round the tumulus [insert] what remains of them being is in this [end insert][insert] sunk in to the ground to a depth of [end insert] (called by [insert] the [end insert] Japanese haviwa or clay circles) one row being round the bottom of the tumulus, one on a terrace half way up the mound, and a third round the top. There must be several hundred of them in all, none in any better state of preservation than the one sent. I should say that the tumulus is not circular but shaped in this way [2 drawings]

The inner line of all represents the outline of the top, the dot being the intended place of interment [insert] and [end insert] the second circle the terrace. These clay circles are found on nearly all the misasagi that I have seen. The specimen sent is of the largest size met with.

No: 2 is one of a number of fragments found embedded in clay inside of No: 1. It is yet undecided whether the cylinders actually formed part of the clay figures [insert] or [end insert] of the pedestals on which they stood. If the latter view is correct the holes were probably for the insertion of wooden pegs to hold the figure fast to it. The only complete figure I have seen had a cylindrical base pierced by a precisely similar whole.

[Added Note: Deposited in Mus Feb 22 1886] No 2 is one of a number of fragments found embedded in clay inside of No 1 showing that it originally had two or more rings.


The other specimens are all of the ware which in Japan is associated with the name of Giôgi (Giôgi-yaki) a Buddhist priest who is popularly credited with the invention of the potter's wheel [insert] in Japan [end insert] - on very doubtful evidence. He was born A.D 668 and died at the age of 82. The pottery which bears his name may be roughly set down as belonging to the period from the 7th to the 10th centuries of our era. They are [illegible] fo Fragments of this ware are invariably found associated with tumuli containing megalithic stone chambers which were introduced into Japan in the latter part of the 6th century, and remained in vogue for some centuries, and many other specimens have been preserved of a non-sepulchral character.

No: 3. This is perhaps the commonest type of Giôgi ware. It was dug up at Yamatake mura in the province of Kamadu close to a group of 50 or 60 chambered tumuli. Numerous other specimens have been found in the same locality. though Dr Morse who visited these tombs and contributed an account of them to an American periodical, could find no relics. There can be no doubt as to the authenticity of this specimen which was purchased from the villages on the spot, fragments of similar ware being discovered amongst the ruins of [insert] some of [end insert] the stone chambers which had been demolished. The date is after A.D. 646 when an edict was promulgated regulating the dimensions of this kind of tomb, and forbidding interment in isolated tombs from having The

This specimen was no doubt intended to contain rice or other offerings of food.

[Added Note: Deposited in Mus Feb 22 1886] No: 4 is what is known as a Maga-tama-tsubo, i.e. a jar for holding the curious comma-shaped stone or jade ornaments well known to Japanese antiquarians. I do not know whether there is a more fancy term, or whether maga-tama were really placed in these vessels when buried, as they sometimes were, alongside the dead. This specimen was purchased in Osaka, and I was told that it came from the neighbourhood of Nara, the capital of Japan during part of the 8th century.

[Added Note: Deposited in Mus Feb 22 1886] No: 5 is unfortunately incomplete. It is part of a sacrificial vessel I send it to illustrate the incisions in the base which are often found in Giôgi pottery [insert] and are [end insert] referred to by Dr Franks, I have no doubt correctly, as characteristic of Corean wares This specimen [illegible] had a lid. I am unable to say where it came from, I received it as a gift from [insert] a [end insert] Japanese antiquarian Mr Midzuguki who has an excellent collection of Giôgi ware.

[Added Note: Deposited in Mus Feb 22 1886] No: 6 was also a present of from the same gentleman. It is also incomplete, but enough remains to show that it was pierced with a hole the object of which has puzzled Japanese scholars. The best opinion is that it was fitted with a bamboo spout which was inserted here. Specimens with similar holes are not uncommon. This specimen also illustrates [insert] the wavy pattern which was [end insert] a favourite made of style of ornamentation with the potters of this period.

Nos 7, 8 and 9 I picked up among a group of tumuli containing rude megalithic chambers near Maiko in the province of Harima. They are sent to illustrate the style of ornament.

Nos 10 and 11 are from the same place. They are evidently fragments of very large vessels, possibly funeral urns, and are found in great quantities. They show on the inner surface the pattern known as the Corean wheel (still common in that country) which was perhaps put on in order to make the vessels less likely to crack in baking. It is only the large vessels which present this peculiarity. The pattern on the outside seems to be the impress of matting.

[Added Note: Deposited in Mus Feb 22 1886] No 12. is a water bottle dug up near the old castle of Kikuchi in the province of Itigo. This form is not uncommon in Giôgi ware.

No. 13 is from the same place as No: 3.

Drawings of Giôgi and much information relating to the subject will be found in a [insert] most interesting [end insert] paper read by Mr E. Satow of the British Legation Tokio, before the Asiatic Society of Japan (vol VIII part III) The only point on which I would venture to differ with Mr Satow is the age of these mounds I should be inclined to refer [insert] ascribe [end insert] them to the 6th or 7th century. I am at present engaged along with Mr Gowland. Technical Advisor to the Japanese Mint, on a work on the tumuli of Japan, and we hope in connection with it to throw a little light on the subject of Ancient Japanese pottery.

Numerous fragments of a totally different kind of pottery have been found in shell-mounds in the east of Japan. These are the work of a different race and of an earlier type of [insert] less developed [end insert] civilization I am sorry I cannot send a specimen of it.

W.G. Aston


April 9. 1884

Notes for Aston:

[1] Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850-1935) see below.

[2] I find this letter interesting because it seems to infer that Tylor was attempting to acquire artefacts for the Anthropological Institute collections rather than the Pitt Rivers Museum even though this letter dates after he became Keeper at the Oxford University Museum (which acquired other items of archaeological pottery previously and might therefore have been interested in these of its own accord) and Reader in Anthropology at the University in January 1884. By this time it was clear that the University were going to accept the Pitt Rivers (founding) collection (though the collection was still in London). However the illegible note at the top of the letter (probably written by Tylor) suggests that perhaps Tylor did reply trying to get hold of such artefacts for Oxford. In addition the note on the memorandum also suggested they were deposited in a museum (possibly the PRM) in February 1886, though there are no Japanese pottery sherds listed as being donated in 1886 to Oxford which can be matched to them. The memorandum entries have been tentatively matched to 1896.9.1-11 this does not accord with the items being listed as being donated in March 1896 by Aston directly.

So it seems that there are at least two possibilities. The first is that Aston sent the pottery to the UK in April 1884, intending it for the Anthropological Society [aka Anthropological Institute]. However, the AI was no longer acquiring objects and Tylor may have written back to Aston suggesting that he loaned or deposited the pottery in the Pitt Rivers Museum instead (the note on the envelope about written [back] on 29 July 1884 may be a reference to this. Then on hearing back, Tylor deposited some of the artefacts in 'the museum' on 22 February 1886. This museum was either the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, or the museum at the Anthropological Institute, or a third and unnamed museum. If it was the PRM then in 1896 this deposit was regularized when Aston finally donated them to the PRM. This sequence fits the facts as we know them today, though it does not explain why not all of the items listed in March 1896 match Aston's memorandum.

The other option is that two sets of near identical pottery were sent by Aston: one in 1884 the current whereabout for which are unknown and the second when he was in Devon which was accessioned by the PRM in March 1896 [1896.9.1-11]. I think that this might be the likelier solution as the other is too confused.

In total Aston is associated with the following objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum: 1892.48.1 [donations], items from Sri Lanka; 1893.16.1, 1896.9.1-11 [donations] 1896.78.1-4 [loans] (all from Japan); and 1893.1.1, 1894.54.1 and 1899.10.1 (donations) from Korea.

Note that it is not clear why Aston should have sent Tylor items for the Anthropological Institute museum. Tylor was not an officer of the Society (so far as I can ascertain) during 1884, W.H. Flower was the President in that year, Tylor was not president until 1891. It may be that at some earlier time Tylor had written to collectors like Chamberlain to solicit objects from the museum and Basil Hall Chamberlain was not aware that the AI no longer wished to collect ethnographic objects in great numbers for their museum? The final possibility is that Aston was mistaken, Tylor was not soliciting things for the Anthropological Society but for the Anthropological Museum i.e. the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Whatever the truth, it is clear that some of the pottery that Aston acquired in Japan is now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Transcribed by AP November 2012

Tylor Papers Box 13 Peek P8 

[in Tylor's handwriting] Sep 7 / to W.G.A.

Sept 4 .92


Lyme Regis


Dear Dr Tylor

I think you have had some correspondence with Mr W.G. Aston C.M.G., described by Chamberlain as "the best Japanese scholar next to Satow"

He lives at Seaton (I fear dying of consumption) and has the deepest veneration for you; and [insert] he [end insert] has got some Korean pottery and a composite bow the former about 1000 years old, and has asked me to hand them over to you. This I will do the first time we meet in town. [1]

He is also preparing a paper on, I believe, Japanese philology which he has half promised to the Japan Society but which ought to come to us.

I don't know whether you could do anything.

I forget whether I thanked you for the pink [?] papers, if not I do so now. It seems excellent.

Do you know the quarterly bibliography in the "American Anthropologist"? It seems well done.

I wish we could do something of the kind but I have not really the time, and I dare not put Bloxam on it. I am writing to Abel offering £60 per annum for rooms at the Imperial Institute. This would make a saving of £105 per annum, which would be everything to us. We got 5 new members at Edinburgh.

Believe me

Yours very truly

C.E. Peek [2]


[1] The bow is probably 1894.54.1 .1-11, a Korean composite bow with quiver and 9 arrows, there is no reference in the accession registers to any Korean pottery 

[2] Cuthbert Edgar Peek (1855-1901), baronet, astronomer and honorary secretary of the Anthropological Institute

[Note that in 1899 the accession registers reports that Aston donated a Korean keyrack from Seaton in Devon so he presumably recovered a little, see 1899.10.1]


Basil Hall Chamberlain [Note: not all of the Chamberlain letters have been transcribed]

Chamberlain (1850-1935) taught at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy from 1874 to 1882, and was professor of Japanese at Tokyo Imperial University from 1886. See his DNB entry here.

C1 [the envelope shows that this was sent via Tylor's publishers Murray & Co.]

Imperial Naval Department

Tokio. Japan. March 31st 1883


Though acquainted with you only through your books, I venture to write to draw your attention to a volume of the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan" containing a résumé of the customs and religious and political ideas of the Archaic Japanese, i.e. of the Japanese as they were at the dawn of authentic history in the 5th century of our era. [1] I do so for the double reason that I think it must interest you as an anthropologist to become acquainted with the oldest known form assumed by civilisation in this country and that in all propability the publications of our Society are but little known in Europe. Moreover scarcely anything reliable has as yet been written on the subject of Archaic Japanese thought and manners excepting some papers by Mr Ernest Satow [2] which make no pretension to cover the whole field. European travellers (unless, like Miss Bird, they wisely limit themselves to the record of what they have actually seen) fill their books with anachronisms and mistakes of every kind, and the Japanese themselves are entirely uncritical, and consequently not to be relied on as authorities even on matters related to their own early traditions.

Perhaps I may be allowed to take this opportunity of pointing out one or two slight inaccuracies contained in your recently published volume on "Anthropology":

I p. 172 (American Edition): "Selecting certain of these, they cut them down into signs to express sounds ... more accurately than our own writing conveys it." - fa should be ha, and irofa, iroha, or better i ro ha. By the earlier writers on the Japanese language and by some others of repute in Europe the character [shape] is indeed transliterated fa. But ha is the equivalent used in all the more recent standard English and American works on the subject, such as Aston's Grammars of the Written and Spoken Languages, Hepburn's Dict'y, Satow and Imbrie's works, etc. f for h is a provincialism. Further the Japanese syllabic system of writing does not represent the language "more accurately than our writing conveys it." Archaic Japanese is equally well represented by both, while modern Japanese is better represented by Roman. In certain respects the Chinese character is a more satisfactory medium than either, especially for the modern form of the language.

II There would seem to be no sufficient foundation for the inference on p. 237 that "in Japan actors paint their faces with bright streaks of read, doubtless keeping up what was once an ordinary decoration." See vol X Suppl. of Asiatic Trans p. XLII. As for the Japanese theatre, it took a new departure at the beginning of the 17th century, and aims at representing truth by slightly exaggerating it. It thus seems most probable that the red patches are only meant to represent vividly the flushed face of an angry man, just as the blue paint along the shaven parting of the hair represents with exaggeration the blue-black appearance of a dark-haired man's head a few hours after shaving. In the "No", or Lyric Drama, of old Japan, which still survives, there is no painting of any sort, though it is a semi-religious performance developed out of very ancient dances.

I trust that the interest which I feel in Japanese subjects may be a sufficient excuse for my taking the liberty to address you, and for even venturing to criticise what you have written. The volume referred to goes by the same mail as this letter to Messrs Murray's care.

Your obed't Servant

Basil Hall Chamberlain

Edward B. Tylor Esq. D.C.L. F.R.S.


Tokio. Japan.

Oct. 4th 1883

Dear Sir

Your letter reached me in the country where I was travelling during the summer months. Since returning to Tokio I have procured the polo rackets and balls, and will send them to you shortly. The length of the rackets would make them expensive to send alone, and doubtless you will not mind waiting two or three months. The rackets and balls are so cheap that I thought I would be justified in sending a whole set, with net and all complete. I will let you know to what extent you are indebted to me when the box is dispatched. With regard to the nose-flute, my enquiries have not resulted in discovering any traces of its use in Japan, and as to the terra-cotta figures of men and animals (the so-called tsuchi-ningio), I have only bad news to give. Mr Aston, our English Consul at Kobe and the chief authoriity on matters connected with early Japanese tombs and dolmens, informs me that the terra-cotta figures are so rare that there are only three or four [insert] genuine [end insert] whole ones in existence above ground. To procure one would therefore be almost an impossibility. I enclose, however, a portion of his letter in which he offers other things which might be acceptable to you. [3] The giogi-yaki which he mentions is an ancient kind of pottery called after Giogi, the alleged inventor or introducer into Japan of the potter's wheel. The haminea [?] you will find mentioned on p. 200 to my translation of the "Ko-ji-ki." Pray let me know if any of these pots shall be sent. Would you like a scorched tortoise-shell? I think I could get you one through a Shinto priest. But it is quite impossible to procure the scorched shoulder-blade of a deer. Indeed, as you will see by referring to p. XXII of my Introduction, divination by means of such shoulder-blades had already fallen into disuse more than eleven hundred years ago; and it is not one of the ancient customs which the modern apostles of Shinto have sought to revive. By the way, you will find the best résumé of the present state of knowledge with regard to ancient Japanese methods of divination in vol. VII Part IV p. 425 et seq of the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan", in the shape of a long note to Mr Satow's version of one of the Shinto "Rituals".

I need scarcely say that I wa not only much interested by the perusal of your paper on the "Ko-ji-Ki", but surprised that you should have arrived at such just notions with materials so scantily to guide you. I feel that I cannot give an [insert] a possitive [sic][end insert] answer to your question as to whether there be anything in the sun-cave [?] story to explain the go-hei. But I incline to think that there is no necessary connection between the story and the ceremony told as part of it. I can in no ways explain the origin of the legend, but the go-hei seem to me to be simply offerings which have gradually ceased to have any but a mystical value. Originally, as I have mentioned in my Introduction pp. 57-58, the Japanese offered to the gods that which they considered most precious, viz. cloth, etc., and it is only in later times that worthless paper was substituted for the cloth, just as the Catholic substitute a wafer for a real meal of bread in the Sacrament. But whatever may be the meaning of the sun-cave [?cape] story and of its connection with the go-hei, I have no hesitation in answering your second question, that namely as to the relation of the latter to the Aino inawe or inao. The Ainos have simply and servilely copied the Japanese usage in this as in so many other things. Inao seems to be a corruption of ina-bo, the Japanese for "ears of rice", which are in the East and North still offered to the gods. Nusha, which is an alternative name for the inro among the Ainos, as undoubtedly a corruption of nura, the proper Japanese word for go-hei (the latter being a Chinese synonym). The Ainos have borrowed from Japan, not only their word for "god", but the chief god whom they worship, the medieval hero Yashitsune [?]; and in whatever direction we look, whether in the two languages or among manners and customs, it is the Ainos who have borrowed from the Japanese, and not vice-versa, as is indeed but a natural seeing that the latter [insert] former [end insert] are barbarous and the latter civilized. Specimens of the go-hei will go in the box with the polo rackets and balls.

With regard to the iroha [insert] (i ro ha) [end insert] and the Roman alphabet, I think I must still insist on the latter being a better means than the former of representing the Japanese language. No diacritical marks are needed to [insert] help in [end insert] representing the few and simple sounds of Japanese. They have, it is true, been used by some writers, but chiefly for the purpose of comparing Japanese with other tongues. Japanese is a difficult language, but pronunciation is not one of the difficulties.

I will refer to the painted faces of the actors the next time I have the pleasure of writing to you. A native learned man, whom I consulted on the subject, has written out a long disquisition in answer to my enquiries; but, as so often happens, there is nothing in it worth translating. 

Believe me, dear Sir,

Yours sincerely

Basil Hall Chamberlain

Edward B. Tylor Esq D.C.L. F.R.S. 

[Separate sheet, part of the letter from Aston referred to above][2]

If you think Dr Tylor would care to have a haniwa pot, I could get him one without much brouble, and no expense except that of carriage. Giogi yaki would also no doubt be acceptable, and of that I could get him a specimen without much difficulty. It would give me genuine pleasure to be able to do anything for Dr Tylor, and if you think some of these things would be acceptable, please command me. The [illegible] [insert] pots [end insert] are rather bulky. One I have got stands 2 feet in height by 16 inches in diameter, and it weighs something like 15 or 20 lbs. It is incomplete. Whole specimens are rare. There are a few in the Tokio Museum (Uyend)

Yours very truly 

W.G. Aston

[Added] Aston


Tokio. Japan

Feb'y 29th 1884

Dear Sir

I wrote you a hurried note by last mail to inform you of the despatch of the polo racket, net, and balls, which will, I think, have been safely received. The united cost of the articles themselves and of box and transport amounts, in English money, tto about 15/8,

[insert] Polo articles - about 7 s 0d

Box 1s 2d

Transport to England 7s 6d

My amanuensis, who has the bill for the polo things is sick, and I cannot be sure to a shilling or two, but will find out. [end insert]

of which I keep an account against you, thinking that it may be more convenient to both of us that there should be only one payment later on, than several small payments, which are not easy to arrange about at this distance.

With reference to the haniwa pot and Giogi-yaki, Mr Aston (now removed to the Nagasaki Consulate) writes to me: "I shall send the pot and Giogi to Dr Tylor. But as I have left them behind at Kobe, it may be some time before I get them sent off." The enclosed note from Capt. Brinkley R.A., editor of the "Japan Mail", will interest you as that of, perhaps, the man who knows more about the Japanese stage than any other foreigner. I have added a few notes and corrections.

You will, I fear, think me very dilatory in the matter of the gohei. The fact is that the subject is by no means so simple as [insert] a [end insert] one as it at first sight appears. There are many different ways of cutting the gohei, and it strikes me that quite a number of explanatory notes would be needed to make specimens of the different sorts at all valuable. For what is the good of simply looking at a thing without knowing its reasons and its uses? I therefore propose waiting until a Shinto priet, with whom I am acquainted, returns from a tour in the interior; and from him likewise I shall be able to get a scorched tortoise-shell. The Shinto priests are so completely out of society, that it is not often one has the chance of becoming acquainted with any one of them; and they might not be willing to give up their time to instructing a European in matters which they would at least suspect him of despising.

I wish I could give you any information as to the sources of Aino civilization. But though I have seen the Ainos in their homes, I hesitate to express any general opinion on the subject beyond this: that, judging from what can, by documentary evidence, be proved in the case of Japan and Korea, one would be inclined to suppose that the part due to independent [insert] Aino [end insert] invention was small in comparison to that due to borrowing. Indeed it is known that they first learnt the use of iron during the last two or three hundred years from the Japanese. From the latter, too, they have got their chopsticks, lacquer, heaps of words, &c. The Japanese have so completely borrowed everything from China that it is really tedious to investigate any subject, and be always met with the same information: "borrowed from China", "introduced from China", at such and such a time. The Chinese themselves, too, have borrowed from India much more than is, I believe, generally known in Europe. Buddhism gave them a great deal besides a religion.

Yours truly

Basil Hall Chamberlain

E.B. Tylor Esq D.C.L. F.R.S.

[Enclosed letter from Brinkley [4] is about face painting, and has notes from Chamberlain, it has not been transcribed]


Asiatic Society of Japan

Tokyo 15th Nov. 1888

Dear Dr Tylor

The paper charms, etc., I will get for you with pleasure; but that sacred thing the fire-drill is, I fear, quite out of the question. However I am sending you what will in many ways be better than the fire-drill, and that is my friend Mr. Wm. Gowland, [5] who, with Aston, and indeed more than Aston, is the authority in the world on Japanese archaeology. He has been for a long term of years the chief European official at the Osaka Mint; and dolmens, fire-drills, etc., have been the one hobby of his free hours, a hobby ministered to by the fact of Osaka being in the centre of, so to say, prehistoric Japan. He will probably be in England about the first week in February, and can always be heard of at his friend & former colleague's 

E. Dillon Esq

13 Upper Phillimore Gardens [6]


Just at present he is staying with me here, partly in order to put to profit the Tokyo museums for the purpose of the book on Japanese archaeology at which he & Aston have so long been working. He is going to try & get you a photograph of the fire-drill in the great Shinto temple of Idzumo.

With kind regards,

Yours very truly

B.H. Chamberlain

The two things have not come yet


University Museum Oxford

Jan 3 1894

Notes & Enquiries as to 4 Kakimonos [scroll painting]

E.B. Tylor

Chamberlain I. Are the two heads Seeing & Hearing, [illegible, possibly are they] male & female

What are the knives flying through surrounding souls? Are they leaves of the asipattavana knife-leaf tree, [7] and is it a violet wind that blows them, and for what crimes?

Why the fight of Asuras at foot? See also Tuckett III

Chamberlain II What is the exact meaning of the piles of stones of the children delivered by Jizu (see also Tuckett III)

Tuckett I Is it Kivanyon or an illusion, above the hill of knives?

Tuckett II Tongue pulled out, for what crime?

Tuckett III Are the souls as fool pretas, [?] their food turned to fire?

II For what crimes has the rope bridge to be crossed? Details of passing between the iron mountains 

In none of these Kakimonos is the [illegible] shown when the souls cross to Emma's [?] judgment. I have a Taoist copy where they are coming in a ship. Mr Bowes has a picture where they are wading across. I should gladly purchase a Kakimono where the souls are wading or swimming across, escorted by the horse-headed and the bull-headed

I have here help from Japanese friends Mr Takakusu [8] & Mr Kowaki, who have consulted the Japanese books on Buddhist [illegible] shells. Could I procure the necessary books at a moderate cost?

[Separate sheet]

Replies to enquiries as to 4 kakemono:-

Chamberlain I. The two heads are called Ku-sho-jin ([Japanese characters]) lit. "gods born together," or name which Eiteb's Buddhist Dict'y does not seem to give. No certainty as to whether the two heads typify seeing and hearing. Probably one head is male, the other female the better to typify all mankind. The knives flying through the air [insert] originally [end insert] are the leaves of the Arippattavana, which, being scattered by a violent wind, assume that shape and lacerate the souls of the dead, but for what special crime not ascertained. (Comp p. II of translation sent herewith) Men quarrelsome in this world become A... [illegible] after death.

Chamberlain II. So far as enquiries go, no satisfactory reason seems to be known for these piles of stones, still so common all over Japan. One priest says that it so [?] Jizo helping to arrange dead children by piling up stones to imitate a tower! (as our children make mud pies.) The people at large certainly have no theory on the subject. Jizo & piles of stones go together:- that is the custom & they are not inquisitive. The [illegible] of course (I mean of course in Japan where the interest of such enquiries apart from objective belief is hardly yet understood) either never think of these things, or treat them with contempt.

Tuckett I The Kwammon in the sky is an illusion. My informant adds: "Souls who committed adultery in this world are driven to the hill of knives, on the top of which appears to them the image of their paramour. The guilty soul scales the hill with great pain; but on reaching the summit, the vision toiled after has vanished there and appears at the bottom. So the soul climbs down again in pursuit, but with little fruitful result. And so on, over & over again.

Tuckett II Liars in this world have their tongues pulled out in the next.

Tuckett III In the Hell of the Prêtas, water turns to fire. [The above is in Chamberlain's handwriting]

Notes for Chamberlain

[1] 'Translation of the Ko-ji-ki', or RECORDS OF ANCIENT MATTERS. Read before the Asiatic Society of Japan April I2th May, and June 21st, 1882.

[2] Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) described by wikipedia as 'British scholar, diplomat and Japanologist. See DNB entry here

[3] This letter from Aston, included in the letter to Tylor and transcribed above, predates the ones transcribed at the top of this page sent directly from Aston to Tylor.

[4] Francis Brinkley (1841-1912), described by wikipedia as ' Irish newspaper owner, editor and scholar who resided in Meiji period Japan for over 40 years, where he was the author of numerous books on Japanese culture, art and architecture, and an English-Japanese Dictionary. He was also known as Frank Brinkley or as Captain Francis Brinkley'

[5] William Gowland (1842-1922) described by wikipedia as an English mining engineer and "Father of Japanese archaeology", see DNB entry here

[6] Dillon may have lived just opposite Pitt-Rivers (then Lane Fox) who lived, by coincidence, at 10 Upper Phillimore Gardens in 1866. Edward Dillon (?-1914) was the author of 'The Arts of Japan'.

[7] According to here: 'Asipattavana - One of the tortures of purgatory. In the distance the grove appears as a mango grove, and when the inhabitants of purgatory enter, wishing to eat the mangoes, leaves which are sharp like swords fall on them, cutting off their limbs.'

[8] Takakusu Junjiro (1866-1945), a Japanese academic, who was at Oxford from 1890, see wikipedia entry here, Mr Kowaki can not be identified

[9] The Tuckett kakemono are probably 1817.53.730-733: 

Accession Book Entry - COLLECTION of the late Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, D.C.L., F.R.S. Presented by LADY TYLOR, 1917 - [1 of] 4 Kakemono pictures of Buddhist Hell, Nirvana etc. sent to Dr. Tylor by F.F. Tuckett. JAPAN.

Additional Accession Book Entry - I. ENOMA: judgement of souls, two heads, mirror, weighing souls, goddess of mercy, hill of knives, hell, firey tortures... See Tylor's notes* in box with pictures; also Riotor & Léofanti, Les Enfers Bouddhiques, Paris 1895. 

Related Documents File [RDF] - An envelope containing two short letters from F.F. Tuckett, two lots of notes (one quoted above as Additional acc. book entry), a photograph, and a coloured drawing with Japanese characters:

Letter in RDF - To Tylor from F.F. Tuckett dated August 12, 1892: "...just to say I feel pretty certain it was the Kakemono of [illegible] which came from a monastery on their [illegible]. I think the origin of yours must be considered altogether obsure".

Letter in RDF - To Tylor from F.F. Tuckett, dated August 17, 1892: "...In glancing at Beal, "Buddhism in China", published by the C.K. Society, I have chanced upon 2 references (pp. 140 & 152) to the "mountain of knives", so I send you the volume thinking it may interest you..." [continues somewhat illegibly]

And the Chamberlain ones might be some of the ten found unentered and accessioned in 1944 as 1944.1.16-23.

Transcribed by AP January 2013

virtual collections logo

Supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund


(c) 2012 Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford