Outline of Exhibition

Haniwa - Form and Meaning
Period of exhibition Tuesday, March 18 to Sunday, June 8, 2003
Exhibition site Rooms 1-3, Special Exhibitions Hall, National Museum of Japanese History
[ Access ]
Admission fee

General: 830 yen *(560 yen)
High school and college students: 450 yen (250 yen)
Elementary and junior high school students: 250 yen (130 yen)
* figures in parenthesis are for groups of 20 or more.

Hours 9:30 - 16:30 (admitting entry untill 16:00)
Sponsor National Museum of Japanese History and Asahi Shimbun

Clay Haniwa forms were installed in the tumuli (burial mounds) that were built throughout Japan from the Fourth to the Sixth centuries. The Haniwa formed part of the rites used in farewelling the dead. Today, these Haniwa, made in the shape of buildings and possessions which do not exist now, and also in the form animals and even people, show us what things were like in those times.

This special exhibition focuses on haniwa as a means of exploring the religious and social characteristics and international activities of the people of the Kofun period, a period which saw the earliest beginnings in the development of the ancient kingdoms of the Japanese archipelago. We must also remember that throughout the ancient Far East, the sacrifice of substitutionary clay forms to the dead developed from the elaborate funerary rites prevalent in the nation-building period.

In the First Exhibition Room, the displays ponder the significance of the haniwa of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. "The Beginnings of Haniwa" covers the cylindrical haniwa which appeared together with the earliest tumuli, while "The Halls of the Dead" displays haniwa depicting the family and possessions which watch over the corpse buried under the highest point of the circular mound of the tumulus. The "Graveside Ritual" display shows haniwa of boats and aquatic birds, from the projecting platform area of the tumuli.

The displays in the Second Exhibition Room invite us to consider prayer and commemorative activities, through the haniwa of people and animals popular in the Sixth Century. Guardian haniwa from areas such as tumuli embankments are shown guarding the tumulus in the "The Guardians" display. "Haniwa Groupings in the Graves of the Great Kings" displays the haniwa grouped in typical arrays. "Praying and Watching Over the Dead" shows the main figures in the groups of human forms, while the "People and Animals" display deals with hunters and a variety of animals. "People and Commemoration" shows people busy dancing, singing, and making music.

The Third Exhibition Room deals with haniwa production. "The Making of Haniwa" depicts the effort that went into the construction and supply of haniwa for the tombs of great kings, while the "Transporting Haniwa" shows that haniwa were transported over long distances, and the "Different Haniwa" indicates how the differences in finished haniwa can be attributed to different workmen. This room will also include a "Touch It and See" corner. A display entitled "Death and the World View in Ancient China", which deals with how death fit into the world view in China and surrounding continental areas. The "Haniwa in Korean Peninsula" display shows keyhole-shaped tumuli and haniwa-like terracotta figurines from outside the Japanese archipelago.




  1. Real or Fake? (Quiz)
  2. Watch a video on haniwa.
  3. Learn by making imitation haniwa
  4. Try wearing ancient period clothing