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Featured Topic: Samurai

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Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156–1868
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Online presentation of a 2009-2010 exhibition, the "first comprehensive exhibition devoted to the arts of the samurai" and "the first exhibition ever devoted to the subject of Japanese arms and armor conservation." With images of 27 objects.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2009/art-of-the-samurai/photo-ga...
Arts of the Samurai [PDF]
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
"The term samurai is derived from the word saburau, or “one who serves.” The evolution of the samurai from mounted guards to the nobility (during the twelfth century) and their subsequent ascent to military leaders of Japan (until imperial restoration during the nineteenth century) is chronicled in distinctive warrior arts and literary tradition. This packet examines the samurai through precious art objects from the museum’s collection. These include authentic military equipment (arms and armor), paintings depicting famed conflicts, ceremonial attire, and objects created for religious and cultural pursuits strongly connected with the samurai class."

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/12/ArtsofSamurai...
Black Ships & Samurai: Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan (1853-1854)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Visualizing Cultures
"On July 8, 1853, residents of feudal Japan beheld an astonishing sight—foreign warships entering their harbor under a cloud of black smoke. Commodore Matthew Perry had arrived to force the long-secluded country to open its doors." The ESSAY section "examines graphics from the American and Japanese sides of the momentous encounter"; the VISUAL NARRATIVES section "retells topics or stories from the encounter." A CURRICULUM section for teachers and students can be found under the "Black Ships & Samurai" menu at the top of the page.

Go to Museum Resource: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/black_ships_and_samurai/index.html
A Brief History of Samurai Armor
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Learn about samurai armor in this video by exploring artworks in the Asian Art Museum’s collection.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/a-brief-history-of-samurai-armor/
Bu and Bun: The Arts of War and Peace
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
In addition to superior strategic and military ability, most elite samurai were expected to be versed in the cultural arts. The warrior’s ideal balance of military and artistic skill is captured well in this description of the sixteenth century daimyo Hosokawa Yusai (1534–1610): “Renowned for his elegant pursuits, he is a complete man combining arts [bun] and arms [bu]. A man of nobility, a descendant of the sixth grandson of the emperor Seiwa, he was a ruler endowed with awesome dignity and inspiring decorum…He built a splendid castle, which was majestic, beautiful and high…He discussed Chinese poetic styles and recited by heart the secret teachings of Japanese poetry…" See also Archery Practice.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/bu-and-bun-the-arts-of-war-and-peace/
History and Traditions of the Samurai
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Students will use images of samurai armor and weaponry to learn related vocabulary. They will describe the functional and aesthetic aspects of armor through focused viewing and reading, and they will draw conclusions about the changing code of the samurai over the course of 800 years. Download includes a lesson plan, a number of guides, and slideshows.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/history-and-traditions-of-the-samurai/
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A brief introduction to the bushi or samurai of Japan. With 3 related artworks.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/samu/hd_samu.htm
The Samurai (Vocabulary)
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
A guide to Medieval Japan and Samurai terms both online and as a download Word Doc.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/the-samurai-vocabulary/
Samurai War Tales: Battle of Awazugahara, from The Tale of the Heike
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Based on real events from the 900s to 1600s and then embellished over time to create powerful narratives full of good storytelling, sympathetic characters, and poignant and stirring events, War Tales provide information and insights into the lives of Japans warriors. The Tale of the Heike is among Japan’s most celebrated war tales. It traces the rise, brief glory, and fall of the Taira clan (also known as the Heike clan). “This scene illustrates an episode from the chapter 'The End of the Life of Kiso Yoshinaka' in The Tale of the Heike, a thirteenth-century recounting of the wars between two powerful clans, the Heike and the Genji (also called the Taira and the Minamoto).” Also see the video “The Samurai and the Storyteller” and Battles at Ichi-no-tani and Yashima.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/battle-of-awazugahara-from-the-tale-of...
Samurai Warrior Codes: Comparing Perspectives from the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Edo Periods
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The term, bushido, is often used to describe the samurai warrior code during medieval and modern times. The definition refers to a late 19th century description and was actually quite different than codes from earlier times. Compare warrior codes from different times with the modern definition of bushido. Then, choose which code you think matches the samurai in the screen painting, the Battles at Ichi-no-tani and Yashima, from The Tale of the Heike. Downloads include a Lesson Plan, slide show, and Student Handout.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/samurai-warrior-codes-comparing-perspe...
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