Donchō and His Journey to Japan

While not being an inventor, one person who brought a number of innovations to ancient Japan is the Korean monk and painter Tam-jing, or Donchō as he's known in Japanese. It was he who brought the art of paper-making and Chinese ink to Japan, and transformed Japanese society as a result.

Tam-jing hailed from the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo (Koguryo) and was dispatched to Japan by the king of Gorguryeo in March, 610 (AD), some 60 years after Buddhism was introduced to Japan. According to the Nihon shoki, Donchō brought his knowledge of paper-making and painting with ink wash before the court of Empress Suiko. The paper Donchō introduced to the court was made in the traditional Chinese style, with hemp and mulberry bark.

After Donchō's demonstration of paper-making to the Imperial court, many Japanese studied and emulated Tam-jing's paper-making techniques and the art of paper-making spread like wildfire throughout Japan. In just 50 years, over 80 different types of paper were being made in Japan! Naturally paper became essential for writing as well as the ink wash painting techniques Donchō demonstrated to the court.

Another innovation Donchō introduced to Japanese society was the Mizuusu, or the first stone water mill in Japan. This mill used the power of a waterwheel just as the Chinese and Korean water mills did. The mill is mentioned in the Nihon shoki as being introduced by Donchō for irrigation purposes.

Finally, one enduring legacy of Donchō's visit to Japan is the interior decoration that, according to legend, he left in the main hall (or 'Kondō') of the world-famous Hōryū-ji temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture.

Tam-jing may have visited Japan for only a short time, but his visit left a lasting impact that has lasted up to the modern age!

For more about Donchō and his contributions to Japan, check out these links:



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