In the news: Sword unearthed in Fukuoka is oldest evidence confirming that Japan was using the Chinese Genka calendar in the year 570

The inside of the G6 mound of the Motooka burial mounds in Nishi Ward, Fukuoka, where the sword has been found is pictured in this photo courtesy of the Fukuoka Municipal Board of Education.

Sword unearthed bearing Chinese sign for year 570  (Mainichi Japan) September 21, 2011

FUKUOKA — An ancient sword bearing kanji characters that show the year 570 according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle has been unearthed from an ancient burial mound here, the local education board announced on Sept. 21.

The discovery made by the Fukuoka Municipal Board of Education is consistent with the Chronicles of Japan, one of Japan’s oldest history books, which says Japan imported the Chinese calendar from Paekche, one of the countries that existed on the Korean Peninsula.

It is an epoch-making discovery in that it is the oldest item showing that Japan used a calendar in ancient times.

It was the seventh sword with inscriptions of characters excavated from an ancient burial mound, and fourth with the inscriptions of characters indicating years. All the previous ones had been discovered before the 1980s.

Education board officials said they found the 75-centimeter-long steel sword in the stone chamber of the G6 mound at the Motooka burial mounds in Nishi Ward, Fukuoka, which are believed to have been built sometime around the mid-seventh century, along with mid-seventh century earthenware.

X-ray photos of the sword show that it bears 19 Chinese kanji characters, each measuring 5 millimeters square. Experts say the swords were inscribed with the characters and that either gold or silver were poured into the characters, adding that the sword was made in Japan.

The characters show that the sword was produced in 570 by the Chinese sexagenary cycle, a rotation of 60 terms to show years.

“The sword was produced on Jan. 6, 570. It was wrought about 12 times,” the characters read.

There is a large time difference between when the sword was made and when the burial mounds where the weapon was found were built.

According to the Chronicles of Japan published in the eight century, Paekche dispatched a calendar expert to Japan in 554 in response to a request by Japan the previous year. The calendar that the expert brought to Japan at the time is believed to be the Genka calendar made in Song during the era of Southern and Northern Dynasties in China from the early fifth to late sixth centuries.

Experts have pointed to the possibility that the Genka calendar had been used in Japan since the era of Emperor Yuryaku in the fifth century.

The date written on the sword matches that of the Genka calendar.

Professor Yasutoshi Sakaue of ancient Japanese history at Kyushu University describes the sword as important proof that the Genka calendar became widespread in Japan after the Chinese calendar expert visited Japan in the sixth century.

“It is the first time that an item bearing a date based on the Chinese sexagenary cycle has been found in Japan. It is evidence that someone who inscribed the sword with the characters knew the Genka calendar,” Sakaue said. “It is the first concrete evidence showing that the Genka calendar spread in Japan following the calendar expert’s visit to Japan.”

The sword will be displayed at the Fukuoka City Archeology Center from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9.

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福岡・元岡古墳群G6号墳:「庚寅」干支入り大刀出土 百済の暦導入、日本書紀裏付け

◇「570年」

福岡市教委は21日、同市西区の元岡古墳群G6号墳(7世紀中ごろ)で、干支(えと)で570年を意味する「庚寅(こういん)」の文字を刻んだ象嵌大刀(ぞうがんたち)が見つかったと発表した。

記された月日の表記は、朝鮮半島の百済から暦を導入したとする日本書紀の記述を裏付けるもので、暦使用の実例としては日本最古となる画期的な発見となった。

古墳出土の銘文入りの刀剣の発見は今回で7例目、うち干支や年号が入った紀年銘は4例目。いずれも1980年代までの発見で、出土自体も非常にまれ。

市教委によると、G6号墳(直径約18メートル)の横穴式石室を調査中、7世紀中ごろの土器と共に鉄製大刀(75センチ)が見つかった。X線撮影の結果、大刀の根元の背の部分に、「大歳庚寅正月六日庚寅日時作刀凡十二果□」(□は「練」の可能性)の19字が、1文字5~6ミリ四方の大きさで約12センチにわたり見つかった。表面を細い溝で刻み、中に金か銀とみられる文字を作っていた。日本製の可能性が高い。

年号の干支を示す最初の「庚寅」と、「正月六日」の干支の「庚寅」から、年代は570年と判明。意味は「570年1月6日に刀を作った。およそ12回鍛錬した」という。大刀の製造は570年だが、同古墳造成の7世紀中ごろまでと時間差が認められる。

日本書紀によると、日本は553年に百済に暦博士の派遣を要請、翌年、暦博士が来日する。この時もたらされた暦は、中国・南北朝時代の宋で作られた「元嘉(げんか)暦」とみられる。

元嘉暦は、5世紀の雄略天皇の時代から既に使われていた可能性が指摘されている。今回の大刀に書かれた「庚寅正月六日庚寅」のうち、570年と1月6日の干支が「庚寅」というのは、いずれも元嘉暦と一致する。

坂上康俊・九州大教授(日本古代史)は「干支の入った確実な日付としては初の発見。具体的な暦が分からないと刻めないので、元嘉暦を知っていた証拠だ。暦博士の来日後、元嘉暦が普及したことを初めて確実に示す極めて貴重な資料」と話す。大刀は9月28日~10月9日、福岡市博多区の市埋蔵文化財センターで展示される。【大森顕浩】

Unearthed ancient sword bears manufacture date (NHK World English, September 21, 2011)

Archaeologists say an ancient sword recently unearthed in western Japan bears the date of manufacture.

Fukuoka City’s board of education says the artifact was found on September 7th in an old stone tomb amongst ruins in the city.

The tomb is believed to have belonged to a powerful local clan. The 75-centimeter-long, steel-made sword is believed to be a grave furnishing.

An X-ray scan has found 19 Chinese characters inscribed on the back of the sword.

The characters say the sword was manufactured on the 6th day of the first month of A.D. 570, in the old Chinese calendar.

3 findings of swords from the Tumulus period bearing the year of their manufacture have been reported in Japan, but none with the exact date.

Kyushu University Professor Yasutoshi Sakaue called the latest finding a milestone as it is the first example of an archaeological find showing the full use of the calendar at that time in Japan.

He says historical records show the traditional calendar was brought to the country from the Korean Peninsula in A.D. 554, 16 years before the date recorded on the Fukuoka sword.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Sword bears oldest use of calendar (Japan Times, Saturday, Sep. 24, 2011)

Kyodo

FUKUOKA — A sixth-century iron sword bearing a set of inscriptions believed to be the oldest known use in Japan of a calendar has been found at a tomb in Fukuoka.

The 19 kanji inlaid in the 75-cm sword include those that appear to indicate it was made on Jan. 6, 570, based on the Yuanjia calendar, which was brought to Japan via the Korean Peninsula during the Southern Song dynasty and came to be known here as the Genka calendar.

“The Genka calendar was believed to have been introduced to Japan by 554 during the Yamato dynasty. The sword’s inscriptions are proof that the Genka calendar was being applied across the archipelago soon afterward,” said Yasutoshi Sakaue, the Kyushu University professor heading the project. “This is an epoch-making item.”

The Fukuoka board of education said the year and date inscribed, if correctly interpreted under the Genka calendar, correspond to 570.

The sword was unearthed from a site at the Motooka tombs complex in Fukuoka known as the G6 tomb.

The Yuanjia is a lunisolar calendar compiled by astronomer He Chengtian during the Southern Song dynasty. It was used in China from 445 to 509.

Photo caption: Epoch-making blade: An iron sword (center) from the sixth century bearing inscriptions believed to be the oldest known use of a calendar in Japan has been excavated from a tomb in the city of Fukuoka. FUKUOKA BOARD OF EDUCATION/KYODO

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