Continental connections and international relations

As migrants and wet rice agricultural technology made their way from the continent into Japan, interaction and exchanges increased between the continent and Japan.

The most crucial exchange was that of metal, in the form of ingots, weapons, tools and ceremonial items. Diverse other finished goods, including wooden and stone tools, cloth, body ornaments, coins, jewellery and the most coveted of all — Chinese bronze mirrors — were imported into Japan.

The regional exchange network extended south to the Ryukyu Islands, and north to Hokkaido, westward into China and northeast Asia.

Burial artefacts and Chinese historical documents indicate that powerful tribal leaders in Kyushu during the 1st century A.D. were sending diplomatic delegations or mission teams offering tribute to the Han dynasty Chinese outpost of Lolang in northern Korean peninsula. Kyushu was drawn into the tribute and trade system with the continent, and via that network, foreign goods flowed into western Japan, and through the network as well, information about Yayoi culture filtered back to the Chinese that was recorded in the Chinese dynastic histories.

In A.D. 57, it is recorded, the king of the Na country of Wa ((as Yayoi-era-Japan was known to the Chinese then) offered tributary gifts to the emperor Guang Wu of Late Han Dynasty of China. In return, a gold seal was presented by the Chinese emperor to the “king” of the country of Na.

These events were recorded in the Han Dynasty’s Wei-shu records, and the archaeological find of a gold seal in 1784 on Shika-no-shima (Deer Island) in Fukuoka prefecture confirm that the event. A farmer by the name of Jinbe from Higashi ward, Fukuoka city, had found a seal of pure gold underneath a large stone as he was repairing the ditches in a rice field.  The seal was 2.3 sq. cm and marked “Kan no Wa no Na no Koku O“. Now in the collection of the Fukuoka city museum, the seal has helped historians pinpoint the location of Na country in Fukuoka.

Relations with China

Burial artefacts and Chinese historical documents indicate that powerful tribal leaders in Kyushu during the 1st century A.D. were sending diplomatic delegations or mission teams offering tribute to the Han dynasty outpost of Lolang in northern Korea.

But then the Han empire collapsed in AD 220. China became politically divided by civil war, with many short-lived kingdoms arising in different regions of the continent. And upon the fall of the Chin dynasty, the invasions of nomadic tribes from the north resulted in political dislocation of many clans and ethnic groups. This triggered the outflow of displaced migrants into Korea and very likely at some point, Japan, bringing with them Chinese techniques and knowledge.

Chinese diplomatic relations seemed to have until tribute missions resumed and delegations were sent once again just before 250 A.D:

In the year 238, Queen Himiko (who, according to the Chinese chronicle Wei Zhi, was ruler of one the Wa countries based in the capital of Yamatai) sent a delegation to Tai-fang to request an audience at court in Lo-yang (Lo-yang was one of the Wei dynasty’s Chinese colonies in Korea). The delegation was received as an offer of tribute by a tributary vassal state as was the Chinese practice at the time and the event was recorded in Wajinden. Queen Himiko’s delegation had offered gifts of four male slaves and six female slaves along with two pieces of patterned cloth. Several diplomatic exchanges followed.

In 240, a Wei representative dispatched from the Tai-fang commandery, presented the queen with an imperial script and a seal with a ribbon, along with gifts of gold brocade, tapestry, swords and mirrors.

3 years later an eight-member Wa delegation to Wei presented the emperor with slaves, native silk brocade, red and blue silk, a fabric robe, cloth, cinnabar, and a wooden bow with short arrows.

In 245, the Wei court awarded Nanshomai a yellow pennant to be presented from the Tai-fang commandery.

The next point of contact between the Chinese court and Japan was in 247 when Queen Himiko sent an envoy to the prefect of Tai-fang to request for Chinese imperial support, as she was facing conflict with the rival king of Kunu whose base lay to the south of Wa.

After the death of Queen Himiko, when a female 13 year old ruler succeeded the throne of Himiko (following one failed male successor), diplomatic contact was once again made with the Wei court, offering gifts of slaves, pearls, jade magatama beads and brocade.

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