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Ancient Swords with Inscriptions and the Society of the Kofun Period

"Ancient Swords with Inscriptions and the Society of the Kofun Period"

Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 15, 2021 (Tue) - December 5, 2021 (Sun)

  
Iron Sword with Silver Inlay Inscription (detail), Excavated at Eta-Funayama Tumulus, Nagomi-machi, Kumamoto, Kofun period, 5th-6th century (National Treasure)

The sword on exhibit features a long, 75-character inscription, which is invaluable in shining light on politics in the 5th century. Swords with inscriptions, such as this one, were made in China, Korea, and Japan. Inscriptions on Chinese bronze mirrors or iron swords made from the time of the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220) consisted mainly of dates, auspicious words, or sayings. In the 3rd–5th centuries, these inscriptions expressed prayers to the deities of the four cardinal directions in the hope of repelling evil and preventing natural disasters. In contrast, inscriptions on Japanese swords made in the 5th–7th centuries include content such as the names of individuals and the places where the swords were created. These inscriptions also express the influence of Chinese world views.

On the Asian continent, inscriptions were made primarily on large monuments such as stone steles. In Japan, however, they were featured on items that could be carried such as iron swords. Iron swords were prized in Japan from the Yayoi period and developed to an unusual extent, which experts believe is connected to the popularity of swords with inscriptions in the Kofun period.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 2 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Stone Figure From Iwatoyama Tumulus, Yame-shi, Fukuoka Kofun period, 6th century J-831
_MD_RECOMMEND National Treasure Iron Sword with Silver Inlay Inscription Excavated at Eta-Funayama Tumulus, Nagomi-machi, Kumamoto Kofun period, 5th-6th century J-573
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