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The Yamato Kingdom and the Production of Symbols of Authority

"The Yamato Kingdom and the Production of Symbols of Authority"

Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery  November 30, 2021 (Tue) - June 5, 2022 (Sun)

Iron Sword with Floral Ring Pommel (detail), With inscription in gold inlay, Kofun period, 4th century; sword blade: created in China, 2nd century (National Treasure)

From the 4th century, Chinese-style bronze mirrors were created in Japan and placed in burial mounds. These large mirrors were finely-crafted with unique designs, and, as this burial practice suggests, held special meaning in the Yamato Kingdom. Jasper, bronze, and stone copies of various ornaments were also buried in these mounds. They included distinctive hoe-shaped stone objects modeled after shell bracelets that were valued in the preceding Yayoi period. The Yamato government began creating such objects to show its political and religious authority. Moreover, certain objects, such as those made of jasper, were created with the aid of provincial clans.

Use of these objects and the construction of burial mounds for high-ranking rulers (these mounds featured stone chambers that were sealed from the top) spread from the Yamato Kingdom to the west. It is believed that provincial clans used these objects as evidence of their alliance with Yamato and as symbols of their own prestige.

The establishment and expansion of the Yamato Kingdom was also related to political developments in other East Asian countries. In China, the fall of the Western Jin dynasty ushered in the Sixteen Kingdoms period (316–420), while the three kingdoms of Korea – Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla– began to annex neighboring regions.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 6 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
Highlight Mirror with Mythical Creatures ("Tuolong") Found at Shin'yama Tumulus, Nara Kofun period, 4th century Lent by the Imperial Household Agency
Mirror, Mythical beast design Excavated from Yanai Chausuyama Tumulus, Oaza Yanai Mizuguchi, Yanai-shi, Yamaguchi Kofun period, 4th century J-180
Highlight Mirror with Straight Lines and Arcs From Shin'yama Tumulus, Koryo-cho, Nara Kofun period, 4th century Lent by The Imperial Household Agency
Highlight National Treasure Iron Sword with Floral Ring Pommel, With inscription in gold inlay Excavated at Todaijiyama Tumulus, Tenri-shi, Nara Kofun period, 4th century; sword blade: created in China, 2nd century J-39135
Hoe-shaped Stone Bracelet Excavated at Kazuwa Taishozuka Tumulus, Kurayoshi-shi, Tottori Kofun period, 4th century Gift of Mr. Yamamoto Tomizo and 3 others , J-9882
Ceremonial Stone Object in the Shape of a Staff Place of excavation unknown Kofun period, 4th century J-2778-1