Special Exhibition

Current Special Exhibition

International Special Exhibition
A Connection through Characters: The Japanese Archipelago and the Korean Peninsula in Ancient Times


Period Wednesday, October 15 –Sunday, December 14, 2014
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries, National Museum of Japanese History
Admissions Adults: ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included
* Free admission for elementary & junior high school students
* Free admission for senior high school students every Saturday
Hours

9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:00 p.m.)

Closed Mondays (When Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is closed the following Tuesday.)
Organizer National Museum of Japanese History
Co-hosted by National Museum of Korea (Korea), National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (Korea), and National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage (Korea)

About 300 materials and books including about 220 Japanese items, about 80 Korean items, and artifacts to be exhibited for the first time in Japan will be open to the public!History of exchanges between the two countries read through ancient characters

Must-see! The original of the national treasure “Nukatadera Garan Narabini Jori Zu” will be open to the public!

The ancient landscape drawn in the Nara Period has been reborn with color in our time!

The restored map is so colorful!  
Nukatadera Garan Narabini Jori Zu
<<Restoration replica>> Museum Collection
National Treasure: Nukatadera Garan Narabini Jori Zu, Nara Period, Museum Collection

This is a map of the Nara Period, and it is drawn on a hemp cloth with pigment. The map describes the details of ancient Buddhist temples and temple estates, and is a valuable material for understanding the ancient landscape and how lands were used specifically at that time. Because of the considerable damage incurred by aging, it will be exhibited for the first time in seven years in this exhibition. It will be exhibited only from October 15 (Wed) to November 16 (Sun). From November 18, the restoration replica produced by presuming the original map based on scientific research will be exhibited.

Outline of Exhibition

Since ancient times, both the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago had accepted and cultivated the Chinese kanji culture. In Japan, many wooden strips of the late 7th century to the 9th century were excavated not only from Fujiwarakyo and Heijokyo but also from various other places, revealing that politics were conducted actively through characters in the ancient Japanese Archipelago, but the roots of those characters were not known well. Old history books such as “Kojiki”, “Nihon Shoki”, etc. describe as tradition that the kanji culture was transmitted from the Korean Peninsula. However, because we had strongly believed that “the birthplace of kanji characters was China,” it was difficult to verify the “route of transmission of the kanji culture” scientifically.
Meanwhile, in Korea, stone monuments of the 5th to 7th centuries were discovered in succession from the end of the 1970s, and from the end of the 1990s, wooden strips that would be the origins of Japanese wooden strips were discovered one after another, gradually revealing the aspect of the ancient writing culture in the Korean Peninsula. Also in Japan, many wooden strips of the 7th century when people started using characters to conduct politics were excavated in recent years, and the materials that connect each writing culture began to appear before us. With such a trend, the interest in the ancient writing culture increased among researchers in Japan and Korea, and various cooperative research activities and academic exchanges progressed between the two countries. As a result, it is becoming clearer that in ancient times the Japanese Archipelago and the Korean Peninsula were more deeply connected through characters than conventionally thought.

Based on such research results, and in full cooperation with Korean research institutions, we would like to hold this exhibition featuring the process of the acceptance of the writing culture from the Korean Peninsula and its formation in the Japanese Archipelago, and also the history of exchanges between the two countries through the writing culture, and widely introduce the results of the latest research activities on ancient characters.

Representative of Exhibition

OGURA Shigeji

Associate professor at the History Division, Research Department, National Museum of Japanese History Born in Tokyo in 1967. Specialized in ancient Japanese history and studies of historical materials. Studies mainly the History of Shinto shrine system in ancient Japan, Historical studies of the Imperial Court libraries in premodern Japan. Earned a doctoral degree (literature) (The University of Tokyo) in 1999. Experienced chief researcher in the Compiling Division, Archives and Mausolea Department of the Imperial Household Agency, and is currently an associate professor in the Research Department, National Museum of Japanese History.

Highlights

Full view of ancient writing culture in the Korean Peninsula

The largest stone monument of two meters will also be exhibited!
[Stone Monument of Mt. Namsansinseong Fortress No. 1, end of the 6th century]
Gyeongju National Museum (Korea)

In full cooperation with three representative Korean research institutions (National Museum of Korea, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, and National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage), we will exhibit about 80 typical materials of ancient characters in the Korean Peninsula including the Stone Monument of Mt. Namsansinseong Fortress No. 1 (original), the replicas of stone monuments, excavated artifacts such as wooden strips, etc. (originals, replicas), an epitaph (replica), a sarira casket excavated from Wangheungsa temple (replica), etc. Most of them will be introduced for the first time in Japan.
- The epitaph of King Muryeong (replica) is an epitaph of a king of Baekje in the 5th to 6th century. King Muryeong appears in “Nihon Shoki”, and was allegedly born in Kyoshu.

- The Songsan-sansong Site in the west of Pusan is a mountain castle built by Silla in the 6th century, and is presumed to be related to the description in Emperor Kinmei 22 in “Nihon Shoki” that Silla constructed a castle on “Mt. Arahashi”. The labeled wooden strip at the construction of Songsan-sansong (replica) will be exhibited.

 

Are “蚫” and “畠” Japanese characters? How is “八十一” read?

The image of the writing culture common to the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago has been clarified. For example, the excavation of a wooden strip clarified that the characters “蚫 (awabi)” and “畠 (hatake)”, which were conventionally thought to be traditional Japanese characters, were already being used also in the Korean Peninsula. In both the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago, various measures such as combining the sound and the meaning of kanji characters, etc. were used to express the language with foreign characters called kanji. There, a game element was sometimes introduced as seen in “Manyoshu”. We will also exhibit wooden strips to introduce the image of the common culture such as praying for rain to the Dragon King, the symbols of talismans, etc.

Documents and artifacts brought to terminal points of the Silk Road

Heijokyo and Shoso-in of Todai-ji in the 8th century were the terminal points of the Silk Road. The exhibits will be as follows: a hand-copied sutra brought by Ganjin (original); an application form for purchasing import goods from Silla (original and replica); a sacred book of Silla written by Wonhyo who was a high priest of Silla, and possessed by Empress Komyo (original); records on public servants sent to Silla and Balhae (wooden strip, replica of Shoso-in document); a document handwritten by a sutra-copying disciple from the family of an immigrant from overseas who assumed the activity of sutra copying (original Shoso-in document outside the Treasure House); charcoal-marked pottery with the name of a Chinese person who came to Japan (original), etc. Politicians and cultural figures such as King Nagaya, Omino Mihune, etc. welcomed the envoys from Silla, and Kukai gave his poem to the envoys from Balhae to express his regret for having missed meeting them. From Akita Castle, a lacquer document signed by a descendant of the imperial family of Baekje was discovered.

World of various characters

There are various calligraphic styles in characters. Kukai brought the book titled “Kokonmojisan” that introduces various calligraphic styles, and gave it to Emperor Saga. Only the title of the book was known before, but in recent years, its manuscript was introduced, and its study has been promoted. In Japan, hiragana was born in the 9th century. The exhibition will introduce hiragana in the charcoal-marked pottery excavated from the site of the residence of Fujiwara no Yoshimi, the “Extract of The Tale of Genji Written by Emperor Fushimi”, etc., decorative kana characters called ashide (Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki), etc., and will also exhibit the book of Fujiwara no Sadaie, kosode byobu with designed characters, and pictorial characters of the Joseon Dynasty. For the printing culture developed in the Korean Peninsula, the exhibition will introduce Tripitaka Koreana that had a major influence on the world of East Asia, and an old type printing plate from early modern Japan that was influenced by the metallic type of the Joseon Dynasty.

Exhibition Lineup

Prologue: From China to the Korean Peninsula, and Japanese Archipelago --- Transmission of characters

This section will follow the process from the birth of the writing culture in the Korean Peninsula to the full-scale transmission of characters to the Japanese Archipelago.

1. Rule by characters

Just as we adore foreign characters and wear T-shirts with foreign characters today, the rulers in ancient times were also fascinated by foreign characters. Eventually, characters were used as a tool of rule to control time, people, lands, goods, etc. The characters created by humans came to control humans.

2. Religion and characters

The second wave of the writing culture was the transmission of Buddhism in the 6th century. Kanji was absolutely necessary for conveying Buddhist teachings. The countries in the Korean Peninsula such as Baekje and Silla that spread Buddhism were also the countries that spread the writing culture. Characters exercised their overwhelming power not only in the teaching of Buddhism, but also in the “world of incantation” rooted in people’s lives.

Special exhibit: Shoso-in document collotype replica of Rekihaku

The Shoso-in documents handed down to Shoso-in of Todai-ji are valuable documents for understanding the politics and society in the Nara Period. To hand down these cultural assets, which are valuable also in the world, to the future generations, Rekihaku has been producing replicas that look exactly like the originals since its establishment. This section will introduce the overview of Shoso-in documents and the process of the production of replicas with videos and images.

3. Characters and life culture

Characters have an ability to convey information to many people across time and space. The academic world and the culture were developed by the birth of books, the information was conveyed with characters together with objects, and the court culture blossomed. Furthermore, characters were brought to each place through the traffic of people.

4. Use of characters

Expressing a language with kanji characters was not easy at all. The Japanese notation was formed with kanji characters by trying various measures while referring to the precedents in the Korean Peninsula. There was a play of reading “八十一” as “kuku” as seen in “Manyoshu”, and from the 9th century, the interest in calligraphic styles also increased.

5. Individual paths

In Japan, hiragana was created in the Heian Period, which brought significant change in the Japanese notation. Meanwhile, in the Korean Peninsula, the printing culture was developed, and the metallic type was invented earlier. In this way, the writing culture in the Japanese Archipelago and the Korean Peninsula started on their own paths.

Special exhibit: Medieval wooden strip --- Underwater excavation of Goryeo ship

In Korea, underwater excavation has been promoted actively in recent years. This section will introduce the life culture of medieval Goryeo and the image of the trade in East Asia that were clarified by underwater excavation of a wooden strip, a lion shaped celadon incense burner, etc.

Epilogue: People who played important roles in the exchange of writing culture

Behind the exchange of the writing culture were the comings and goings and intervention of the people who carried and conveyed characters. This is represented clearly by the wooden strip of the Korean Peninsula that appears to have the name of a Japanese person, the sutra brought by a high priest of Silla to Japan, etc.

Main exhibition materials

  • Rubbed copy of Sodang Hwasang monument, epitaph of King Muryeong (replica): (National Museum of Korea (Korea))
  • Stone Monument of Mt. Namsansinseong Fortress, No. 1, wooden strip excavated from 月池 (Anapji Pond), pot with inscription of “十石入瓫”: (Gyeongju National Museum (Korea))
  • Wooden strip from Songsan-sansong (replica): (Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (Korea))
  • Wooden strip and lion shaped celadon incense burner from Goryeo celadon treasure ship: (National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage (Korea))
  • Golden Light Sutra of the Most Victorious Kings (Baekje豊虫願 sutra) (national treasure): (Saidai-ji)
  • Critical Discussion on Inference (Important Cultural Property), Koya Zappitsushu (Important Cultural Property): (Otani University Museum)
  • List of Items Exported to Japan by Silla (Important Cultural Property): (Sonkeikaku Bunko)
  • Epitaph of Oharida no Yasumaro (Important Cultural Property), sword with ring-shaped pommel of a dragon pattern with inscription, Shibun-ritsu, Vol. 17: (Tokyo National Museum)
  • Kairitsu Denraiki (Important Cultural Property): (Toshodai-ji)
  • Avatamsaka Sutra (Silla sutra) (Important Cultural Property), Todai-ji yoroku (Important Cultural Property): (Todaiji Library)
  • Makonnoshimanushi seikage (Important Cultural Property): (Nara National Museum)
  • Lacquer document and charcoal face-marked pottery excavated from Akita Castle: (Akita City Board of Education Akita Castle Site Research Office)
  • Charcoal kana-marked pottery excavated from the site of the residence of Fujiwara no Yoshimi: (Kyoto City)
  • Nenjugyoji no shoji, nikkyu no fuda: (Kyoto Office of the Imperial Household Agency)
  • Nagaya-o gankyo, Sohan-issaikyo, Tripitaka Koreana: (Government Library, Archives and Mausolea Department of the Imperial Household Agency)
  • Wooden strip with written pledge excavated from Shiotsuko Site in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture: (Shiga Prefecture)
  • Kokonmojisan: (Shitennoji University Library)
  • Nishigori Kimimaro shujitsu, Samguk Yusa: (Tenri Central Library)
  • Pottery with charcoal mark of “kohotocho” excavated from the old precincts of Saidai-ji: (Nara City)
  • Lottery ticket wooden strip excavated from the residence of King Nagaya, wooden strips from Asukaike Site and Heijo Palace, enatsubo: (Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)
  • Lacquer kana document excavated from Tagajo Site: (Miyagi Prefectural Research Institute of The Tagajo Site)
  • Nukatadera Garan Narabini Jori Zu (national treasure): The original will be open to the public from October 15 (Wed) to November 16 (Sun). * The restoration replica will be exhibited from November 18 (Tue).
  • The following artifacts are part of the Museum Collections.
    Manyoshu Vol. 11 (Important Cultural Property); Senzaikaku (Important Cultural Property); Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki (Important Cultural Property); purple paper, gold writing Avatamsaka Sutra Vol. 63 (Important Cultural Property); bonsho excavated from Shiiki, Yatsushiro, Narita City (Important Cultural Property); Yamabe-gun in (Important Cultural Property); Extract of The Tale of Genji Written by Emperor Fushimi (Important Cultural Property); Daian-ji shizaicho (Important Cultural Property); The Tale of Genji; Shiraki no Iimaro seikage; O no Hiromaro shujitsu; deep-blue paper, silver writing Lotus Sutra Vol. 4 (Goryeo sutra); Shoso-in document (replica); note of kakureigen buttyo sonsho darani (replica); wooden strip recording household registration changes excavated from Kokubu Matsumoto Site (replica)

* About 300 artifacts in total including two national treasures and 16 important cultural properties

Important Cultural Property: Bonsho excavated from Shiiki, Yatsushiro, Narita City, Chiba   Important Cultural Property: “Yamabe-gun in” excavated from Yachimata City, Chiba

Important Cultural Property: Bonsho excavated from Shiiki, Yatsushiro, Narita City, Chiba

With inscription of Hoki 5 (774) (Museum Collection)

 

Important Cultural Property: “Yamabe-gun in” excavated from Yachimata City, Chiba

8th century (Museum Collection)
Important Cultural Property: Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki

Important Cultural Property: Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki

Kamakura chukisha (Museum Collection)

Stone Monument of Mt. Namsansinseong Fortress No. 1   Dotaku (ritual bell) seen by Yayoi people in the 3rd century BC

Stone Monument of Mt. Namsansinseong Fortress No. 1

End of the 6th century (Gyeongju National Museum (Korea))

 

Lion shaped celadon incense burner

12th century (National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage (Korea))
Nikkyu no fuda of Kyoto Imperial Palace, and kogosho kitabisashi fusuma-e drawn by Okada Tamechika “Seiryoden Jugatsu Koui” (panel)   Collection of beads from Tsukinoki Site in Aomori, 3,000 to 2,700 years ago

Nikkyu no fuda of Kyoto Imperial Palace, and kogosho kitabisashi fusuma-e drawn by Okada Tamechika “Seiryoden Jugatsu Koui” (panel)

Edo Period (Kyoto Office of the Imperial Household Agency)

 

Okagami picture scroll

Edo zenkisha (Museum Collection)
Important Cultural Property: Extract of The Tale of Genji Written by Emperor Fushimi

Important Cultural Property: Extract of The Tale of Genji Written by Emperor Fushimi

Kamakura kokisha (Museum Collection)

Deep-blue paper, silver writing Lotus Sutra Vol. 4 (Goryeo sutra)    

Deep-blue paper, silver writing Lotus Sutra Vol. 4 (Goryeo sutra)

14th century (Museum Collection)

 

 

Note: Please note that items in the exhibition are subject to change.