Gaya―The History of Co-Existence in Ancient East Asia
Period Tuesday, July 7 –Sunday, September 6, 2020
*The special exhibition "Gaya—The History of Co-Existence in Ancient East Asia," previously scheduled to open on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, has been postponed due to measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other factors. Please check back for news about the new opening date.
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries A, National Museum of Japanese History

Adults: ¥1000 (¥800)
college students:¥500 (¥400)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more.
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included.
* Free admission for High school age and below.

Hours 9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:30 p.m.)
* Open hours and days are subject to change.
Closed Mondays (When Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is closed the following Tuesday.)


Gaya (加耶) was a confederation of multiple polities that co-existed in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula about the same time as the Tumulus Period in the Japanese archipelago. Gaya prospered as its polities developed thorough cooperation and competition with each other. During the fourth through sixthcenturies, Gaya achieved significant growth through operating maritime trade and iron production as a unit while frequently interacting with Silla in the east, Baekje in the west, Wa (Ancient Japan) across the sea, and China in the distance. Being caught between the mighty states of Baekje and Shilla, however, Gaya’s power gradually weakened, and it collapsed in 562.

With the full cooperation of the National Museum of Korea, we plan to reveal the history of Gaya from the beginning, through the prosperous moments, and to its downfall. To do so, we will exhibit around 240 items unearthed from tombs in Gaya, such as gold and silver accessories, neat and beautiful earthenware, weapons and harnesses indicating military power, iron which was the foundation of growth, and foreign goods showing external negotiations. This is the first time in twenty-eight years that such precious treasures of Gaya will be gathered in a single location and be exhibited in Japan.

During this exhibition, we will examine changing interactions between Gaya and Wa. One of the societies with which Wa had the closest contact was Gaya. Wa built its own culture based on the latest information, technology, and tools that they acquired through exchanges with Gaya. Such imported knowledge and resources from Gaya included a wide range of resources, including hard potteries called sueki, iron tools, metalworks, horse breeding, irrigation, cooking tools such as steamers, and new types of hearths. The fifth century, when Wa experienced the most remarkable development, is sometimes called “the century of technological innovation.” This shows that we need to look at the history of Gaya in order to fully understand that of Wa.

Through this exhibition, we can experience the history of Gaya across the sea and reflect on how the everlasting interactions between Japanese and Korean regions will continue in the present and the future.

Highlights of the exhibition

* Based on the latest excavation and research outcomes, we shed light on the history of Gaya’s rise and fall as well as its splendid culture.

* For the first time in twenty-eight years in Japan, 240 precious treasures of Gaya will be gathered together in one location. This includes the gilt bronze crown of one of the Gaya polities, Daigaya, which has been designated as Korea’s national important cultural property (National treasure).

* Through cultural products of Wa excavated from tombs in Gaya, we reveal intimate interactions between Gaya and Wa.

* Through experiencing the history of Gaya and its long-lasting exchanges with Wa, we think of interactions between Japan and Korea continuing from the distant past into the present and the future.


Why We Exhibit Gaya Now

What is Gaya?

Around the time of the Kofun (Tumulus) Period in Japan, there were polities in the Korean Peninsula, with the names of Geumgwan Gaya, Arag Gaya, Daegaya, Sogaya and others, which thrived by cooperating as well as competing at times with each other. Collectively called “Gaya,” they developed between the 4th and 6th centuries. Until they perished in 562, they interacted with Silla to the east, Baekje to the west, Wa of ancient Japan across the sea, and China in the far distance.

The strongest Gaya polity in the 4th century was Geumgwan Gaya, which was based in present-day Gyeongsangnam-do, Gimhae City in the estuary region of River Nakdong-gang. At the time, the region fronted a large body of water called the Old Gimhae Bay. Control over the ideal natural harbor and operation of marine trade combined with iron production brought wealth to Geumgwan Gaya. However, Geumgwan Gaya started to lose power in the early 5th century due to various factors such as attacks from Goguryeo.

The polity that came to power after Geumgwan Gaya was Daegaya, which had its center in present-day Gyeongsangbuk-do, Goryeong-gun. Daegaya expanded its power as it absorbed surrounding regions. It was the only Gaya polity that sent a diplomatic delegation to the Southern Qi Dynasty of China in 479.

At the start of the 6th century, however, the power of Daegaya was undermined by the mighty kingdoms of Silla and Baekje on both sides. The history of Gaya came to an end when Silla conquered Geumgwan Gaya in 532 and Daegaya in 562.


Gaya and Wa

The closest interactions that the ancient Japanese kingdom (Wa) had were with the communities of Gaya. Through them, Wa was able to obtain various information, technologies and tools including hard ceramicware called sueki, iron tools, metal working, horse breeding, irrigation, kitchen utensils such as the steamer, and a new type of heating and cooking furnace. In order to study the history of Wa, we also need to look at the history of Gaya and how they communicated with Wa.

We hope that this exhibition, exploring the history of Gaya across the sea, will offer an opportunity for visitors to reflect on how the eternal interactions between the Japanese archipelago and the Korean Peninsula will continue in the present and the future.


Ⅰ  Facts about Gaya

There are four major factors that describe the source of development of Gaya and their culture: combined operation of iron production and trade, heavy armor, gorgeous earthenware, and royal tombs that characterized each Gaya polity. Let us see and explore the unique Gaya culture through the beauty and overwhelming presence of their artifacts.


Ⅱ  Path to Gaya

Gaya developed a diverse tomb culture while playing a key role in connecting various communities in East Asia. They were one of the communities in ancient East Asia whose history is well showcased in their tombs. Let us trace the history of Gaya’s foundation and growth from the changes in scale, shape, and burial accessories of their tombs.


Ⅲ  People of Gaya Traveled from North to South

In the fourth century, Geumgwan Gaya played a leading role among the Gaya polities in diplomatic negotiations. Research and studies in recent years have gradually unraveled how Geumgwan Gaya deepened relations with neighboring and distant communities by utilizing their expansive networks. Let us now turn our eyes to their relationship with Wa while exploring how Geumgwan Gaya joined the international community by building a full-scale port for the iron trade.


Ⅳ  Gaya Kings and International Circumstances

Daegaya, which made a leap forward in the fifth century, sent a delegation to the Southern Qi Dynasty of China in 479. The purpose was to make an impression of their solid political and economic power to the international community based on stable relations with Baekje, Silla and Wa. Here the golden age of Daegaya is highlighted by introducing imported burial accessories that imply external relations.


Ⅴ  Twilight of Gaya

At the start of the 6th century, powerful communities known as Baekje and Silla plotted to take over the land of Gaya. Gaya polities used clever diplomatic tactics to survive, and although they succeeded in weathering the crisis up to a certain point, they gradually had to face increasingly challenging circumstances. Geumgwan Gaya was defeated by Silla in 532. Likewise, Daegaya, under pressure from Baekje and Silla, was divided into pro-Baekje and pro-Silla factions and followed a course of rapid decline. Finally, when Daegaya surrendered to Silla in 562, the Gaya nations disappeared from the center stage of East Asia.