In the news: Chinese writing was first introduced during Yayoi period

The Yayoi period is considered the protohistoric period, i.e., while the Yayoi culture did not have any writing system of its own, records of the times did exist although they were records from writings from the mainland continent (Korean and Chinese civilizations). According to archaeological evidence, two pieces of kanji slate from between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100 were discovered from the Yayoi period moats at the Tayama site, in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.


MATSUE, Shimane Pref. (Kyodo) Two pieces of slate unearthed here — the oldest ever found in Japan — are from an ink stone imported from a Chinese colony set up in 108 B.C. on the Korean Peninsula, archaeologists said Thursday.

The ink stone pieces are the first product of Lolang Province to be discovered in Japan, they said. The province was established by Emperor Wudi of China’s first Han Dynasty (202 B.C. – A.D. 8 ) near present day Pyongyang.

The pieces were unearthed in 1998 at the Tawayama site in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, where moats dating back to the Yayoi Period (about 300 B.C. to A.D. 300) were discovered, according to the Matsue Board of Education. Although no examples of writing from the Yayoi Period have been discovered at the site, the finding of the Chinese ink stone parts suggests articles related to writing were introduced to Japan via the Korean Peninsula much earlier than previously thought.

The Chinese writing system is generally believed to have been introduced to Japan between A.D. 300 and 710 during the Kofun Period.

The two fragments were found in layers dating back to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100, board officials said.

They resemble articles unearthed in what was Lolang Province and that are now kept at the Tokyo National Museum and other museums in Japan, they said.

Tadashi Nishitani, an East Asia archaeology professor at the graduate school of Kyushu University, examined the objects and speculated that those in power in the Izumo region at the time imported the articles from areas of advanced culture to give themselves authority.

Friday, Oct. 5, 2001Japan Times

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