Vol. 16 (2009)

The Strangeness of Ancient Japanese History

Joshua A. Fogel
York University


The late historian Miyazaki Ichisada wrote this essay as an introduction to several essays on the famed "seven-pronged sword," said to have been a gift by the kingdom of Paekche to the ruler of Wa. The "sword" is much more famous for its inscription than for its military importance. In his essay, Miyazaki also briefly touches on the even more famous gold seal given by the Guangwu Emperor of the Later Han to an emissary from a statelet on the what is now Japan in the middle of the first century C.E. Like the "seven-pronged sword," it was preserved for many centuries and only relatively recently rediscovered. This essay has the additional advantage of being an fine example of Miyazaki's lucid prose style, self-confidence, and ability to cut to the significant consequences of an issue.