Located in Samita, Kawai-cho, Kitakaturagi-gun, Nara, Samitatakarazuka Kofun is a large keyhole-shaped tomb mound in the center of the Umami Kofun cluster lying to the west of Nara Basin. The Kofun is 111.5 meters long and the diameter of the circle part and the height of the mound are 60 meters and 8 meters, respectively. In 1881, the circle part was excavated by local people and various objects, including mirrors, balls and replicas made of stones, were discovered. At present, they are co-possessed by the Imperial Household Agency, the Tokyo National Museum and the Nara National Museum. The three Shinjyu mirrors shown here are possessed by the Nara National Museum.
A Shinjyu mirror is a mirror that originally had a drawing of iconography based on Shinsen thought and the theory of Yin & Yang and the five elements that were actively made in the Konan region in China between the Later Han Dynasty and the North and South Dynasties (mainly during in the Three Kingdoms Period). Although some of them were carried from China, many were modeled on those in Japan. In particular, mirrors with patterns called Kyoshimontai and Hamontai and triangular edges are called Sankakubuchishinjyu mirrors and are said to have been presented to the Queen of Yamataikoku, Himiko, from Wei.
Although the style of the edge and the pattern structure are slightly different, this item is a typical Shinjyu mirror that has 6 round projections in the inner part where a dragon-like god beast and a hsien and his servant are alternately placed in between. In the outer part, there are inscriptions or patterns with a fish, a lizard and a bird. As the patterns are either simplified or imperfectly molded in addition to their incompleteness, it is presumed that they were made in Japan.
It is notable that one cabriolet thought to be a hsien’s vehicle is drawn in addition to the hsien, the god beast and the Sangakumon. In general, this mirror type with cabriolet drawings is called a Gazo mirror and it is very rare and precious when a Sankakubuchishinjyu mirror has such drawings. Moreover, the inscription part contains Chinese phases such as “尚方作竟真大好 上有仙人不知老” and “保子宜孫寿如金石,” which are common to Sankakubuchishinjyu and Gozo mirrors.
It is said that 36 mirrors were excavated from Samitatakarazuka Kofun at that time (now only 26 mirrors remains), which is equivalent to the third largest number of mirrors excavated from a Kofun in Japan. In addition, the mirror called the Kaokumon mirror is well known for its precious drawings of the housing architecture of the time (possessed by Imperial Household Agency).