Important Cultural PropertyObjects from the Samita Takarazuka Tumulus, Nara Prefecture

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  • 奈良県佐味田宝塚古墳出土品
  • Excavated from the the Samita Takarazuka Tumulus (Kawai Town, Kita-Katsuragi County, Nara Prefecture)
  • 3 pieces
  • Cast bronze
  • Kofun period/4th-5th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 225(考22)

  Located in Samita, Kawai Town, Kita-Katsuragi County, Nara Prefecture, Samita Takarazuka Tumulus is a massive keyhole-shaped burial mound in the center of Umami Tumuli lying to the west of Nara Basin. The tumulus 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 Meiji 14 (1881), the circle part was excavated by local people and various objects, including mirrors, beads and replicas made of stones, were discovered. At present, they are co-possessed by Archives and Mausolea Department of The Imperial Household Agency, the Tōkyō National Museum and the Nara National Museum. The three mirrors decorated on the back with gods and divine beasts design (shinjū mirrors) shown here are possessed by the Nara National Museum.
  A shinjū mirror is a mirror that originally had a drawing of iconography based on the ancient Chinese thought of immortality (shenxian thought) and the thoughts of yin yang and wu xing that were actively made in the Jiangnan Province in China between the period of Eastern Han dynasty (25–220) and the Northern and Southern dynasties (420–589) (mainly during in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280)). Although some of them were carried from China, many were modeled on those in Japan. In particular, mirrors with the triangular edges and the wide sawtooth (kyoshi montai) and ripple patterns (hamontai) at the outer part are called the triangular-rimmed mirror decorated on the back with gods and divine beasts design (sankakubuchi shinjū mirrors). These mirrors 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 shinjū mirror that has 6 round projections (nyū) in the inner part where dragon-like divine beasts and gods 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 god’s vehicle is drawn in addition to the gods, the divine beasts and the mountain pattern. In general, this mirror type with cabriolet drawings is called a mirror decorated on the back with pictures of ancient China design (gazō mirror) and it is very rare and precious when a sankakubuchi shinjū mirror has such drawings. Moreover, the inscription part contains Chinese phrases 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 sankakubuchi shinjū and gazō mirrors.
  It is said that 36 mirrors were excavated from Samita Takarazuka Tumulus at that time (now only 26 mirrors remain), which is equivalent to the third largest number of mirrors excavated from a tumulus in Japan. In addition, the mirror decorated on the back with ancient houses design (kaokumon mirror) is well known for its precious drawings of the housing architecture of the time (possessed by Archives and Mausolea Department of Imperial Household Agency).