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New sword shows evidence of oldest Genka date in Japan

 
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:44 pm    Post subject: New sword shows evidence of oldest Genka date in Japan Reply with quote
http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/in-the-news-sword-unearthed-in-fukuoka-is-oldest-evidence-confirming-that-japan-was-using-the-chinese-genka-calendar-in-the-year-570/

This is pretty interesting, and dovetails nicely with the calendar and date discussion.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks. That is interesting. I will be away from a computer for a few days, and don't have time to write about the date now, but the sword reads
大歳庚寅正月六日庚寅日時作刀凡十二果
大歳(great year-a normal phrase)庚寅(27th cyclic year)正月六日(1st month, 6th day)庚寅日(27th cyclic day)時作刀(time of making the sword)凡十二果.
Note the cyclic year and day is the same. You get a 庚寅 day 6 or 7 times a year, but of course a 庚寅 year once only every 60 years. I wonder if 庚寅 has some significance for sword-making? So they seized the first chance they had to have a sword made 庚寅/庚寅. Does anyone know anything about the significance of 庚寅?
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Or it was the same day as the cyclic year, which could also be significant--maybe not specifically that combination.

Also of some interest, we just went through a 庚寅 year last year (2010).

庚 = Metal, so it could be that it was considered an auspicious year and day for metalworking.

寅 = Tiger, which seems like it would be auspicious for weapons, but I'm not sure that is it so much as the metal year and date, and the fact that the day was the same as the year.

It is also interesting to see the "wrought 12 times"--I wonder if that 12 had to do with the 12 earthly branches or if it was just an auspicious number... or possibly just the number of times they happened to do it.

I also wonder what "wrought" indicates in this context.... folded? I'd love to know if the original was folded in 570, as I believe that would push back the date of folded steel swords in Japan, but I could be wrong; I seem to recall seeing dates of about ~700 previously.

Otherwise, what could it indicate? Or is there a problem in the translation of the kanji/hanzi?

-Josh
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The final character is *believed* to be (and is most likely) 練, but it is difficult to decipher. Assuming the suggested character is correct:

Wrought, in this case, refers to worked iron (鍛鉄;鍛練), as opposed to cast iron (鋳鉄;鋳造).

The characters 錬 or 練 appear often on inscribed swords and refer to the process of working or pounding the impurities out of the iron. The more the iron is worked, the purer it becomes.

There are only a few extant inscribed swords from the Kofun period, however. Of them:

the fifth-century sword from Inariyama Kofun(稲荷山古墳) bears an inscription boasting that it was wrought (練) 100 times;
the fifth-century sword from the Eta Funayama Kofun 80 times;
the sword from the Toudaijiyama Kofun (東大寺山古墳) 100 times (this sword bears the中平 regnal year, which refers to the reign of Emperor Ling (霊帝); this sword was thus wrought between 184-189, but buried in the Toudaijiyama Kofun two hundred years later (late 4th century);
the 4th-century seven-pronged sword (七支刀) housed in the Isonokami Jinguu (石上神宮) boasts 100 (練), as well.

It can thus be surmised that “100” is one term in a set of auspicious words to place in a sword inscription and should not be interpreted at face value.

While wrought iron is known from the early to middle Middle Yayoi (approx. 2nd-1st-century BC), folded steel (折り返し鍛練) is not believed to be contemporaneous to this early technology. Working steel does involve repeatedly beating it with a hammer, but I have never read of folded-steel technology (by which nihontou are known) being proposed as the technology by which the 5th-century Eta Funayama and Inariyama Kofun swords were made; the 6th-century G6 tomb sword, which bears the same wording, can be surmised as having been made by the same technology as these earlier swords. A news program commentator brought up the possibility that this is the same steel-folding technology that nihontou are known for, but the inscription wording is indeed the same as the swords I listed above. I do not believe the inscription, itself, is enough to make any assertions.

What is the significance of “12”? Swords made for or belonging to the imperial house often bear inscriptions boasting having been wrought (or worked/beaten/”kneaded”) 100 times -- and thus being purer and invested with an exorbitant amount of labor. Could this sword then be interpreted as having belonged to or having been made for an individual of far lesser status? Questions abound!

Either way, the inscription does not suggest a new technology different from the swords listed above.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Based on that, it makes sense that this is no different than other examples of wrought iron or steel from that period.

I do wonder what the number refers to--is it possible that they were working and even folding iron (if you are going to hammer on it, won't you need to fold it on itself when it gets too thin?), but without the various additional processes that get the appropriate carbon content to make good steel? Do we know how "wrought iron" was actually made in Japan? I'm finding numerous methods, and what appears to be reference to a bloomery at an iron production site in Kyushu, but little discussion on the actual techniques prior to the traditional folding. I also found a reference to iron plates that were used in China and found as imports in Japan for a wrought iron process that was described as "labor effecient, but resource intense", but nothing else. Were they welding the plates together, then? That would be my assumption, but I need to find more info.

So far I've limited myself to English language sources, and I don't have time to look into it more, right now, but I'd be interested in learning more.


-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Great info. Thanks for sharing. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
nagaeyari wrote:
While wrought iron is known from the early to middle Middle Yayoi (approx. 2nd-1st-century BC), folded steel (折り返し鍛練) is not believed to be contemporaneous to this early technology. Working steel does involve repeatedly beating it with a hammer, but I have never read of folded-steel technology (by which nihontou are known) being proposed as the technology by which the 5th-century Eta Funayama and Inariyama Kofun swords were made; the 6th-century G6 tomb sword, which bears the same wording, can be surmised as having been made by the same technology as these earlier swords. A news program commentator brought up the possibility that this is the same steel-folding technology that nihontou are known for, but the inscription wording is indeed the same as the swords I listed above. I do not believe the inscription, itself, is enough to make any assertions.


The swords you refer to follow the chinese usage of signing the "quality" of manufacture and the maker of the weapons for the imperial arsenal. Chinese and korean swordmakers were common in Japan those days, and the use of folding was common knowledge by far on the mainland. It's possible these early swords were indeed made in the "tanren" way. My essay for the JSSUS dealt with this procedure. Don't forget Nihontou weren't supposed to have shingane before the Kamakura for a long period, whuile later studies has shown even Warabite had it much before... Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tsubame, long time no see!

Well, there is no question that they were made with tanren (wrought, as opposed to cast) technology. The issue, at least in my mind, is this: Some take this new find and attempt to proposes a link between nihontou technology and the swords of the Kofun period based on the inscription. As I do not recognize a difference in the inscriptions mentioned over a span of several hundred years prior to the G6 find, I believe that whatever assumptions are drawn from its inscription must be then applied backwards to the other swords, as well. Besides the fantastic find of the genka calendar usage (which must not be overshadowed), I do not find reason to view this sword as a technological watershed. I would love to be wrong, as it is all so exciting, though Smile Do you have any recommendations for sources on continental iron manufacture? Where can your paper be accessed (if anywhere online)?

The iron technology of the time involved a system of sending oxygen through a tuyere (羽口) attached to the bellows (鞴). Iron ingots (鉄鋌)** formed the raw material of the iron products. They would be heated and melted together into a mass that would need to be beaten not only to flatten it into shape, but to also remove impurities (making it more resilient than cast iron, which was brittle).

While of very limited use in the Yayoi period, the Kofun period saw a great leap in tuyere use (the oldest Kofun period site revealing a tuyere is the Hakata site).

This manufacturing process of the Yayoi and Kofun periods involved many stone tools (the hammers, etc.). In addition, wooden tongs are also suggested alongside later iron ones. In any case, I can't help but take a conservative view of the technology of the time.

**These thin ingots were manufactured (as in smelted (製錬); while refining (精錬) technology is known in Japan from the Middle Yayoi, domestic smelting is not attested to until the 600s) in Kaya and Silla, which carries on the tradition as seen in the 3rd-century Gishiwajinden (Chronicles of the Wei), in which Benshin (弁辰) supplied iron to the Wa and other Korean Peninsula kingdoms. These ingots are found as burial goods in many 5th century kofun. Of mention is the Uwanabe 6 tomb (Nara), which had 872 ingots, and the Nonaka Kofun (Osaka), which had at least 130 ingots interred therein. This practice is also found in Kaya and Silla (for the latter see 皇南大塚南墳 in Gyeongju).

Kaya craftsmen are given the greatest credit for advancing both equestrian production and ironworking in 5th century Japan -- this is attested to by the proximity to iron manufacturing sites and pastures of Ookabe Tatemono (大壁建物), Kaya pottery, and ceramic imitation miniature cooking vessels. I feel like I wrote about this on my blog earlier this year, but I have so many drafts sitting around that I may not have. Will look into it, as there are several new finds concerning Ookabe Tatemono (lit., large-wall construction housing), which immigrants constructed beginning in the 5th century (I believe the Tenjinbatake 天神畑 site is the oldest site found to date).

While a little dated, I recommend Murakami Yasuyuki (村上恭通)'s Wajin to tetsu no koukogaku (倭人と鉄の考古学).

Tsubame, are you suggesting that the technology (folding steel multiple times on top of itself) long touted as the territory of nihontou ("samurai swords") was already achieved in China in the first centuries AD?
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
nagaeyari wrote:
Tsubame, long time no see!


Long story, but I'll always belong to here, as long as Kitsuno allow Smile.

nagaeyari wrote:
Tsubame, are you suggesting that the technology (folding steel multiple times on top of itself) long touted as the territory of nihontou ("samurai swords") was already achieved in China in the first centuries AD?


Yes, as Shingane and differential hardening as well.
Smile

nagaeyari wrote:
Where can your paper be accessed (if anywhere online


http://www.webalice.it/tsubame1/ZZZZZZ_ESSAY.htm


Hada on chinese swords is mentioned about at page 10, as the "one hundred folds" matter.

EDIT : the "Notes" PDF is, basically, the bibliography.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you for the link! I look forward to reading it.

My knowledge of nihontou is very limited, so I may be off-base here, but: what technological difference *was* there to be found, if the characteristics you mention of nihontou were already achieved in the first centuries AD? What made the "samurai sword" worthy of so much attention, if it was simply an extension of Chinese swords of the same manufacture hundreds of years (or a thousand, even) earlier?
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
nagaeyari wrote:
Thank you for the link! I look forward to reading it.

My knowledge of nihontou is very limited, so I may be off-base here, but: what technological difference *was* there to be found, if the characteristics you mention of nihontou were already achieved in the first centuries AD? What made the "samurai sword" worthy of so much attention, if it was simply an extension of Chinese swords of the same manufacture hundreds of years (or a thousand, even) earlier?


Duh, you reteard!! IT was So much KEWLER because it was a SAMURAI SWORD, not some dumb Chinese sword from a stupid kung foo theater movie with flying and crap that isn't real. SAMURAI were the real warriors and they had the best swords so duh, you're so stupid lulzoor.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Laughing

What was I THINKING!
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tsubame is much more suited to answer, but let me see if I can try and then he can show where I am lacking...


My understanding is that the Japanese had no choice but to continue to use this technique, due in large part to the quality of the iron, while the mainland could get a much purer source of iron and therefore use more efficient techniques to get implements that are 'good enough'. The Japanese, on the other hand, continued to refine their process; I'm not sure of all of the techniques involved, but the folding is mainly just the manner of getting the iron:carbon ratio where you want it (though how it is folded can produce different grains). Rather, it is a byproduct of that (you hammer it out until it is too thin, so you fold it so you can keep hammering, until the mix is just right).

They could then weld together different ingots to steels of different hardness for the middle, back, and sides.

Then there is the process of adding the clay and quenching, which provides a differential tempering for the edge and the back by both the front and back cooling at different rates.

I'm not sure what order the different innovations came, but from what I recall, the quenching process naturally causes the sword to curve, which was originally seen as a defect (given the straight swords that were common) and straightened out after the fact. Later swords were allowed to curve and this became a desirable trait.

All of this seems to combine into the Japanese sword, while continental swords took a different path, or so I understand the process at this time.


-Josh
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Perhaps the process of adding the clay and quenching is where the trajectories first split (of course, spoken very broadly)?

On page 383 of "Windows on the Japanese Past," we find:

"In addition to the inscription another unexpected discovery was revealed by an analysis of the iron of the Inariyama sword. A research group, led by Murata Tomomi, from the Basic Research Laboratories of Nippon Steel examined 0.3 g of the surface rust of the sword with a computer-aided microanalyzer. This analysis showed that the sword was made of steel derived from magnetite ore containing copper and prepared with the special furnace technique known in ancient China as the chaogang (shoukou) process (Murata et al. 1982). When the Inariyama sword was wrought, this iron ore was available only in South China. The single possible conclusion from the result of this analysis is that the Inariyama sword was wrought from iron ingots prepared in South China and imported into Japan. The sword was not wrought from the iron sands of Japan, which were exploited for raw materials to make the famous medieval Japanese swords (Murata et al. 1982)."

This "chaogang" process (according to J-google, which reveals the characters to be 炒鋼[法]) apparently involves lowering the carbon content of melted cast iron and turning it into steel (鋳鉄→鋼). I am on the run, so that is the extent of my page-one-google-results research Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
That sounds like one of the processes I was reading about. "炒" refers to a cooking process like stir fry, as I recall, and the author I was reading suggested that it was because of a similarity between the melted metal and frying something in a wok. Apparently this is done to pig iron, heating it in the open air to decarburize it.

This sounds basically like a form of puddling, if I understand that term correctly, which became popular in the West in the 17th century or later, iirc.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
nagaeyari wrote:
The single possible conclusion from the result of this analysis is that the Inariyama sword was wrought from iron ingots prepared in South China and imported into Japan. The sword was not wrought from the iron sands of Japan, which were exploited for raw materials to make the famous medieval Japanese swords (Murata et al. 1982)."


Right, IMHO.

nagaeyari wrote:
what technological difference *was* there to be found, if the characteristics you mention of nihontou were already achieved in the first centuries AD? What made the "samurai sword" worthy of so much attention, if it was simply an extension of Chinese swords of the same manufacture hundreds of years (or a thousand, even) earlier?


Basically, Nate is right. The NihonTo is a japanese icon by far so the fact that chineses already made these swords (almost identical but the curvature and maybe the proportions of shinogi and kissaki) far before the japanese is not widely advertised.

The genius of the japanese smiths was to add the curvature and refine the original technologies and proportions to an higher level than the chinese made. The mainland seems to have somewhat give up perfectioning the swords for several reasons (still debated).

On the contrary the charisma of Nihonto led them to continue perfectioning, until the Edojidai and somewhat even after if we skip maybe a century.

Josh is also right. However the matter of the diffeerential hardening thru insuating material is still a puzzle. Some Kaji can produce swords without it, but not at the same level of the ancient ones. So basically I'm still convinced the experts that consider many early swords made with Tsuchitori are right, even if I strongly believe in the early stages there were several different ways to produce great weapons, with or without shingane and with or without tsuchitori.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Long Lance, take a look at this site and the movie. Seems he has the evidences I lack about the continental ties between Warabiteto, Mokusa school and central Asia :

http://chu-bi.chu.jp/index2.htm


Guess I've to have a good chat with the owner of this site.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Okay, it is funny you should bring that up, because I was looking through some stuff on Western China/Central Asia the other day and saw what I thought looked like a ring pommel sword:



(Click on the picture to go to Flickr and get a larger version)

The fellow down in the lower center looks to have some kind of ring pommel, though I'm not sure if the blade shape is really correct. This is W. Wei, 535-556, and from the Mogao caves in Dunhuang, which is the edge of China and Central Asia.

I wouldn't really be surprised at a linkage to the mainland, nor to Central Asia, given the amount of trade that went on across Eurasia at the time.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi Josh. Somewhere I've a picture of a ring pommel for a sword that is indoubtably of Scythian deisgn, but found in a chinese tomb of the VI° c. (if I remember correectly, maybe eralier). I'm at work now and can't upload the pic, however I think chinese too had many influences from the central Asia.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Some of the earliest Chinese bronze money was made in that shape, ie as miniature swords with a ring pommel.

(I often wonder whether they were actually used for shaving or something, as the hafts have raised longitudinal lines on them as... finger grips...?)
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tsubame1 wrote:
I've a picture of a ring pommel for a sword that is indoubtably of Scythian deisgn


Here it is, Sui Dynasty, found in the so-called Xixing tomb :



Compare with this one, Hsiung-nu :



While here you can find a ring-pomelled tosu found in 1980 in Hubei - Anlu County - Wu Tang Shan in the tomb of a Prince. NanBeiChao or Sui Dinastyes. Presently in Anlu County museum . The resemblance with a "modern" Kodzuka is astonishing.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
OishiYoshio wrote:
Some of the earliest Chinese bronze money was made in that shape, ie as miniature swords with a ring pommel.

(I often wonder whether they were actually used for shaving or something, as the hafts have raised longitudinal lines on them as... finger grips...?)


Hi Very Happy .

Yes, you're right. There were coins as well.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A novel interpretation of the 6th-century sword bearing the oldest documented usage of the genka calendar in Japan uncovered from the G6 tomb of the Motooka tomb group (元岡古墳群G6号墳) in Fukuoka city appeared in the Yonhap News (聨合ニュース) on October 6th. Reporter Kim Thae-sik takes issue with the current interpretation that the sword was forged 12 times, rather preferring to understand the inscription as reading, “12 swords were forged”:

「大歲庚寅正月六日庚寅日時作刀凡十二果■」(■は練か?)

Experts in Japan, however, maintain that the operative character 果 does not have the meaning that Kim proposes.

The general lack of burial goods is unusual considering the presence of this inscribed sword. The G6 tomb was apparently robbed around the 13th century, leading Kim to suggest the possibility that other swords in the bunch were already made off with.

Kim suggests that this sword is a san’inken (三寅剣; 삼인검; a “three in (tiger) sword”) – a sword forged on the in day of an in month, of an in year (寅年・寅月・寅日): the inscription says that it was made in the 庚寅年正月6日庚寅 (the new year being an in month). Such swords, capable of subduing the power of the deleterious “three tigers,” (寅) the tiger, panther, and raccoon dog (or cat), were considered within East Asia to be imbued with considerable supernatural power. It is thus playing on the 寅 character.

There is a sword with a san’inken (三寅剣) inscription that dates to the 7-8th century that is kept in a personal collection in Nagano. There is some concern that the concept of a san’inken, at least with a Korean connection, however, may not date back to the second half of the 6th century.

Source: http://blog.goo.ne.jp/thetaoh/e/e5ed8be664deefab79955f28e0d180dd

As a side note, according to J-wiki, Fujiwara no Yoritsune (藤原頼経)’s childhood name was Mitora (三寅, the same characters as the above san-in), as he was born in an in year, in day, and in hour.
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