President, Ochanomizu University
A new rubbed copy of all four sides of the famous Gwanggaeto (Gwanggaeto the Great) Stele has been discovered. On Saturday, July 7, 2012, The Ochanomizu University Center for Comparative Japanese Studies held an International Japanology Symposium to commemorate and display the new discovery.
Measuring approximately 5.5 meters square, the rubbed copy is an extremely rare and valuable find for two key reasons. First, the fact that the copy has never been mounted gives researchers a better understanding of how rubbed copies were originally made. Second, the copy dates back to the period when the lime coating applied to the surface of the stele to facilitate the rubbing process began to come off, making it much easier to read the original letters.
The details behind the newly discovered collection are still under investigation , but experts believe there is a good possibility that the copy was obtained for educational purposes by the Tokyo Women's Normal School, which later evolved into Ochanomizu University, in the 1920s or 1930s.
The Ochanomizu University History Museum plans to publish high-resolution images of the entire rubbed copy in its digital archives.
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King Gwanggaeto was the 19th monarch of Goguryeo, which stretched from the northern reaches of the Korean Peninsula to Northeast China. His reign (391-412) marks the golden age of the Goguryeo kingdom. In 414, King Jangsu King Gwanggaeto's son and successor erected a massive stone monument as a memorial to his recently deceased father. The monolith, now known as the Gwanggaeto Stele, stands near the tomb of Gwanggaeto in what is today the Ji'an, a city in the Jilin province of China. The irregularly shaped prism, carved out of tuff, is approximately 6.4 meters tall and features a lengthy inscription. Consisting of around 1,800 characters and covering all four sides of the stele, the text describes battles between Wa (Japan) and Goguryeo that occurred in the fourth century, making it an invaluable resource for historical studies of fourth-century Japan.
The rediscovery of the Gwanggaeto Stele in the late 19th century sparked interest among the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, numerous Japanese historical researchers, and countless other individuals and groups hoping to decipher the monument's ancient text. For many Japanese organizations at the time, the text represented an incredibly important artifact; its depictions of Wa's presence and activities in the Korean Peninsula during the fourth century could serve to justify modern Japan's expansion into the area. As attempts to decode the inscription continued, researchers thus sent many "rubbed copies" of the text back to Japan.
After the conclusion of World War II, some theorists suggested that the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office might have deliberately used lime to tamper with the inscription (a claim that has since been refuted). The history of the Gwanggaeto Stele and its rubbed copies is thus colored by centuries of debate, disagreement, and controversy.
Rubbed copies of the Gwanggaeto Stele are generally classified into three basic groups.
Items that fall into group 1. are technically "edged," not "rubbed," and therefore not considered accurate representations of the characters on the stele. Most rubbed copies fall into group 2., which includes large numbers of copies made from the 1890s to the 1930s. The items in group 3. provide the most faithful representations of the stele and boast considerable historical value but also reflect every bump and divot on the surface of the stele, rendering the characters largely indecipherable.
The newly discovered rubbed copy is believed to have been either purchased by or donated to the Tokyo Women's Normal School, which later evolved into Ochanomizu University, in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. After the Tokyo Women's Normal School moved from the Ochanomizu area to Ohtsuka (the current location of Ochanomizu University) in 1932, the copy was most likely stored in the main building's Historical Japanese Manuscript Room. Experts speculate that the copy was then relocated to the office of Department of History Professor Kazuo Aoki (1926-2009; a specialist in ancient Japanese history and Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University) when construction began on the Faculty of Letters & Education Main Building (now the Faculty of Letters & Education, Building 1), which was completed in 1972. Following Professor Aoki's retirement in 1992, the copy was then transferred to the Museology Resource Center and eventually moved to the Ochanomizu University museum around 2009. Although the details behind the rubbed copy are still under investigation, the university decided to announce the discovery after specialists successfully determined the nature and age of the rubbed copy in March 2012.
The rubbed copy of the Gwanggaeto Stele in the Ochanomizu University History Museum collection was discovered in a complete set of all four sides.
The four sides, which have yet to be mounted, have the following dimensions.
|Side 1||H: 546 cm; W: 150 cm|
|Side 2||H: 537 cm; W: 101 cm|
|Side 3||H: 544 cm; W: 182 cm|
|Side 4||H: 532 cm; W: 125 cm|
The rubbed copy was originally created by covering the stele with square pieces of Chinese "rice paper" measuring roughly 53 cm by 53 cm.
On Monday, March 26, 2012, Ochanomizu University invited leading Gwanggaeto Stele scholar Yukio Takeda (a specialist in ancient Korean history and Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo) to inspect the rubbed copy. Two days before Professor Takeda's visit, the university also had Xu Jianxin (a specialist in ancient Japanese history and Professor in the Institute of World History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) a prominent Chinese authority on the stele who was in Japan on business look at the copy. Their investigations produced the following findings.
The rubbed copy discovered at Ochanomizu University is a typical "lime rubbed copy." Although it is impossible to specify the exact period during which the copy was made (taken), a close inspection of the copy and a comparison with other existing lime rubbed copies indicates that the specimen falls into Yukio Takeda's "C2" classification and bears a resemblance to the Masuichi Kajimoto copy (stored in the Kyushu University Library collection) and the Kakusuke Naito copy (stored in the collection of the Meguro History Musuem in Meguro-ku, Tokyo), suggesting that the Ochanomizu University rubbed copy originated circa 1927.
From a historical research standpoint, the rubbed copy discovered at Ochanomizu University is significant for two key reasons. First, the fact that the copy has never been mounted gives researchers a better understanding of how rubbed copies were originally made. Second, the Ochanomizu University copy dates back to the period when the lime coating applied to the surface of the stele to facilitate the rubbing process began to come off, making it much easier to read the original letters.
Due to the effects of erosion and disintegration on the Gwanggaeto Stele itself, there is now almost no way to decipher the text on the stone without taking additional measures. Scholars thus hope that comparing raw stone rubbed copies, hand-inked copies, and other lime rubbed copies will help unravel the mystery of what the writing on the stele really means.
Although experts have yet to determine exactly how the rubbed copy came into the possession of Ochanomizu University, there is a good possibility that the Tokyo Women's Normal School either purchased the copy with recovery funds or received it as a donation after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Researchers now plan to explore intriguing possible connections between the rubbed copy and items in the collection of Ochanomizu University's Museology Resource Center, which includes ancient Chinese mingqi (burial goods) and knife money, as well as school trips taken by Tokyo Women's Normal School students to China and the Korean Peninsula beginning in the Taisho period.
In addition to signifying a profoundly important development in ancient East Asian history, the new rubbed copy thus also represents a valuable resource for history education and modern international relations in East Asia.
At Ochanomizu University on Friday, March 26, 2012
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