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The Afterlife of a Material Object: The Mysterious Gold Seal of 57 C.E.

Colloquium: Other UCB Archaeology | October 12 | 4 p.m. | Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor), IEAS Conference Room


Joshua A Fogel, Professor, Department of History, York University

Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)


According to the Later Han History, in the year 57 the emperor presented an emissary from what is now Japan with a gold seal and accompanying cord. The seal promptly disappeared from history until 1784 when a farmer in Kyushu discovered it while repairing an irrigation ditch in his rice paddy. Since then over 350 books and articles have been written about the seal (roughly one inch square at the base). The historiography can be broken down into four waves represented by distinctive attributes, including the view that the seal is entirely bogus. The gold seal is the first material object to pass between representative governments of "China" and "Japan," and the first instances of Chinese characters making their way to the archipelago from the mainland. It now rests in permanent display in the Fukuoka City Museum.


cjs-events@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3156