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Saturday, Sep. 24, 2011

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Epoch-making blade: An iron sword (center) from the sixth century bearing inscriptions believed to be the oldest known use of a calendar in Japan has been excavated from a tomb in the city of Fukuoka. FUKUOKA BOARD OF EDUCATION/KYODO

Sword bears oldest use of calendar


FUKUOKA — A sixth-century iron sword bearing a set of inscriptions believed to be the oldest known use in Japan of a calendar has been found at a tomb in Fukuoka.

The 19 kanji inlaid in the 75-cm sword include those that appear to indicate it was made on Jan. 6, 570, based on the Yuanjia calendar, which was brought to Japan via the Korean Peninsula during the Southern Song dynasty and came to be known here as the Genka calendar.

"The Genka calendar was believed to have been introduced to Japan by 554 during the Yamato dynasty. The sword's inscriptions are proof that the Genka calendar was being applied across the archipelago soon afterward," said Yasutoshi Sakaue, the Kyushu University professor heading the project. "This is an epoch-making item."

The Fukuoka board of education said the year and date inscribed, if correctly interpreted under the Genka calendar, correspond to 570.

The sword was unearthed from a site at the Motooka tombs complex in Fukuoka known as the G6 tomb.

The Yuanjia is a lunisolar calendar compiled by astronomer He Chengtian during the Southern Song dynasty. It was used in China from 445 to 509.

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