Tago hi (Tago Stone Monument in Gunma Prefecture) (多胡碑)

Tago hi is an ancient stone monument in Aza Gomon, Ike, Yoshii Town, Tano County, Gunma Prefecture and designated as a special national historic site. Together with Yama no Ue no hi (the monument on the mountain top) and Kanaizawa no hi (literally, the monument in Kanaizawa), they are collectively called 'Kozuke Sanpi' (Three Monuments in Kozuke Province). In the history of Japanese calligraphy, it is one of the Japan's Three Ancient Monuments along with Nasu no Kuni no Miyatsuko no Hi (an old monument of local ruling families in Nasu Province) and Tagajo hi (an old monument in Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture).
Judging from its written content, Tago hi is assumed to have been built in the latter half of the eighth century


The monument consists of the body, capping stone and stone pedestal, and the body is a prismatic column 125 cm in height and 60 cm in width, on which 80 kanji (Chinese characters) of 6 lines are engraved in yagen-bori style (a carving method in which each line is cut or carved so that its section is V-shaped). The pyramidal capping stone is 25 cm in height, having an eave 88 cm in width. A character '國' (country) is said to be engraved on the pedestal stone, but it is impossible to confirm it because of concrete repair. The material is Ushibuse sandstone produced in the vicinity, locally called Amabiki stone or Tako stone.

The epigraph reads that it was built on April 5, 711 in commemoration of the establishment of Tago County, but there are different opinions on the interpretation. Particular attention has been paid to the two-letter kanji '給羊' through the ages, and there has been a long-term controversy as to whether the kanji '羊' (a sheep) means a direction or a personal name. Currently a theory that it is a personal name is widely accepted. There is also a different idea that it is a simplified kanji of '鮮' in '朝鮮' (Korea). In addition, a lot of personal-name theory supporters take the kanji '羊' as people from Korea, and there are opinions that Tago may mean many 'Ko' (here, read as 'Go;' savage from Northern China in ancient times). The fact that a lot of roof tiles with the written character '羊' and Koma-jinja Shrine exists in the neighborhood strengthens this theory.

Two of the Kozuke Sanpi have a different character in the content and form from that of Tago hi. However, because these three stone monuments exist in a relatively small area in the same county and might have been built at about the same time, the relationship between the three monuments and the political situation at that time can be pointed out.

In a calligraphic aspect, since Dosai TAKAHASHI, a Japanese classical scholar in the Edo period introduced its value, many writers and artists have visited Tago hi. The value was accepted even by Chinese calligraphers during the Qing Dynasty. The brushstrokes are spontaneous and powerful, and the character style is a rounded printed style. They are said to have been influenced by Rikucho (Six Dynasties) Culture or akin to the writing style of Northern Wei in China.

For local people it was a tomb of 'Hitsuji Tayu' (a sheep officer) and they respected and worshiped it as a god, calling it 'Hitsuji-sama' (a god of sheep). This is why this stone monument, which is relatively easy to be damaged, has been preserved in very good condition. It is still preserved in the shrine hall.

It was designated as a special historic site. A town-managed memorial hall has been established as an annex, so if you request your visit in advance, you are allowed to enter it. However, it is prohibited to touch it with your hand.

[Original Japanese]