Todaijiyama Kofun Tumulus (東大寺山古墳)
Todaijiyama Kofun is a keyhole-shaped tumulus constructed around the late fourth century corresponding to about the middle of the early Kofun period located in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture. Among burial goods, there was a sword with 'Zhongping,' the era name inscription inlaid with 24 letters.
From Wani down to Ichinomoto, Tenri City, which used to be the base of Wani clan, there are tumuli presumed to have been constructed by the related families scattered on the hill which is about 70 meters higher than the plain area. One of the above tumuli is this Kofun.
On this hill, there is a highland settlements sites of the late Yayoi period, which is the largest scale in Nara Prefecture. Within the area of about 400 meters from east to west and 300 meters from north to south, there are pit dwelling houses surrounded by double karabori (dry moat), of which the structure is in common with Kannonjiyama Site in Izumi City, Osaka Prefecture. This tumulus is located overlapping on this highland settlements sites and it was constructed about 150 to 200 years after the sites had finished its functions.
As for its scale and shape, it is an estimated 140-meter long keyhole-shaped tumulus, on which Ento haniwa (cylindrical haniwa) were placed in a surrounding way. It was constructed around the late fourth century.
In the main part of the burial facilities on the rounded rear part of the tumulus, there is an estimated 9.4-meter long, large-scale Nendokaku (clay surrounding wooden coffin), of which the main part had been robbed. A grave was dug on each of the east and the west sides of the Nendokaku and many of weapons and arms were buried in them. From the grave on the east side, a sword with the era name, 'Zhongping' was excavated.
There are weapons including 20 iron swords and nine iron swords of sharpened two edges.
The ring pommels of five iron swords including the Zhongping iron sword are different each other in design. They are basically in the category of a three-leaf ring, a ring with three leaves confined in it, which have been excavated from Sekiganri Kofun Tumulus in Rakuro (an ancient county existed in the northern Korean Peninsula). An iron sword with a three-leaf ring was excavated from the Waka Hachimangu Kofun Tumulus (fourth century) in Fukuoka City.
Some of the iron swords have a house-shaped ring pommel and the pattern is similar to that of Kaoku monkyo (icons of four types of house carved on the ancient mirror) excavated from Samida Takarazuka Kofun Tumulus in Kawai-cho, Nara Prefecture.
A 110-centimeter long iron sword with 24 letters inlaid with gold was excavated. Kissho ku' (lucky omen phrase) was used for the inscription on the back of the iron sword.
Inscription was written as above. The inscription means that 'A sword with an inscription has been made on the day of Hinoeuma (the Fiery Horse) in May in the year XX of Zhongping.
As it is a sword thoroughly tempered, it will please God in the heavens and keep you out of harm's way on the earth.'
Zhongping is the name of the Emperor Ling's era in the Later Han Dynasty, which corresponds to 184 to 189 AD, and it was the time when 'Wakoku War' (Gishiwajinden [The Record of Japan in the "History of Wei"]) and 'Wakoku War' (Sosho [Sung Shu]) drew to a close. The Zhongping sword with the year inlaid is considered to have been given by the Later Han Dynasty after the 'Wakoku War' came to an end.
It is unknown when and where this particular iron sword was obtained and when it was buried in this Kofun. However, it may be possible to think if the people in this area had communications with the Later Han of China.
The ring pommel attached to the iron sword is with Torimon kazari and inner bend, which is different from the straight swords typical of the early Kofun period in Japan, and so it is made in China (the Later Han) as the era name of Zhongping shows.