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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The sovereign of Great Wa resides in Yamato


was during the reign of Suinin, if Japanese chronology be accepted, that notices of Japan began to appear in Chinese history--a history which justly claims to be reliable from 145 B.C. Under the Later Han dynasty (A.D. 25-220), great progress was made in literature and art by the people of the Middle Kingdom, and this progress naturally extended, not only to Korea, which had been conquered by the Chinese sovereign, Wu-Ti, in the second century before Christ and was still partly under the rule of Chinese governors, but also to the maritime regions of Japan, whence the shores of Korea were almost within sight. China in those ages was incomparably the greatest and most enlightened country in the Orient, and it had become the custom with adjacent States to send emissaries to her Court, bearing gifts which she handsomely requited; so that while, from one point of view, the envoys might be regarded as tribute-carriers, from another, the ceremony presented the character of a mere interchange of neighbourly civilities. In Japan, again, administrative centralization was still imperfect. Some of the local magnates had not yet been brought fully under the sway of the Yamato invaders, and some, as scions of the Imperial family, arrogated a considerable measure of independence. Thus it resulted that several of these provincial dukes--or "kings," as not a few of them were called--maintained relations with Korea, and through her despatched tribute missions to the Chinese Court from time to time.

style="text-align: justify;">In these circumstances it is not surprising to find the Chinese historians of the first century A.D. writing: "The Wa (Japanese) dwell southeast of Han* (Korea) on a mountainous island in midocean. Their country is divided into more than one hundred provinces. Since the time when Wu-Ti (140-86 B.C.) overthrew Korea, they (the Japanese) have communicated with the Han (Korean) authorities by means of a postal service. There are thirty-two provinces which do so, all of which style their rulers 'kings' who are hereditary. The sovereign of Great Wa resides in Yamato, distant 12,000 li (4000 miles) from the frontier of the province of Yolang (the modern Pyong-yang in Korea). In the second year of Chung-yuan (A.D. 57), in the reign of Kwang-wu, the Ito** country sent an envoy with tribute, who styled himself Ta-fu. He came from the most western part of the Wa country. Kwang-wu presented him with a seal and ribbon." [Aston's translation.]

*It is necessary to distinguish carefully between the Han dynasty of China and the term "Han" as a designation of Korea.

**The ideographs composing this word were pronounced "I-to" at the time when they were written by the Hou-Han historians, but they subsequently received the sound of "Wo-nu" or "wa-do."

These passages have provoked much discussion, but Japanese annalists are for the most part agreed that "Ito" should be read "I-no-na," which corresponds with the ancient Na-no-Agata, the present Naka-gori in Chikuzen, an identification consistent with etymology and supported by the fact that, in 1764, a gold seal supposed to be the original of the one mentioned above, was dug out of the ground in that region. In short, Na-no-Agata is identical with the ancient Watazumi-no-Kuni, which was one of the countries of Japan's intercourse. Further, the Yamato of the Hou-Han historians is not to be regarded as the province of that name in central Japan, but as one of the western districts, whether Yamato in Higo, or Yamato in Chikugo. It has been shrewdly suggested* that the example of Korea had much influence in inducing the local rulers in the western and southern provinces to obtain the Chinese Court's recognition of their administrative status, but, whatever may have been the dominant motive, it seems certain that frequent intercourse took place between Japan and China via Korea immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian era. Again, that Koreans came freely to Japan and settled there is attested by the case of a son of the King of Shiragi who, coming to the Tajima region, took a Japanese wife and established himself there, founding a distinguished family. The closing episode of the Emperor Suinin's life was the despatch of Tajima Mori, this immigrant's descendant, to the country of Tokoyo, nominally for the purpose of obtaining orange-seeds, but probably with the ulterior motive of exploration.

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