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"Kinbun'' Bronze calligraphy left behind: Thoughts that transcend time

My belongings for viewing the museum are monocular (for indoor use), binoculars (for outdoor use such as ruins), and magnifying glass (stone monuments that are not in a case). And smartphones for water bottles and snacks. (Most of the museums around the world allow you to take pictures. If the required number of pixels is about 12 million, an iPhone is enough. I would like to carry around museums around the world in my smartphone.)

On my trip to China last year (2019), I added one more piece of luggage when I was watching. Currently, I am making a text for a calligraphy class that I preside over. Shooting shouldn't be the goal, and I want to keep my luggage small and light so that it's easy to move around. After scrutinizing all the conditions, I chose a camera with a 10x zoom, took lots of pictures on the spot, and gathered all the materials of ancient Chinese characters is.

Well, I said ancient Chinese characters, but Kanji is the only character that has been handed down from more than 3000 years ago. The beginning is "Bone script". The character that appears after that is a character cast in a bronze ware called "Kinbun". Next, "stone drum sentence", and followed by characters unified by the first emperor of Qin. These are generally called ``Tensho'', but in fact, ``Tensho'' has various forms depending on the era, region, and characteristics of the material represented. And this time I would like to introduce "Kinbun". The history of letters is the history of mankind itself, and it is proof that people like us lived in that time. It's like it pops into your eyes.


Bronze ware itself was actively produced during the Shang and Zhou dynasties (B.C.1600-B.C.249), and is so exquisite that it is said that there are some pieces that cannot be reproduced even with today's technology. As fine crafts, they are highly valued and come in all shapes and sizes. Among them, in China, there are three large dings that are prohibited from being taken out of the country, which are called "Three Treasures of Hainai Bronze". (“Da Ke Ding” at the Shanghai Museum, “Da Ke Ding” at the Beijing National Museum, and “Mao Gong Ding” at the Taipei Palace Museum.) Since it was used for sacrifices when enshrining, it changed its status to a ritual vessel (a vessel used for rituals) and became so important that it became a symbol of royal authority.

Questioning the weight of the Ding", which is well known as a modern proverb meaning "to doubt and overthrow the power of the authority", was at that time when the king of Chu took away the Ding of the king of Zhou. It comes from a story that I tried to do. This time, the Ding of the National Museum had a high exhibition stand, so I could not see the inside where the inscription was carved. I was able to Repeatedly blurring out of focus due to unfamiliar camera operations, I was moved to say out loud every moment when details became clear through the lens.

Big Ding (height 93cm, weight 201.5kg)
Big Ding (height 93cm, weight 201.5kg)

By the way, "Kinbun" is mainly cast inside the bronze ware. In other words, it is not directly written (carved), but it is necessary to create three-dimensional characters and use this as a mold for casting. In fact, this manufacturing method is still a mystery, and various hypotheses have been put forward, but it has not been clearly elucidated even today. However, there is no doubt that the characters were created using an elaborate method that is unprecedented in the world.

Gold inscriptions cast inside a bronze ware
Gold inscriptions cast inside a bronze ware

Enlarged gold letter
Enlarged gold letter

Now, about "Da Ke Ding". This is a ding made by a noble named "Ku" during the reign of King Xiao (950?-886 B.C.) in the middle of the Western Zhou. There is an inscription of 290 characters, in which Ke recounts the glory of his ancestors, receives appointments from the Zhou King, and is described as having received vast tracts of land. Government posts in the Western Zhou dynasty adopted a hereditary system, and characters that honor ancestors are often seen. This custom was based on etiquette and was called 'Zang li yu ware' (representing etiquette with utensils), and the royal family and aristocrats of the time engraved important events on bronze ware such as dings. In other words, these are books that prove history.

The end of the inscription concludes with ``for descendants and grandchildren for eternity,'' and is engraved with Katsu's prayers for the prosperity of the king and Katsu's descendants. However, not long after this ding was made, the era entered the Warring States period, where a fierce battle for supremacy unfolded. In vain, they disappeared from history. However, even after 3,000 years, the remaining bronze characters are still able to convey the powerful and vivid thoughts of the people who lived in that era forever. With that in mind, I look at the history that has continued unbroken.

I'm savoring the happiness of being able to.

Please refer to this article for information on gold sentences.


(This article was published on January 30, 2020 in a series of essays published in the Nara newspaper, "Calligraphy in Life")


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