Written, Used, Discarded, and Unintentionally Preserved: Writings on Wood in Ancient Japan

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


This paper provides an overview of the discovery, typology, and practical use of kodai mokkan, inscribed wooden tablets that were produced in large numbers between the seventh and tenth centuries in Japan.
While a small number of these mokkan had been carefully preserved for centuries in imperial repositories, the vast majority of the tablets was not discovered until recent decades. Excavations of sites mostly related to local or central government facilities, elite residences, and temples have yielded hundreds of thousands of inscribed tablets or shavings (kezurikuzu).
As a result, our understanding of various aspects of government, economy, and society in ancient Japan has changed and we have been allowed glimpses of the practical execution of government regulations and of daily life. Mokkan have also contributed to a better understanding of archaeological remains as they occasionally allow for precise dating and identification.
PeriodNov 15 2013
Held atHamburg University, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Germany