King of Na gold seal

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Composite image showing two views of the seal
Top view of the snake knob

The King of Na gold seal (Japanese: 漢委奴国王印) is a solid gold seal discovered in the year 1784 on Shikanoshima Island in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. The seal is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.[1] The seal is believed to have been cast in China and bestowed by Emperor Guangwu of Han upon a diplomatic official (envoy) visiting from Japan in the year 57 AD. The five Chinese characters appearing on the seal identify it as the seal of the King of Na state of Wa (Japan), vassal state of the Han Dynasty.[2] The seal is currently in the collection of the Fukuoka City Museum in Fukuoka, Japan. The seal is very well known in Japan, as its taught in Japanese history books to be a cultural asset which ascertains how Japan as a nation came into being. Its the first known textual record of Japan as a country.[3]


The seal is composed of gold of 95% purity.[4] It is made up of a square base, with the seal itself on the bottom face, and a handle on top of the base in the shape of a coiled serpent. It has a mass of 108.729 grams (3.8353 oz). The total height from base to handle is 2.236 centimetres (0.880 in). The base of the seal averages 2.347 centimetres (0.924 in) on a side. This dimension roughly corresponds to the traditional Chinese standard unit of length of one cun, as used in the Later Han Dynasty (about 2.304 centimetres [0.907 in]).[5]

Characters engraved on the seal[edit]

Base of seal (left), together with its imprint (right). The imprint is read from right to left, top to bottom.

The five characters engraved on the seal are (in the order in which they are to be read):


The meanings of these characters (in the context of this seal) are: "Han" (referring to the Han Dynasty of China), "Wa" (an ancient name for Japan), "Na" (an ancient kingdom / state within Japan), "state / country", and "ruler." Altogether, the meaning of the seal inscription is: "(seal of) the King of the Na state of the Wa [vassal?] of the Han Dynasty".

The character 委 is a loan for 倭 (Wa), an instance of the common practice of loaning characters in Classical Chinese. [6] The characters are engraved in the seal script style.


The seal has been judged to be the one described in the Book of the Later Han, a Chinese chronicle of the history of the Eastern Han Dynasty. According to the chronicle, the Chinese Emperor Guangwu conferred the seal on a diplomatic official visiting from Japan.

Contemporary description of conferral[edit]

The following is the original Chinese text from the chronicle:


This passage can be translated into English as:

"In the 2nd year of the jianwu zhongyuan reign period [AD 57], the Na state of Wa sent an envoy with tribute. The envoy introduced himself as a high official. The state lies in the far south of Wa. [Emperor] Guangwu bestowed on him a seal with a tassel."[3][8]

During the Han Dynasty, similar seals were bestowed on other regional sovereigns, in an attempt by the dynasty to bring these sovereigns into the Han ruling order.[3]


Commemorative monument near the site where the seal was uncovered in 1784

After being lost for an undetermined period of time, the seal was reportedly rediscovered on April 12, 1784, on Shika Island in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. According to contemporary reports, the seal was discovered by a farmer named Jinbei while repairing an irrigation ditch. It was found surrounded by stones forming a box-like structure around it. The stone above the seal required two adults to lift. After rediscovery, the seal was kept by the Kuroda clan, rulers of the Fukuoka Domain, and eventually donated by the Kuroda family to the city of Fukuoka in 1978.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Treasures of Japan – Exhibition catalogue, April 10 - May 27, 1990, Tokyo National Museum (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. 1990.
  2. ^ Miyake, Yonekichi (December 1892), "漢委奴國王印考 (A study of the seal [inscribed] to the King of the state of Na in Wa under the Han dynasty)", Shigaku Zasshi, 3 (37): 874–81
  3. ^ a b c d "The Permanent Exhibitions of the Fukuoka City Museum". Fukuoka City Museum. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  4. ^ "The Gold Seal, "Kan no Wa no Na no Kokuo"". Fukuoka Art Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  5. ^ "金印" [Gold Seal] (in Japanese). Fukuoka Prefectural Shakaikyouiku Sougou Center. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  6. ^ 黃當時 (2011). "金印 「漢委奴国王」 の読みと意味について" (PDF). 中国言語文化研究. 佛教大学中国言語文化研究会 (11). Retrieved 2023-09-18.
  7. ^ "後漢書·東夷列傳第七十五" [Houhanshu Part 75] (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  8. ^ Tsunoda, Ryusaku (1951). Goodrich, L. Carrington (ed.). Japan in the Chinese Dynastic Histories: Later Han Through Ming Dynasties. Perkins Asiatic monographs. South Pasadena, CA: P.D. and Ione Perkins. p. 187.