Ninth century earthenware found in possible remains of ex-aristocrat’s residence in Kyoto

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The Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute said it has unearthed earthenware in an excavation site, which is believed to be the remains of a residence for Fujiwara no Yoshimi, a prominent politician and court noble in the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD). 

Earthenware found in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward is seen in this photo taken on Dec. 8 [Credit: Mainichi]

The earthenware found is inscribed with black ink as “Sanjo-in Tsuridono Takatsuki” (Sanjo residence, palatial-style ‘tsuridono’ architecture, pedestal serving bowl). The Chinese character “in” in the inscription means a “great residence.” The research institute said the Chinese characters such as “in” inscribed on the pottery support the theory that the remains where it was unearthed were those for the residence of Fujiwara no Yoshimi. It was the first time that the location of a residence of an aristocrat within Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) had been confirmed. 

The earthenware was discovered when research was conducted on the building of a new campus for Bukkyo University there. Old documents and other materials had suggested that the residence of Fujiwara no Yoshimi could be in that area, but there were also different views. Fujiwara no Yoshimi was a younger brother of Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, who became the first regent from outside the Imperial Family. Old documents show that Empress Dowager Nobuko, Yoshimi’s elder sister, had stayed at the residence for about one year from 859 AD. 

The Chinese character “in” refers to a structure where the Imperial Family stayed, and the pedestal serving bowl, which was inscribed in Chinese characters, is believed to have been used in a traditional palatial-style “tsuridono” architecture overhanging the pond. The remains of the pond and the “tsuridono” architecture were also found along with ceramics imported from China. 

Nishisanjodai, the name of Fujiwara no Yoshimi’s residence, was also called “Hyakkatei” (One hundred flower pavilion) where Emperor Seiwa is believed to have hosted a cherry flower banquet. Yoshihiro Marukawa, a senior official of the research institute said, “It becomes clear that (Fujiwara no Yoshimi) had major power. Based on the analysis of the artifacts, it is believed to have been built in the latter half of the 9th century, which coincided with the declining period of the Yoshimi family.” 

Source: The Mainichi Daily News [December 10, 2011]

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