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Asuka-dera in Nara Credited for the Oldest Pearls

By July 5, 2017 at 12:17 am
Asuka-dera
Asuka-dera(Photo : 123rf)

Asuka-dera, otherwise known as Hokoji Temple, in Asukamura, Nara is one of the oldest temples in Japan built in 588 shortly after the arrival of Buddhism in Japan. Now, the temple is in the limelight on account of ancient pearls.

The Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has verified among the finds unearthed at the temple 60 years ago 14 pearls of different sizes - the oldest ever unearthed in Japan. 

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The pearls are 1.5 to 2.0mm in diameter and have small holes dug in the center. They were unearthed together with glass beads and arms but much worn out by time and left unidentified then as to the material.

Researcher Tomomi Tamura of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties brought in x-ray and other modern equipment to analyze the properties. The study identified the major component of the finds to be calcium carbonate in a number of layers and eventually concluded them to be pearls.

Pearls are among the seven treasures in Buddhism (gold, silver, pearls, agate crystal, coral, lapis lazuli) and have always been highly regarded together with gold and silver. The ones unearthed at Asuka-dera this time are considered the oldest buried remains in Japanese temples.

Tamura comments:

"Asuka-dera betrays strong influences of the Tumulus Period producing numerous arms from that period on. 

"The pearls should help study earlier phases of Buddhist culture."

Asuka-dera is famed for a Great Buddha believed to have been made by Kuratsukuri no Torii early in the 7th century, now designated as an important cultural property. A sculpture of Prince Shotoku depicted as a male bodhisattva is another charmer for the visitors. (Nathan Shiga) 

Source: NHK

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