Bronze Bell ("Dōtaku")


Bronze Bell ("Dōtaku")

Archaeology / Yayoi / Mie

Place excavated:Found in Iga City, Mie

Yayoi period, 1st–3rd century


総高106.7cm 鐸身73.9cm 裾径35.2×30.3cm 重量15292g


Dotaku are bronze bells. They were transmitted to Japan around the 3rd century BC from China and the Korean Peninsula. Early dotaku were only a few dozen centimeters high. It is thought they were hung from cords tied to their handles. Bars made of wood or animal horn were suspended inside the dotaku to produce chiming sounds. That's why some dotaku bear marks where these bars struck their inner surfaces.
As time passed, dotaku became larger in scale. They also grew more decorative and gradually lost their function as objects to be rung. These changes are said to mark the transition from "dotaku meant to be heard" to "dotaku meant to be seen". This example is over one meter high and weighs over 14 kilograms, far too big to be hung up like earlier bells. The thin handle and large protruding ears suggests this was indeed a "dotaku made to be seen" and was used in ceremonies.
The bronzes on display at this museum are bluish-green in color, but they shone a brilliant gold when first produced. For ancient people, dotaku must have had colors and produced sounds never seen or heard before. It is thought they were used at harvest festivals or displayed as symbols of power at rituals to promote regional unity.

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