Bronze Bell ([Dōtaku])
Numerous bronze bells, like this one, were made for ceremonial use. The creation of such bells spread from China and Korea, reaching Japan around the 3rd century BC. The bronze used in this bell is an alloy consisting mainly of copper, tin, and lead. The surface has formed a bluish-green patina over time, but it was once a brilliant gold. It is believed that such bells were originally hung from a cord tied to a handle. A clapper made of wood, stone, or animal horn was suspended inside the bell to allow it to be rung.
The two sides of this bell have different designs. One side shows a grid-like pattern of rectangles. The other side features patterned sections in horizontal bands. Despite the bell's heavy body, the handle is wide and thin. This is a common feature of the bronze bells made from the 1st to 3rd century.
This era also saw the emergence of unique regional designs of bronze bells. This bell was found in Shizuoka Prefecture, but bells found further west in Japan have different characteristics, such as handles decorated with spiral-shaped ornaments. These differences arose from a number of factors. Beginning around the 1st century, the source of lead changed. Additionally, bell sculptors split into two distinct groups and clay replaced stone as the main material for creating casting molds. These changes allowed for bells with more intricate motifs and larger designs.
The bells continued to grow larger and more decorative until they gradually lost their clappers and ceased to function as ringing bells. These changes marked a transition from bells for making sounds to bells primarily for looking at. This bell also probably wielded ritual power as a highly decorated, large bell for people to look at, rather than listen to.