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Missing sacred swords found 1,250 years later

A pair of swords found underneath the Great Buddha of Todaljl temple in Japan have undergone x-ray analysis, identifying them as two sacred weapons dedicated to the temple around 760 A.D. by the Empress Komyo.

The swords, decorated with gold, silver and lacquer, appear on the top of about 100 swords in the weapon list of the Kokka Chimpo Cho (the book of national treasures to Todaiji) kept at the Shosoin repository at the temple in the ancient capital of Nara, and can be considered important historical materials in the related research.

The swords were discovered at the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) along with other items such as a silver pot near the pedestal on which the Great Buddha sits when three holes were created nearby for research purposes, and were designated together as national treasures in 1930.

When maintenance workers recently took an X-ray photo of the swords, they found the inscriptions ‘‘Yoken’’ and ‘‘Inken’’ on the blades, which indicate the swords are highly likely those called ‘‘Yohoken’’ and ‘‘Inhoken’’ that the empress dedicated in 756 at a memorial service for the emperor who died earlier in the year.

The swords were likely removed from the Shosoin treasure list at the request of the empress and buried in the location where they were found.

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