In the year 57 C.E., the court of Later Han dynasty presented a gold seal to an emissary from somewhere in what is now Japan. The seal soon vanished from history, only to be unearthed in 1784 in Japan. In the subsequent two-plus centuries, nearly 400 books and articles (mostly by Japanese) have addressed every conceivable issue surrounding this small object of gold. Joshua Fogel places the conferment of the seal in inter-Asian diplomacy of the first century and then traces four waves of historical analysis that the seal has undergone since its discovery, as the standards of historical judgment have changed over these years and the investment in the seal's meaning have changed accordingly.
Joshua Fogel (Ph.D., Columbia, 1980) is Canada Research Chair and Professor of History at York University. He has written, edited, and translated over forty books and is the founding editor of the journal, Sino-Japanese Studies (www.chinajapan.org). His primary interest lies in the cultural dimension of Sino-Japanese relations.