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The Land of Gold

January 19, 2017 10:28 pm | Jellyfish Education Consultancy

The Land of Gold

The name Japan is associated with a number of things like Robots, Hello Kitty, Technology and the like. Japan in Japanese is “nihon” which means “sun origin” or as it is known as “The Land of the Rising Sun” But most of us tend to question; where did the name “Japan” come from and why was it called Japan in the first place?

It is commonly believed that the word Japan comes from the famous Italian traveller; Marco Polo (1254-1324). He wrote a book about his travels and was entitled “Il Milione”.

He said, “People on the Island of Zipangu have tremendous quantities of gold.”

Marco Polo first called Japan as the Island of Zipangu or The Land of Gold. This was said to be the origin of the word Japan (or Giappone in Italian, Japon in French, etc.)

But why did Marco Polo call it Zipangu?

Gold was first discovered in Japan in 749, in river deposits. In that year, about 38 kg of gold from the Oshu region in north eastern Honshu was presented to the capital city of Nara to help build a statue of the Buddha.

When the Great Buddha was completed in 752, about 439 kg of the gold covering it had come from Oshu.

The glittering Buddha, measuring 15.8 meters in height, was viewed as an impressive display of Japan’s wealth by official delegations from the Kingdom of Silla (Korea) and Buddhist monks from Tang China and India.

So it was natural that, over time, legends about the enormous riches of the country of Wakoku (Japan) can be heard in the capital of Tang, China. The tales that were picked up by Muslim merchants in the Chinese port of Khānfū (Guangzhou) was the talk of the town that later on reached as far as western Asia.

During the time of China’s Sung dynasty (960-1279), Japan exported large quantities of gold to China, and in return imported copper coins, silk, ceramics and other goods. In 1124, a golden hall was constructed at Chuson-ji Temple in Oshu, and this made Chinese merchants even more interested in tales of Oshu gold.

The Mongols and Muslim traders played a vital role in China during the time of the Yuán (Mongol) Empire. Chinese trade goods spread throughout Eurasia and that became an international port for trade as far as Alexandria in Egypt. The more than 10,000 Muslim traders living in Zaytún played a leading role in that trade.

These tales probably sounded even more convincing when certain facts were added, such as the golden hall of Chuson-ji Temple, which Chinese merchants knew about.

Marco Polo’s book spread word in Europe about Japanese gold and he apparently learned about it from Muslim merchants in Zaytún. He wrote that the Emperor Khubilai Khaan sent a military expedition to the Japanese archipelago to take its gold but that the expedition failed after a huge storm scattered the Mongol fleet.

Today, the rapid increase of Japan advancement is no doubt one of the reasons why Japan is considered to be the modern day “Land of Gold”.

For those of you who are hungry for history and a good career, Japan is the best place to be.


Written by: Dee Llenos