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Tsukushi: Isle Of Unknown Fires

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Chapter Summary

The 'unknown fires' cited in Man'yōshū refer to the light effects that still appear in the inland seas enclosed by the islands off the west coast of Kyushu. To the north of Tsukushi beyond the Tsushima Straits also lay the warring states of the Korean peninsula, and Yamato rulers were repeatedly drawn into the complex power struggles unfolding there. A culture of building giant tombs like these can be found in much of East Asia, originating in China and spreading into the Korean peninsula before it appeared in Japan. A combination of dynastic rivalries at court, Tsukushi's strategic importance, and its contacts with the Korean peninsula always made this region vulnerable to the threat of rebellion against the Yamato state. After the Iwai Rebellion, therefore, Tsukushi developed into a front line of attack as successive generations of soldiers were stationed in this outpost of Yamato rule.

Keywords: giant tombs; Iwai Rebellion; Korean peninsula; Kyushu; Tsukushi; unknown fires; Yamato state



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