18th century scrolls nominated as Important Cultural Property

University News | April 03, 2019

An Imperial Edict notice written in Manchu, sent from Qing vice-general Sanxing to the leader of the Karafuto Ainu people on Sakhalin Island.

On March 18th, 2019, a collection of scrolls in the Hokkaido University Library known as the “Yaenkoro Ainu Monjo Documents” was officially nominated to become an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese Cultural Affairs Council. The new official title of the work is “Karafuto Nayoro Souotona Monjyo (Yaenkoro Ainu Monjyo)”

The two scrolls, containing 13 historical writings.

The collection contains records spanning the 18th and 19th century describing the dealings between the Karafuto Ainu people, Japanese officials under the Tokugawa shogunate, and Chinese officials within the Qing dynasty. The two scrolls contain 13 manuscripts and documents, with 2 written in the classical Manchu language, 2 in classical Chinese, and 9 in classical Japanese. The documents within the scrolls contain descriptions and records of tributes sent to the Qing, as well as a note from Mogami Tokunai, who was part of the surveying expedition of the Sakhalin (Karafuto in Japanese) commissioned by Tokugawa shogunate. The documents also contain a writing related to an official edict issued from the Matsumae Domain, as well as one issued from the magistrate’s office in Hakodate. Altogether, the collection is a significant and valuable resource for research, offering a rare insight into the history of the so-called “Northern World”.

This is the first piece of cultural property at Hokkaido University to be nominated for designation as an Important Cultural Property under the category of Arts and Crafts. Previously, an Ainu wooden dugout canoe was designated under the Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties category, and both the Sapporo Agricultural Farm No. 2 and Botanic Garden Main Museum were designated Important Cultural Property for their structures. 

The Model Barn complex (left) and the Botanic Garden Museum building (right) were both designated as Important Cultural Buildings.

Visitors can access replicas of the scrolls for reading and research purposes at Hokkaido University’s Central Library. In addition, the general public is welcome to view the original scrolls at a special exhibit between April 16th and May 6th hosted by the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo.