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Historic diplomatic letter to Japan found

Update: April, 17/2013 - 09:52
Stamp of approval: This 400-year-old letter marks the beginning of diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and Japan.— Photo courtesy

HA NOI (VNS) — A highly significant and historic diplomatic letter from Viet Nam to Japan written in 1591 is now on exhibition in Japan together with eight other old letters.

The letter was written by a Vietnamese mandarin seeking to set up diplomatic relations with the northern Asian nation on behalf of his nation.

It was found in a shop dealing in rare books in the old royal capital of Kyoto and placed with the other letters in the Kyushu National Museum.

"The letter expresses Viet Nam's strong determination to trade with Japan," Reio Fujita, a representative of the museum, told Vietnam News Agency. "It is a valuable document showing that the two countries set up an official relationship more than 400 years ago."

Japanese historians estimate that Viet Nam sent about 20 letters to Japan in that period, including one to Shogun ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) in 1601. This was once considered the oldest letter from Viet Nam to Japan, but it was lost many years ago.

The new discovery is the first proof Japanese historians have of a relationship formed under the even older rule of Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-98).

The newly found letter opens with the words: "From An Nam (the former name of Viet Nam)." It was sent to General Hideyoshi on March 21, 1591.

The letter is signed by Mandarin Nguyen Thu Gian on behalf of the Vietnamese king Le The Tong. The writer expressed the king's wish to set up diplomatic relation with Japan and said An Nam's royal court had sent elephant tusks as gifts to the Japanese ruler together with the letter.

The museum has also recorded General Ieyasu's letter in which he agreed to the request. — VNS

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