In 2004, an inscription on a gravestone was found at Xi’an city in Shaanxi in China, site of Chang’an, the Tang Dynasty capital from 618-907. It is the oldest example of the written name of the country of Japan. Achievements of Japanese envoys to Tang China, Nakamaro Abe-no, Makibi Kibi-no and others, were additionally engraved on it. 171 characters of the seal-engraving style in 12 lines were carved on the monument of 40 centimeters square.
The content: “His family name was I and personal name was Manari. The name of his country is Japan. He came to all the way to Tang by order of Japan. He was incomparably polite and studied hard constantly.
He served the Imperial Court as a government official. But he died of unexpected illness at age 36 in January 734 (Kaigen 22). Emperor Xuan Zong (reigned 712-756) mourned the early death of this unusual talent, held a grand funeral and gave him the exalted official rank of Keeper of the Emperor’s Wardrobe.
“His dead body was buried in this ground but his soul must return to his homeland.” The ship on which Nakamaro Abe-no was trying to return home was damaged several times during the voyage. On hearing of this accident, Li Bo in his grief wrote this famous dirge.
In the latter half of the 7th century, the Emperor Tenmu codified laws named Kiyomihararyo and changed the name of the country to “Nippon” from “Wa (or Yamato)” and at the same time adopted the title “Emperor” instead of “Great King.”