Please look at the 233-character inscription engraved on this bell. If you look closely, you will find the four-character phrase “Bankoku-shinryo.” The four characters symbolize how the southern isles of the Ryukyu Kingdom are “undying lands” that bridge the nations of the world through commerce, that they may thrive. The inscription is emblematic of the maritime kingdom’s stout spirit. Additionally, the bell is formally known as the “Shuri Castle Temple Bell,”and true to its name, it’s believed to have once hung inside Shuri Castle’s main temple.
The bell was originally cast in 1458, during a time when the Kingdom engaged in vigorous trade with many nations. A Zen priest from Kyoto was commissioned to create an engraving that poetically symbolizes peace and prosperity. Ryukyu is the crossroads of mainland China, Korea, Japan, and the many nations of Southeast Asia, and thus came to develop a unique culture that fuses each of those countries, as well as possessing many of their treasures.
Still, why is this bell so black compared to others? The truth is, this bell saw the fires of World War during the Battle of Okinawa while it was still at Shuri Castle. Though the bell was showered in bullet fire, the original mold miraculously survived. As such, it is a priceless cultural treasure that lives as a reminder of Ryukyu’s golden days.