Timeless Treasures Set to Enthrall New Generations / The 75th Annual Shoso-in Exhibition
15:21 JST, October 3, 2023
Fifty-nine treasures from the vast Shoso-in Imperial collection will be displayed at Nara National Museum in Nara from Oct. 28 to Nov. 13.
The exhibits will include numerous Buddhist objects, such as a kesa priest’s robe associated with Emperor Shomu (701-756), as well as a biwa lute decorated with intricate mother-of-pearl inlay.
Many works feature elaborate designs wrought through superlative technique, exemplifying the vibrant Tenpyo culture that flourished in the eighth century during the Nara period (710-784).
In keeping with precedent, the venue will only accept visitors who have bought advance tickets that specify dates and entry times. But to encourage even more people to appreciate these priceless cultural jewels, the exhibition will open from 8 a.m. daily — one hour earlier than usual.
Kaede Suozome Raden no So no Biwa
(Biwa Lute Made of Sappan-Stained Maplewood with Mother-of-Pearl and Painting)
(97 centimeters long, 40.5 centimeters wide at the widest point)
This is one of the five four-stringed biwa lutes in the Shoso-in collection, and is of a type that originated in Persia. The front surface depicts a group of people atop a white elephant, dancing and playing such instruments as the flute. The mountains in the background are seen in perspective; the scene is a valuable source of information about a painting style particular to the Nara period. The back side is adorned with mother-of-pearl seashell inlays, among other decorations. The abalone shells used for this biwa have never been found in biwa lutes made outside Japan, leading to the belief that it was made domestically.
Hekiji Kingin-e no Hako
(Wood Offering Box with Floral Design Painted in Gold and Silver on a Blue Ground)
(27.9 centimeters long, 17.5 centimeters wide, 10.6 centimeters high)
This box was made to contain offerings to Buddha. Fashioned from Japanese cypress, the legged box is decorated with gold and silver patterns featuring flowers and butterflies on a blue background. The center of the lid depicts branch-holding parakeets surrounded by long-tailed birds and other creatures. The sides of the box include other birds and a flower-and-branch pattern. The underside, meanwhile, sports handwritten kanji characters that read “Senjudo,” indicating that the item was originally kept in Todaiji temple’s Senjudo hall, which enshrines a statue of Senju Kannon (thousand-armed Kannon).
Kujo Shino Juhishoku no Kesa
(Quilted Nine-Panel Kesa in Mottled Colors)
(253 centimeters wide, 147 centimeters long)
This kesa robe is listed first in the “Kokka Chinpo Cho,” which records items cherished by the eighth-century Emperor Shomu. It comprises green, purple, white and other colored cloth materials cut into different shapes that were layered and quilted. The garment is modeled after the rag-sewn “funzo-e” robes worn by ancient Indian priests. The term “juhishoku” (bark color) relates to the robe’s mottled colors. Nine kesa robes are listed in “Kokka Chinpo Cho,” indicating Emperor Shomu’s deep devotion to Buddhism.
Heiradenhai no Enkyo
(Bronze Mirror with Floral Design in Mother-of-Pearl and Amber on the Back)
(39.3 centimeters in diameter, 0.9 centimeters thick at the edge)
This mirror is believed to have been made in China, based on analyses of its components. The back side is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay made from yakogai shell in a flower-and-leaf design. The flower cores feature gold and green pigments with inlaid pieces of reddish amber. The leaves and flower buds are carved with hair-width lines. Spaces between the motifs are encrusted with blue, green and white-turquoise fragments.
Advance reservations required
Nara National Museum / Oct. 28-Nov. 13 / Open daily
Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (until 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Nov. 3). Last entry one hour before closing
Tickets: ¥2,000 for adults, ¥1,500 for university and high school students, ¥500 for junior high and elementary school students
Late-hour discount: ¥1,500 for adults, ¥1,000 for university and high school students, free for junior high and elementary school students (after 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and after 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Nov. 3)
*Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis through https://www.e-tix.jp/shosoin-ten/en/
*Tickets will be sold up until entrance time slots on exhibition days; sales end when tickets sell out. No tickets will be sold at the Nara National Museum.
*For more information, see https://shosoin-ten.jp/en/
Organizer: Nara National Museum
Sponsors: Iwatani Corporation, INDEN-YA Co., Ltd., SGC Co., Ltd., NIPPON TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE WEST CORPORATION, Kansai Electrical Safety Inspection Association, Kyoto Arts and Crafts University, Kintetsu Railway Co., Ltd., Central Japan Railway Company, West Japan Railway Company, Shionogi Healthcare Co., Ltd., DAIKIN INDUSTRIES, LTD., Daicel Corporation, Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd., Nakanishi Metal Works Co., Ltd., Maruichi Steel Tube Ltd., YAMATO NOEN Co., Ltd.
Special cooperation: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cooperation: Yomiuri Telecasting Corp., others
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