The Treasures of the Shosoin in Todaiji Temple

A finely illustrated scroll, entitled on outside label “Todaiji chokufu homotsuzu” [“Well-Preserved Todaiji Treasures”], depicting the many treasures of the Shosoin repository within the Todaiji (Temple), Nara.

Many fine color paintings. Scroll (275 x 10,110 mm., including front endpaper), inside of front endpaper speckled in gilt, outside covered in silk brocade (small portion slightly damaged), gold-speckled manuscript title label, the scroll backed at an early date with shiny mica paper. [Japan, probably Nara]: mid- to late-Edo.

The Todaiji Temple, constructed in the eighth century, is one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara and became the headquarters of a network of provincial monasteries and convents in the Yamato region. Its collections of art and artifacts, held in the Shosoin (treasure house), contain many national treasures. The Imperial Household Agency maintains a wonderful database of these holdings, and many of the artworks in our scrolls are present, illustrated, and fully described. In our descriptions below, we only hint at the riches depicted in our scrolls.

“The Todaiji complex was completed in 798; monastery records state that 50,000 carpenters, 370,000 metal workers, and 2.18 million laborers worked on the compound, its buildings, and their furnishing, almost bankrupting the country… “The Shosoin repository at the monastery, itself a Japanese national treasure (kokuho), contains over nine thousand precious ornamental and fine-art objects that date from the monastery’s founding in the eighth century, including scores of objects imported into Japan via the Silk Road from all over Asia, including cut-glass bowls and silk brocade from Persia, Byzantine cups, Egyptian chests, and Indian harps, as well as Chinese Tang and Korean Silla musical instruments, etc.”–Buswell & Lopez, eds., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 916.

This beautifully illustrated scroll depicts hundreds of the treasures of the Shosoin, painted in rich colors. The artist oftentimes depicts the full object along with close-ups of its decorations and special features. Many of the objects show influences from China, Central Asia, India, Iran, Greece, and Egypt. Throughout, dimensions are given.

Our scroll begins with depictions of an ornately decorated board with patterns made from agate; a display table; horse bridles; a large selection of precious and famous woods for incense ceremonies (including the Lanjatai and the Benijinko, with notes on weight, dimensions, and shape); a highly decorated copper incense burner with a long handle; arrows, spears, and bows; a biwa and a gekkin (moon lute); various art objects made from ivory; a multi-layered brass bowl; a white agate bowl; a large piece of agate; flutes made from ivory and agate; ornate ceremonial objects and tools; ink cakes from the Silla Kingdom on the Korean peninsula; rulers made from agate and coral; bamboo canes; prayer beads made from woods and metals; an elaborate bronze water pitcher; an incense burner with a gold-embellished chrysanthemum and bird pattern; a woven basket; a gold tray; a deer antler; a tamabahki (a ceremonial brush with jewels to be used by the imperial family in their chamber to raise silkworms); a luxurious game board; a saddle; a very large brush used to consecrate new images of Buddha during the Daibutsu kaigen ceremony and its agate inkwell and stand; a parquet go game board with turtle ornaments on a jewel-encrusted stand; silk brocade slippers; a sake vessel; a white agate hibachi with copper feet resembling rampant lions; ceremonial shovels; vases and pails made from precious metals and glass; a large silver vessel; an “honorable” pillow covered in embroidered silk with a phoenix pattern; and a fine silk screen.

In fine and fresh condition, preserved in an old wooden box.

Price: $4,750.00

Item ID: 8653