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August 2018


Artifacts in the 8th century

Shosoin is a treasure house of Todaiji-temple and it is famous for owning treasures created in the 8th century.
Main art treasures in Shosoin were the Shomu Emperor’s collection.
Those items were donated to Todaiji-temple by his wife, Komyoshi-Empress Dowager, after the Shomu Emperor passed away.
There are various items in Shosoin, such as clothes, furniture, musical instruments and weapons.
Those items are very well preserved, in particular a five-string biwa decorated with turtle shell and seashell or precious metal inlay.
These treasures show that the Imperial Court communicated to not only Tang-China but also countries in West Asia and South Asia.
These indicate that the Court's cultural level was very high and the Court took part in the international community in those days.
In addition, one million small wooden pagodas and printed scriptures were created by the Shotoku Emperor’s order.
These scriptural passages are considered the world oldest printed items, although it is still unclear whether these were printed with wooden block or sheet copper.
These scriptural passages were put inside the wooden pagodas and show both the excellent artistic skills in those days.
It is said that these wooden pagodas were donated to the ten great temples such as Todaiji-temple and Horyuji-temple, but only Horyuji-temple has continued to preserve these items until today. 


Paintings in the 8th century

Japanese paintings in the 8th century were strongly influenced by Tang-China's art, which had a voluptuous and elegant expression.
Representative works are "Portrait of Beautiful lady under the tree” owned by Syosoin, which was a treasure house of Todaiji-temple, and a painting of "Kissyoten”, Goddess of Beauty, owned by Yakushiji-temple.
In addition, E Ingakyo, "Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect" owned by Jobonrendaiji-temple is said to be the origin of picture scrolls, which were often created from the 9th century to the early 14th century.


Statues created in the 8th century

Many statues created in the 8th century have expressive faces and well-balanced bodies.
Statues created in that century were not only made of gilt bronze or wood, but also made of clay or dry lacquer.
Compared to earlier times, these last two techniques were improved to a high level in the 8th century.
Clay statues were created by putting clay on a wooden core.
Dry lacquer statues were created by putting linen on a model with lacquer, and removing the model from the lacquered linen later.
Todayji-temple has a dry-lacquer statue, Fukukensakukannon, clay statues, Nikko-bosatsu statue,  Gakko-bosatsu statue, and Shitsukongo statue in Hokkedo.
Kofukuji-temple has dry lacquer statues, such as the ten great disciples of Buddha and the eight legions including Asyura-statue.


Art in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the Imperial Court, nobles and big temples spent so much money on art related to Buddhism.
Many magnificent buildings were built, such as big temples and palaces, which used stone foundations and roofing tiles.
Some representative examples are Denpodo in Horyuji-temple, which was originally a noble's residence, a lecture hall in Tosyodaiji-temple, which was originally a part of the palace in Heijyo-kyu, Hokkedo in Todaiji-temple, a main hall in Tosyodaiji-temple and a treasure house in Syosoin
All these buildings are well-balanced and majestic.

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  • Hi there! I'm Lala. I'm a Japanese living in Tokyo. I'm an English speaking licensed guide and authorized tour conductor. If you have questions, please leave comments on this blog or send me e-mails. lalalamumin☆yahoo.co.jp (please replace ☆ with @ when you send me e-mails)

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