The 74th Annual Exhibition of Shōsō-in Treasures

The Shōsō-in treasures, which number approximately 9,000, were once stored in the Shōsō-in repository at the temple of Tōdaiji. Every year around sixty treasures are carefully selected for exhibition, this year marking the Seventy-Fourth Annual Exhibition of Shōsō-in Treasures. As in previous years, this year's exhibition will feature a wide variety of items, from beautifully crafted artifacts to documents that reflect the world of the ancient capital during the Nara period (710-794).

Those items that the consort of Emperor Shōmu (701-756, r. 724-249), Empress Kōmyō (701-760), donated to the Great Buddha (Rushana) of Tōdaiji on the forty-ninth day after his passing, the twenty-first of the sixth month of Tenpyō Shōhō 8 (756), hold a special place among the Shōsō-in treasures for their clear provenance. Of these, this year's display will include delicately rendered, gorgeous artifacts, like the Eight-Lobed White Bronze Mirror Inlaid with Gold and Silver Cutouts in Black Lacquer on the Back, as well as the highly esteemed Aromatic Log Used as Incense (Zensenkō) that rivals the aromatic log Ōjukukō (Ranjatai) in fame.

Not to be missed is the large Silver Bowl with Incised Design of a Hunting Scene with Horses and Riders, Deer, and Sheep that is thought to have been presented to the Great Buddha at Tōdaiji by Empress Regnant Shōtoku (718-770, r. 764-770), daughter of Emperor Shōmu and Empress Kōmyō, when she paid an imperial visit to the temple on the fourth day of the second month of Tenpyō Jingo 3 (767). This gem catches the eye for its extraordinary size and for the detailed line engravings of mounted figures, birds, and animals that decorate its surface.

In addition, this year the exhibition features a number of treasures related to Nara-period accessories and ornament. The tiny Rhinoceros-Horn Fish Ornaments and the Painted Bird Ornaments are thought to have been worn by aristocrats, who hung them from their waist sashes or stitched them onto their clothing. Although only a few centimeters in size, the precision of the work on the fish scales and bird wings is remarkable. Penknives hung from waist sashes and fashioned from rare materials like rhinoceros horn and ivory are remarkable for being ornamental accessories that are of practical use, as exemplified by the beautifully decorated Penknife made with a Mottled Rhinoceros Horn Hilt, Green Incised Ivory Sheath, and Gilt Silver Fittings.

During the Nara period (710-794) one role of Buddhism was to protect the nation, and numerous rituals were performed for this purpose. The ink inscription inside the gigaku (a type of mimed drama) mask of Rikishi clarifies that it was used during the Consecration Ceremonies for the Great Buddha at Tōdaiji that were held in Tenpyō Shōhō 4 (752). The mask's vivid red face evokes the scene of a magnificent ceremonial. The splendor of these Buddhist rites is seen also in the brilliant Painted Rectangular Offering Table and the great variety of cutout designs in the Gilt Bronze Banner. Moreover, ancient ritual implements, like the Iron Double-Ended Three-Pronged Vajra, that predate the transmission by Kūkai (774-835) of full-fledged esoteric Buddhism to Japan, even now convey the solemn atmosphere of the Buddhist rituals.

These numerous treasures have been preserved and handed down through the generations by people who revere tradition. The final object on exhibition are the Album Leaves with Various Textiles Including Compound Weave Nishiki, Embroidery, Twill Damask, and Plain Weave Silk. When the Repository was inspected in 1833, fragments of Nara-period textiles were sorted and mounted onto a standing screen. This Edo-period standing screen was a symbolic first step towards making order of the treasures in the Shōsō-in. We hope that these textiles inspire you to contemplate the centuries of effort that have gone into the preservation of the treasures to the present day.

Duration

Saturday, October 29th-Monday, November 14th, 2022 (Reiwa 4)

Open every day for the duration of the exhibition.

Venue

The New East Wing and West Wing, Nara National Museum

Hours

9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.

  • Note that the exhibition hours will be extended until 8:00 P.M. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays.
  • Last entry is one hour prior to closing.

Admission

There are no same-day admission tickets.
Please purchase Advance Timed-Entry Tickets.
There are no ticket sales at the museum.

General Admission ¥2,000
University and High School Students ¥1,500
Junior High and Elementary School Students ¥500

Advance Timed-Entry Tickets go on sale at 10:00 A.M. on September 26th, 2022.

They can be purchased only through Lawson Ticket (L-Code: 58885) at Lawson stores and at Ministop stores, by telephone (Automated service: 0570-000-028), or the website (Lawson Ticket).

Ticket sales will end as soon as tickets sell out.

Organizer

Nara National Museum

Support

  • Iwatani Corporation
  • 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.

With the Cooperation of

Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) Nara Station, Osaka Metro, Nara Kotsu Bus Lines Co., Ltd., Nara Television Co., Ltd., Nippon Kodo Co., Ltd., Bukkyō Bijutsu Kyōkai (Buddhist Art Foundation), and Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation.

Special Support

The Yomiuri Shimbun