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The Shōsō-in (正倉院) is the treasure house that belongs to Tōdai-ji, Nara.[1][2] The building is in the azekura log-cabin style, with a raised floor. It lies to the northwest of the Daibutsuden (which houses the Great Buddha). The Shōsō-in houses artifacts connected to Emperor Shōmu (701–756) and Empress Kōmyō (701–760), as well as arts and crafts of the Tempyō period of Japanese history.


  • History 1
  • Building 2
  • Treasures 3
  • Silk collection 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Dedicatory Records of Tōdai-ji temple, 756

The origin of Tōdai-ji Shōsō-in dates back to 756, when Empress Kōmyō dedicated over 600 items to the Great Buddha at Tōdai-ji to express her love for her lost husband, Emperor Shōmu. Her donation was made over five times across several years, then stored at Shōsō-in. Later in Heian period, a large number of treasures, consisting of items and instruments used in important Buddhist services were transferred from a different warehouse in Tōdai-ji. Given the importance of the items stored in this warehouse, the administration of Shōsōin has been taken over by the government, currently the Imperial Household Agency.

After the Meiji Restoration, it came under the administration of the national government, and since World War II has been under the administration of the Imperial Household Agency. It is on the UNESCO register of World Heritage Sites as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. It is also a national treasure of Japan.


Azekura style of architecture on another store house at the Tōdai-ji

The building is in the azekura (校倉) log-cabin style, with a raised floor takayuka-shiki (高床式). Shōsō-in is the oldest surviving building of this type in Japan and the only one from the Heian period still extant. Front width is about 33.1 m, depth is about 9.3 m, 1st floor height is about 2.5 m. The exact construction dates are unclear, but works probably started soon after the empress bequest in AD 756 and definitely were finished before AD 759, when the bequest items storage lists were complete.


Shōsōin today holds around 9,000 items, leaving out items that are yet to be classified.[3] While many of the collection are of remainders from the 8th century and are of domestic production, either art or documents, there are also variety of items originating from Tang China. Other material comes from as far as India, Iran, Greece, Rome and Egypt.

Although these collections are not open to the public, selections are shown at Nara National Museum once a year in autumn.

Silk collection

Since 1994, the Imperial Household Agency's Office of the Shosoin Treasure House, which is responsible for the administration of the repository, has been producing exact reproduction of ancient Nara textiles. Apart from the appearance and colour, care has been given to reproduce the production and weaving style. The silk is donated each year by Empress Michiko, who personally runs the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery at Tokyo Imperial Palace.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "正倉院ホームページ (Shōsōin Homepage, Imperial Household Agency (Japan))" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  2. ^ "Shōsōin" originally stood for the warehouse area that many of the Buddhist temples and governmental sites in the ages of Nara period and Heian period were known to have, and "Shōsō" (正倉) was meaning each independent building located in the such area. However, all but the one in Tōdai-ji were lost over time, thus Shōsōin became a proper noun for the only remaining treasure house building at Tōdai-ji.
  3. ^ Piggott, Joan. (1990). "Mokkan. Wooden Documents from the Nara Period", Monumenta Nipponica, 45:4, pp. 449-470.
  4. ^ Kyoto National Museum | Her Majesty the Empress and the Sericulture of the Koishimaru Silkworm

External links

  • Imperial Household Agency page for Shōsōin (in Japanese)
  • Shosoin Tanabetsu Mokuroku (List of Shosoin Solid Objects)
  • Article in English with photos
  • Guide to Shosoin resarch (Nara period written documents of the scriptorium)

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