Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that Kogarashi-ichigou(木枯らし1号, the first cold wintry wind of the year) blew seven days later than last year in Kanto Region including Tokyo on the evening of October 26th.

The autumn imperial garden party was held with persons of merit in various fields at Akasaka Gyoen on 28th, but it was rainy and cold with a high of 11 degrees Celsius and a low of 10.

The typhoon No.14(Chaba) passed away tonight.
The 62th Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures is being held from Octber 23rd to November 11th at the Nara National Museum.
Shoso-in(正倉院: The Shosoin Repository) is a wooden treasure house that Todai-ji Temple(東大寺) owns. It is a raised-floor-style log house with a tiled roof and has a moisture-proof property.

We can see the treasures only at this exhibition once a year and the exhibits vary from year to year, so a lot of visitors flock to the exhibition.

Shoso-in served as a time capsule. The treasures are in a remarkable state of preservation because they have been doubly-protected by wooden footed containers with lids and a high-floored log house. We can see about 1250 year-old and best-preserved masterpieces.

Shoso-in's treasures comes from the relics of Emperor Shomu(聖武天皇, 701-756) that his consort Empress Komyo(光明皇后, 701–760) dedicated to Todai-ji Temple(東大寺) shortly after his death. The list of those offerings says that she dedicated his relics for the reason that they provoked deep sadness. The tresures include the personal belongings used in Emperor Shomu's daily life, ritual articles from Todai-ji and artifacts which were brought to Japan from China, India and Iran along the Silk Road.

Emperor Shomu and Empress Komyo believed in Buddhism deeply. The emperor set up Todai-ji and the Great Image of Buddha as an attempt to secure protection from a series of disasters and prevailing epidemic.

The emperor invited Jianzhen (or Ganjin) (鑒真 or 鑑真; 688–763), who was a Chinese high priest, to introduce faithful Buddhist commandments into Japan and to approve only observant monks of the commandments as official ones.

He established provincial monasteries and nunneries(国分寺・国分尼寺, kokubun-ji and kokubun-niji) in each province of Japan. Todai-ji was positioned as the head of all these kokubun-ji.
Empress Komyo established Hokke-ji Temple(法華寺) as the head of all the provincial nunneries in 745. She set up public facilities such as a home for orphans and the neediest and a free clinic to care for the sick and to treat patients with medication.

She became the first empress from a non-imperial family. The members of her clan used her position as a empress to hold actual power over the affairs of state. Some people said that many projects were carried out to display the might of her clan.

Three years after his death, she retrieved four relics from Shoso-in. Recently, it has become evident that the two swords of them were identical to the two swords that were discovered accidentally at the foot of the Great Image of Buddha in Todai-ji during its repairs in the Meiji Period.

Although it is still uknown why she did it, some people said she expressed her strong will. Some people guess that some of the retrieved relics were buried to purify the site of Hokkeji Temple and to protect the temple from evil. Some people guess that the retrieved relics included love letters.

The nuns at Hokke-ji have made the same dog-shaped lucky charm(お守り犬,Hokkeji-Dog Talisman) as one of the empress' own making. The charm is available at the temple.

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