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SHOSO-IN SPECIAL / A glimpse of elegant court life 1,250 years ago

Daiban Zanketsu
458 centimeters long, 90 centimeters wide

The Yomiuri Shimbun “Daiban Zanketsu,” a 4.58-meter portion of a Buddhist banner, is one of the most remarkable items at the 68th Annual Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures.

It is on display with two other pieces — “Daiban no Ashi” (Banner leg) and “Asamidoriji Shika Karahanamon Nishiki no Daiban no Kyakutan Kazari” (Decorative weight for a banner leg) — that are parts of a long decorative banner used at a memorial service marking the first anniversary of the death of Emperor Shomu (701-756). The service was held at Todaiji temple in Nara in 757.

If the banner was to be restored, it would be as long as 13 to 15 meters. The length is estimated to be almost equivalent to the height of the temple’s Great Buddha statue.

The various dyeing and weaving techniques, such as brocade, twill weaving and braiding, used to manufacture the banner show the essence of the Tenpyo culture that thrived in the eighth century.

“Bennan no Hako,” a box made from camphor wood, is believed to have held offerings to the Great Buddha statue. The beautiful wood grain on its surface is expected to impress visitors.

“Gin Heidatsu Ryusen no Bokuto” (Inlaid ink pot) is a carpentry tool for drawing straight lines with inked thread. It is a gorgeous item, adorned with vermillion pigment, gold foil and other embellishments, and seems to have been intended for ceremonies.

“Jizara” (Ceramic plate), remarkable for its vivid green, is believed to have been used in a memorial service marking the first anniversary of the death of Fujiwara no Kyushi, Emperor Shomu’s mother.

These items played important roles in various moments of the lives of the Imperial family and aristocrats. The pride of artisans in this era can be seen through their use of the finest techniques.

“This year’s exhibits include large relics, such as Daiban. I hope visitors will feel the solemnity and preciousness of the treasures,” said Sakae Naito, the chief curator of the Nara National Museum.Speech

Slide 1 of 4

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  • Jizara
    31.3 centimeters (rim diameter), 5.6 centimeters high

  • Asamidoriji Shika Karahanamon Nishiki no Daiban no Kyakutan Kazari
    43.5 centimeters tall, 46.5 centimeters wide

  • Gin Heidatsu Ryusen no Bokuto
    29.6 centimeters long, 9.4 centimeters wide, 11.7 centimeters high

  • Bennan no Hako
    26.7 centimeters long, 30 centimeters wide, 15 centimeters high

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