Official Letter from the Office for the Establishment of Tōdai-ji temple


Official Letter from the Office for the Establishment of Tōdai-ji temple

History / Nara

Nara period, 8th century/Tenpyōshōhō 7, 755

Handscroll, ink on paper

H 28.9, L 223.3


Formerly kept in Shōsō-in Repository, Nara


This is an official letter from the office for the establishment of Tōdai-ji temple to Kōfuku-ji temple dated April 21, 755. The establishment office asks for 230 sutra scrolls from Kōfuku-ji temple in the name of Saeki-no-Imaemishi, who was the director of the establishment office. The letter was written by Kurehara-no-Ikuhito, who was the subordinate administrator of the office for sutra copying. The signatures of Saeki-no-Imaemishi and Kurehara-no-Ikuhito are written at the end of the scroll.
According to this letter, 230 sutra scrolls were sorted in sutra covers; the first ninety-six volumes were the Empress Dowager Kōmyō’s sutra scrolls, and the remaining one hundred and thirty-four volumes were for the archives. There is a note in the letter which says that the both scrolls and covers of the latter group should be imported objects from the Tang dynasty in China. The color of the scroll paper, the front cover, the braids, and the scroll-cores are specified, which is helpful in studying the sutra scroll mountings of those days. The official letter introduced in this article is a significant object since it exceeds the length of other old documents which were originally kept in the Shōsō-in treasure house, and it is a complete official letter from the establishment office of Tōdai-ji temple.

Masterpieces of Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 1993, p.88, no.66.

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