Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


The textile collection of the Shoso-in, the treasure house in Nara, Japan represents the history of the textiles of the Nara Period (8th century A.D.) It has been stored under the auspices of the Imperial Household Agency in the special facility since the 8th century, when the collection was first organized. The textiles in the collection provide a full picture of Japanese textiles of the period, and come from several sources. These include the textiles from the daily life of Emperor Shomu (reigned 724-749) donated by the Empress Komyo after his death, the textiles used for the ceremony of the great Todai-ji Buddhist temple and the clothes of artisans working in the Todai-ji temple, among others. Owing to the preservation and repair of the Shoso-in textiles over the past hundred years since the Meiji era (19th century) until today, the textile collection counts over 100,000 items. This is one of the most important repositories of eighth century oriental textiles that have been preserved worldwide. The paper will present the history of the Imperial textile collection, and focus on several of the most important examples.