Height: 21.500 cm
Gift of the Hon. Mrs Walter Levy
Asia JA 1930.4-24.1;Asia JA 1892.12-12.1;Asia JA 1909.5-19.4,5,6;Asia JA 1931.2-17.1
Rooms 92-94: Japan
Stūpas known as the Hyakuman Tō
Nara period, AD 764 or soon after
A million prayers of thanks
In an act of Buddhist piety, the Japanese Empress Shōtoku (reigned AD 764-770) had a million wooden stūpas like this made. They were to contain prayers that gave thanks for a victory over dissidents in the rebellion of Emi-no-Oshikatsu in AD 764. 100,00 of the stūpas were given to each of the ten great monasteries in the Kansai region. Many survive in the Hōryū-ji Temple.
The prayer strips, printed with wood and copper plates, are the earliest printed matter surviving from Japan. The British Library have examples of four different types.
The centring mark and lathe-marks are clearly visible on the base of each stūpa. Recently researchers in Japan have been examining the signatures of the makers, and it seems that only a small number of woodworkers was involved.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)