- Museum number
Stupa for Buddhist text (Hyakuman-to). Made of turned wood.
- Production date
- 764 (or soon after)
Height: 20.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
A stupa is a structure in a Buddhist temple that contains religious relics. Empress Shotoku (reigned AD 764-70) oredered a million of these miniature wooden stupas to be made. Each one contained a printed Buddhist prayer that gave thanks after she crushed a rebellion led by Emi-no-Oshikatsu. One hundred thousand were given to each of ten great monasteries. Many still survive at Horyuji temple, Nara.
(Label copy, 2017)
Sutras (Buddhist texts)
Buddhism began in India with the teachings of Prince Gautama Siddhartha, also known as sakyamuni (?565_?486 BC). He was called Shaka in Japan. The Buddhist faith was spred to all corners of Asia in the form of written texts (sutrus). These texts were first brought to Japan by Chinese and Korean monks, in Chinese translations. Emperors and aristicrats often ordered luxurious copies to be made in gold and silver inks on dyed blue paper to gain religious merit. Some sutras were kept in temple storehouses and chanted aloud during Buddhist rituals. Others were warpped in expensive textiles and put into bronze, then ceramic containers for burial. This was done to preserve them for the future because people feared that the age of Buddhism was comin to an end.
Smith et al 1990
The Empress Shotoku had a million wooden 'stupas' made to contain prayers of thanksgiving in gratitude for a victory over dissidents in the Emi rebellion of AD 764. The prayer strips were printed with wood and copper plates, and are the earliest printed matter surviving from Japan. 100,000 of the 'stupas' were given to each of the ten great monasteries in the Kansai region.
British and Medieval Register; B&M Extracts, 1903-1921, p.115: 'Japanese and Chinese objects transferred from the Department of Oriental Manuscripts. 6. Wooden tope, similar, white paint traces, label as No.4, but no date. Height 8 ins.'
- On display (G93/dc5/sI)
- Exhibition history
2006 Oct 13-, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
- Associated events
- Commemoration of: Emi rebellion (AD 764)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number