A number of deadlines have prevented me from blogging about the 2016 Shōsōin exhibition, though I still do hope to get back to it. I will say that the Shōsōin documents conference was remarkably informative (a good summary, one far better than I could have written, can be found here).
Instead, I want to take this chance to note an upcoming conference that is relevant to readers of this blog. Princeton will be hosting an “International Conference on Buddhist Manuscript Cultures” from January 20-22, 2017. This is the third in a series of conferences supported by the Luce Foundation, as well as other generous sponsors. The first in the series addressed Dunhuang, and the second was also on Buddhist Manuscript Cultures more broadly. Full details can be found on the conference web page.
Perhaps most importantly for Shōsōin studies, Sugimoto Kazuki, the director of the Office of the Shōsōin Treasure House, will be giving a presentation entitled, “Copying Buddhist Manuscripts in Ancient Japan: The Actual Practice Evident in the Shōsōin Documents and Shōgozō Sūtras.” Dr. Sugimoto is one of the leading experts in the world in Shōsōin studies, and one of the only individuals who can regularly view and handle the original documents, as a part of his position. This is a rare opportunity to hear one of the true great scholars in Shōsōin studies present in the United States. I’ve cut and pasted the abstract from the conference web page below:
Copying Buddhist Manuscripts in Ancient Japan:
The Actual Practice Evident in the Shōsōin Documents and Shōgozō Sūtras
The Shōsōin (Japanese imperial treasure house) holds a significant number of Buddhist manuscripts, the so-called Shōgozō (repository of sacred works) sutras copied in the eighth century AD. This group of sutras was produced for Tōdaiji temple in Japan’s capital of the time, Nara. At that time Buddhism was considered a crucial means of maintaining peace in the country, and activities such as copying sutras and completing the Great Buddha and other building projects were considered of national importance.
The Shōsōin also contains a great number of ancient documents known as the Shōsōin monjo (Shōsōin documents), the core of which consists of various types of administrative documents that had been recorded in scriptoria (shakyōsho) in a relatively accurate and efficient manner. In addition to the written materials, contemporary clothes and objects are also preserved in the treasure house. All these artifacts are invaluable because they offer concrete knowledge of not only the study of religious doctrine but also the activities of secular officials who supported religious practices.
杉本一樹 古代日本における仏教経典の書写―正倉院文書・ 聖語蔵経巻にみる具体相
正倉院には、西暦 8 世紀に書写された仏教経典(聖語蔵経巻)が大量に伝存する。この 経典群は、東大寺のために作成されたものである。東大寺は、当時の日本の首都である 奈良の地に創建された。仏教の力は、国家の安泰を保つための重要な支えと考えられた。 本尊である大仏、多くの建物の造立と並んで、経典の書写事業写経も重要な国家的事業 と位置づけられていた。