The Shoso-In

The Shoso-In

The Shoso-In

The Shoso-In

Excerpt

(Read before the Japan Society, London, on October 23, 1930. The Japan Society of New York desires to express its appreciation of the permission granted to it by the Japan Society of London to distribute reprints of Sir Percival David's paper.)

JAPAN in the eighth century unfolds a story as vital, as romantic and as extravagant as that of the Tudor Age in England. In both countries it was a period of feminine and ecclesiastic dominance in politics, in both of peculiar receptivity of artistic influence, in both of transition in religious doctrine -- the Reformation in England, RiobuShinto in Japan.

The "Shoso-in", the famous Imperial Repository at Nara, is a microcosm of that classical epoch of Japanese culture. The thousands of priceless relics that are there preserved, when marshalled together intelligently, reconstruct for us a brilliant spectacle of the whole of the cosmopolitan life and elegance of their day. Unhappily, of Tudor England we have no such "magic-mirror," reflecting and recording the multiple activities of that age of high achievement. We have, of course, many scattered relics of the period-- paintings, furniture, manuscripts, silver, a few textiles, a few jewels. But these dispersed and disconnected objects cannot conjure up as clear or as complete a picture of sixteenth-century English life as the Nara Repository does of eighth-century Japan. In this respect the "Shoso-in" stands unrivalled and alone; and, indeed, in the whole course of history there is neither its peer nor its parallel. A flimsy wooden structure, standing unguarded for twelve centuries in the midst of the cataclysms of nature and the turmoil and turbulence of man -- this to have survived at . . .

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