Period: Nara period (710–794)
Date: ca. 764–70
Medium: Japanese cypress (hinoki) and Cleyera ochnacea (sakaki)
Dimensions: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); Diam. 4 in. (10.2 cm)
Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number: 1975.268.150a, b
This miniature wooden pagoda (tŏ) is one of one million (hyakuman) commissioned by the Empress Shŏtoku (718–770) and distributed to Japan’s ten major temples. It originally was created to commemorate and offer thanks to Buddhist deities for their help in suppressing the Emi Rebellion in 764. This example belonged to the temple Hŏryǔji in Nara, where three thousand of the one million pagodas were given away in 1908 to those contributing to an appeal for funds. Each pagoda was painted white and contained a printed Buddhist text called a darani (Sanskrit: dharani), or invocation. The text displayed here came from the pagoda on known as the Jishin’in darani, the invocation is one of four from the sacred text Mukujŏkŏkyŏ (Sanskrit: Vimala Mirbhasa Sutra) found in the pagodas. These printed texts are among the oldest known in the world. They are likely to have been printed from bronze plates, but some scholars maintain that they were printed from woodblocks.