Her Majesty the Empress and the Sericulture of the
Celebrating Ten Years in the Reproduction of Shoso-in Textile
August 21 (Saturday) to September 23 (Thursday), 2004
The Collections Hall, Gallery 17
For the last ten years, the Imperial Household Agency痴 Office of the Shosoin Treasure House has been involved in the reproduction of ancient textiles from the Nara period (710-793) used for the Shosoin treasures. This reproduction project has been successful in large part due to the cultivation within the Imperial Palace grounds of the Koishimaru silkworm from the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery of Her Majesty the Empress, which produces the finest threads that closely resembles in quality the silk material in the Shosoin, and of the nihon akane (Japanese madder), a red-dye material. Since 1994, nineteen exquisite reproductions have been achieved. Although limited in number, these reproductions offer a rich overview of eighth-century textiles. Among these include ashiginu (plain-weave silk), which was collected from various regions in Japan as an early form of tax; aya (damask twill), a textile interwoven with design; ra (complex gauze), a patterned textile created by a complicated technique of twisting and weaving; and multicolored, patterned nishiki (brocade).
The reproductions faithfully imitated patterns and colors, which determine outward appearance, as well as incorporated materials closest in quality to the originals. Exact weave structures as well as miswoven areas were replicated. The four basic requirements to create the most satisfactory reproduction-design, color, weave structure, and material-were met with great success.
Scarlet Plain Weave Silk (Tax from Izu Province)
This project has also lead to new discoveries about the Shosoin textiles.
For example, we learned that the quality and finish of ashiginu,
depended less on the place of production and more on the weaver and the
quality and production year of the silkworms. With all our technology
today, the process of weaving complex gauze and colorful tate nishiki
(warp-faced compound weave) brocade continues to be difficult; this makes
one wonder what kinds of unimaginable, lost techniques existed in the
Nara period. Enjoy the reproduced works alongside the original Shosoin
fragments stored at the Kyoto National Museum.
Complex Gauze Weave Silk with Lozenge
Brocade with Phoenixes and Arabesque Roundels on Purple Ground