Japan's Oldest Archive: A Workshop on the Shōsōin

With generous support from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, Northeast Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies, Council of the Humanities at Princeton University, Graduate School, East Asian Studies Program, Buddhist Studies Workshop, and Religion Department, "Japan's Oldest Archive: A Workshop on the Shosoin" will be held at Princeton University from March 24-25, 2012. The workshop will be conducted in Japanese and is designed for graduate students and faculty interested in premodern Japan.

The Shōsōin Corpus

The Shōsōin 正倉院 corpus contains over 10,000 documents from the Nara period, and addresses topics such as tax collection, censuses, temple construction, calligraphy, poetry, and the state-sanctioned scriptorium. The material represents the single best source for understanding the religious and economic history of early Japan, while also providing intimate glimpses into the lives of commoners who have otherwise disappeared from the historical record.

Studying the Collection

English-language scholarship has barely scratched the surface of this rich source base. The primary reason for this neglect stems from the complexity of the collection, which has rendered it nearly impossible to use without specialized training. Sakaehara Towao 栄原永遠男, emeritus professor at Osaka City University and one of the foremost authorities in the field, will lead the workshop. He will focus on training participants in methods for recovering the original meaning of the texts by correctly piecing together fragments that were cut apart and shifted about in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Professor Sakaehara Towao

Professor Sakaehara was born in 1946 in Tokyo, but moved to Osaka shortly thereafter. In 1969 he graduated from Kyoto University 京都大学, and in 1974 he completed his course requirements for his Ph.D. In 1975 he began teaching at Ōtemon Gakuin University 追手門学院大学. Since 1981 he has been teaching at Ōsaka City University 大阪市立大学. In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious Kadokawa Gen'yoshi Prize for the best book on Japanese history for his monograph Nihon kodai senka ryūtsūshi no kenkyū 日本古代 銭貨流通史の研究. He has served as the chair of the Society for the Study of Wooden Documents (Mokkan gakkai 木簡学会), the Research Association on Excavated Coins (Shutsudo senka kenkyūkai 出土銭 貨研究会),the Research Association on Shōsōin Documents (Shōsōin monjo kenkyūkai 正倉院文書研究会), and the Research Center for the History of Tōdaiji (Tōdaiji-shi kenkyūjo 東大寺史研究所).

Some Representative Publications

Articles Available Online