Name/TitleEmperor Shōmu's kāṣāya/kesa, Shōsōin
About this objectThis quilted silk robe made of seven mottled strips in the style of a monk's robe, a kāṣāya (kesa), is believed to have been used by Emperor Shōmu (聖武天皇, r.724–749). By this time, silkworms were being cultivated throughout Japan.
In 749, the emperor abdicated in favour of his daughter. The former emperor became a Buddhist monk, the first to do so. Empress Kōmyō (光明皇后), following her husband's example, also took holy vows in becoming a nun. In the list of Japan's treasures by the emperor (Kokka Chinpo Cho 国家 珍宝 帳), he hints at his wife's fondness for this robe.
During his reign, the emperor had already been influential in promoting Buddhism: in 714, for example, he established the system of provincial temples and in 743 he commissioned the 16m high statue of Vairocana Buddha at Tōdaiji (東大寺) in Nara.
Date Made8th century
Subject and Association KeywordsSilk
Subject and Association KeywordsLiving in Belief
Subject and Association DescriptionLearn More: Benjamin 2002; Ogata 2012; Yomiuri Shimbun 2011.
Medium and MaterialsSilk
Measurements1.39 x 2.45 m.
Object numberEXH70: Emperor Shōmu's kāṣāya