Musical instruments of the Nara Period

From restoration investigations reports of the Shosoin Repository and from the existing collection of instruments in the Shosoin Treasure house of Todaiji Temple, experts know a great deal about the musical system of the time.

Nara period’s most important musical instruments used in the music of Tang dynasty China are preserved in the Shosoin Treasure house (8th century and therefore the world’s oldest musuem). Many of these have been kept in complete form; others have been restored. Copies have been made for various museums for viewing.

 

Five stringed biwa musical instrument, design of camel rider in mother-of-pearl inlay. Copied from the 8th century original of Nara period

Five stringed biwa musical instrument, design of camel rider in mother-of-pearl inlay. Copied from the 8th century original of Nara period (Exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum)

 

The instruments played in the Nara period found in the Shosoin include:

1) kin (chin in Chinese) seven stringed zither

2) biwa (pipa) four stringed lute

3) genkan (juan-hsien) four stringed guitar

4) shakuhachi (chipa) flute

5) oteki (heng-ti) flute

 

Shakuhachi, Shosoin Repository (Imperial House Agency)

Shakuhachi, Shosoin Repository (Imperial House Agency)

 

6)  sho (sheng) mouth-organ

7) u (yu) large mouth-organ

8 ) gogen-biwa (wu-hsien pipa)

9) so (cheng) thirteen-stringed zither

10) shitsu (se) 24 stringed zither

11) kugo (kung-hou) harp

 

Harp (Reproduction ) , Meiji period, 19th century, Original: Nara period, 8th century (Tokyo National Museum)

 

12) sho (hsiao) panpipe

13) hokyo (fang-hsiang) metallophone

 

laquered-drums-shosoin1

Lacquered drums, Shosoin Repository (Imperial House Agency)

 

The instruments were played at court and at temple ceremonies and their use was described in the Dedicating Record of Todaij.

3 responses to “Musical instruments of the Nara Period

  1. Can you help in refering me to Japanese traditional musical instrument stores where I can buy a Biwa?
    Thank you

  2. please post all the most important instrument in one country

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