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.
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
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
12) sho (hsiao) panpipe
13) hokyo (fang-hsiang) metallophone
The instruments were played at court and at temple ceremonies and their use was described in the Dedicating Record of Todaij.