Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
Armies and artisans, missionaries and merchants all used these routes, which also served as channels through which luxury arts created for secular and religious purposes could travel extraordinary distances. Astonishingly, some still inhabit their original homes. The Shosoin Treasure House, an eighth-century repository in Nara, Japan, stands in its original location with its contents practically intact. This wooden building was constructed to store the objects dedicated in memory of an emperor to the Todaiji monastery, associated with the Buddhist temple of the same name. Its thousands of objects, including furniture, clothing, musical instruments, weapons and armor, were made not only close by in Japan and in neighboring China and Korea, but also in Central Asia and perhaps even farther west. The treasure dramatically illustrates how far prized articles traveled, and what exalted levels of society acquired them. Examples of textiles and other perishable items occasionally survive from burials in certain arid regions of Central Asia and northwestern China. Most numerous today, however, are the objects made in more durable materials—chiefly metal, ceramic, and glass—which were often buried in tombs or hoards and have been unearthed in modern times through accidental discoveries, scientific excavations, and deliberate looting.

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Plate with ring foot (detail)

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