China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Mapping Tang China and the World through Pictorial Screens in the Nara Period Japan (710-794)

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

During the Nara period (710-794), Japan was immersed in a cultural sphere centering around the cosmopolitan empire Tang China that numerous products made in China and from other cultures were exported or re-exported to Japan. A group of four well-preserved screen panels, each with the design of animal figures (e.g. the mythical creature kylin, phoenix, ram with curled horns, hawk, elephant, monkey, deer) and also relatively smaller human figures playing musical instrument or hunting on a horse, under a tree were previously used as interior furnishings by the Emperor Shōmu (724-749) and are now stored in the North Section of Shōsō-in Repository, Nara. They were produced in Japan while by using the technique of rōkechi (wax-resist dyeing) that was transmitted originally from Tang China to Japan in the Tenpyō era (729-749) under the Emperor Shōmu. Some scholars also indicate that the composition and motifs on the screen panels have a certain connection with those originated in Central Asia, especially Sassanian Persia.


Through carefully observing the screen panels, I argue that the production of the screen panels could involve in a more diversified imagery transformation process. This paper will reconsider the origins of the pictorial composition and rich representational elements on the screen panels, and discuss how the design of these screen panels interact with the other treasures in various medium from the Shōsō-in Repository. It aims to explain the ideas of how the Japanese court visualized the imaginary paradise recalling Tang China and the world.

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1 - Mapping Tang China and the World through Pictorial Screens in the Nara Period Japan (710-794)



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