Shosoin monjo (正倉院文書)

Shosoin monjo refers to document collections kept in Todai-ji Temple Shosoin, which are mainly created by the Sutra copying office at Todai-ji Temple.
(In its narrow sense, shosoin monjo refers to documents created by the Sutra copying office located in Chuso [the middle section] of Todai-ji Temple.)
(Besides this, there are hokuso monjo (documents kept in the north section of Todai-ji Temple.)
Shosoin monjo are historical materials including a wealth of information on the Nara Period.

Most of the monjo which were created by authorities and reports collected from various provinces under ritsuryo system (the historical law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese Legalism in Japan) were disposed of after a short period (except koseki [Japanese family registry] - these were kept a little longer, for about 30 years), but the Sutra copying office at Todai-ji Temple used the back sides of the waste monjo as ledger paper. Since the monjo created by the Sutra copying office during the 8th century (for about 50 years from the Jinki to Hoki era, [724 - 781]) were placed and have been preserved in Shosoin, valuable historical materials including koseki and shozeicho (balance sheets of tax rice) created in the Nara Period still remain today.

In the late Edo Period, Tadatomo HOIDA (a scholar of Japanese classical literature taught by Atsutane HIRATA) took notice of the historical materials which were written on the back side of monjo from the Sutra copying office; some monjo were picked out in order to restore those kosei and shozeicho to their original states, and these were then compiled into 45 volumes (master document) from 1833 to 1836. After the Meiji period, those documents continued to be organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of the Imperial Household, resulting in 667 volumes and 5 books. Although this led to a dramatic advance in the study of monjo, the monjo created by the Sutra copying office has been broken into pieces and has turned into something different from its original form.

Toshio FUKUYAMA, an architectural historian, restored and studied historical materials related to Ishiyama-dera Temple, which were included in monjo created by the Sutra copying office and clearly showed the construction procedures for Ishiyama-dera Temple (constructed from 761) ('Construction of Ishiyama-dera Temple in the Nara Period,' 1933, included in "Nihon kenchiku shi no kenkyu" [Complete Works of the History of Japanese Architecture]). After his research, more research on monjo created by the Sutra copying office has been done.

Shosoin monjo was published as "Dai Nihon Komonjo" (Old Documents of Japan) (chronology monjo, 25 books, 1901-1940). Although the original documents remain unpublicized, some of them are publicized at the Annual Exhibition of Shosoin Treasures in fall (held at Nara National Museum) while they are being aired at Shosoin.

[Original Japanese]