|| Empress Shotoku (718-770) was the second princess of Emperor Shomu. Originally, she was enthroned in 749 as Empress Koken, but after abdication of the throne to Emperor Junjin, she became known as Retired Empress Koken. In 764, Emino Oshikatsu, alias Fujiwara-no-Nakamaro (706-764), led a rebellion against the crown but was killed in battle. As Emperor Junjin was married to Oshikatsu’s daughter, he was suspected of involvement in the rebellion, and was exiled to Awaji Island. Thereupon, the Retired Empress was called upon to reign again, this time, as Empress Shotoku.
The exhibited sutra segment is a volume from the copies of an Issaikyo (a compendium of all Buddhist scriptures) produced in 768 for a service held in memory of the late Emperor Junjin (who died in 765, at age 33). The sutra copying task was commissioned in August 767, and continued into around 780, even after Empress Shotoku’s death. This is another sutra representative of the grandiose transcribing endeavors of the Nara Period. The sutra is written on yellow Amur cork-dyed paper, as yellow was a noble color, while the pigment also repelled insects that might infest the paper.