Pollak Library Special Collections: Oldest Object

scroll

One of the four prayers.

One of the oldest objects California State University, Fullerton owns is from the 8th century, 764-778 A.D.  Empress Shotoku of Japan had 4 different Buddhist prayers written, with over a million copies delivered to 10 Buddhist temples throughout China.  Japan was going through hard times with a complete transformation under the Chinese influence after eight years of war, but the Buddhism hierarchy still had a strong control over the empire.  The prayers were sent out in hopes of a better life.  This was the first time text had been printed on paper in Japan.

pagoda

The original pagoda made in 764-778 A.D.

Each prayer was written in the Sanskrit language with Chinese characters and tightly rolled up and carried in small pagoda statues, which were mass produced in lathes and painted in white pigment.  The prayers were written on paper made of hemp, rope or twine.  Wood block printing was used to get the ink on the paper, using wood blocks carved with the characters and then pressed onto the paper.

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The pagoda replica showing the scroll inside.

A replica was made of the pagoda that is sometimes put on display.  In the replica, you can see a scroll that was put inside to see how it was done back then.

To learn more about other rare items and other collections, visit Sharon Perry in The University Archives & Special Collections, on the 3rd floor South side, PLS 352.  She is Pollak Library’s University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian and Coordinator.  She will be more than happy to show and tell anything she has to offer.

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