Call for Applications for “Japan’s Oldest Archive: A Workshop on the Shosoin”

With generous support from the Princeton University Humanities Council, Graduate School, East Asian Studies Program, Buddhist Studies Workshop, and Religion Department we are pleased to announce that “Japan’s Oldest Archive: A Workshop on the Shosoin” will be held at Princeton University from March 24-25, 2012. The workshop will be conducted in Japanese and is designed for graduate students and faculty interested in premodern Japan. We invite you to join us for this opportunity to explore these unique materials.

The Shosoin corpus contains over 10,000 documents from the Nara period, and addresses topics such as tax collection, censuses, temple construction, calligraphy, poetry, and the state-sanctioned scriptorium. The material represents the single best source for understanding the religious and economic history of early Japan, while also providing intimate glimpses into the lives of commoners who have otherwise disappeared from the historical record.

English-language scholarship has barely scratched the surface of this rich source base. The primary reason for this neglect stems from the complexity of the collection, which has rendered it nearly impossible to use without specialized training. Sakaehara Towao, emeritus professor at Osaka City University and one of the foremost authorities in the field, will lead the workshop. He will focus on training participants in methods for recovering the original meaning of the texts by correctly piecing together fragments that were cut apart and shifted about in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Applications are now being accepted from faculty and graduate students. We expect the workshop will be of interest to scholars with broad backgrounds including, but not limited to, those engaging in research on economic history, religious studies, Nara period politics, art history, early poetry, the study of old documents (komonjogaku), and the activities of Edo and Meiji period antiquarians, nativists, and historians.

The workshop will be limited to about 20 members and will consist of sessions that require a solid grounding in reading premodern source materials. Participants should plan to attend all of the sessions and stay at least one night (March 24), as the training is cumulative and the sessions are scheduled to begin in the morning each day. Some financial support for travel is available, but applicants are encouraged to seek additional funding from their home institutions if possible. Lodging and meals will be covered for each participant.

Interested applicants should send a short description of their research and reason for interest in joining the workshop by December 1, 2011 (see application form below). Earlier submissions are strongly encouraged. Workshop participants will be selected on the basis of their applications, particularly the potential for use of the Shosoin collection in their research or teaching, and their level of proficiency in kanbun. Notification will be made to successful candidates by December 15, 2011.  If you would like to apply or have any questions, please contact Bryan  or Chris Mayo

Application Form

Applicant’s Name:
Mailing Address:
Telephone Number(s):
Fax Number(s):
E-mail Address(es):

Research Interests (no more than 250 words):
Reason for Interest in Workshop (no more than 250 words):
Kanbun Proficiency:


*Applicants will receive a confirmation email acknowledging receipt of the application within 48 hours. If not, applicants should contact one of the workshop organizers.

Bryan Lowe
Princeton University, PhD Candidate, Religion Department

Chris Mayo
Princeton University, PhD Candidate, East Asian Studies Department

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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1 Response to Call for Applications for “Japan’s Oldest Archive: A Workshop on the Shosoin”

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