Ancient "Biwa" Lute Replicated with Support from Ex-Empress

Society

Tokyo, July 11 (Jiji Press)--Empress Emerita Michiko has helped create a replica of a five-string "biwa" lute believed to have been used by Emperor Shomu in the eighth century.

The Imperial Household Agency unveiled the accurate replica of "Raden Shitan no Gogen Biwa" to reporters on Thursday, before it is displayed at the Museum of the Imperial Collections in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo from Saturday.

The replica's strings are made of silk from "koishimaru" silkworms, an indigenous species in Japan, raised by the former Empress at the palace.

The original lute, made of "shitan" red sandalwood with mother-of-pearl inlay decorations, is one of treasures donated by Emperor Shomu to the Todaiji temple in Nara about 1,200 years ago and kept at the Shosoin, a wooden repository registered in 1998 as a UNESCO World Heritage site along with other ancient monuments in the area. Currently, all Shosoin treasures are stored at modern facilities, according to the agency.

In 2011, the agency's Shosoin office started replicating the only surviving ancient biwa of the kind, 108.1 centimeters long and 30.9 centimeters wide, to learn the manufacturing techniques and reproduce its sounds. The project was completed in March this year.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press