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Exhibitions and Events

Cultural Properties in 8K: The National Treasure “Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku” 2019

Period October 29, 2019 (Tue) -  November 24, 2019 (Sun)
Place Tokyo National Museum, The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures
Hours 9:30-17:00; Open until 21:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Nov. 3 & 4 (Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays *Except Nov. 4 (closed Nov. 5 instead)
Admission Included in regular admission fee
Production National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties, NHK EDUCATIONAL CORPORATION
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties

Come see the secrets of these paintings newly unlocked in vibrant detail.

The Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku is a national treasure that once adorned the Hall of Paintings of Horyuji Temple in Nara. It was painted in 1069, almost one thousand years ago, based on the legends surrounding the life of Prince Shotoku (574-622). Although many later versions were painted, this painting is recognized as the oldest surviving version. Through its long history, much of its original vibrancy and detail has been lost, making it difficult to appreciate in its current form.

The 8K Art Viewer is an application that allows users to view high-resolution images of the Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku on a large-screen 8K monitor. As they navigate the tablet, the viewer is able to enlarge the details of the painting far beyond the capabilities of the naked eye, and are even able to see Prince Shotoku’s subtle facial expressions. Informative explanations about each episode in Prince Shotoku’s life are also available.

This year, while the Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku is exhibited at the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, the 8K Art Viewer will also be on display in an interactive area. Visitors will have a chance to learn about the legendary life of Prince Shotoku and examine this ancient masterpiece as never before possible.

Highlights of the Exhibition

The National Treasure
Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku
Room 6, The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

By Hata no Chitei | Heian period, 1069 | Color on twill-weave silk; 10 panels | Tokyo National Museum

Prince Shotoku (574–622) was the second son of Emperor Yomei. During the reign of Empress Suiko, Prince Shotoku is believed to have authored Japan’s first constitution while also actively promoting Buddhism and sending envoys to China to learn more about Buddhism. Painted in 1069 by Hata no Chitei, this is the oldest surviving version of the Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku. The painting depicts fifty-eight episodes based on Shotoku Taishi Denryaku, the definitive account of the prince’s life completed in the early tenth century. The 10 paintings originally decorated the inner walls of the Hall of Paintings in Horyuji Temple. The composition shows Ikaruga Palace at the center, but also includes views of Asuka, Naniwa, and even Mount Heng in China.


Age 1: Banquets to Celebrate the Prince’s Birth

Age 11: Powers of Levitation


Age 12: Venerated by a Sage from Baekje

Age 16: Illness and Demise of Emperor Yomei

Aout the 8K Art Viewer
Reference Room, The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, M2

The 8K Art Viewer is a tablet application that allows users to zoom in on scenes from the Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku. Each 1.9-by-1.5-meter painting in the illustrated biography was photographed in twenty-eight sections, which were then pieced back together to create 1.8 billion pixels of data per painting. Viewers can quickly navigate the paintings using a tablet and examine every corner of this National Treasure in 8K ultra-high definition.