On the third day of the new year in 758, a ceremonial object from Tang China was used in a ritual in Nara to honor the god of the silkworm. This object, which like so many others from Tang China was adapted by the Japanese for a special purpose, is now in the Shosoin, the imperial storehouse in Nara, Japan. Constructed of cypress, the Shosoin, which means "storehouse," sits inside the Todaiji Temple compound in Nara just northwest of the Great Buddha.
Emperor Shomu commissioned the building of the Todaiji Temple and the Shosoin. He wanted a place to hold many things, including the gifts that were brought back to him and earlier emperors by the diplomatic missions sent to Tang China. When the emperor died in 756, his widow donated objects to the Todaiji Temple. Attached to the index of objects is her comment: "The list given above contains treasures that have been handled by the late emperor and articles that served him in the palace. These objects remind me of the bygone days, and the sight of them causes me bitter grief."
And what is in the Shosoin? It is like a time capsule housing the treasures of the Silk Road. Inside are a stemmed blue glass cup from the Roman Empire, a chest from Egypt, a harp from near Baghdad, a four-stringed lute from Iran, a five-stringed lute from India, carpets from western China, a rhinoceros horn bowl from Champa (today central Vietnam). In addition, it holds ritual objects used in China and brought to the Japanese court for its own purposes; objects made in Japan that reflect Japanese imitation and innovation of Tang Chinese objects; and archives, temple furnishings, and ceremonial dress. One could say that the Shosoin is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road.