The Shōgozō 聖語蔵 is a repository for sutra manuscripts located at the Tōdai-ji 東大寺 compound next to the Shōsōin 正倉院 treasure house. It was originally a part of Sonshō-in 尊勝院, a subtemple constructed in 955 that was the center for Kegon 華厳 and Shingon 真言 studies at Tōdai-ji. The present structure dates to the late twelfth century. The building and scrolls were relocated to the Shōsōin compound in 1896. The collection is currently managed by the Imperial Household Agency, which also oversees the Shōsōin documents and treasures.
The Taishō canon is based primarily on the second woodblock edition of the Korean canon, which dates to the thirteenth century. In addition to being a relatively late edition, at least from the perspective of scholars interested in earlier periods, the editors of the Taishō canon also introduced many new errors. The Shōgozō collection contains around 1,500 Nara-period scrolls as well as manuscripts imported directly from Sui and Tang China and Silla. They are, therefore, a better reflection of seventh and eighth-century manuscript cultures than the Taishō edition. Moreover, the manuscripts produced in the Nara period were proofread multiple times and then further collated against other manuscripts, so they are highly accurate and reliable. Early Japanese scrolls as a whole are also impressive in their scope. While Dunhuang materials only contain about thirty-percent of the Buddhist canon, Nara and Heian manuscripts can be gathered together to comprise nearly the entire canon.
Some Shōgozō manuscripts were used to collate the Taishō canon, but many are currently being published for the first time. The manuscripts promise to provide important data for Buddhologists, linguists (who can use the sometimes visible white marks known as hakuten 白点 to trace early Japanese reading practices), art historians specializing in calligraphy, and scholars interested in material and manuscript cultures.
The collection is composed of 783 titles in 4,960 scrolls. It is primarily made up of Buddhist canonical scriptures, but also contains some non-Buddhist literary texts. It can be broken up into three major headings comprised of a total of eleven categories as follows:
- Hand copied sutras 写経之部
- Sui sutras 隋経 8 titles, 22 scrolls
- Tang sutras 唐経 30 titles, 221 scrolls
- 5/1 canon 天平十二年御願経 126 titles, 750 scrolls
- Jingo keiun canon神護景雲二年御願経 171 titles, 742 scrolls*
- Miscellaneous hand copied (1) 甲種写経 90 titles, 316 scrolls
- Miscellaneous hand copied (2) 乙種写経 290 titles, 2012 scrolls
- Printed sutras 版経之部
- Kanji 2 (1088) printed 寛治版 1 title, 8 scrolls
- Song printed 宋版 12 titles, 114 scrolls
- Miscellaneous printed (1) 甲種版経 7 titles, 54 scrolls
- Miscellaneous printed (2) 乙種版経 33 titles, 703 scrolls
- Miscellaneous texts 雑書之部 15 titles, 18 scrolls
*Recent research by Iida Takehiko (2012) has determined that the vast majority of scrolls in the so-called Jingo keiun canon are actually from the Imakō ichibu 今更一部 canon, which was sponsored by Emperor Kōnin.
Kunaichō Shōsōin Jimusho shozō Shōgozō kyōkan 宮内庁正倉院事務所所蔵聖語蔵経卷 (cd and dvd, currently 101 discs). Tokyo: Maruzen, 2000-.
Nara teishitsu hakubutsukan 奈良帝室博物館. Shōsōin shōgozō kyōkan mokuroku 正倉院聖語 蔵経卷目錄. Nara : Nara teishitsu hakubutsukan shōsōin-kakari, 1930.