An 8th-century tortoiseshell vanity box, said to be a gift from the Tang Dynasty palace to Japan’s Emperor Shomu, will be auctioned in Hong Kong and may fetch more than HK$40 million ($5 million).
The octagonal box, measuring 35.6 centimeters across and embedded with mother-of-pearl and amber in shapes of flowers, is the highlight of Sotheby’s planned sale of antiques, gems and paintings on April 8.
The item had once resided at the repository of the Todaiji, or Great Eastern Temple, in the southern Japanese prefecture of Nara.
Todaiji, founded by Emperor Shomu (reign: 724-749), was his government’s temple and received most of his cherished personal belongings after he died, donated by the Empress Dowager Komyo as a sign of her devotion, according to a Sotheby’s statement.
The box is one of three identical items, one still at the Todaiji repository and the other at the Museum Yamato Bunkakan, also in Nara.