The Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Museum Home Page
The Art of Asia
History & Maps

Explore the Collection
Formal Audience Hall (Shoin)

Image GalleryInterview with a Curator
In this Room

The Audience Hall has been modeled after a formal 17th-century shoin at the Konchi-in, a temple within the vast Zen monastery of Nanzenji in eastern Kyoto. Although shoin means "study," or "writing hall," Japanese aristocrats have used such elegantly proportioned and decorated rooms as reception halls for visiting guests and official messengers since the mid-16th century.

As is typical of traditional Japanese residential architecture, this shoin has exposed posts and beams, which exhibit the natural beauty of clear-grained Japanese cedar (hinoki) and the remarkable craftsmanship of their construction. The coffered ceiling and lattice transoms show the astonishing precision of Japanese joinery techniques. The museum's audience hall also features a raised alcove (tokonoma) and a staggered shelving unit (chigaidana) for displaying hanging scrolls and other artworks.

The finely woven tatami mats and fusuma (lightweight, paper-covered sliding doors) also are characteristic elements normally found in such interiors. The Japanese usually sit directly on the tatami flooring, making most furniture unnecessary.

To Western eyes, such rooms can seem extremely spare. But close examination reveals many exquisite details, like the gilded bronze door pulls and lotus-shaped nail-head covers, which have been further adorned with embossed floral designs. Most impressive of all, however, are the sliding doors themselves, which are often covered with gold leaf and painted with evocative landscapes, ferocious animals, or exotic figures.

Construction of the two Japanese rooms was done by the Japanese firm Yasuimoku Koumuten Co., LTD.

Gift of the Roberta Mann Foundation in memory of Ted Mann