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Now We
learn that Your Majesty, dwelling separately beyond the sea, bestows
the blessings of peace on Your subjects; that there is tranquillity
within Your borders, and that the customs and manners are mild. With
the most profound loyalty You have sent Us tribute from afar, and We
are delighted at this admirable token of Your sincerity. Our health
is as usual, notwithstanding the increasing heat of the weather.
Therefore We have sent Pei Shieh-ching, Official Entertainer of the
Department charged with the Ceremonial for the Reception of Foreign
Ambassadors, and his suite, to notify to you the preceding. We also
transmit to you the products of which a list is given separately.**

*It has already been stated that Japan was generally known in China
and Korea by the term "Wa," which, being written with an ideograph
signifying "dwarf" or "subservient," was disliked by the Japanese.
The envoy sent from Yamato in 607 was instructed to ask for the
substitution of Nippon (Place of Sunrise), but the Sui sovereign
declined to make the change and Japan did not receive the designation
"Nippon" in China until the period Wu Teh (A.D. 618-626) of the Tang
dynasty. It is not certain at what time exactly the Japanese
themselves adopted this nomenclature, but it certainly was before the
seventh century.

**Translated by Aston in the Nihongi.

When the reading of the document was concluded, a high noble stepped
forward, took it from the envoy's hands and advanced with it towards
the audience-hall, from which another noble came out to meet him,
received the letter, deposited it on a table before the chief
entrance, and then reported the facts to the Empress. This ended the
ceremony. The haughty condescension of the Chinese despatch does not
appear to have offended the Japanese, nor did they cavil at the
omission of one important ideograph from the title applied to their
Empress. China's greatness seems to have been fully recognized. When,
a month later, the envoy took his departure, the same Imoko was
deputed to accompany him, bearing a despatch* in which, to China's
simple "greeting," Japan returned a "respectful address;" to China's
expression of ineffable superiority Japan replied that the coming of
the embassy had "dissolved her long-harboured cares;" and to China's
grandiloquent prolixity Japan made answer with half a dozen brief
lines. Imoko was now accompanied by eight students four of literature
and four of religion. Thus was established, and for long afterwards
maintained, a bridge over which the literature, arts, ethics, and
philosophies of China were copiously imported into Japan.

*In this despatch Japan called herself "the place where the sun comes
forth," and designated China as "the place where the sun sets." The
idea, doubtless, was merely to distinguish between east and west, but
the Sui sovereign resented the diction of this "barbarian letter."

RANKS

It will be recognized by considering the uji system that while many
titles existed in Japan, there was practically no promotion. A man
might be raised to uji rank. Several instances of that kind have been
noted, especially in the case of foreign artists or artisans
migrating to the island from Korea or China. But nothing higher was
within reach, and for the hereditary Kami of an uji no reward offered
except a gift of land, whatever services he might render to the
State. Such a system could not but tend to perfunctoriness in the
discharge of duty. Perception of this defect induced the regent,
Shotoku, to import from China (A.D. 603) the method of official
promotion in vogue under the Sui dynasty and to employ caps as
insignia of rank.* Twelve of such grades were instituted, and the
terminology applied to them was based on the names of six moral
qualities--virtue, benevolence, propriety, faith, justice, and
knowledge--each comprising two degrees, "greater" and "lesser." The
caps were made of sarcenet, a distinctive colour for each grade, the
cap being gathered upon the crown in the shape of a bag with a border
attached. The three highest ranks of all were not included in this
category.

*In China to-day the distinguishing mark is a button of varying
material fastened on the top of the cap.

THE EMPEROR JOMEI AND THE EMPRESS KOGYOKU

In the year 626, the omnipotent Soga chief, the o-omi Umako, died.
His brief eulogy in the Chronicles is that he had "a talent for
military tactics," was "gifted with eloquence," and deeply reverenced
"the Three Precious Things" (Buddha, Dharma, and Samgha). In the
court-yard of his residence a pond was dug with a miniature island in
the centre, and so much attention did this innovation attract that
the great minister was popularly called Shima (island) no o-omi. His
office of o-omi was conferred on his son, Emishi, who behaved with
even greater arrogance and arbitrariness than his father had shown.
The Empress Suiko died in 628, and the question of the accession at
once became acute. Two princes were eligible; Tamura, grandson of the
Emperor Bidatsu, and Yamashiro, son of Shotoku Taishi. Prince
Yamashiro was a calm, virtuous, and faithful man. He stated
explicitly that the Empress, on the eve of her demise, had nominated
him to be her successor. But Prince Tamura had the support of the
o-omi, Emishi, whose daughter he admired. No one ventured to oppose
the will of the Soga chieftain except Sakaibe no Marise, and he with
his son were ruthlessly slain by the orders of the o-omi.

Prince Tamura then (629) ascended the throne--he is known in history
as Jomei--but Soga no Emishi virtually ruled the empire. Jomei died
in 641, after a reign of twelve years, and by the contrivance of
Emishi the sceptre was placed in the hands of an Empress, Kogyoku, a
great-granddaughter of the Emperor Bidatsu, the claims of the son of
Shotoku Taishi being again ignored. One of the first acts of the new
sovereign was to raise Emishi to the rank held by his father, the
rank of o-omi, and there then came into prominence Emishi's son,
Iruka, who soon wielded power greater than even that possessed by his
father. Iruka's administration, however, does not appear to have been
altogether unwholesome. The Chronicles say that "thieves and robbers
were in dread of him, and that things dropped on the highway were not
picked up." But Emishi rendered himself conspicuous chiefly by aping
Imperial state. He erected an ancestral temple; organized
performances of a Chinese dance (yatsura) which was essentially an
Imperial pageant; levied imposts on the people at large for the
construction of tombs--one for himself, another for his son,
Iruka--which were openly designated misasagi (Imperial sepulchres);
called his private residence mikado (sacred gate); conferred on his
children the title of miko (august child), and exacted forced labour
from all the people of the Kamutsumiya estate, which belonged to the
Shotoku family.

This last outrage provoked a remonstrance from Shotoku Taishi's
daughter, and she was thenceforth reckoned among the enemies of the
Soga. One year later (643), this feud ended in bloodshed. Emishi's
usurpation of Imperial authority was carried so far that he did not
hesitate to confer the rank of o-omi on his son, Iruka, and upon the
latter's younger brother also. Iruka now conceived the design of
placing upon the throne Prince Furubito, a son of the Emperor Jomei.
It will be remembered that the Soga chief, Emishi, had lent his
omnipotent influence to secure the sceptre for Jomei, because of the
latter's affection for Emishi's daughter. This lady, having become
one of Jomei's consorts, had borne to him Prince Furubito, who was
consequently Iruka's uncle. Iruka determined that the prince should
succeed the Empress Kogyoku. To that end it was necessary to remove
the Shotoku family, against which, as shown above, the Soga had also
a special grudge. Not even the form of devising a protest was
observed. Orders were simply issued to a military force that the
Shotoku house should be extirpated. Its representative was Prince
Yamashiro, the same who had effaced himself so magnanimously at the
time of Jomei's accession. He behaved with ever greater nobility on
this occasion. Having by a ruse escaped from the Soga troops, he was
urged by his followers to flee to the eastern provinces, and there
raising an army, to march back to the attack of the Soga.

There is reason to think that this policy would have succeeded. But
the prince replied: "I do not wish it to be said by after generations
that, for my sake, anyone has mourned the loss of a father or a
mother. Is it only when one has conquered in battle that one is to be
called a hero? Is he not also a hero who has made firm his country at
the expense of his own life?" He then returned to the temple at
Ikaruga, which his father had built, and being presently besieged
there by the Soga forces, he and the members of his family,
twenty-three in all, committed suicide. This tragedy shocked even
Emishi. He warned Iruka against the peril of such extreme measures.

ENGRAVING: FUJIWARA KAMATAKI

There now appears a statesman destined to leave his name indelibly
written on the pages of Japanese history, Kamatari, muraji of the
Nakatomi-uji. The Nakatomi's functions were specially connected with
Shinto rites, and Kamatari must be supposed to have entertained
little good-will towards the Soga, who were the leaders of the
Buddhist faction, and whose feud with the military party sixty-seven
years previously had involved the violent death of Katsumi, then
(587) muraji of the Nakatomi. Moreover, Kamatari makes his first
appearance in the annals as chief Shinto official. Nevertheless, it
is not apparent that religious zeal or personal resentment was
primarily responsible for Kamatari's determination to compass the
ruin of the Soga. Essentially an upright man and a loyal subject, he
seems to have been inspired by a frank resolve to protect the Throne
against schemes of lawless ambitions, unconscious that his own
family, the Fujiwara, were destined to repeat on a still larger scale
the same abuses.

The succession may be said to have had three aspirants at that time:
first, Prince Karu, younger brother of the Empress Kogyoku; secondly,
Prince Naka, her son, and thirdly, Prince Furubito, uncle of Soga no
Iruka.



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