Best books online Library

Your last book:

You dont read books at this site.

Total books on site: 11 280

You can read and download its for free!

Browse books by author: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
Japanese history furnished no precedent for such a step.
The custom had always been that a reign ceased on the death of a
sovereign unless the Crown Prince had not yet reached maturity, in
which event his mother, or some other nearly related princess,
occupied the throne until he came of age and then surrendered the
reigns of government to his hands. Such had been the practice in the
case of the Empresses Jito, Gemmyo, and Gensho. Shomu, however, not
only bequeathed the throne to a princess, but while himself still in
the prime of life, abdicated in her favour.

Thereafter, at the recognized instance of the all-powerful Fujiwara
family, Emperors often surrendered the sceptre to their heirs,
themselves retiring into religious life with the secular title of
Da-joko (Great ex-Emperor) and the ecclesiastical designation of Ho-o
(pontiff). Shomu was the originator of this practice, but the annals
are silent as to the motive that inspired him. It will be presently
seen that under the skilful manipulation of the Fujiwara nobles, this
device of abdication became a potent aid to their usurpation of
administrative power, and from that point of view the obvious
inference is that Shomu's unprecedented step was taken at their
suggestion. But the Buddhist propagandists, also, were profoundly
interested. That the sovereign himself should take the tonsure could
not fail to confer marked prestige on the Church. It is probable,
therefore, that Shomu was swayed by both influences--that of the
Buddhists, who worked frankly in the cause of their creed, and that
of the Fujiwara, who desired to see a lady of their own lineage upon
the throne.

KOKEN AND NAKAMARO

The fanaticism of the Emperor Shomu and his consort, Komyo, bore
fruit during the reign of Koken. In the third year after Shomu's
abdication, a decree was issued prohibiting the taking of life in any
form. This imposed upon the State the responsibility of making
donations of rice to support the fishermen, whose source of
livelihood was cut off by the decree. Further, at the ceremony of
opening the public worship of the great image of Buddha, the Empress
in person led the vast procession of military, civil, and religious
dignitaries to the temple Todai-ji. It was a fete of unparalleled
dimensions. All officials of the fifth grade and upwards wore full
uniform, and all of lesser grades wore robes of the colour
appropriate to their rank. Ten thousand Buddhist priests officiated,
and the Imperial musicians were re-enforced by those from all the
temples throughout the home provinces. Buddhism in Japan had never
previously received such splendid homage.

In the evening, the Empress visited the residence of the grand
councillor, Fujiwara no Nakamaro. Fourteen hundred years had elapsed,
according to Japanese history, since the first of the Yamato
sovereigns set up his Court, and never had the Imperial house
incurred such disgrace as now befell it. Fujiwara no Nakamaro was a
grandson of the great Kamatari. He held the rank of dainagon and was
at once a learned man and an able administrator. From the time of
that visit to the Tamura-no-tei (Tamura mansion), as his residence
was called, the Empress repaired thither frequently, and finally made
it a detached palace under the name of Tamura-no-miya. Those that
tried to put an end to the liaison were themselves driven from
office, and Nakamaro's influence became daily stronger.

THE FORTY-SEVENTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR JUNNIN (758-764 A.D.)

In August, 758, the Empress, after a reign of four years, nominally
abdicated in favour of the Crown Prince, Junnin, but continued to
discharge all the functions of government herself. Her infatuation
for Nakamaro seemed to increase daily. She bestowed on him titles of
admiration and endearment under the guise of homonymous ideographs,
and she also bestowed on him in perpetuity the revenue from 3000
households and 250 acres of land. But Koken's caprice took a new
turn. She became a nun and transferred her affection to a priest,
Yuge no Dokyo. Nakamaro did not tamely endure to be thus discarded.
He raised the standard of revolt and found that the nun could be as
relentless as the Empress had been gracious. The rebellion--known by
irony of fate as that of Oshikatsu (the Conqueror), which was one of
the names bestowed on him by Koken in the season of her
favour--proved a brief struggle. Nakamaro fell in battle and his
head, together with those of his wife, his children, and his devoted
followers to the number of thirty-four, was despatched to Nara. The
tumult had a more serious sequel. It was mainly through Nakamaro's
influence that Junnin had been crowned six years previously, and his
Majesty naturally made no secret of his aversion for the new
favourite. The Dowager Empress--so Koken had called herself--did not
hesitate a moment. In the very month following Nakamaro's
destruction, she charged that the Emperor was in collusion with the
rebel; despatched a force of troops to surround the palace; dethroned
Junnin; degraded him to the rank of a prince, and sent him and his
mother into exile, where the conditions of confinement were made so
intolerable that the ex-Emperor attempted to escape, was captured and
killed.

ENGRAVING: THE KASUGA JINJA SHRINE AT KARA

THE FORTY-EIGHTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPRESS SHOTOKU (765-770 A.D.)

The nun Koken now abandoned the veil and re-ascended the throne under
the name of Shotoku. Her affection for Dokyo had been augmented by
his constant ministrations during her illness while on a visit to the
"detatched palace" at Omi, and she conferred on him a priestly title
which made him rank equally with the prime minister. All the civil
and military magnates had to pay homage to him at the festival of the
New Year in his exalted capacity. Yet her Majesty was not satisfied.
Another step of promotion was possible. In the year after her second
ascent of the throne she named him Ho-o (pontiff), a title never
previously borne by any save her father, the ex-Emperor Shomu. Dokyo
rose fully to the level of the occasion. He modelled his life in
every respect on that of a sovereign and assumed complete control of
the administration of the empire. He not only fared sumptuously but
also built many temples, and as the Empress was not less extravagant,
the burden of taxation became painfully heavy. But the priestly
favourite, who seems to have now conceived the ambition of ascending
the throne, abated nothing of his pomp. Whether at his instigation or
because his favour had become of paramount importance to all men of
ambition, Asomaro, governor of the Dazai-fu, informed the Empress
that, according to an oracle delivered by the god of War (Hachiman)
at Usa, the nation would enjoy tranquillity and prosperity if Dokyo
were its ruler.

The Empress had profound reverence for Hachiman, as, indeed, was well
known to Asomaro and to Dokyo. Yet she hesitated to take this extreme
step without fuller assurance. She ordered Wake no Kiyomaro to
proceed to Usa and consult the deity once more. Kiyomaro was a
fearless patriot. That Shotoku's choice fell on him at this juncture
might well have been regarded by his countrymen as an intervention of
heaven. Before setting out he had unequivocal evidence of what was to
be expected at Dokyo's hands by the bearer of a favourable revelation
from Hachiman. Yet the answer carried back by him from the Usa shrine
was explicitly fatal to Dokyo's hope. "Since the establishment of the
State the distinction of sovereign and subject has been observed.
There is no instance of a subject becoming sovereign. The successor
of the throne must be of the Imperial family and a usurper is to be
rejected." Dokyo's wrath was extreme. He ordered that Kiyomaro's name
should be changed to Kegaremaro, which was equivalent to substituting
"foul" for "fair;" he banished him to Osumi in the extreme south of
Kyushu, and he sent emissaries whose attempt to assassinate him was
balked by a thunder-storm. But before he could bring any fresh design
to maturity, the Empress died. Dokyo and Asomaro were banished, and
Kiyomaro was recalled from exile.

Historians have been much perplexed to account for the strangely
apathetic demeanour of the high dignitaries of State in the presence
of such disgraceful doings as those of the Empress and her favourite.
They specially blame Kibi no Makibi, the great scholar. He had
recovered from his temporary eclipse in connexion with the revolt of
Fujiwara Hirotsugu, and he held the office of minister of the Right
during a great part of Koken's reign. Yet it is not on record that he
offered any remonstrance. The same criticism, however, seems to apply
with not less justice to his immediate predecessors in the post of
ministers of the Right, Tachibana no Moroe and Fujiwara no Toyonari;
to the minister of the Left, Fujiwara no Nagate; to the second
councillor, Fujiwara no Matate, and to the privy councillors,
Fujiwara no Yoshitsugu, Fujiwara no Momokawa, and Fujiwara no Uwona.
It was with the Fujiwara families that the responsibility rested
chiefly, and the general conduct of the Fujiwara at that period of
history forbids us to construe their apparent indifference in a
wholly bad sense. Probably the simplest explanation is the true one:
Koken herself was a Fujiwara.

STATE OF THE PROVINCES

In the days of Shomu and Koken administrative abuses were not limited
to the capital, they extended to the provinces also. Among the Daika
and Daiho laws, the first that proved to be a failure was that
relating to provincial governors. At the outset men of ability were
chosen for these important posts, and their term of service was
limited to four years. Soon, however, they began to petition for
reappointment, and under the sway of the Empress Koken a via media
was found by extending the period of office to six years. Moreover,
whereas at first a newly appointed governor was supposed to live in
the official residence of his predecessor, it quickly became the
custom to build a new mansion for the incoming dignitary and leave
the outgoing undisturbed.

What that involved is plain when we observe that such edifices were
all constructed by forced labour.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | 232 | | 233 | | 234 | | 235 | | 236 | | 237 | | 238 | | 239 | | 240 | | 241 | | 242 | | 243 | | 244 | | 245 | | 246 | | 247 | | 248 | | 249 | | 250 | | 251 | | 252 | | 253 | | 254 | | 255 | | 256 | | 257 | | 258 | | 259 | | 260 | | 261 | | 262 | | 263 | | 264 | | Next |