The Nara Epoch
THE FORTY-THIRD SOVEREIGN, THE EMPRESS GEMMYO (A.D. 708-715)
THE Empress Gemmyo, fourth daughter of the Emperor Tenchi and consort of Prince Kusakabe, was the mother of the Emperor Mommu, whose accession had been the occasion of the first formal declaration of the right of primogeniture (vide Chapter XV). Mommu, dying, willed that the throne should be occupied by his mother in trust for his infant son--afterwards Emperor Shomu.
REMOVAL OF THE CAPITAL TO NARA
In ancient times it was customary to change the locality of the Imperial capital with each change of sovereign. This custom, dictated by the Shinto conception of impurity attaching to sickness and death, exercised a baleful influence on architectural development, and constituted a heavy burden upon the people, whose forced labour was largely requisitioned for the building of the new palace. Kotoku, when he promulgated his system of centralized administration, conceived the idea of a fixed capital and selected Naniwa. But the Emperor Tenchi moved to Omi, Temmu to Asuka (in Yamato) and the Empress Jito to Fujiwara (in Yamato). Mommu remained at the latter place until the closing year (707) of his reign, when, finding the site inconvenient, he gave orders for the selection of another. But his death interrupted the project, and it was not until the second year of the Empress Gemmyo's reign that the Court finally removed to Nara, where it remained for seventy-five years, throughout the reigns of seven sovereigns. Nara, in the province of Yamato, lies nearly due south of Kyoto at a distance of twenty-six miles from the latter. History does not say why it was selected, nor have any details of its plan been transmitted. To-day it is celebrated for scenic beauties--a spacious park with noble trees and softly contoured hills, sloping down to a fair expanse of lake, and enshrining in their dales ancient temples, wherein are preserved many fine specimens of Japanese art, glyptic and pictorial, of the seventh and eighth centuries. Nothing remains of the palace where the Court resided throughout a cycle and a half, nearly twelve hundred years ago, but one building, a storehouse called Shoso-in, survives in its primitive form and constitutes a landmark in the annals of Japanese civilization, for it contains specimens of all the articles that were in daily use by the sovereigns of the Nara epoch.
There is obscurity about the production of the precious metals in old Japan. That gold, silver, and copper were known and used is certain, for in the dolmens,--which ceased to be built from about the close of the sixth century (A.D.)--copper ear-rings plated with gold are found, and gold-copper images of Buddha were made in the reign of the Empress Suiko (605), while history says that silver was discovered in the island of Tsushima in the second year of the Emperor Temmu's reign (674). From the same island, gold also is recorded to have come in 701, but in the case of the yellow and the white metal alike, the supply obtained was insignificant, and indeed modern historians are disposed to doubt whether the alleged Tsushima gold was not in reality brought from Korea via that island. On the whole, the evidence tends to show that, during the first seven centuries of the Christian era, Japan relied on Korea mainly, and on China partially, for her supply of the precious metals. Yet neither gold, silver, nor copper coins seem to have been in anything like general use until the Wado era (708-715).
Coined money had already been a feature of Chinese civilization since the fourth century before Christ, and when Japan began to take models from her great neighbour during the Sui and Tang dynasties, she cannot have failed to appreciate the advantages of artificial media of exchange. The annals allege that in A.D. 677 the first mint was established, and that in 683 an ordinance prescribed that the silver coins struck there should be superseded by copper. But this rule did not remain long in force, nor have there survived any coins, whether of silver or of copper, certainly identifiable as antecedent to the Wado era. It was in the year of the Empress Gemmyo's accession (708) that deposits of copper were found in the Chichibu district of Musashi province, and the event seemed sufficiently important to call for a change of year-name to Wado (refined copper). Thenceforth, coins of copper--or more correctly, bronze--were regularly minted and gradually took the place of rice or cotton cloth as units of value.
It would seem that, from the close of the seventh century, a wave of mining industry swept over Japan. Silver was procured from the provinces of Iyo and Kii; copper from Inaba and Suo, and tin from Ise, Tamba, and Iyo. All this happened between the years 690 and 708, but the discovery of copper in the latter year in Chichibu was on comparatively the largest scale, and may be said to have given the first really substantial impetus to coining. For some unrecorded reason silver pieces were struck first and were followed by copper a few months later. Both were of precisely the same form--round with a square hole in the middle to facilitate threading on a string--both were of the same denomination (one won), and both bore the same superscription (Wado Kaiho, or "opening treasure of refined copper"), the shape, the denomination, and the legend being taken from a coin of the Tang dynasty struck eighty-eight years previously. It was ordered that in using these pieces silver should be paid in the case of sums of or above four mon, and copper in the case of sums of or below three won, the value of the silver coin being four times that of the copper. But the silver tokens soon ceased to be current and copper mainly occupied the field, a position which it held for 250 years, from 708 to 958. During that interval, twelve forms of sen* were struck. They deteriorated steadily in quality, owing to growing scarcity of the supply of copper; and, partly to compensate for the increased cost of the metal, partly to minister to official greed, the new issues were declared, on several occasions, to have a value ten times as great as their immediate predecessors. Concerning that value, the annals state that in 711 the purchasing power of the mon (i.e., of the one-sen token) was sixty go of rice, and as the daily ration for a full-grown man is five go, it follows that one sen originally sufficed for twelve days' sustenance.**
*The ideograph sen signified originally a "fountain," and its employment to designate a coin seems to have been suggested by an idea analogous to that underlying the English word "currency."
**"At the present time the wages of a carpenter are almost a yen a day. Now the yen is equal to 1000 mon of the smaller sen and to 500 mon of the larger ones, so that he could have provided himself with rice, if we count only 500 mon to the yen, for sixteen years on the wages which he receives for one day's labour in 1900." (Munro's Coins of Japan.)
Much difficulty was experienced in weaning the people from their old custom of barter and inducing them to use coins. The Government seems to have recognized that there could not be any effective spirit of economy so long as perishable goods represented the standard of value, and in order to popularize the use of the new tokens as well as to encourage thrift, it was decreed that grades of rank would be bestowed upon men who had saved certain sums in coin. At that time (711), official salaries had already been fixed in terms of the Wado sen. The highest received thirty pieces of cloth, one hundred hanks of silk and two thousand mon, while in the case of an eighth-class official the corresponding figures were one piece of cloth and twenty mon.* The edict for promoting economy embodied a schedule according to which, broadly speaking, two steps of executive rank could be gained by amassing twenty thousand mon and one step by saving five thousand.
*These figures sound ludicrously small if translated into present-day money, for 1000 mon go to the yen, and the latter being the equivalent of two shillings, 20 mon represents less then a half-penny. But of course the true calculation is that 20 mon represented 240 days' rations of rice in the Wado schedule of values.
Observing that the fundamental principle of a sound token of exchange was wholly disregarded in these Wado sen, since their intrinsic value bore no appreciable ratio to their purchasing power, and considering also the crudeness of their manufacture, it is not surprising to find that within a few months of their appearance they were extensively forged. What is much more notable is that the Wado sen remained in circulation for fifty years. The extraordinary ratio, however, by which copper and silver were linked together originally, namely, 4 to 1, did not survive; in 721 it was changed to 25 to 10, and in the following year to 50 to 10. Altogether, as was not unnatural, the early treatment of this coinage question by Japanese statesmen showed no trace of scientific perception. The practice, pursued almost invariably, of multiplying by ten the purchasing power of each new issue of sen, proved, of course, enormously profitable to the issuers, but could not fail to distress the people and to render unpopular such arbitrarily varying tokens.
The Government spared no effort to correct the latter result, and some of the devices employed were genuinely progressive. In that epoch travellers had to carry their own provisions, and not uncommonly the supply ran short before they reached their destination, the result sometimes being death from starvation on the roadside. It was therefore ordered that in every district (korf) a certain portion of rice should be stored at a convenient place for sale to wayfarers, and these were advised to provide themselves with a few sen before setting out. It is evident that, since one of the Wado coins sufficed to buy rice for twelve days' rations, a traveller was not obliged to burden himself with many of these tokens. Wealthy persons in the provinces were also admonished to set up roadside shops for the sale of rice, and anyone who thus disposed of one hundred koku in a year was to be reported to the Court for special reward. Moreover, no district governor (gunryo), however competent, was counted eligible for promotion unless he had saved six thousand sen, and it was enacted that all taxes might be paid in copper coin. In spite of all this, however, the use of metallic media was limited for a long time to the upper classes and to the inhabitants of the five home provinces. Elsewhere the old habit of barter continued.
THE FORTY-FOURTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPRESS GENSHO (A.D. 715-723)
In the year 715, the Empress Gemmyo, after a reign of seven years, abdicated in favour of her daughter, Gensho. This is the only instance in Japanese history of an Empress succeeding an Empress.
The reigns of these two Empresses are memorable for the compilation of the two oldest Japanese histories which have been handed down to the present epoch, the Kojiki and the Nihongi; but as the circumstances in which these works, as well as the Fudoki (Records of Natural Features), were written have been sufficiently described already (vide Chapter I), it remains only to refer to a custom inaugurated by Gemmyo in the year (721) after the compilation of the Nihongi, the custom of summoning to Court learned men (hakase) and requiring them to deliver lectures on that work. Subsequent generations of sovereigns followed this example, and to this day one of the features of the New Year's observances is a historical discourse in the palace. The writing of history became thenceforth an imperially patronized occupation. Six works, covering the period from 697 to 887, appeared in succession and were known through all ages as the Six National Histories. It is noticeable that in the compilation of all these a leading part was taken by one or another of the great Fujiwara ministers, and that the fifth numbered among its authors the illustrious Sugawara Michizane.
THE FORTY-FIFTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR SHOMU (A.D. 724-748)
When the Emperor Mommu died (707), his son, the Prince Imperial, was too young to succeed. Therefore the sceptre came into the hands of Mommu's mother, who, after a reign of seven years, abdicated in favour of her daughter, the Empress Gensho, and, eight years later, the latter in turn abdicated in favour of her nephew, Shomu, who had now reached man's estate. Shomu's mother, Higami, was a daughter of Fujiwara Fuhito, and as the Fujiwara family did not belong to the Kwobetsu class, she had not attained the rank of Empress, but had remained simply Mommu's consort (fujiri). Her son, the Emperor Shomu, married another daughter of the same Fujiwara Fuhito by a different mother; that is to say, he took for consort his own mother's half-sister, Asuka. This lady, Asuka, laboured under the same disadvantage of lineage and could not properly be recognized as Empress. It is necessary to note these details for they constitute the preface to a remarkable page of Japanese history. Of Fujiwara Fuhito's two daughters, one, Higami, was the mother of the reigning Emperor, Shomu, and the other, Asuka, was his consort. The blood relationship of the Fujiwara family to the Court could scarcely have been more marked, but its public recognition was impeded by the defect in the family's lineage.
THE FUJIWARA CONSPIRACY
Immediately after Shomu's accession, his mother, Higami, received the title of Kwo-taifujin (Imperial Great Lady). But the ambition of her family was to have her named Kwo-taiko (Empress Dowager). The Emperor also desired to raise his consort, Asuka, to the position of Empress. Consulting his ministers on the subject, he encountered opposition from Prince Nagaya, minister of the Left. This prince, a great-grandson of the Emperor Temmu, enjoyed high reputation as a scholar, was looked up to as a statesman of great wisdom, and possessed much influence owing to his exalted official position. He urged that neither precedent nor law sanctioned nomination of a lady of the Shimbetsu class to the rank of Empress. The Daiho code was indeed very explicit on the subject. In China, whither the drafters of the code went for models, no restrictions were imposed on a sovereign's choice of wife. But the Japanese legislators clearly enacted that an Empress must be taken from among Imperial princesses. Prince Nagaya, in his position as minister of the Left, opposed any departure from that law and thus thwarted the designs of the Fujiwara.
The lady Asuka bore a son to the Emperor three years after his accession. His Majesty was profoundly pleased. He caused a general amnesty to be proclaimed, presented gratuities to officials, and granted gifts to all children born on the same day. When only two months old, the child was created Prince Imperial, but in his eleventh month he fell ill. Buddhist images were cast; Buddhist Sutras were copied; offerings were made to the Kami, and an amnesty was proclaimed. Nothing availed. The child died, and the Emperor was distraught with grief. In this incident the partisans of the Fujiwara saw their opportunity. They caused it to be laid to Prince Nagaya's charge that he had compassed the death of the infant prince by charms and incantations. Two of the Fujiwara nobles were appointed to investigate the accusation, and they condemned the prince to die by his own hand. He committed suicide, and his wife and children died with him. The travesty of justice was carefully acted throughout. A proclamation was issued promising capital punishment to any one, of whatever rank or position, who compassed the death or injury of another by spells or incantations, and, six months later, the lady Asuka was formally proclaimed Empress.
In one respect the Fujiwara conspirators showed themselves clumsy. The rescript justified Asuka's elevation by reference to the case of Iwa, a daughter of the Takenouchi, whom the Emperor Nintoku had made his Empress. But the Takenouchi family belonged to the Kwobetsu class, and the publication of a special edict in justification could be read as self-condemnation only. Nevertheless, the Fujiwara had compassed their purpose. Thenceforth they wielded the power of the State through the agency of their daughters. They furnished Empresses and consorts to the reigning sovereigns, and took their own wives from the Minamoto family, itself of Imperial lineage. To such an extent was the former practice followed that on two occasions three Fujiwara ladies served simultaneously in the palace. This happened when Go-Reizei (1222-1232) had a Fujiwara Empress, Kwanko, and two Fujiwara consorts, Fumi and Hiro. At one moment it had seemed as though fate would interfere to thwart these astute plans. An epidemic of small-pox, originating (735) in Kyushu, spread over the whole country, and carried off the four sons of Fuhito--Muchimaro, Fusazaki, Umakai, and Maro--leaving the family's fortunes in the hands of juniors, who occupied only minor official positions. But the Fujiwara genius rose superior to all vicissitudes. The elevation of the lady Asuka to be Empress Komyo marks an epoch in Japanese history.
COMMUNICATIONS WITH CHINA
In spite of the length and perils of a voyage from Japan to China in the seventh and eighth centuries--one embassy which sailed from Naniwa in the late summer of 659 did not reach China for 107 days--the journey was frequently made by Japanese students of religion and literature, just as the Chinese, on their side, travelled often to India in search of Buddhist enlightenment. This access to the refinement and civilization of the Tang Court contributed largely to Japan's progress, both material and moral, and is frankly acknowledged by her historians as a main factor in her advance. When Shomu reigned at Nara, the Court in Changan had entered the phase of luxury and epicurism which usually preludes the ruin of a State. Famous literati thronged its portals; great poets and painters enjoyed its patronage, and annalists descanted on its magnificence. Some of the works of these famous men were carried to Japan and remained with her as models and treasures. She herself showed that she had competence to win some laurels even amid such a galaxy. In the year 716, Nakamaro, a member of the great Abe family, accompanied the Japanese ambassador to Tang and remained in China until his death in 770. He was known in China as Chao Heng, and the great poet, Li Pai, composed a poem in his memory, while the Tang sovereign conferred on him the posthumous title of "viceroy of Luchou." Not less celebrated was Makibi,* who went to China at the same time as Nakamaro, and after twenty years' close study of Confucius, returned in 735, having earned such a reputation for profound knowledge of history, the five classics, jurisprudence, mathematics, philosophy, calendar making, and other sciences that the Chinese parted with him reluctantly. In Japan he was raised to the high rank of asomi, and ultimately became minister of the Right during the reign of Shotoku.
*Generally spoken of as "Kibi no Mabi," and credited by tradition with the invention of the katakana syllabary.
Such incidents speak eloquently of the respect paid in Japan to mental attainments and of the enlightened hospitality of China. In the realm of Buddhism perhaps even more than in that of secular science, this close intercourse made its influence felt. Priests went from Japan to study in China, and priests came from China to preach in Japan. During the Nara era, three of these men attained to special eminence. They were Doji, Gembo, and Kanshin. Doji was the great propagandist of the Sanron sect, whose tenets he had studied in China for sixteen years (701-717). From plans prepared by him and taken from the monastery of Hsi-ming in China, the temple Daian-ji was built under the auspices of the Emperor Shomu, and having been richly endowed, was placed in Doji's charge as lord-abbot. Gembo, during a sojourn of two years at the Tang Court, studied the tenets of the Hosso sect, which, like the Sanron, constituted one of the five sects originally introduced into Japan. Returning in 736, he presented to the Emperor Shomu five thousand volumes of the Sutras, together with a number of Buddhist images, and he was appointed abbot of the celebrated temple, Kofuku-ji. The third of the above three religious celebrities was a Chinese missionary named Kanshin. He went to Japan accompanied by fourteen priests, three nuns, and twenty-four laymen, and the mission carried with it many Buddhist relics, images, and Sutras. Summoned to Nara in 754, he was treated with profound reverence, and on a platform specially erected before the temple Todai-ji, where stood the colossal image of Buddha--to be presently spoken of--the sovereign and many illustrious personages performed the most solemn rite of Buddhism under the ministration of Kanshin. He established a further claim on the gratitude of the Empress by curing her of an obstinate malady, and her Majesty would fain have raised him to the highest rank (dai-sojo) of the Buddhist priesthood. But he declined the honour. Subsequently, the former palace of Prince Nittabe was given to him as a residence and he built there the temple of Shodai-ji, which still exists.
RELIGION AND POLITICS
The great Confucianist, Makibi, and the Buddhist prelate, Gembo, met with misfortune and became the victims of an unjust accusation because they attempted to assert the Imperial authority as superior to the growing influence of the Fujiwara. Makibi held the post of chamberlain of the Empress' household, and Gembo officiated at the "Interior monastery" (Nai-dojo) where the members of the Imperial family worshipped Buddha. The Emperor's mother, Higami, who on her son's accession had received the title of "Imperial Great Lady" (vide sup.), fell into a state of melancholia and invited Gembo to prescribe for her, which he did successfully. Thus, his influence in the palace became very great, and was augmented by the piety of the Empress, who frequently listened to discourses by the learned prelate. Makibi naturally worked in union with Gembo in consideration of their similar antecedents. Fujiwara Hirotsugu was then governor of Yamato. Witnessing this state of affairs with uneasiness, he impeached Gembo. But the Emperor credited the priest's assertions, and removed Hirotsugu to the remote post of Dazai-fu in Chikuzen. There he raised the standard of revolt and was with some difficulty captured and executed. The Fujiwara did not tamely endure this check. They exerted their influence to procure the removal of Makibi and Gembo from the capital, both being sent to Tsukushi (Kyushu), Makibi in the capacity of governor, and Gembo to build the temple Kwannon-ji. Gembo died a year later, and it was commonly reported that the spirit of Hirotsugu had compassed his destruction, while more than one book, professing to be historical, alleged that his prime offence was immoral relations with the "Imperial Great Lady," who was then some sixty years of age! There can be little doubt that the two illustrious scholars suffered for their fame rather than for their faults, and that their chief offences were overshadowing renown and independence of Fujiwara patronage.
BUDDHISM IN THE NARA EPOCH
From what has been related above of the priests Kanshin and Gembo, it will have been observed that the Emperor Shomu was an earnest disciple of Buddhism. The heritage of administrative reforms bequeathed to him by Tenchi and Temmu should have engrossed his attention, but he subserved everything to religion, and thus the great national work, begun in the Daika era and carried nearly to completion in the Daiho, suffered its first check. Some annalists have pleaded in Shomu's behalf that he trusted religious influence to consolidate the system introduced by his predecessors. However that may be, history records as the most memorable event of his reign his abdication of the throne in order to enter religion, thus inaugurating a practice which was followed by several subsequent sovereigns and which materially helped the Fujiwara family to usurp the reality of administrative power. Shomu, on receiving the tonsure, changed his name to Shoman, and thenceforth took no part in secular affairs.
In all this, however, his procedure marked a climax rather than a departure. In fact, never did any foreign creed receive a warmer welcome than that accorded to Buddhism by the Japanese after its first struggle for tolerance. Emperor after Emperor worshipped the Buddha. Even Tenchi, who profoundly admired the Confucian philosophy and whose experience of the Soga nobles' treason might well have prejudiced him against the faith they championed; and even Temmu, whose ideals took the forms of frugality and militarism, were lavish in their offerings at Buddhist ceremonials. The Emperor Mommu enacted a law for the better control of priests and nuns, yet he erected the temple Kwannon-ji. The great Fujiwara statesmen, as Kamatari, Fuhito, and the rest, though they belonged to a family (the Nakatomi) closely associated with Shinto worship, were reverent followers of the Indian faith. Kamatari approved of his eldest son, Joye, entering the priesthood, and sent him to China to study the Sutras. He also gave up his residence at Yamashina for conversion into a monastery. Fujiwara Fuhito built the Kofuku-ji, and his son, Muchimaro, when governor of Omi, repaired temples in the provinces, protected their domains, and erected the Jingu-ji.
That among the occupants of the throne during 165 years, from 593 to 758, no less than seven were females could not but contribute to the spread of a religion which owed so much to spectacular effect. Every one of these sovereigns lent earnest aid to the propagation of Buddhism, and the tendency of the age culminated in the fanaticism of Shomu, re-enforced as it was by the devotion of his consort, Komyo. Tradition has woven into a beautiful legend the nation's impression of this lady's piety. In an access of humility she vowed to wash the bodies of a thousand beggars. Nine hundred and ninety-nine had been completed when the last presented himself in the form of a loathsome leper. Without a sign of repugnance the Empress continued her task, and no sooner was the ablution concluded than the mendicant ascended heavenwards, a glory of light radiating from his body. It is also told of her that, having received in a dream a miniature golden image of the goddess of Mercy (Kwannon) holding a baby in her arms, she conceived a daughter who ultimately reigned as the Empress Koken.*
*The resemblance between the legend and the Buddhist account of the Incarnation is plain. It has to be remembered that Nestorians had carried Christianity to the Tang Court long before the days of Komyo.
In spite, however, of all this zeal for Buddhism, the nation did not entirely abandon its traditional faith. The original cult had been ancestor worship. Each great family had its uji no Kami, to whom it made offerings and presented supplications. These deities were now supplemented, not supplanted. They were grafted upon a Buddhist stem, and shrines of the uji no Kami became uji-tera, or "uji temples."* Thenceforth the temple (tera) took precedence of the shrine (yashiro). When spoken of together they became ji-sha. This was the beginning of Ryobu Shinto, or mixed Shinto, which found full expression when Buddhist teachers, obedient to a spirit of toleration born of their belief in the doctrines of metempsychosis and universal perfectibility, asserted the creed that the Shinto Kami were avatars (incarnations) of the numerous Buddhas.
*Thus, Kofukuji, built by Kamatari and Fuhito was called O-Nakatomi no uji-tera; Onjo-ji, erected by Otomo Suguri, was known as Otomo no uji-tera, and so forth.
The Nara epoch has not bequeathed to posterity many relics of the great religious edifices that came into existence under Imperial patronage during its seventy-five years. Built almost wholly of wood, these temples were gradually destroyed by fire. One object, however, defied the agent of destruction. It is a bronze Buddha of huge proportions, known now to all the world as the "Nara Daibutsu." On the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the fifteenth year of Tembyo--7th of November, 743--the Emperor Shomu proclaimed his intention of undertaking this work. The rescript making the announcement is extant. It sets out by declaring that "through the influence and authority of Buddha the country enjoys tranquillity," and while warning the provincial and district governors against in any way constraining the people to take part in the project, it promises that every contributor shall be welcome, even though he bring no more than a twig to feed the furnace or a handful of clay for the mould. The actual work of casting began in 747 and was completed in three years, after seven failures. The image was not cast in its entirety; it was built up with bronze plates soldered together. A sitting presentment of the Buddha, it had a height of fifty-three and a half feet and the face was sixteen feet long, while on either side was an attendant bosatsu standing thirty feet high. For the image, 986,030,000 lbs. of copper were needed, and on the gilding of its surface 870 lbs. of refined gold were used.
These figures represented a vast fortune in the eighth century. Indeed it seemed likely that a sufficiency of gold would not be procurable, but fortunately in the year 749 the yellow metal was found in the province of Mutsu, and people regarded the timely discovery as a special dispensation of Buddha. The great hall in which the image stood had a height of 120 feet and a width of 290 feet from east to west, and beside it two pagodas rose to a height of 230 feet each. Throughout the ten years occupied in the task of collecting materials and casting this Daibutsu, the Emperor solemnly worshipped Rushana Buddha three times daily, and on its completion he took the tonsure. It was not until the year 752, however, that the final ceremony of unveiling took place technically called "opening the eyes" (kaigan). On that occasion the Empress Koken, attended by all the great civil and military dignitaries, held a magnificent fete, and in the following year the temple--Todai-ji--was endowed with the taxes of five thousand households and the revenue from twenty-five thousand acres of rice-fields.
While all this religious fervour was finding costly expression among the aristocrats in Nara, the propagandists and patrons of Buddhism did not neglect the masses. In the year 741, provincial temples were officially declared essential to the State's well-being. These edifices had their origin at an earlier date. During the reign of Temmu (673-686) an Imperial rescript ordered that throughout the whole country every household should provide itself with a Buddhist shrine and place therein a sacred image. When the pious Empress Jito occupied the throne (690-696), the first proselytizing mission was despatched to the Ezo, among whom many converts were won; and, later in the same reign, another rescript directed that a certain Sutra--the Konkwo myo-kyo, or Sutra of Golden Effulgence--should be read during the first month of every year in each province, the fees of the officiating priests and other expenses being defrayed out of the local official exchequers.
ENGRAVING: PAGODA OF YAKUSHI-JI, NARA
During Mommu's time (697-707), Buddhist hierarchs (kokushi) were appointed to the provinces. Their chief functions were to expound the Sutra and to offer prayers. The devout Shomu not only distributed numerous copies of the Sutras, but also carried his zeal to the length of commanding that every province should erect a sixteen-foot image of Shaka with attendant bosatsu (Bodhisattva), and, a few years later, he issued another command that each province must provide itself with a pagoda seven storeys high. By this last rescript the provincial temples (kokubun-ji) were called into official existence, and presently their number was increased to two in each province, one for priests and one for nuns. The kokushi attached to these temples laboured in the cause of propagandism and religious education side by side with the provincial pundits (kunihakase), whose duty was to instruct the people in law and literature; but it is on record that the results of the former's labours were much more conspicuous than those of the latter.
It is said to have been mainly at the instance of the Empress Komyo that the great image of Todai-ji was constructed and the provincial temples were established. But undoubtedly the original impulse came from a priest, Gyogi. He was one of those men who seem to have been specially designed by fate for the work they undertake. Gyogi, said to have been of Korean extraction, had no learning like that which won respect for Kanshin and Gembo. But he was amply gifted with the personal magnetism which has always distinguished notably successful propagandists of religion. Wherever he preached and prayed, thousands of priests and laymen flocked to hear him, and so supreme was his influence that under his direction the people gladly undertook extensive works of bridge building and road making. Like Shotoku Taishi, his name is associated by tradition with achievements not properly assignable to him, as the invention of the potter's wheel--though it had been in use for centuries before his time--and the production of various works of art which can scarcely have occupied the attention of a religious zealot. By order of the Empress Gensho, Gyogi was thrown into prison for a time, such a disturbing effect did his propagandism produce on men's pursuit of ordinary bread winning; but he soon emerged from durance and was taken into reverent favour by the Emperor Shomu, who attached four hundred priests as his disciples and conferred on him the titles of Dai-Sojo (Great Hierarch) and Dai-Bosatsu (Great Bodhisattva).
The enigma of the people's patience under the stupendous burdens imposed on them by the fanatic piety of Shomu and his consort, Komyo, finds a solution in the co-operation of Gyogi, whose speech and presence exercised more influence than a hundred Imperial edicts. It is recorded that, by way of corollary to the task of reconciling the nation to the Nara Court's pious extravagance, Gyogi compassed the erection of no less than forty-nine temples. But perhaps the most memorable event in his career was the part he took in reconciling the indigenous faith and the imported. However fervent Shomu's belief in Buddhism, the country he ruled was the country of the Kami, and on descent from the Kami his own title to the throne rested. Thus, qualms of conscience may well have visited him when he remembered the comparatively neglected shrine of the Sun goddess at Ise. Gyogi undertook to consult the will of the goddess, and carried back a revelation which he interpreted in the sense that Amaterasu should be regarded as an incarnation of the Buddha. The Emperor then despatched to Ise a minister of State who obtained an oracle capable of similar interpretation, and, on the night after receipt of this utterance, the goddess, appearing to his Majesty in a vision, told him that the sun was Birushana (Vairotchana Tathagata); or Dainishi (Great Sun) Nyorai.
Thus was originated a theory which enabled Buddhism and Shinto to walk hand in hand for a thousand years, the theory that the Shinto Kami are avatars of the Buddha. Some historians contend that this idea must have been evolved and accepted before the maturity of the project for casting the colossal image at Nara, and that the credit probably belongs to Gembo; others attribute it to the immortal priest Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who is said to have elaborated the doctrine in the early years of the ninth century. Both seem wrong.
Side by side with the vigorous Buddhism of the Nara epoch, strange superstitions obtained currency and credence. Two may be mentioned as illustrating the mood of the age. One related to an ascetic, En no Ubasoku, who was worshipped by the people of Kinai under the name of En no Gyoja (En the anchorite). He lived in a cave on Katsuragi Mount for forty years, wore garments made of wistaria bark, and ate only pine leaves steeped in spring water. During the night he compelled demons to draw water and gather firewood, and during the day he rode upon clouds of five colours. The Kami Hitokotonushi, having been threatened by him for neglecting his orders, inspired a man to accuse him of treasonable designs, and the Emperor Mommu sent soldiers to arrest him. But as he was able to evade them by recourse to his art of flying, they apprehended his mother in his stead, whereupon he at once gave himself up. In consideration of his filial piety his punishment was commuted to exile on an island off the Izu coast, and in deference to the Imperial orders he remained there quietly throughout the day, but devoted the night to flying to the summit of Mount Fuji or gliding over the sea. This En no Gyoja was the founder of a sect of priests calling themselves Yamabushi.
The second superstition relates to one of the genii named Kume. By the practice of asceticism he obtained supernatural power, and while riding one day upon a cloud, he passed above a beautiful girl washing clothes in a river, and became so enamoured of her that he lost his superhuman capacities and fell at her feet. She became his wife. Years afterwards it chanced that he was called out for forced labour, and, being taunted by the officials as a pseudo-genius, he fasted and prayed for seven days and seven nights. On the eighth morning a thunder-storm visited the scene, and after it, a quantity of heavy timber was found to have been moved, without any human effort, from the forest to the site of the projected building. The Emperor, hearing of this, granted him forty-five acres, on which he built the temple of Kume-dera.
Such tales found credence in the Nara epoch, and indeed all through the annals of early Japan there runs a well-marked thread of superstition which owed something of its obtrusiveness to intercourse with Korea and China, whence came professors of the arts of invisibility and magic. A thunder deity making his occasional abode in lofty trees is gravely spoken of in the context of a campaign, and if at one moment a river is inhabited by a semi-human monster, at another a fish formed like a child is caught in the sea. There is, of course, an herb of longevity--"a plant resembling coral in shape, with clustering leaves and branches; some red, others purple, others black, others golden coloured, and some changing their colours in the four seasons." In the reign of the Empress Kogyoku, witches and wizards betray the people into all sorts of extravagances; and a Korean acolyte has for friend a tiger which teaches him all manner of wonderful arts, among others that of healing any disease with a magic needle. Later on, these and cognate creations of credulity take their appropriate places in the realm of folk-lore, but they rank with sober history in the ancient annals. In this respect Japan did not differ from other early peoples.
THE FORTY-SIXTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPRESS KOKEN (A.D. 749-758)
In July, 749, the Emperor Shomu abdicated in favour of his daughter, Princess Abe, known in history as Koken. Her mother was the celebrated Princess Asuka, who, in spite of the Shimbetsu lineage of her Fujiwara family, had been made Shomu's Empress, and whose name had been changed to Komyo (Refulgence) in token of her illustrious piety. The daughter inherited all the mother's romance, but in her case it often degenerated into a passion more elementary than religious ecstasy. Shomu, having no son, made his daughter heir to the throne. 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. These governors usually possessed large domains, acquired during their period of office. The Court endeavoured to check them by despatching inspectors (ansatsu-shi) to examine and report on current conditions; but that device availed little. Moreover, the provincial governors exercised the power of appointing and dismissing the district governors (gunshi) in their provinces, although this evil system had been prohibited in the time of Gemmyo. In connexion, too, with the rice collected for public purposes, there were abuses. This rice, so long as it lay in the official storehouses, represented so much idle capital. The provincial governors utilized it by lending the grain to the farmers in the spring, partly for seed purposes and partly for food, on condition that it should be paid back in the autumn with fifty per cent, increment. Subsequently this exorbitant figure was reduced to thirty per cent. But the result was ruin for many farmers. They had to hand over their fields and houses or sell themselves into bondage.
Thus, outlaws, living by plunder, became a common feature of the time, and there arose a need for guards more capable than those supplied by the system of partial conscription. Hence, in the reign of Shomu, the sons and brothers of district governors (gunshi) proficient in archery and equestrianism were summoned from Omi, Ise, Mino, and Echizen, and to them was assigned the duty of guarding the public storehouses in the provinces. At the same time many men of prominence and influence began to organize guards for their private protection. This was contrary to law, but the condition of the time seemed to warrant it, and the authorities were powerless to prevent it. The ultimate supremacy of the military class had its origin in these circumstances. The Government itself was constrained to organize special corps for dealing with the brigands and pirates who infested the country and the coasts.
It has been well said by a Japanese historian that the fortunes of the Yamato were at their zenith during the reigns of the three Emperors Jimmu, Temmu, and Mommu. From the beginning of the eighth century they began to decline. For that decline, Buddhism was largely responsible. Buddhism gave to Japan a noble creed in the place of a colourless cult; gave to her art and refinement, but gave to her also something like financial ruin. The Indian faith spread with wonderful rapidity among all classes and betrayed them into fanatical extravagance. Anyone who did not erect or contribute largely to the erection of a temple or a pagoda was not admitted to the ranks of humanity. Men readily sacrificed their estates to form temple domains or to purchase serfs (tera-yakko) to till them. The sublimity of these edifices; the solemn grandeur of the images enshrined there; the dazzling and exquisite art lavished on their decoration; the strange splendour of the whole display might well suggest to the Japanese the work of some supernatural agencies.
In the Nara epoch, the Government spent fully one-half of its total income on works of piety. No country except in time of war ever devoted so much to unproductive expenditures. The enormous quantities of copper used for casting images not only exhausted the produce of the mines but also made large inroads upon the currency, hundreds of thousands of cash being thrown into the melting-pot. In 760 it was found that the volume of privately coined cash exceeded one-half of the State income, and under pretext that to suspend the circulation of such a quantity would embarrass the people, the Government struck a new coin--the mannen tsuho--which, while not differing appreciably from the old cash in intrinsic value, was arbitrarily invested with ten times the latter's purchasing power. The profit to the treasury was enormous; the disturbance of values and the dislocation of trade were proportionately great. Twelve years later (772), another rescript ordered that the new coin should circulate at par with the old. Such unstable legislation implies a very crude conception of financial requirements.
It has been shown that the Daika reforms regarded all "wet fields" as the property of the Crown, while imposing no restriction on the ownership of uplands, these being counted as belonging to their reclaimers. Thus, large estates began to fall into private possession; conspicuously in the case of provincial and district governors, who were in a position to employ forced labour, and who frequently abused their powers in defiance of the Daika code and decrees, where it was enacted that all profits from reclaimed lands must be shared with the farmers.* So flagrant did these practices become that, in 767, reclamation was declared to constitute thereafter no title of ownership. Apparently, however, this veto proved unpractical, for five years later (772), it was rescinded, the only condition now attached being that the farmers must not be distressed. Yet again, in 784, another change of policy has to be recorded. A decree declared that governors must confine their agricultural enterprise to public lands, on penalty of being punished criminally. If the language of this decree be read literally, a very evil state of affairs would seem to have existed, for the governors are denounced as wholly indifferent to public rights or interests, and as neglecting no means of exploiting the farmers. Finally, in 806, the pursuit of productive enterprise by governors in the provinces was once more sanctioned.
*The term "farmers," as used in the times now under consideration, must not be interpreted strictly in the modern sense of the word. It meant, rather, the untitled and the unofficial classes in the provinces.
Thus, between 650 and 806, no less than five radical changes of policy are recorded. It resulted that this vascillating legislation received very little practical attention. Great landed estates (shoen) accumulated in private hands throughout the empire, some owned by nobles, some by temples; and in order to protect their titles against the interference of the Central Government, the holders of these estates formed alliances with the great Court nobles in the capital, so that, in the course of time, a large part of the land throughout the provinces fell under the control of a few dominant families.
In the capital (Nara), on the other hand, the enormous sums squandered upon the building of temples, the casting or carving of images, and the performance of costly religious ceremonials gradually produced such a state of impecuniosity that, in 775, a decree was issued ordering that twenty-five per cent, of the revenues of the public lands (kugaideri) should be appropriated to increase the emoluments of the metropolitan officials. This decree spoke of the latter officials as not having sufficient to stave off cold or hunger, whereas their provincial confreres were living in opulence, and added that even men of high rank were not ashamed to apply for removal to provincial posts. As illustrating the straits to which the metropolitans were reduced and the price they had to pay for relief, it is instructive to examine a note found among the contents of the Shoso-in at Nara.
STATEMENT OF MON (COPPER CASH) LENT
Total, 1700 Mon. Monthly interest, 15 per hundred.
Debtors Sums lent Amounts to be returned
Tata no Mushimaro 500 mon 605 mon, on the 6th of the 11th month; namely, original debt, 500 mon, and interest for 1 month and 12 days, 105 mon
Ayabe no Samimaro 700 mon 840 mon, on the 6th of the 11th month; namely, original debt, 700 mon, and interest for 1 month and 10 days, 140 mon
Kiyono no Hitotari 500 mon 605 mon, on the 6th of the 11th month; namely, original debt, 500 mon, and interest for 1 month and 12 days, 105 mon
The above to be paid back when the debtors receive their salaries. Dated the 22nd of the 9th month of the 4th year of the Hoki era. (October 13, 773.)
Another note shows a loan of 1000 mon carrying interest at the rate of 130 mon monthly. The price of accommodation being so onerous, it is not difficult to infer the costliness of the necessaries of life. When the Daika reforms were undertaken, the metropolitan magnates looked down upon their provincial brethren as an inferior order of beings, but in the closing days of the Nara epoch the situations were reversed, and the ultimate transfer of administrative power from the Court to the provincials began to be foreshadowed.
THE FUJIWARA FAMILY
The religious fanaticism of the Emperor Shomu and his consort, Komyo, brought disorder into the affairs of the Imperial Court, and gave rise to an abuse not previously recorded, namely, favouritism with its natural outcome, treasonable ambition. It began to be doubtful whether the personal administration of the sovereign might not be productive of danger to the State. Thus, patriotic politicians conceived a desire not to transfer the sceptre to outside hands but to find among the scions of the Imperial family some one competent to save the situation, even though the selection involved violation of the principle of primogeniture. The death of the Empress Shotoku without issue and the consequent extinction of the Emperor Temmu's line furnished an opportunity to these loyal statesmen, and they availed themselves of it to set Konin upon the throne, as will be presently described.
In this crisis of the empire's fortunes, the Fujiwara family acted a leading part. Fuhito, son of the illustrious Kamatari, having assisted in the compilation of the Daika code and laws, and having served throughout four reigns--Jito, Mommu, Gemmyo, and Gensho--died at sixty-two in the post of minister of the Right, and left four sons, Muchimaro, Fusazaki, Umakai, and Maro. These, establishing themselves independently, founded the "four houses" of the Fujiwara. Muchimaro's home, being in the south (nan) of the capital, was called Nan-ke; Fusazaki's, being in the north (hoku), was termed Hoku-ke; Umakai's was spoken of as Shiki-ke, since he presided over the Department of Ceremonies (Shiki), and Maro's went by the name of Kyo-ke, this term also having reference to his office. The descendants of the four houses are shown in the following table:
/ / | Toyonari--Tsugunawa | Muchimaro < Nakamaro (Emi no Oshikatsu) | (Nan-ke) | Otomaro--Korekimi | \ | | / / | | Nagate | Nagayoshi (Mototsune) | Fusazaki < Matate--Uchimaro--Fuyutsugu < adopted | (Hoku-ke) | Kiyokawa | Yoshifusa--Mototsune-+ | \ \ | | | | / | | | Hirotsugu | | Umakai < Yoshitsugu--Tanetsugu-- / Nakanari | | (Shiki-ke) | --Kiyonari \ Kusuko | | | Momokawa--Otsugu | Kamatari- | \ | Fuhito < | | +-----------------------------------------------------+ | Maro | | (Kyo-ke) | Tokihira / | Miyako | Nakahira / | Koretada | (Consort | | Saneyori | Kanemichi | of Mommu) | Tadahira < Morosuke-- < Kaneiye ----+ | | | Morotada | Tamemitsu | | \ \ | Kinsuye | | \ | | Asuka | | (Empress | | of Shomu) | \ | | +----------------------------------------------------+ | | / Korechika | Michitaka < | \ Takaiye | Michikane | / Yorimichi--Morozane--Moromichi -------+ | Michinaga < | \ \ Norimichi | | | +----------------------------------------------------+ | | / Tadamichi | Tadazane < | \ Yorinaga \
It has already been related how the four heads of these families all died in one year (736) during an epidemic of small-pox, but it may be doubted whether this apparent calamity did not ultimately prove fortunate, for had these men lived, they would have occupied commanding positions during the scandalous reign of the Empress Koken (afterwards Shotoku), and might have supported the ruinous disloyalty of Nakamaro or the impetuous patriotism of Hirotsugu. However that may be, the Fujiwara subsequently took the lead in contriving the selection and enthronement of a monarch competent to stem the evil tendency of the time, and when the story of the Fujiwara usurpations comes to be written, we should always remember that it had a long preface of loyal service, a preface extending to four generations.
THE FORTY-NINTH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR KONIN (A.D. 770-781)
When the Empress Shotoku died, no successor had been designated, and it seemed not unlikely that the country would be thrown into a state of civil war. The ablest among the princes of the blood was Shirakabe, grandson of the Emperor Tenchi. He was in his sixty-second year, had held the post of nagon, and unquestionably possessed erudition and administrative competence. Fujiwara Momokawa warmly espoused his cause, but for unrecorded reason Kibi no Makibi offered opposition. Makibi being then minister of the Right and Momokawa only a councillor, the former's views must have prevailed had not Momokawa enlisted the aid of his brother, Yoshitsugu, and of his cousin, Fujiwara Nagate, minister of the Left. By their united efforts Prince Shirakabe was proclaimed and became the Emperor Konin, his youngest son, Osabe, being appointed Prince Imperial.
Konin justified the zeal of his supporters, but his benevolent and upright reign has been sullied by historical romanticists, who represent him as party to an unnatural intrigue based on the alleged licentiousness and shamelessness of his consort, Princess Inokami, a lady then in her fifty-sixth year with a hitherto blameless record. Much space has been given to this strange tale by certain annalists, but its only apparent basis of fact would seem to be that Momokawa, wishing to secure the succession to Prince Yamabe--afterwards Emperor Kwammu--compassed the deaths of the Empress Inokami and her son, Osabe, the heir apparent. They were probably poisoned on the same day, and stories injurious to the lady's reputation--stories going so far as to accuse her of attempting the life of the Emperor by incantation--were circulated in justification of the murder. Certain it is, however, that to Momokawa's exertions the Emperor Kwammu owed his accession, as had his father, Konin. Kwammu, known in his days of priesthood as Yamabe, was Konin's eldest son, and would have been named Prince Imperial on his father's ascent of the throne had not his mother, Takano, been deficient in qualifications of lineage. He had held the posts of president of the University and minister of the Central Department, and his career, alike in office and on the throne, bore witness to the wisdom of his supporters.
As illustrating the religious faith of the age, it is noteworthy that Momokawa, by way of promoting Prince Yamabe's interests, caused a statue to be made in his likeness, and, enshrining it in the temple Bonshaku-ji, ordered the priests to offer supplications in its behalf. The chronicle further relates that after the deaths of the Empress (Inokami) and her son (Osabe), Momokawa and Emperor Konin were much troubled by the spirits of the deceased. That kind of belief in the maleficent as well as in the beneficent powers of the dead became very prevalent in later times. Momokawa died before the accession of Kwammu, but to him was largely due the great influence subsequently wielded by the Fujiwara at Court. It is on record that Kwammu, speaking in after years to Momokawa's son, Otsugu, recalled his father's memory with tears, and said that but for Momokawa he would never have reigned over the empire.
The fact is that the Fujiwara were a natural outcome of the situation. The Tang systems, which Kamatari, the great founder of the family, had been chiefly instrumental in introducing, placed in the hands of the sovereign powers much too extensive to be safely entrusted to a monarch qualified only by heredity. Comprehending the logic of their organization, the Chinese made their monarchs' tenure of authority depend upon the verdict of the nation. But in Japan the title to the crown being divinely bequeathed, there could be no question of appeal to a popular tribunal. So long as men like Kotoku, Tenchi, and Temmu occupied the throne, the Tang polity showed no flagrant defects. But when the exercise of almost unlimited authority fell into the hands of a religious fanatic like Shomu, or a licentious lady like Koken, it became necessary either that the principle of heredity should be set aside altogether, or that some method of limited selection should be employed.
It was then that the Fujiwara became a species of electoral college, not possessing, indeed, any recognized mandate from the nation, yet acting in the nation's behalf to secure worthy occupants for the throne. For a time this system worked satisfactorily, but ultimately it inosculated itself with the views it was designed to nullify, and the Fujiwara became flagrant abusers of the power handed down to them. Momokawa's immediate followers were worthy to wear his mantle. Tanetsugu, Korekimi, Tsugunawa--these are names that deserve to be printed in letters of gold on the pages of Japan's annals. They either prompted or presided over the reforms and retrenchments that marked Kwammu's reign, and personal ambition was never allowed to interfere with their duty to the State.
Contemporaneously with the rise of the Fujiwara to the highest places within reach of a subject, an important alteration took place in the status of Imperial princes. There was no relation of cause and effect between the two things, but in subsequent times events connected them intimately. According to the Daika legislation, not only sons of sovereigns but also their descendants to the fifth generation were classed as members of the Imperial family and inherited the title of "Prince" (0). Ranks (hon-i) were granted to them and they often participated in the management of State affairs. But no salaries were given to them; they had to support themselves with the proceeds of sustenance fiefs. The Emperor Kwammu was the first to break away from this time-honoured usage. He reduced two of his own sons, born of a non-Imperial lady, from the Kwobetsu class to the Shimbetsu, conferring on them the uji names of Nagaoka and Yoshimine, and he followed the same course with several of the Imperial grandsons, giving them the name of Taira.
Thenceforth, whenever a sovereign's offspring was numerous, it became customary to group them with the subject class under a family name. A prince thus reduced received the sixth official rank (roku-i), and was appointed to a corresponding office in the capital or a province, promotion following according to his ability and on successfully passing the examination prescribed for Court officials. Nevertheless, to be divested of the title of "Prince" did not mean less of princely prestige. Such nobles were always primi inter pares. The principal uji thus created were Nagaoka, Yoshimine, Ariwara, Taira, and Minamoto.
THE TAIRA FAMILY
Prince Katsurabara was the fifth son of the Emperor Kwammu. Intelligent, reserved, and a keen student, he is said to have understood the warnings of history as clearly as its incentives. He petitioned the Throne that the title of should be exchanged in his children's case for that of Taira no Asomi (Marquis of Taira). This request, though several times repeated, was not granted until the time (889) of his grandson, Takamochi, who became the first Taira no Asomi and governor of Kazusa province. He was the grandfather of Masakado and great-grandfather of Tadamori, names celebrated in Japanese history. For generations the Taira asomi were appointed generals of the Imperial guards conjointly with the Minamoto, to be presently spoken of. The name of Taira was conferred also on three other sons of Kwammu, the Princes Mamta, Kaya, and Nakano, so that there were four Tairahouses just as there were four Fujiwara.
THE MINAMOTO FAMILY
The Emperor Saga (810) had fifty children. From the sixth son downwards they were grouped under the uji of Minamoto. All received appointments to important offices. This precedent was even more drastically followed in the days of the Emperor Seiwa (859-876). To all his Majesty's sons, except the Crown Prince, the uji of Minamoto was given. The best known among these early Minamoto was Tsunemoto, commonly called Prince Rokuson. He was a grandson of the Emperor Seiwa, celebrated for two very dissimilar attainments, which, nevertheless, were often combined in Japan--the art of composing couplets and the science of commanding troops. Appointed in the Shohyo era (931-937) to be governor of Musashi, the metropolitan province of modern Japan, his descendants constituted the principal among fourteen Minamoto houses. They were called the Seiwa Genji, and next in importance came the Saga Genji and the Murakami Genji.*
*That is to say, descended from the Emperor Murakami (947-967). Gen is the Chinese sound of Minamoto and ji (jshi) represents uji. The Minamoto are alluded to in history as either the Genji or the Minamoto. Similarly, hei being the Chinese pronunciation of Taira, the latter are indiscriminately spoken of Taira or Heike (ke = house). Both names are often combined into Gen-pei.
UJI NO CHOJA AND GAKU-IN NO BETTO
The imperially descended uji spoken of above, each consisting of several houses, were grouped according to their names, and each group was under the supervision of a chief, called uji no choja or uji no cho. Usually, as has been already stated, the corresponding position in an ordinary uji was called uji no Kami and belonged to the first-born of the principal house, irrespective of his official rank. But in the case of the imperially descended uji, the chief was selected and nominated by the sovereign with regard to his administrative post. With the appointment was generally combined that of Gaku-in no betto, or commissioner of the academies established for the youths of the uji. The principal of these academies was the Kwangaku-in of the Fujiwara. Founded by Fujiwara Fuyutsugu, minister of the Left, in the year 821, and endowed with a substantial part of his estate in order to afford educational advantages for the poorer members of the great family, this institution rivalled even the Imperial University, to be presently spoken of. It was under the superintendence of a special commissioner (benkwari).
Next in importance was the Shogaku-in of the Minamoto, established by Ariwara Yukihira in the year 881. Ariwara being a grandson of the Emperor Saga, a member of the Saga Genji received the nomination of chief commissioner; but in the year 1140, the minister of the Right, Masasada, a member of the Murakami Genji, was appointed to the office, and thenceforth it remained in the hands of that house. Two other educational institutions were the Junna-in of the O-uji and the Gakukwan-in of the Tachibana-iyt, the former dating from the year 834 and the latter from 820. It is not on record that there existed any special school under Taira auspices.
One of the principal duties of local governors from the time of the Daika reforms was to encourage agriculture. A rescript issued by the Empress Gensho in the year 715 declared that to enrich the people was to make the country prosperous, and went on to condemn the practice of devoting attention to rice culture only and neglecting upland crops, so that, in the event of a failure of the former, the latter did not constitute a substitute. It was therefore ordered that barley and millet should be assiduously grown, and each farmer was required to lay down two tan (2/3 acre) annually of these upland cereals. Repeated proclamations during the eighth century bear witness to official solicitude in this matter, and in 723 there is recorded a distribution of two koku (nearly ten bushels) of seeds, ten feet of cotton cloth, and a hoe (kuwa) to each agriculturist throughout the empire. Such largesse suggests a colossal operation, but, in fact, it meant little more than the remission of about a year's taxes. Necessarily, as the population increased, corresponding extension of the cultivated area became desirable, and already, in the year 722, a work of reclamation on a grand scale was officially undertaken by organizing a body of peasants and sending them to bring under culture a million cho (two and a half million acres) of new land. This interesting measure is recorded without any details whatever.
Private initiative was also liberally encouraged. An Imperial rescript promised that any farmer harvesting three thousand koku (fifteen thousand bushels) of cereals from land reclaimed by himself should receive the sixth class order of merit (kun roku-to), while a crop of over a thousand koku and less than three thousand would carry lifelong exemption from forced labour. The Daika principle that the land was wholly the property of the Crown had thus to yield partially to the urgency of the situation, and during the third decade of the eighth century it was enacted that, if a man reclaimed land by utilizing aqueducts and reservoirs already in existence, the land should belong to him for his lifetime, while if the reservoirs and aqueducts were of his own construction, the right of property should be valid for three generations.* From the operation of this law the provincial governors were excepted; the usufruct of lands reclaimed by them was limited to the term of their tenure of office, though, as related already, legislation in their case varied greatly from time to time.
*This system was called Sansei-isshin no ho. It is, perhaps, advisable to note that the Daika system of dividing the land for sustenance purposes applied only to land already under cultivation.
For a certain period the system of "three generations, or one life" worked smoothly enough; but subsequently it was found that as the limit of time approached, farmers neglected to till the land and suffered it to lie waste. Therefore, in the year 743, the Government enacted that all reclaimed land should be counted the perpetual property of the reclaimer, with one proviso, namely, that three years of neglect to cultivate should involve confiscation. The recognition of private ownership was not unlimited. An area of five hundred cho (1250 acres) was fixed as the superior limit, applicable only to the case of a "First Class" prince, the quantities being thereafter on a sliding scale down to ten cho (twenty-five acres). Any excess resulting from previous accretions was to revert to the State. Evidently the effective operation of such a system predicated accurate surveys and strict supervision. Neither of these conditions existed in Japan at that remote period. The prime purpose of the legislators was achieved, since the people devoted themselves assiduously to land reclamation; but by free recourse to their power of commanding labour, the great families acquired estates largely in excess of the legal limit. A feature of the Nara epoch was the endowment of the Buddhist temples with land by men of all classes, and the sho-en, or temple domain, thus came into existence.
Information on the subject of stock farming is scanty and indirect, but in the year 713 we find a rescript ordering the provincials of Yamashiro to provide and maintain fifty milch-cows, and in 734, permission was given that all the districts in the Tokai-do, the Tosan-do, and the Sanin-do might trade freely in cattle and horses. Seven years later (741), when Shomu occupied the throne, and when Buddhism spread its protecting mantle over all forms of life, an edict appeared condemning anyone who killed a horse or an ox to be flogged with a hundred strokes and to be fined heavily. Only one other reference to stock farming appears in the annals of the Nara epoch: the abolition of the two pastures at Osumi and Himeshima in the province of Settsu was decreed in 771, but no reason is recorded.
From the remotest times sericulture was assiduously practised in Japan, the ladies of the Imperial Court, from the Empress downwards, taking an active part in the pursuit. The wave of Buddhist zeal which swept over Japan in the eighth century gave a marked impulse to this branch of industry, for the rich robes of the priests constituted a special market.
It is recorded in the Chronicles that Tajimamori, a Korean emigrant of royal descent, was sent to the "Eternal Land" by the Emperor Suinin, in the year A.D. 61, to obtain "the fragrant fruit that grows out of season;" that, after a year's absence, he returned, and finding the Emperor dead, committed suicide at his tomb. The "fragrant fruit" is understood to have been the orange, then called tachibana (Citrus nobilis). If the orange really reached Japan at that remote date, it does not appear to have been cultivated there, for the importation of orange trees from China is specially mentioned as an incident of the early Nara epoch.
One of the unequivocal benefits bestowed on Japan by Buddhism was a strong industrial and artistic impulse. Architecture made notable progress owing to the construction of numerous massive and magnificent temples and pagodas. One of the latter, erected during the reign of Temmu, had a height of thirteen storeys. The arts of casting and of sculpture, both in metal and in wood, received great development, as did also the lacquer industry. Vermilion lacquer was invented in the time of Temmu, and soon five different colours could be produced, while to the Nara artisans belongs the inception of lacquer strewn with makie. Lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl was another beautiful concept of the Nara epoch. A special tint of red was obtained with powdered coral, and gold and silver were freely used in leaf or in plates. As yet, history does not find any Japanese painter worthy of record. Chinese and Korean masters remained supreme in that branch of art.
Commerce with China and Korea was specially active throughout the eighth century, and domestic trade also nourished. In the capital there were two markets where people assembled at noon and dispersed at sunset. Men and women occupied different sections, and it would seem that transactions were subject to strict surveillance. Thus, if any articles of defective quality or adulterated were offered for sale, they were liable to be confiscated officially, and if a buyer found that short measure had been given, he was entitled to return his purchase. Market-rates had to be conformed with, and purchasers were required to pay promptly. It appears that trees were planted to serve as shelter or ornament, for we read of "trees in the Market of the East" and "orange trees in the market of Kaika."
The Buddhist temple, lofty, spacious, with towering tiled roof, massive pillars and rich decoration of sculpture and painting, could not fail to impart an impetus to Japanese domestic architecture, especially as this impressive apparition was not evolved gradually under the eyes of the nation but was presented to them suddenly in its complete magnificence. Thus it is recorded that towards the close of the seventh century, tiled roofs and greater solidity of structure began to distinguish official buildings, as has been already noted. But habitations in general remained insignificant and simple. A poem composed by the Dowager Empress Gensho (724) with reference to the dwelling of Prince Nagaya is instructive:
"Hata susuki" (Thatched with miscanthus) "Obana sakafuki" (And eularia) "Kuro-ki mochi" (Of ebon timbers built, a house) "Tsukureru yado wa" (Will live a myriad years.) "Yorozu yo made ni."
This picture of a nobleman's dwelling in the eighth century is not imposing. In the very same year the Emperor Shomu, responding to an appeal from the council of State, issued an edict that officials of the fifth rank and upwards and wealthy commoners should build residences with tiled roofs and walls plastered in red. This injunction was only partly obeyed: tiles came into more general use, but red walls offended the artistic instinct of the Japanese. Nearly fifty years later, when (767-769) the shrine of Kasuga was erected at Nara in memory of Kamatari, founder of the Fujiwara family, its pillars were painted in vermilion, and the fashion inaugurated found frequent imitation in later years.
Of furniture the houses had very little as compared with Western customs. Neither chairs nor bedsteads existed; people sat and slept on the floor, separated from it only by mats made of rice-straw, by cushions or by woollen carpets, and in aristocratic houses there was a kind of stool to support the arm of the sitter, a lectern, and a dais for sitting on. Viands were served on tables a few inches high, and people sat while eating. From the middle of the seventh century a clepsydra of Chinese origin was used to mark the hours.
The first of these instruments is recorded to have been made in A.D. 660, and tradition does not tell what device had previously served the purpose. When temple bells came into existence, the hours were struck on them for public information, and there is collateral evidence that some similar system of marking time had been resorted to from early eras. But the whole story is vague. It seems, however, that the method of counting the hours was influenced by the manner of striking them. Whether bronze bell or wooden clapper was used, three preliminary strokes were given by way of warning, and it therefore became inexpedient to designate any of the hours "one," "two," or "three." Accordingly the initial number was four, and the day being divided into six hours, instead of twelve, the highest number became nine, which corresponded to the Occidental twelve.*
*There were no subdivisions into minutes and seconds in old Japan. The only fraction of an hour was one-half.
Concerning the bells here mentioned, they are one of the unexplained achievements of Japanese casters. In Europe the method of producing a really fine-toned bell was evolved by "ages of empirical trials," but in Japan bells of huge size and exquisite note were cast in apparent defiance of all the rules elaborated with so much difficulty in the West. One of the most remarkable hangs in the belfry of Todai-ji at Nara. It was cast in the year 732 when Shomu occupied the throne; it is 12 feet 9 inches high; 8 feet 10 inches in diameter; 10 inches thick, and weighs 49 tons. There are great bells also in the temples at Osaka and Kyoto, and it is to be noted that early Japanese bronze work was largely tributary and subsidiary to temple worship. Temple bells, vases, gongs, mirrors and lanterns are the principal items in this class of metal-working, until a much later period with its smaller ornaments.
Very few references to road making are found in the ancient annals, but the reign of the Empress Gensho (715-723) is distinguished as the time when the Nakasen-do, or Central Mountain road, was constructed. It runs from Nara to Kyoto and thence to the modern Tokyo, traversing six provinces en route. Neither history nor tradition tells whether it was wholly made in the days of Gensho or whether, as seems more probable, it was only commenced then and carried to completion in the reign of Shomu (724-748), when a large force of troops had to be sent northward against the rebellious Yemishi. Doubtless the custom of changing the capital on the accession of each sovereign had the effect of calling many roads into existence, but these were of insignificant length compared with a great trunk highway like the Nakasen-do.
Along these roads the lower classes travelled on foot; the higher on horseback, and the highest in carts drawn by bullocks. For equestrians who carried official permits, relays of horses could always be obtained at posting stations. Among the ox-carts which served for carriages, there was a curious type, distinguished by the fact that between the shafts immediately in front of the dashboard stood a figure whose outstretched arm perpetually pointed south. This compass-cart, known as the "south-pointing chariot," was introduced from China in the year 658. There was also a "cloud-chariot," but this served for war purposes only, being a movable erection for overlooking an enemy's defensive work, corresponding to the turris of Roman warfare. Borrowed also from China was a battering engine which moved on four wheels, and, like the cloud-chariot, dated from 661, when a Tang army invaded Korea.
A reader of the Chronicles is struck by the fact that from the close of the seventh century much official attention seems to have been bestowed on the subject of costume. Thus, during the last five years of the Emperor Temmu's reign--namely, from 681--we find no less than nine sumptuary regulations issued. The first was an edict, containing ninety-two articles, of which the prologue alone survives, "The costumes of all, from the princes of the Blood down to the common people, and the wearing of gold and silver, pearls and jewels, purple, brocade, embroidery, fine silks, together with woollen carpets, head-dresses, and girdles, as well as all kinds of coloured stuffs, are regulated according to a scale, the details of which are given in the written edict." In the next year (682), another edict forbids the wearing of caps of rank, aprons, broad girdles, and leggings by princes or public functionaries, as well as the use of shoulder-straps or mantillas by palace stewards or ladies-in-waiting. The shoulder-strap was a mark of manual labour, and its use in the presence of a superior has always been counted as rude in Japan.
A few days later, this meticulous monarch is found commanding men and women to tie up their hair, eight months being granted to make the change, and, at the same time, the practice of women riding astride on horseback came into vogue, showing that female costume had much in common with male. Caps of varnished gauze, after the Chinese type, began to be worn by both sexes simultaneously with the tying-up of the hair. Two years later, women of forty years or upwards were given the option of tying up their hair or letting it hang loose, and of riding astride or side-saddle as they pleased. At the same time, to both sexes, except on State occasions, liberty of choice was accorded in the matter of wearing sleeveless jackets fastened in front with silk cords and tassels, though in the matter of trousers, men had to gather theirs in at the bottom with a lace. By and by, the tying up of the hair by women was forbidden in its turn; the wearing of leggings was sanctioned, and the colours of Court costumes were strictly determined according to the rank of the wearer red, deep purple, light purple, dark green, light green, deep grape-colour and light grape-colour being the order from above downwards.
All this attention to costume is suggestive of much refinement. From the eighth century even greater care was devoted to the subject. We find three kinds of habiliments prescribed--full dress (reifuku), Court dress (chofuku) and uniform (seifuku)--with many minor distinctions according to the rank of the wearer. Broadly speaking, the principal garments were a paletot, trousers, and a narrow girdle tied in front. The sleeves of the paletot were studiously regulated. A nobleman wore them long enough to cover his hands, and their width--which in after ages became remarkable--was limited in the Nara epoch to one foot. The manner of folding the paletot over the breast seems to have perplexed the legislators for a time. At first they prescribed that the right should be folded over the left (hidarimae), but subsequently (719) an Imperial decree ordered that the left should be laid across the right (migimae), and since that day, nearly twelve hundred years ago, there has not been any departure from the latter rule. Court officials carried a baton (shaku), that, too, being a habit borrowed from China.
When the influence of Buddhism became supreme in Court circles, all taking of life for purposes of food was interdicted. The first prohibitory decree in that sense was issued by Temmu (673-686), and the veto was renewed in more peremptory terms by Shomu (724-748), while the Empress Shotoku (765-770) went so far as to forbid the keeping of dogs, falcons, or cormorants for hunting or fishing at Shinto ceremonials. But such vetoes were never effectually enforced. The great staple of diet was rice, steamed or boiled, and next in importance came millet, barley, fish of various kinds (fresh or salted), seaweed, vegetables, fruit (pears, chestnuts, etc.), and the flesh of fowl, deer, and wild boar. Salt, bean-sauce, and vinegar were used for seasoning. There were many kinds of dishes; among the commonest being soup (atsumono) and a preparation of raw fish in vinegar (namasu). In the reign of Kotoku (645-654), a Korean named Zena presented a milch cow to the Court, and from that time milk was recognized as specially hygienic diet. Thus, when the Daiho laws were published at the beginning of the eighth century, dairies were attached to the medical department, and certain provinces received orders to present butter (gyuraku) for the Court's use.
MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS
Very little is known of the marriage ceremony in old Japan. That there was a nuptial hut is attested by very early annals, and from the time of the Emperor Richu (400-405) wedding presents are recorded. But for the rest, history is silent, and it is impossible to fix the epoch when a set ceremonial began to be observed.
As to funerals, there is fuller but not complete information. That a mortuary chamber was provided for the corpse pending the preparation of the tomb is shown by the earliest annals, and from an account, partly allegorical, contained in the records of the prehistoric age, we learn that dirges were sung for eight days and eight nights, and that in the burial procession were marshalled bearers of viands to be offered at the grave, bearers of brooms to sweep the path, women who prepared the viands, and a body of hired mourners. But the Kojiki, describing the same ceremony, speaks of "making merry" with the object of recalling the dead to life, as the Sun goddess had been enticed from her cave. From the days of the Emperor Bidatsu (572-585), we find the first mention of funeral orations, and although the contents of tombs bear witness to the fact that articles other than food were offered to the deceased, it is not until the burial of the Emperor's consort, Katachi, (612) that explicit mention is made of such a custom. On that occasion Tori, omi of the Abe-uji, offered to the spirit of the dead "sacred utensils and sacred garments, fifteen thousand kinds in all." Fifty years later, white is mentioned as the mourning colour, but when next (683) we hear of funerals, it is evident that their realm had been invaded by Chinese customs, for it is recorded that "officials of the third rank were allowed at their funerals one hearse, forty drums, twenty great horns, forty little horns, two hundred flags, one metal gong, and one hand-bell, with lamentation for one day." At Temmu's obsequies (687) mention is made of an "ornamented chaplet," the first reference to the use of flowers, which constitute such a prominent feature of Buddhist obsequies.
But there is no evidence that Buddhist rites were employed at funerals until the death of the retired Emperor Shomu (756). Thereafter, the practice became common. It was also to a Buddhist priest, Dosho, that Japan owed the inception of cremation. Dying in the year 700, Dosho ordered his disciples to cremate his body at Kurihara, and, two years later, the Dowager Empress Jito willed that her corpse should be similarly disposed of. From the megalithic tombs of old Japan to the little urn that holds the handful of ashes representing a cremated body, the transition is immense. It has been shown that one of the signal reforms of the Daika era was the setting of limits to the size of sepulchres, a measure which afforded to the lower classes much relief from forced labour. But an edict issued in 706 shows that the tendance of the resting place of the dead was still regarded as a sacred duty, for the edict ordered that, alike at the ancestral tombs of the uji and in the residential quarter of the common people, trees should be planted.
Not yet, however, does the custom of erecting monuments with inscriptions seem to have come into vogue. The Empress Gemmyo (d. 721) appears to have inaugurated that feature, for she willed not only that evergreens should be planted at her grave but also that a tablet should be set up there. Some historians hold that the donning of special garments by way of mourning had its origin at that time, and that it was borrowed from the Tang code of etiquette. But the Chronicles state that in the year A.D. 312, when the Prince Imperial committed suicide rather than occupy the throne, his brother, Osasagi, "put on plain unbleached garments and began mourning for him." White ultimately became the mourning colour, but in the eighth century it was dark,* and mourning habiliments were called fuji-koromo, because they were made from the bark of the wisteria (fuji). Among the Daiho statutes was one providing that periods of mourning should be of five grades, the longest being one year and the shortest seven days.
*"On the death of the Emperor Inkyo (A.D. 453), the Korean Court sent eighty musicians robed in black, who marched in procession to the Yamato palace, playing and singing a dirge as they went."
Foremost among the pastimes of the Japanese people in all epochs was dancing. We hear of it in the prehistoric age when the "monkey female" (Sarume) performed a pantominic dance before the rock cave of the Sun goddess; we hear of it in protohistoric times when Inkyo's consort was betrayed into an offer that wrecked her happiness, and we hear of it in the historic epoch when the future Emperor Kenso danced in the disguise of a horse-boy. But as the discussion of this subject belongs more intelligently to the era following the Nara, we confine ourselves here to noting that even the religious fanatic Shomu is recorded as having repaired to the Shujaku gate of the palace to witness a performance of song and dance (utagaki) in which 240 persons, men and women, took part; and that, in the same year (734), 230 members of six great uji performed similarly, all robed in blue garments fastened in front with long red cords and tassels.
The tendency of the Japanese has always been to accompany their feasting and merry-making with music, versifying, and dancing. At the time now under consideration there was the "winding-water fete" (kyoku-sui no en), when princes, high officials, courtiers, and noble ladies seated themselves by the banks of a rivulet meandering gently through some fair park, and launched tiny cups of mulled wine upon the current, each composing a stanza as the little messenger reached him, or drinking its contents by way of penalty for lack of poetic inspiration. There were also the flower festivals--that for the plum blossoms, that for the iris, and that for the lotus, all of which were instituted in this same Nara epoch--when the composition of couplets was quite as important as the viewing of the flowers. There was, further, the grand New Year's banquet in the Hall of Tranquillity at the Court, when all officials from the sixth grade downwards sang a stanza of loyal gratitude, accompanying themselves on the lute (koto). It was an era of refined effeminate amusements. Wrestling had now become the pursuit of professionals. Aristocrats engaged in no rougher pastime than equestrian archery, a species of football, hawking, and hunting. Everybody gambled. It was in vain that edicts were issued against dicing (chobo and sugoroku). The vice defied official restraint.
LITERATURE AND POETRY
Having no books of her own, Japan naturally borrowed freely from the rich mine of Chinese literature. By the tutors of the Imperial family, at the colleges of the capital, and in the provincial schools the classics constituted virtually the whole curriculum. The advantages of education were, however, enjoyed by a comparatively small element of the population. During the Nara epoch, it does not appear that there were more than five thousand students attending the schools and colleges at one time. The aim of instruction was to prepare men for official posts rather than to impart general culture or to encourage scientific research. Students were therefore selected from the aristocrats or the official classes only. There were no printed books; everything had to be laboriously copied by hand, and thus the difficulties of learning were much enhanced. To be able to adapt the Chinese ideographs skilfully to the purposes of written Japanese was a feat achieved by comparatively few. What the task involved has been roughly described in the opening chapter of this volume, and with what measure of success it was achieved may be estimated from the preface to the Records (Kojiki), written by Ono Yasumaro, from the Chronicles (Nihon Shoki) and from the Daiho Ritsu-ryo, which three works may be called the sole surviving prose essays of the epoch.
Much richer, however, is the realm of poetry. It was during the Nara epoch that the first Japanese anthology, the Manyo-shu (Collection of a Myriad Leaves), was compiled. It remains to this day a revered classic and "a whole mountain of commentary has been devoted to the elucidation of its obscurities." [Chamberlain.] In the Myriad Leaves are to be found poems dating nominally from the reigns of Yuryaku and Nintoku, as well as from the days of Shotoku Taishi, but much more numerous are those of Jomei's era (629-641) and especially those of the Nara epoch. The compiler's name is not known certainly; he is believed to have been either Tachibana no Moroe or Otomo no Yakamochi. Old manuscripts and popular memory were the sources, and the verselets total 4496, in twenty volumes. Some make love their theme; some deal with sorrow; some are allegorical; some draw their inspiration from nature's beauties, and some have miscellaneous motives. Hitomaru, who flourished during the reign of the Empress Jito (690-697), and several of whose verses are to be found in the Myriad Leaves, has been counted by all generations the greatest of Japanese poets. Not far below him in fame is Akahito, who wrote in the days of Shomu (724-749). To the same century--the eighth--as the Manyo-shu, belongs the Kiraifu-so, & volume containing 120 poems in Chinese style, composed by sixty-four poets during the reigns of Temmu, Jito, and Mommu, that is to say, between 673 and 707. Here again the compiler's name is unknown, but the date of compilation is clear, November, 751.
From the fact that, while bequeathing to posterity only two national histories and a few provincial records (the Fudo-ki), the Nara epoch has left two anthologies, it will be inferred readily that the writing of poetry was a favourite pursuit in that age. Such, indeed, was the case. The taste developed almost into a mania. Guests bidden to a banquet were furnished with writing materials and invited to spend hours composing versicles on themes set by their hosts. But skill in writing verse was not merely a social gift; it came near to being a test of fitness for office.
"In their poetry above everything the Japanese have remained impervious to alien influences. It owes this conservation to its prosody. Without rhyme, without variety of metre, without elasticity of dimensions, it is also without known counterpart. To alter it in any way would be to deprive it of all distinguishing characteristics. At some remote date a Japanese maker of songs seems to have discovered that a peculiar and very fascinating rhythm is produced by lines containing 5 syllables and 7 syllables alternately. That is Japanese poetry (uta or tanka). There are generally five lines: the first and third consisting of 5 syllables, the second, fourth and fifth of 7, making a total of 31 in all. The number of lines is not compulsory: sometimes they may reach to thirty, forty or even more, but the alternation of 5 and 7 syllables is compulsory. The most attenuated form of all is the hokku (or haikai) which consists of only three lines, namely, 17 syllables. Necessarily the ideas embodied in such a narrow vehicle must be fragmentary. Thus it results that Japanese poems are, for the most part, impressionist; they suggest a great deal more than they actually express. Here is an example:
Momiji-ha wo Kaze ni makasete Miru yori mo Hakanaki mono wa Inochi nari keri
This may be translated:
More fleeting than the glint of withered leaf wind-blown, the thing called life."*
*See Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, article "Japan."
The sketchy nature of Japanese poetry, especially in this five-line stanza, may be illustrated further by two poems quoted by Prof. B. H. Chamberlain in his "Things Japanese" (pp. 375-376),
Hototogisu Nakitsuru kata wo Nagamureba-- Tada ari-ake no Tsuki zo nokoreru
is literally translated by Professor Chamberlain as follows:
"When I gaze towards the place where the cuckoo has been singing, nought remains but the moon in the early dawn."
And the conventional and pictorial character of the literary form is illustrated again in the lines:
Shira-kumo ni Hane uchi-kawashi Tobu kari no Kazu sae miyuru Aki no yo no tsuki!
which the same eminent scholar translates: "The moon on an autumn night making visible the very number of the wild-geese that fly past with wings intercrossed in the white clouds." It is to be noted that this last is, to Occidental notions, a mere poetic phrase and not a unit.
Of course, the very exigencies of the case make the three-line stanza (or hokku), containing only 17 syllables, even more sketchy--hardly more indeed than a tour de force composed of a limited number of brush strokes! The Western critic, with his totally different literary conventions, has difficulty in bringing himself to regard Japanese verse as a literary form or in thinking of it otherwise than as an exercise in ingenuity, an Oriental puzzle; and this notion is heightened by the prevalence of the couplet-composing contests, which did much to heighten the artificiality of the genre.
RELATIONS BETWEEN THE SEXES
There was probably no more shocking sexual vice or irregularity in the Nara epoch than there had been before nor than there was afterwards. The only evidence adduced to prove that there was anything of the sort is the fact that laws were promulgated looking to the restraint of illicit intercourse. These laws seem to have accomplished little or nothing and the existence of the laws argues rather a growing sense of the seriousness of the evil than any sudden increase in the prevalence of the evil itself. There can be no question, however, of the wide diffusion of concubinage in this period. Not morals nor repute nor public opinion, but the wealth and wishes of each man limited him in his amours of this sort. The essential of a virtuous woman was that she be faithful to her husband or lover; no such faithfulness was expected of him. And neither in the case of man nor woman did the conventions of the period depend at all on the nature of the relationship between the two. Wives no longer lived in their fathers' homes after marriage, but the newly-wedded husband built new rooms for his wife's especial use, so that, by a fiction such as the Oriental delights in and Occidental law is not entirely ignorant of, her home was still not his. Before betrothal, girls were not allowed to call themselves by a family name. At the betrothal her affianced first bound up in a fillet the hair that she had formerly worn loose around her face. Even more symbolical was the custom upon lovers' parting of tying to the woman's undergarment a string from the man's; this knot was to be unloosed only when they met again.
At Nara, in Yamato province, near the temple of Todai-ji, a store house built of wood and called the Shoso-in was constructed in the Nara epoch, and it still stands housing a remarkable collection of furniture and ornaments from the Imperial palace. There is some question whether this collection is truly typical of the period, or even of the palace of the period; but the presence of many utensils from China, some from India (often with traces of Greek influence), and a few from Persia certainly shows the degree of cosmopolitan culture and elegance there was in the palace at Nara. At the present day, strangers may visit the collection only by special permission and only on two days each year; and the museum has always had a mingled imperial and sacred character. When the power of the shogunate was at its height, the Shoso-in was never opened except by orders of the Emperor. Among the contents of this museum are: polished mirrors with repousse backs, kept in cases lined with brocaded silk; bronze vases; bronze censers; hicense-boxes made of Paulownia wood or of Chinese ware; two-edged swords, which were tied to the girdle, instead of being thrust through it; narrow leather belts with silver or jade decoration; bamboo flutes; lacquer writing-cases, etc.
ENGRAVING: OUTLINE SKETCH OF THE SHOSO-IN AT NARA
REFORM OF LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS
To the Emperor Konin belongs the credit of correcting some flagrant abuses in provincial administration. There was an inconvenient outcome of the religious mania which pervaded the upper classes during the reigns of Shomu and Koken. To meet the expense of building temples and casting images, men of substance in the provinces were urged to make contributions of money, cereals, or land, and in return for this liberality they were granted official posts. It resulted that no less than thirty-one supernumerary provincial governors were borne on the roll at one time, and since all these regarded office as a means of recouping the cost of nomination, taxpayers and persons liable to the corvée fared ill. In 774, Koken issued an edict that provincial governors who had held office for five years or upwards should be dismissed at once, those of shorter terms being allowed to complete five years and then removed.
Another evil, inaugurated during the reign of Shomu, when faith in the potency of supernatural influences obsessed men's minds, was severely dealt with by Konin. Office-seekers resorted to the device of contriving conflagrations of official property, rewarding the incendiaries with the plunder, and circulating rumours that these calamities were visitations of heaven to punish the malpractices of the provincial governors in whose jurisdictions they occurred. It is on record that, in several cases, these stories led to the dismissal of governors and their replacement by their traducers. Konin decreed that such crimes should be punished by the death of all concerned. These reforms, supplemented by the removal of many superfluous officials, earned for Konin such popularity that for the first time in Japan's history, the sovereign's birthday became a festival*, thereafter celebrated through all ages.
THE MILITARY SYSTEM
It has been shown that compulsory military service was introduced in 689, during the reign of the Empress Jito, one-fourth of all the able-bodied men in each province being required to serve a fixed time with the colours. It has also been noted that under the Daiho legislation the number was increased to one-third. This meant that no distinction existed between soldier and peasant. The plan worked ill. No sufficient provision of officers being made, the troops remained without training, and it frequently happened that, instead of military exercises, they were required to labour for the enrichment of a provincial governor.
The system, being thus discredited, fell into abeyance in the year 739, but that it was not abolished is shown by the fact that, in 780, we find the privy council memorializing the Throne in a sense unfavourable to the drafting of peasants into the ranks. The memorial alleged that the men lacked training; that they were physically unfit; that they busied themselves devising pretexts for evasion; that their chief function was to perform fatigue-duty for local governors, and that to send such men into the field of battle would be to throw away their lives fruitlessly. The council recommended that indiscriminate conscription of peasants should be replaced by a system of selection, the choice being limited to men with some previous training; that the number taken should be in proportion to the size of the province, and that those not physically robust should be left to till the land. These recommendations were approved. They constituted the first step towards complete abolishment of compulsory service and towards the glorifying of the profession of arms above that of agriculture. Experience quickly proved, however, that some more efficient management was necessary in the maritime provinces, and in 792, Kwammu being then on the throne, an edict abolished the provincial troops in all regions except those which, by their proximity to the continent of Asia, were exposed to danger, namely, Dazai-fu in Kyushu, and in Mutsu, Dewa, and Sado in the north. Some specially organized force was needed also for extraordinary service and for guarding official storehouses, offices, and places where post-bells (suzu) were kept. To that end the system previously practised during the reign of Shomu (724-749) was reverted to; that is to say, the most robust among the sons and younger brothers of provincial governors and local officials were enrolled in corps of strength varying with the duties to be performed. These were called kondei or kenji. We learn from the edict that the abuse of employing soldiers as labourers was still practised, but of course this did not apply to the kondei.
The tendency of the time was against imposing military service on the lower classes. During the period 810-820, the forces under the Dazai-fu jurisdiction, that is to say, in the six provinces of Chikuzen, Chikugo, Hizen, Higo, Buzen, and Bungo, were reduced from 17,100 to 9000. Dazai-fu and Mutsu being littoral regions, the conscription system still existed there, but in Mutsu there were not only heishi, that is to say, local militiamen of the ordinary type and kenji or kondei, but also chimpei, or guards who were required to serve at a distance from home. Small farmers, upon whom this duty devolved, had no choice but to take their wives and children with them, the family subsisting on the pittance given as rations eked out by money realized from sales of chattels and garments. Thus, on the expiration of their service they returned to their native place in a wholly destitute condition, and sometimes perished of hunger on the way. In consideration of the hardships of such a system, it was abolished, and thus the distinction between the soldier and the peasant received further accentuation.
There is no record as to the exact dimensions of Japan's standing army in the ninth century, but if we observe that troops were raised in the eight littoral provinces only--six in the south and two in the north--and in the island of Sado, and that the total number in the six southern provinces was only nine thousand, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the aggregate did not exceed thirty thousand. There were also the kondei (or kenji), but these, since they served solely as guards or for special purposes, can scarcely be counted a part of the standing army. The inference is that whatever the Yamato race may have been when it set out upon its original career of conquest, or when, in later eras, it sent great armies to the Asiatic continent, the close of the fifth cycle after the coming of Buddhism found the country reduced to a condition of comparative military weakness. As to that, however, clearer judgment may be formed in the context of the campaign--to be now spoken of--conducted by the Yamato against the Yemishi tribes throughout a great part of the eighth century and the early years of the ninth.
REVOLT OF THE YEMISHI
It has been shown that the close of the third decade of the eighth century saw the capital established at Nara amid conditions of great refinement, and saw the Court and the aristocracy absorbed in religious observances, while the provincial governments were, in many cases, corrupt and inefficient. In the year 724, Nara received news of an event which illustrated the danger of such a state of affairs. The Yemishi of the east had risen in arms and killed Koyamaro, warden of Mutsu. At that time the term "Mutsu" represented a much wider area than the modern region of the same name: it comprised the five provinces now distinguished as Iwaki, Iwashiro, Rikuzen, Rikuchu, and Mutsu--in other words, the whole of the northeastern and northern littoral of the main island. Similarly, the provinces now called Ugo and Uzen, which form the northwestern littoral, were comprised in the single term "Dewa." Nature has separated these two regions, Mutsu and Dewa, by a formidable chain of mountains, constituting the backbone of northern Japan. Within Dewa, Mutsu, and the island of Yezo, the aboriginal Yemishi had been held since Yamato-dake's signal campaign in the second century A.D., and though not so effectually quelled as to preclude all danger of insurrection, their potentialities caused little uneasiness to the Central Government.
But there was no paltering with the situation which arose in 724. Recourse was immediately had to the Fujiwara, whose position at the Imperial Court was paramount, and Umakai, grandson of the renowned Kamatari, set out at the head of thirty thousand men, levied from the eight Bands provinces, by which term Sagami, Musashi, Awa, Kazusa, Shimosa, Hitachi, Kotsuke, and Shimotsuke were designated. The expanded system of conscription established under the Daiho code was then in force, and thus a large body of troops could easily be assembled. Umakai's army did not experience any serious resistance. But neither did it achieve anything signal. Marching by two routes, it converged on the castle of Taga, a fortress just constructed by Ono Azumahito, the lord warden of the Eastern Marches. The plan pursued by the Yamato commanders was to build castles and barriers along the course of rivers giving access to the interior, as well as along the coast line. Taga Castle was the first of such works, and, by the year 767, the programme had been carried in Mutsu as far as the upper reaches of the Kitakami River,* and in Dewa as far as Akita.
*A monument still stands on the site of the old Taga Castle. It was put up in A.D. 762, and it records that the castle stood fifty miles from the island of Yezo.
History has nothing further to tell about the Yemishi until the year 774, when they again took up arms, captured one (Mono) of the Japanese forts and drove out its garrison. Again the eight Bando provinces were ordered to send levies, and at the head of the army thus raised a Japanese general penetrated far into Mutsu and destroyed the Yemishi's chief stronghold. This success was followed by an aggressive policy on the part of the lord-warden, Ki no Hirozumi. He extended the chain of forts to Kabe in Dewa, and to Isawa in Mutsu. This was in 780. But there ensued a strong movement of reprisal on the part of the Yemishi. Led by Iharu no Atamaro, they overwhelmed Hirozumi's army, killed the lord-warden himself, and pushed on to Taga Castle, which they burned, destroying vast stores of arms and provisions. It was precisely at this time that the State council, as related above, memorialized the Throne, denouncing the incompetency of the provincial conscripts and complaining that the provincial authorities, instead of training the soldiers, used them for forced labour. The overthrow of the army in Mutsu and the destruction of Taga Castle justified this memorial.
The Court appointed Fujiwara Tsugunawa to take command of a punitive expedition, and once again Bando levies converged on the site of the dismantled castle of Taga. But beyond that point no advance was essayed, in spite of bitter reproaches from Nara. "In summer," wrote the Emperor (Konin), "you plead that the grass is too dry; in winter you allege that bran is too scant. You discourse adroitly but you get no nearer to the foe." Konin's death followed shortly afterwards, but his successor, Kwammu, zealously undertook the pursuit of the campaign. Notice was sent (783) to the provincial authorities directing them to make preparations and to instruct the people that an armed expedition was inevitable. News had just been received of fresh outrages in Dewa. The Yemishi had completely dispersed and despoiled the inhabitants of two districts, so that it was found necessary to allot lands to them elsewhere and to erect houses for their shelter.
The Emperor said in his decree that the barbarian tribes, when pursued, fled like birds; when unmolested, gathered like ants; that the conscripts from the Bando provinces were reported to be weak and unfit for campaigning, and that those skilled in archery and physically robust stood aloof from military service, forgetting that they all owed a common duty to their country and their sovereign. Therefore, his Majesty directed that the sons and younger brothers of all local officials or provincial magnates should be examined with a view to the selection of those suited for military service, who should be enrolled and drilled, to the number of not less than five hundred and not more than two thousand per province according to its size. Thus, the eight Bando provinces must have furnished a force of from four to sixteen thousand men, all belonging to the aristocratic class. These formed the nucleus of the army. They were supplemented by 52,800 men, infantry and cavalry, collected from the provinces along the Eastern Sea (Tokai) and the Eastern Mountains (Tosan). so that the total force must have aggregated sixty thousand. The command in chief was conferred on Ki no Kosami, thirteenth in descent from the renowned Takenouchi-no-Sukune, who had been second in command of the Fujiwara Tsugunawa expedition nine years previously. A sword was conferred on him by the Emperor, and he received authority to act on his own discretion without seeking instructions from the Throne.
Meanwhile, the province of Mutsu had been ordered to send 35,000 koku (175,000 bushels) of hulled rice to Taga Castle, and the other provinces adjacent were required to store 23,000 koku (115,000 bushels) of hoshi-i (rice boiled and dried) and salt at the same place. The troops were to be massed at Taga, and all the provisions and munitions were collected there by April, 789. These figures are suggestive of the light in which the Government regarded the affair. Kosami moved out of Taga at the appointed time and pushed northward. But with every forward movement the difficulties multiplied. Snow in those regions lies many feet deep until the end of May, and the thaw ensuing brings down from the mountains heavy floods which convert the rivers into raging torrents and the roads into quagmires. On reaching the bank of the Koromo River, forty-five miles north of Taga, the troops halted. Their delay provoked much censure in the capital where the climatic conditions do not appear to have been fully understood or the transport difficulties appreciated. Urged by the Court to push on rapidly, Kosami resumed his march in June; failed to preserve efficient connexion between the parts of his army; had his van ambushed; fled precipitately himself, and suffered a heavy defeat, though only 2500 of his big army had come into action. His casualties were 25 killed, 245 wounded, and 1036 drowned. A truce was effected and the forces withdrew to Taga, while, as for Kosami, though he attempted to deceive the Court by a bombastic despatch, he was recalled and degraded together with all the senior officers of his army.
It would seem as though this disaster to one comparatively small section of a force aggregating from fifty to sixty thousand men need not have finally interrupted the campaign, especially when the enemy consisted of semi-civilized aborigines. The Government thought differently, however. There was no idea of abandoning the struggle, but the programme for its renewal assumed large dimensions, and events in the capital were not propitious for immediate action. The training of picked soldiers commenced at once, and the provision of arms and horses. Kosami's discomfiture took place in 789, and during the next two years orders were issued for the manufacture of 2000 suits of leather armour and 3000 of iron armour; the making of 34,500 arms, and the preparation of 1 10,000 bushels of hoshi-i. To the command-in-chief the Emperor (Kwammu) appointed Saka-no-ye no Tamuramaro.
This selection illustrates a conclusion already proved by the annals, namely, that racial prejudice had no weight in ancient Japan. For Tamuramaro was a direct descendant of that Achi no Omi who, as already related, crossed from China during the Han dynasty and became naturalized in Japan. His father, Karitamaro, distinguished himself by reporting the Dokyo intrigue, in the year 770, and received the post of chief of the palace guards, in which corps his son, Tamuramaro, thereafter served. Tradition has assigned supernatural capacities to Tamuramaro, and certainly in respect of personal prowess no less than strategical talent he was highly gifted. In June, 794, he invaded Mutsu at the head of a great army and, by a series of rapidly delivered blows, effectually crushed the aborigines, taking 457 heads, 100 prisoners, and 85 horses, and destroying the strongholds of 75 tribes. Thereafter, until the year of his death (811), he effectually held in check the spirit of revolt, crushing two other insurrections--in 801 and 804--and virtually annihilating the insurgents. He transferred the garrison headquarters from Taga to Isawa, where he erected a castle, organizing a body of four thousand militia (tonden-hei) to guard it; and in the following year (803), he built the castle of Shiba at a point still further north.
NATIONALITY OF THE INSURGENTS
Annals of historical repute are confined to the above account. There is, however, one unexplained feature, which reveals itself to even a casual reader. In their early opposition to Yamato aggression, the Yemishi--or Ainu, or Yezo, by whatever name they be called--displayed no fighting qualities that could be called formidable. Yet now, in the eighth century, they suddenly show themselves men of such prowess that the task of subduing them taxes the resources of the Yamato to the fullest. Some annalists are disposed to seek an explanation of this discrepancy in climatic and topographical difficulties. Kosami, in his despatch referring to the Koromo-gawa campaign, explains that 12,440 men had to be constantly employed in transporting provisions and that the quantity carried by them in twenty-four days did not exceed eleven days' rations for the troops. The hardship of campaigning in a country where means of communication were so defective is easily conjectured, and it has also to be noted that during only a brief period in summer did the climate of Mutsu permit taking the field. But these conditions existed equally in the eras of Yamato-dake and Hirafu. Whatever obstacles they presented in the eighth century must have been equally potent in the second and in the seventh.
Two explanations are offered. They are more or less conjectural. One is that the Yemishi of Mutsu were led by chieftains of Yamato origin, men who had migrated to the northeast in search of fortune or impelled by disaffection. It seems scarcely credible, however, that a fact so special would have eluded historical reference, whereas only one passing allusion is made to it and that, too, in a book not fully credible. The other explanation is that the Yemishi were in league with hordes of Tatars who had crossed from the mainland of Asia, or travelled south by the islands of Saghalien and Yezo. The main evidence in support of this theory is furnished by the names of the insurgent leaders Akuro-o, Akagashira, and Akahige. Ideographists point out that the character aku is frequently pronounced o, and with that reading the name "Akuro-o" becomes "Oro-o," which was the term used for "Russian." As for "Akagashira" and "Akahige," they frankly signify "red head" and "red beard," common Japanese names for foreigners. In a shrine at Suzuka-yama in Ise, to which point the insurgents pushed southward before Tamuramaro took the field, there used to be preserved a box, obviously of foreign construction, said to have been left there by the "Eastern Barbarians;" and in the Tsugaru district of the modern Mutsu province, relics exist of an extensive fortress presenting features not Japanese, which is conjectured to have been the basis of the Tatar invaders. But all these inferences rest on little more than hypothesis.
RISE OF MILITARY HOUSES
What is certain, however, is that a collateral result of these disturbances was to discredit the great Court nobles--the Otomo, the Tachibana, the Ki, and the Fujiwara--as leaders of armies, and to lay the foundation of the military houses (buke) which were destined to become feudal rulers of Japan in after ages. Ki no Hirozumi, Ki no Kosami, Otomo Yakamochi, Fujiwara Umakai, and Fujiwara Tsugunawa having all failed, the Court was compelled to have recourse to the representatives of a Chinese immigrant family, the Saka-no-ye. By those who trace the ringer of fate in earthly happenings, it has been called a dispensation that, at this particular juncture, a descendant of Achi no Omi should have been a warrior with a height of six feet nine inches,* eyes of a falcon, a beard like plaited gold-wire, a frown that terrified wild animals, and a smile that attracted children. For such is the traditional description of Tamuramaro. Another incidental issue of the situation was that conspicuous credit for fighting qualities attached to the troops specially organized in the Bando (Kwanto) provinces with the sons and younger brothers of local officials. These became the nucleus of a military class which ultimately monopolized the profession of arms.
*The height recorded is five feet eight inches, but as that would be a normal stature, there can be little doubt that "great" (dai) measure is referred to and that the figures indicate six feet nine inches.
RELATIONS WITH KOREA
During the eighth century relations of friendship were once more established with Koma. A Manchurian tribe, migrating from the valley of the Sungali River (then called the Sumo), settled on the east of the modern province of Shengking, and was there joined by a remnant of the Koma subjects after the fall of the latter kingdom. Ultimately receiving investiture at the hands of the Tang Court, the sovereign of the colony took the name of Tsuying, King of Pohai, and his son, Wu-i, sent an envoy to Japan in 727, when Shomu was on the throne. Where the embassy embarked there is no record, but, being blown out of their course, the boats finally made the coast of Dewa, where several of the envoy's suite were killed by the Yemishi. The envoy himself reached Nara safely, and, representing his sovereign as the successor of the Koma dynasty, was hospitably received, the usual interchange of gifts taking place.
Twenty-five years later (752), another envoy arrived. The Empress Koken then reigned at Nara, and her ministers insisted that, in the document presented by the ambassador, Pohai must distinctly occupy towards Japan the relation of vassal to suzerain, such having been the invariable custom observed by Koma in former times. The difficulty seems to have been met by substituting the name "Koma" for "Pohai," thus, by implication, admitting that the new kingdom held towards Japan the same status as that formerly held by Koma. Throughout the whole of her subsequent intercourse with the Pohai kingdom, intercourse which, though exceedingly fitful, lasted for nearly a century and a half, Japan uniformly insisted upon the maintenance of that attitude.
ENGRAVING: EMPEROR KWAMMU