free ebooks

A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Fujiwara had compassed their purpose

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.


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.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us