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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The empress shotoku 765 770 a


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.


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.



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.

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