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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

105 monAyabe no Samimaro 700 mon 840 mon



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 Apparently, however, this veto proved unpractical, for five years later (772), it was rescinded, the only condition now attached being that the farmers must not be distressed.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.


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

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