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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Emperor Daigo himself administered affairs


*Michizane was apotheosized under the name of Tenjin. He is known also as Kan Shojo, and Temmangu.

ENGRAVING: SAMISEN (A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT)

ENGRAVING: SANJU-SANGEN-DO TEMPLE AT KYOTO

CHAPTER XX

THE HEIAN EPOCH (Continued)

60th Sovereign, Daigo (Continued) 61st " Emperor Shujaku A.D. 931-946

THE ENGI ERA (A.D. 901-923)

In the year 909, Fujiwara Tokihira died and was followed to the grave, in 913, by Minamoto Hikaru. For an interval of some years no minister of State was nominated; the Emperor Daigo himself administered affairs. For this interregnum in the sway of the Fujiwara, the Engi era is memorable.

It is memorable for other things also; notably for the compilation of documents which throw much light on the conditions then existing in Japan. The Emperor, in 914, called upon the Court officials to submit memorials which should supply materials for administrative reforms. The great scholar, Miyoshi Kiyotsura, responded with ability so conspicuous that posterity has been disposed to question the justice of the charges against him in connexion with Michizane's fate. He set out by stating that, in the early times, the national sentiment had been kind and simple; the people loyal to the Throne and obedient to parents; the taxes moderate. But, thereafter, customs had gradually deteriorated. Laws and regulations were promulgated with bewildering rapidity. Taxes and forced labour grew heavier day by day. Cultivated lands were suffered to lie fallow. Buddhism established such a hold upon men's minds that people of all classes impoverished themselves to build places of worship and to cast images. Upon the erection of the provincial temples (Kokubun-ji) five-tenths of the national taxes were expended; and in connexion with the removal of the capital to Kyoto and the building of new palaces, a further sum of three-tenths was paid out. Again, the Emperor Nimmyo's (834-850) love of luxury and display led to architectural extravagance entirely unprecedented, and involved the squandering of yet another tenth of the remaining income of the State. Thereafter, in the Jokwan era (859-876), frequent conflagrations destroyed the Imperial edifice, and its restoration cost a tenth of the remaining revenue, so that only one-twentieth was ultimately available for general expenses.

As illustrating the state of the rural regions, the memorialist instanced the case of Bitchu, a province on the Inland Sea, where he held an official appointment in the year 893. The local records (Fudoki) showed that a levy made there about the middle of the seventh century had produced twenty thousand able-bodied soldiers,* whereas a century later, there were found only nineteen hundred; yet another century afterwards, only seventy; at the close of the ninth century, nine, and in the year 911, not one. To such a state of desolation had the district been reduced in the space of 250 years, and its story might be taken as typical.


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