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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

During the reign of Go Shujaku


Go-Sanjo stands an imposing figure in the annals of his country. Erudition he possessed in no small degree, and it was supplemented by diligence, high moral courage and a sincere love of justice. He also set to his people an example of frugality. It is related that, observing as he passed through the streets one day, an ox-carriage with gold mountings, he stopped his cortege and caused the gold to be stripped off. Side by side with this record may be placed his solicitude about the system of measures, which had fallen into disorder. With his own hands he fashioned a standard which was known to later generations as the senshi-masu of the Enkyu era (1069-1074). The question of tax-free manors (shoen) also received much attention. During the reign of Go-Shujaku, decrees were frequently issued forbidding the creation of these estates. The Fujiwara shoen were conspicuous. Michinaga possessed wide manors everywhere, and Yorimichi, his son, was not less insatiable. Neither Go-Shujaku nor Go-Reizei could check the abuse. But Go-Sanjo resorted to a really practical measure. He established a legislative office where all titles to shoen had to be examined and recorded, the Daiho system of State ownership being restored, so that all rights of private property required official sanction, the Court also becoming the judge in all disputes as to validity of tenure.

These orders came like a clap of thunder in a blue sky. Many great personages had acquired vast

manorial tracts by processes that could not endure the scrutiny of the Kiroku-jo (registrar's office). Yorimichi, the kwampaku, was a conspicuous example. On receipt of the order to register, he could only reply that he had succeeded to his estates as they stood and that no documentary evidence was available. Nevertheless, he frankly added that, if his titles were found invalid, he was prepared to surrender his estates, since the position he occupied required him to be an administrator of law, not an obstacle to its administration. This was the same noble who had refused to present the sword, Tsubo-kiri, to Go-Sanjo when the latter was nominated Crown Prince. The Emperor might now have exacted heavy reparation. But his Majesty shrank from anything like spoliation. A special decree was issued exempting from proof of title all manors held by chancellors, regents, or their descendants.


Another abuse with which Go-Sanjo sought to deal drastically was the sale of offices and ranks. This was an evil of old standing. Whenever special funds were required for temple building or palace construction, it had become customary to invite contributions from local magnates, who, in return, received, or were renewed in their tenure of, the post of provincial governor. Official ranks were similarly disposed of. At what time this practice had its origin the records do not show, but during the reign of Kwammu (782-805,) the bestowal of rank in return for a money payment was interdicted, and Miyoshi Kiyotsura, in his celebrated memorial to Daigo (898-930), urged that the important office of kebiishi should never be conferred in consideration of money. But in the days of Ichijo, the acquisition of tax-free manors increased rapidly and the treasury's income diminished correspondingly, so that it became inevitable, in times of State need, that recourse should be had to private contributions, the contributors being held to have shown "merit" entitling them to rank or office or both.

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