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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Were rendered wholly abortive under the sway of Shirakawa


ENGRAVING: KO-NO-MA (ROOM) NISHI (WEST) HONGWAN-JI TEMPLE, AT KYOTO (An example of "Shoinzukuri" building)

Thenceforth the functions of Imperialism were limited to matters of etiquette and ceremony, all important State business being transacted by the Ho-o and his camera entourage. If the decrees of the Court clashed with those of the cloister, as was occasionally inevitable, the former had to give way. Thus, it can scarcely be said that there was any division of authority. But neither was there any progress. The earnest efforts made by Go-Sanjo to check the abuse of sales of rank and office as well as the alienation of State lands into private manors, were rendered wholly abortive under the sway of Shirakawa. The cloistered Emperor was a slave of superstition. He caused no less than six temples* to be built of special grandeur, and to the principal of these (Hosho-ji) he made frequent visits in state, on which occasions gorgeous ceremonies were performed. He erected the Temple of the 33,333 Images of Kwannon (the Sanjusangen-do) in Kyoto; he made four progresses to the monastery at Koya and eight to that at Kumano; he commissioned artists to paint 5470 Buddhist pictures, sculptors to cast 127 statues each sixteen feet high; 3150 life-size, and 2930 of three feet or less, and he raised twenty-one large pagodas and 446,630 small ones.

*These were designated Roku-sho-ji, or "six excellent temples."

His respect for Buddhism was so extreme that he strictly interdicted the taking of life in any form, a veto which involved the destruction of eight thousand fishing nets and the loss of their means of sustenance to innumerable fishermen, as well as the release of all falcons kept for hawking. It has even been suggested that Shirakawa's piety amounted to a species of insanity, for, on one occasion, when rain prevented a contemplated progress to Hosho-ji, he sentenced the rain to imprisonment and caused a quantity to be confined in a vessel.* To the nation, however, all this meant something very much more than a mere freak. It meant that the treasury was depleted and that revenue had to be obtained by recourse to the abuses which Go-Sanjo had struggled so earnestly to check, the sale of offices and ranks, even in perpetuity, and the inclusion of great tracts of State land in private manors.

*This silliness was spoken of by the people as ame-kingoku (the incarceration of the rain).

TOBA

Horikawa died in 1107, after a reign of twenty years, and was succeeded by his son Toba, a child of five. Affairs of State continued to be directed by the cloistered sovereign, and he chose for his grandson's consort Taiken-mon-in, who bore to him a son, the future Emperor Sutoku. Toba abdicated, after a reign of fifteen years, on the very day of Sutoku's nomination as heir apparent, and, six years later, Shirakawa died (1128), having administered the empire from the cloister during a space of forty-three years.

As a device to wrest the governing power from the grasp of the Fujiwara, Go-Sanjo's plan was certainly successful, and had he lived to put it into operation himself, the results must have been different. But in the greatly inferior hands of Shirakawa this new division of Imperial authority and the segregation of its source undoubtedly conspired to prepare the path for military feudalism and for curtained Emperors.


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