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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Chuai means lamentable second son


her Majesty became the central figure in a page of history--or romance--which has provoked more controversy than any incident in Japanese annals. A descendant of the Korean prince, Ama-no-Hihoko, who settled in the province of Tajima during the reign of the Emperor Suinin, she must have possessed traditional knowledge of Shiragi, whence her ancestor had emigrated. She was the third consort of Chuai. His first had borne him two sons who were of adult age when, in the second year of his reign, he married Jingo,* a lady "intelligent, shrewd, and with a countenance of such blooming loveliness that her father wondered at it." To this appreciation of her character must be added the attributes of boundless ambition and brave resourcefulness. The annals represent her as bent from the outset on the conquest of Korea and as receiving the support and encouragement of Takenouchi-no-Sukune, who had served her husband and his predecessor as prime minister. A military expedition oversea led by a sovereign in person had not been heard of since the days of Jimmu, and to reconcile officials and troops to such an undertaking the element of divine revelation had to be introduced. At every stage signs and portents were vouchsafed by the guardian deities. By their intervention the Empress was shown to be possessed of miraculous prowess, and at their instance troops and ships assembled spontaneously. The armada sailed under divine guidance, a gentle spirit protecting the Empress, and a warlike spirit
leading the van of her forces. The god of the wind sent a strong breeze; the god of the sea ruled the waves favourably; all the great fishes accompanied the squadron, and an unprecendented tide bore the ships far inland. Fighting became unnecessary. The King of Shiragi did homage at once and promised tribute and allegiance forever, and the other monarchs of the peninsula followed his example. In short, Korea was conquered and incorporated with the dominions of Japan.

*It should be clearly understood that the names by which the sovereigns are called in these pages, are the posthumous appellations given to them in later times when Chinese ideographs came into use and Chinese customs began to be followed in such matters. The posthumous was compiled with reference to the character or achievements of the sovereign, Thus Jingo signifies "divine merit," on account of her conquests; "Chuai" means "lamentable second son," with reference to his evil fate, and "Keiko" implies "great deeds." These three sovereigns were called during life, Okinaga-Tarashi, Tarashi-Nakatsu, and 0-Tarashi, respectively.


By some learned historiographers the whole of the above account is pronounced a fiction. There was no such invasion of Korea, they say, nor does the narrative deserve more credit than the legend of the Argonauts or the tale of Troy. But that is probably too drastic a view. There can indeed be little doubt that the compilers of the Nihongi embellished the bald tradition with imaginary details; used names which did not exist until centuries after the epoch referred to; drew upon the resources of Chinese history for the utterances they ascribe to the Empress and for the weapons they assign to her soldiers, and were guilty of at least two serious anachronisms.

But none of these faults disfigures the story as told in the pages of the Kojiki, which was written before the Nihongi. It has always to be remembered that the compilers of the latter essayed the impossible task of adjusting a new chronology to events extending over many centuries, and that the resulting discrepancies of dates does not necessarily discredit the events themselves. It has also to be remembered that the same compilers were required to robe their facts in Chinese costume and that the consequent ill-fits and artificialities do not of necessity vitiate the facts. In the particular case under consideration did the Kojiki stand alone, little doubt would ever have been entertained about the reality of an armed expedition to Korea, under the Empress Jingo. The sober and unexaggerated narrative of that history would have been accepted, less only the miraculous portents which accompany it.

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