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May 2018


About Buddhism for national protection in the 8th century

To revive of the family's political power, one of the members of the Fujiwara family brewed a big revolt in 740 in Kyusyu, which is a western island of the Japanese archipelago.
The revolt was subdued by the governmental forces, but the incident caused political unrest in the Court.
In addition, people were suffering from great earthquakes , outbreaks of smallpox and famine. Therefore, the social situation was very unstable.
In spite of the confusion, in 740, the Syomu-Emperor moved the capital of Japan from Heijo-kyo to Kuni-kyo, in southern Kyoto-fu, and then the Emperor moved the capital again from Kuni-kyo to Naniwa-no-miya, in today's Osaka-city, in 744. After that, the Emperor moved the capital from Naniwa-nomiya to Shigaraki-no-miya, in southern Shiga-prefecture in 745. Finally the Emperor returned the capital to Heijyo-kyo in 745.
Even now, nobody knows the exact reason why the Emperor moved the capital-city so often in such a short term, but it is said that the Emperor tried to change the social situation by capital relocation.
During those moves, the social situation went going from bad to worse, so the Syomu -Emperor decided it would also help to stabilize the nation by adapting a foreign religion, Buddhism. It was an unusual choice for the Japanese Emperor, because traditionally the Imperial family's belief is Shinto.
However, the Syomu Emperor profoundly devoted himself to Buddhism, because he was strongly affected by the Fujiwara family's belief. His mother and his wife were from the Fujiwara family, who had a strong relationship with foreign countries and earnestly believed in Buddhism.
In 741, the Emperor issued the decree to build provincial temples, and then Kokubunji-temples and Kokubun-niji-temples, which were convents, were built in each province, called Kuni.
In 743, the Emperor issued another decree for the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Todaiji-temple. Todaiji-temple was placed as the head temple of Kokubunji-temples and Kokubun-niji-temples all over Japan.
The purpose of building temples all over Japan was to protect the nation by the efficacy of monks' prayers, not propagation of Buddhism.
As a matter of fact, Buddhist monks were strictly managed by the government and they were not allowed to engage in missionary work in those days.
In 752, the Koken-Emperor, a daughter of the Syomu-Emperor, held the grand ceremony to consecrate the Great Buddha statue. The ceremony was attended by Shomu-retired-Emperor, Komyo-retired-Empress, Chinese monks, Indian monks and ten-thousand Japanese monks.
Sep, 740 Hirotsugu Fujiwara’s revolt in Kyusyu.
Dec, 740 the capital-city was moved to Kuni-kyo.
Feb, 741 the decree to build provincial temples and convents.
Oct, 743 the decree to for the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Todaiji-temple.
Feb, 744 the capital-city was moved to Naniwa-no-miya.
Jan, 745 the capital-city was moved to Shigaraki-no-miya.
May, 745 the capital city was moved to Heijyo-kyo
May, 752 the grand ceremony to consecrate the Great Buddha statue

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