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June 2018


About Tenpyo-culture in the 8th century

In the 8th century, which is called the Nara period, the political system of the centralized government was developed and the wealth was concentrated to the Court.
In those days, the sophisticated culture created by nobles was bloomed around the capital. The culture was named Tenpyo-culture coming from the Tenpyo-era of the Shomu Emperor's reign.
Around the 8th century, envoys to the Tang Dynasty introduced culture of Tang to Japan and Japanese nobles learned it.
Therefore, Tenpyo-culture was strongly influenced from the culture of Tang and Tenpyo-culture had a highly cosmopolitan character.


About Rich farmers and poor farmers in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the disparity between rich farmers and poor farmers became significant. 
Some of poor farmers relinquished rice fields allocated by the government and left the places where they were registered.
Some others of them escaped from construction sites in Kyoto during their duties. After that some of them became wanderers or servants of local lords.
On the other hand, some of rich farmers moved to other places to expand their farming without the government permission.
Some others of them became monks or servants of nobles without permission, because they tried to avoid heavy tax burden on farmers.
At the end of the 8th century, many farmers defaulted in paying their taxes which they had to pay in special products of their districts such as silk, cloth.
The government's forces which consisted of many farmers got weakened.
These seriously influenced on the finance and the military power of the government.


About the Development of new rice-fields in the 8th century

The Imperial Court planned a large-scale-development of new rice-fields in 722.
In those days, the population was increasing, so the Court needed more rice-fields to allocate all people who were over 6 years old. In addition, the Court also wanted to increase tax revenue.
In 723, the Sanze-Isshin-Law was enacted. The law allowed people to own land for a certain period of time, if they developed new rice-fields. If a person developed both new irrigation facilities and new rice-fields, the person and the person’s children and grandchildren were allowed to own the land.
If a person developed only new rice-fields, the person was allowed to own the rice-fields and when he passed away, his rice-fields were given back to the Court.
However, the law was not so effective, because people felt that the period which they could own the rice-fields was too short, because that people didn’t live very long in those days.
And then the Konden-Einen-Shizai-Law was enacted in 743. This allowed people to own rice-fields which they developed forever. The original aim of this law was to develop more rice-fields which could be managed by the Court, but the law prompted rich people such as nobles, temples and local lords to expand their private rice-fields. For example, great temples like Todaiji-temple clamed vast plains. The development of temples was supported by local governments and these temples used neighboring farmers and homeless people to build irrigation facilities and for land cultivation.


About heavy burden on farmers in the 8th century

Farmers cultivated not only rice-fields which were allocated by the government but also rice-fields owned by the government, temples or nobles.
Basically, farmers were lent these rice-fields for 1 year and paid 20% of the crops to the owners as the rental-fee.
In addition, farmers had to serve in the army and be engaged in government assigned work for about 60 days a year without pay.
Moreover, adult males also had to submit special products of the district such as silk, fabrics or thread to the Court and they had to deliver these products to the capital themselves.
In addition, they were often suffering due to famine because of bad weather or insect plagues.
Therefore, farmers' lives were very severe, though local governments created policies to encourage agriculture.


About common people’s life styles in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the style of houses was changing from pit-dwelling style to all-pillared dwelling style. 
Around the 8th century, when a man married a woman, at first the man would just visit his wife at her house and then when the couple began living together, it would be with either the husband’s parents or the wife's parents.
After that, the couple built their own house.
Even if a woman married a man, she kept using her parents' family name and she had her own assets. Under the Ritsu-Ryo-code,  it was considered that the paternal line of inheritance was important, because the code was made following the Chinese family system which is patriarchal. 
However, among common people, women continued to be the decision-makers in their families, assigning tasks and educating children.


About a powerful monk interfered in politics in the 8th century

After the Komyo retired-Empress passed away, Oshikatsu Emi was isolated and his political influence was decreased in the Court.
The Koken-abdicated Emperor loved a monk who took care of the abdicated Emperor when she was sick. Unfortunately, the monk had political ambitions and used the Koken-abdicated Emperor for his own purpose, encouraging her to defy the Junnin Emperor.
Since Oshikatsu Emi was afraid of losing his authority, he raised a rebellion against the Koken-abdicated Emperor in 764, but he was destroyed by the forces of the abdicated Emperor.
After that, the Junnin Emperor was forced to retire and was sent to Awaji-island. The Koken-abdicated Emperor came back to the throne of the Emperor and became the Syotoku Emperor during her second reign.
Since the monk, Dokyo, received strong support from the Syotoku Emperor, he became the Grand Minister and then rose to the top of the Buddhist hierarchy.
In 769, a conspiracy related to Dokyo occurred. A priest of Usa Hachiman Shinto shrine reported to the Syotoku Emperor that the Usa Hachiman god said Dokyo should ascend to the throne. Usa Hachimangu was one of the most important Shinto shrines in those days. To confirm the god's message, the Syotoku Emperor sent a servant to the Shrine. The servant, Kiyomaru Wake listened to the god's message himself and reported to the Emperor that the god was opposed to Dokyo's ascending the throne. Therefore, the conspiracy failed.
After the Syotoku Emperor passed away, Dokyo lost his political power and the Konin-Emperor succeeded to the throne. In those days, many of the Tenmu Emperor's direct descendants succeeded the throne, but the Konin-Emperor was a grandson of the Tenji Emperor, who was an older brother of the Tenmu Emperor.
The Konin Emperor was strongly supported by Momokawa Fujiwara. The Emperor aimed for the reconstruction of national politics and finance.


About Nakamaro Fujiwara ( Oshikatsu Emi)

A daughter of the Syomu-retired Emperor and the Komyo-retired Empress ascended the throne as the Koken Emperor.

Nakamaro Fujiwara became very influential in the Court, because his aunt, the Komyo-retired Empress, strongly supported him. Naramaro Tachibana, a son of Moroe-Tachibana, tried to take power from Nakamaro Fujiwara.
However, contrary to his expectation, Naramaro Tachibana was destroyed by Nakamaro Fujiwara.
After that Nakamaro Fujiwara forced the Koken Emperor to retire, so that he could elevate a grandson of Tenmu to the throne, the Junnin Emperor.
Nakamaro Fujiwara was given the name Oshikatsu Emi by the Junnin Emperor and gained exceptional economic privilege and great political power. And then he eventually became the Grand Minister.

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