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CHAPTER 5 The Rise of Military Government Development of the Manor Economy The political history of Japan consists of the repeated replacement of one ruling group by another within the structure ofthe imperial state. In the beginning there was symmetry of structure and power as the Emperors exercised authority according to the design of the system.We have seen that from the ninthto the twelfth centuries the Emperors were gradually displaced by the Fujiwara Regents. After the rise of the Fujiwara, another centre of power developed withinthe same structure, as the Retired Emperors of the late eleventh century began to compete for wealth and prestige. The tendency was always towards establishment of multiple power centres without renovating the formal state system or eliminatingthe earlier established powers. This is seen clearly in the Fujiwara rise to power in the Regency, an office that they simply added permanently to the governing structure. When the Retired Emperors attempted a political comeback, they too added another governing office without removing anything. It is also remarkable that only the original work of founding the imperial system arose from programmatic thought. Seventh-century leaders such as Emperor Tenji and Nakatomi Kamako possessed a clear conception of the national needs of Japan, and they had a blueprint for state construction derived from Chinese history. The rise ofthe Fujiwara clan in the tenth century and of the Retired Emperors in the twelfth century came about as the result of conscious intention, but the goals of the builders consisted entirely of securingtheir own position and welfare Notes to Chapter 5 are found on pages 144-45. 60 THE RISE OF MILITARY GOVERNMENT 61 through pragmatic measures. The Fujiwara Regents of the tenth to twelfth centuries had no large-scale plans for building a new system of government; instead they were careful planners intheir own self-interest and great opportunists. It is doubtful whether the FujiwaraRegents even possessed a concept ofthe state in the abstract, since we find nowritings on the subject. Thus there was a clear difference in attitude towards politics in the seventh century, when men planned and fought for the future of the Japanese state, and the Heian period when they schemed for position and wealth. This difference in political attitudes is reflected in the characteristic historical writing of the periods. The authors of the Six National Histories regarded their work as an essential activity related to building the imperial state and maintainingits rigour. The authors of the Mirror-pieces, on the other hand, had no sense that their work was an act of political leadership. They admired what had gone before, and they wrote of the past not to justify the rule of the Fujiwara clan (Eiga Monogatari and Okagami) or of the Retired Emperors (Imakagami), but to share with readers the pleasures of reminiscence. Despite the absence of ideology, however, their work reinforced the imperialsystem as the unquestioned framework for national life. The pragmatic method was also followed by the next actors to enter the political stage, the military clans who came to ascendancy in the twelfth century. While they possessed a coherent view of their own way of life, they were completely withoutplans for constructing an appropriate state. Instead they followed the paths leading to honour and advantage as the Fujiwara leaders had done. The mainstreamoftheir historical writing, War Tales, chronicled the times of the warriors and told of their glories in the same way that the Historical Tales extolled the glories of their subject, the Heian aristocracy. The ultimate cause of the rise of the military clans was the alienation of public powers by the imperial state, the right to taxation and the right to secure public order. Both of these were progressively lost in the course of the development of manors (shoen), in a process sanctioned by the state itself. As early in the mid-ninthcentury, manors were being exempted entirely from taxation by means of an official document known as a charter (kanshofu). Since the trend towards manor development was universal, and since everyone sought this exemption from taxation, the necessary long-term result would be the disappearance of taxpayers. A stunning example was presented by Miyoshi Kiyoyuki (847-918) in his Statement of Opinion of 914, in which he drew attention to the case of Nima village in Shomotsumichi District in the Province of Bitchu. Citing the Record of Climate (fudoki} for the Province, now lost, Miyoshi claims that this district furnished 20,000 soldiers to Emperor Tenji, who was...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780889208742
Related ISBN
9780889209978
MARC Record
OCLC
243566096
Pages
174
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-26
Language
English
Open Access
No
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