(聖武天皇 Shōmu Tennō
) (701 – June 4
) was the 45th Emperor
, according to the traditional order of succession. His reign spanned the years 724 through 749.
Before his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne
, his personal name (his imina
) is not clearly known, but he was known as Oshi-hiraki Toyosakura-hiko-no-mikoto.
Shōmu was the son of Emperor Mommu and Fujiwara no Miyako, a daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito.
Shōmu had four Empresses and six Imperial sons and daughters.
Events of Shōmu's reign
Shōmu was still a child at the time of his father's death; thus, Empresses Gemmei and Gensho occupied the throne before he acceded.
- Yōrō 8, in the 1st month (724): In the 9th year of Genshō-tennō's reign (元正天皇9年), the empress abdicated; and her younger brother received the succession (‘‘senso’’). Shortly thereafter, Emperor Shōmu is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).
- Jinki 1 (神亀元年; 724): The era name is changed to mark the accession of Emperor Shōmu.
Shōmu continued to reside in the Hezei Palace.
Shōmu is well remembered for commissioning, in 743, the sixteen-meter high statue of the Vairocana Buddha (the Daibutsu) in Tōdai-ji of Nara. At the time, this was such a massive undertaking that later chroniclers accuse him of having completely exhausted the country's reserves of bronze and precious metals. In 752, the Shōmu holds the Eye-opening Ceremony of the Great Buddha.
Earlier in 741, he established the system of provincial temples, making this the closest anyone ever came to declaring Japan a Buddhist nation.
Shōmu is also known as the first emperor whose consort was not born into the imperial household. His consort Kōmyō was a Fujiwara woman. The two had a son who died in childhood.
- Jinki 1 (724): Emperor Shōmu rises to throne.
- Tenpyō 12 740: The capital is moved to Kuni-kyō
- Tenpyō 13 (741): The Emperor calls for nationwide establishment of provincial temples. Provincial temples ("kokubunji") and provincial nunneries ("kokubunniji") were established throughout the country. The more formal name for these "kokubunji" was "konkomyo-shitenno-gokoku no tera" (meaning "temples for the protection of the cournty by the four guardian deities of the golden light"). The more formal name for these "bokubunniji" was "hokke-metuzai no tera" (meaning "nunneries for eliminating sin by means of the Lotus Sutra").
- Tenpyō 15 (743): The Emperor issues a rescript to build the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), later to be completed and placed in Tōdai-ji, Nara.
- Tenpyō 15 (743): The law of Perpetual Ownership of Cultivated Lands (墾田永代私財法) issued
- Tenpyō 16 (744): In the Spring, the court was moved to Naniwa-kyō which then became the new capital.
- Tenpyō 17 (745): The Emperor declares by himself Shigaraki-kyō the capital
- Tenpyō 17 (745): The capital returns to Heijō-kyō, construction of the Great Buddha resumes.
- Tenpyō 21, in the 4th month (749): Shōme, accompanied by the empress, their children and all the great men and women of the court, went in procession to Todai-ji. The emperor stood before the statue of the Buddha and proclaimed himself to be a slave to the three precious precepts of the Buddhist religion, which are the Buddha, the Buddhist law, and the Buddhist church.
- Tenpyō 21, in the 7th month (749): After a 25-year reign, Emperor Shōmu abdicates in favor of his daughter, Princess Takano-hime, who will become Empress Kōken. After his abdication, Shomu took the tonsure, thus becoming the first retired emperor to become a Buddhist priest. Empress Komyo, following her husband’s example, also took holy vows in becoming a Buddhist nun.
- Tenpyō-shōhō 4, in the 4th month 752: The Eye-opening Ceremony celebrating the completion of the Great Buddha is held at Tōdai-ji.
Emperor Shōmu died at age 56. Shōmu's officially designated Imperial misasagi or tomb can be visited today in Horenji-cho, Tenri City near Nara City. The Imperial tomb of Shōmu's consort, Empress Komyo, is located nearby.
(公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan
in pre-Meiji eras
In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Shōmu's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:
Eras of Shōmu's life
The years of Shōmu's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name
Consorts and Children
Empress: Fujiwara no Asukabe-hime (藤原安宿媛)(Empress Kōmyō
, 光明皇后) (701-760), daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito
- Imperial Princess Abe (阿倍内親王) (Empress Kōken) (718-770)
- Prince Motoi (基王) (727-728)
Bunin: Agatainukai no Hirotoji (県犬養広刀自) (?-762), daughter of Agatainukai no Morokoshi
- Imperial Princess Inoe (井上内親王) (717-775), married to Prince Shirakabe(later Emperor Kōnin)
- Imperial Princess Fuwa (不破内親王) (?-after 795), married to Prince Shioyaki (son of Prince Niitabe)
- Imperial Prince Asaka (安積親王) (728-744)
Bunin: A daughter of Fujiwara no Muchimaro (?-748)
Bunin: A daughter of Fujiwara no Fusasaki (?-760)
Bunin: Tachibana-no-Hirooka no Konakachi (橘広岡古那可智) (?-759), daughter of Tachibana no Sai
- Brown, Delmer and Ichiro Ishida, eds. (1979). [Jien, c. 1220], Gukanshō; "The Future and the Past: a translation and study of the 'Gukanshō,' an interpretive history of Japan written in 1219" translated from the Japanese and edited by Delmer M. Brown & Ichirō Ishida. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
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- Varley, H. Paul , ed. (1980). [Kitabatake Chikafusa, 1359], Jinnō Shōtōki ("A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa" translated by H. Paul Varley). New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04940-4