) (718 – August 28
) was both the 46th
and the 48th imperial ruler
, according to the traditional order of succession. The period in which she was the reigning sovereign stretched from 749 through the year of her death in 770.
Shōtoku initially ruled as Empress Kōken (孝謙天皇 Kōken-tennō) from 749 to 758. She abdicated in favor of her second cousin, Emperor Junnin; but six years later she took the crown from him and reascended the throne. She never renounced her Buddhist vows, setting a precedent. Her posthumous name for this second reign (764-770) was known as Empress Shōtoku.
Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne
, her personal name (her imina
) was Abe-hime
Events of Kōken's life
- Tenpyō-kanpō 1, on the 2nd day of the 7th month (749): In the 25th year of Shōmu-tennō's reign (聖武天皇25年), the emperor died; and the succession (‘‘senso’’) was received by his daughter. Shortly thereafter, Empress Kōken is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).
Empress Kōken reigned for ten years. Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century. Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
(公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan
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 Kōken's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:
Eras of Kōken's reign
The years of Kōken's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name
Events of Shōtoku's life
- Tenpyō-hōji 9, on the 1st day of the 1st month (765): In the 6th year of Junnin-tennō's reign (淳仁天皇6年), the emperor was deposed by his adoptive mother; and the succession (‘‘senso’’) was received by former-Empress Kōken. Shortly thereafter, Empress Shōtoku is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).
Kōken/Shōtoku's reign was exceedingly turbulent, and she survived coup attempts by both Tachibana Naramaro and Fujiwara no Nakamaro.
Today, she is remembered chiefly for her alleged affair with a Buddhist monk named Dōkyō (道鏡), a man upon whom she heaped titles and power. An oracle from the Hachiman (八幡) shrine in Usa pronounced that the monk should be made emperor. But when the empress sent Wake no Kiyomaro (和気清麻呂) to verify the pronouncement, Hachiman decreed that only one of imperial blood should ascend to the throne. The affair illustrated the growing power of the Buddhist priesthood and was a prime factor in Emperor Kammu's decision to move the capital away from Nara in 784.
- Jingo-keiun 3, on the 4th day of the 8th month (769): Empress Shōtoku died at age 57.
Empress Shōtoku rule for ten years. As with the seven other reigning empresses whose successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, she was followed on the throne by a male cousin, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century. Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
Shōtoku died of smallpox, after which she was succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, Emperor Kōnin. She should not be confused with Prince Shōtoku (572-622), who was one of the first in Japan to sponsor Buddhism. Shōtoku's Imperial misasagi or tomb can be visited today in Misasagi-cho, Nara City.
during Shōtoku's reign included:
Eras of Shōtoku's reign
The years of Shōtoku's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name
- Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979). [Jien, c. 1220], Gukanshō (The Future and the Past, a translation and study of the Gukanshō, an interpretative history of Japan written in 1219). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
- Titsingh, Isaac, ed. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/Hayashi Gahō, 1652], Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M. Isaac Titsingh avec l'aide de plusieurs interprètes attachés au comptoir hollandais de Nangasaki; ouvrage re., complété et cor. sur l'original japonais-chinois, accompagné de notes et précédé d'un Aperçu d'histoire mythologique du Japon, par M. J. Klaproth. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. ... Click link for digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)
- 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