Emperor Tenmu

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Tenmu
Emperor of Japan
Emperor Temmu.jpg
Emperor Tenmu
Reign 673–686
Predecessor Kōbun
Successor Jitō
Spouse Princess Uno-no-sarara (Empress Jitō)
Issue Princess Tōchi by Princess Nukata
Prince Takechi by Amako-no-iratsume
Prince Kusakabe by Empress Jitō
Princess Oku and Prince Ōtsu by Princess Ōta
Prince Naga and Prince Yuge by Princess Ōe
Prince Toneri by Princess Niitabe
Princess Tajima by Higami-no-iratsume
Prince Niitabe by Ioe-no-iratsume
Prince Osakabe, Prince Shigi, Princess Hatsusebe, and Princess Taki by Kajihime-no-iratsume
Prince Hozumi, Princess Ki, and Princess Takata by Ōnu-no-iratsume
Father Jomei
Mother Kōgyoku
Born 631
Died 686
Burial Hinokuma no Ōuchi no misasagi (Nara)

Emperor Tenmu (天武天皇 Tenmu-tennō?, c. 631 – October 1, 686) was the 40th emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Tenmu's reign lasted from 672 until his death in 686.[3]

Traditional narrative[edit]

Tenmu was the youngest son of Emperor Jomei and Empress Saimei, and the younger brother of the Emperor Tenji. His name at birth was Prince Ōama (大海人皇子:Ōama no ōji). He was succeeded by Empress Jitō, who was both his niece and his wife. During the reign of his elder brother, Emperor Tenji, Tenmu was forced to marry several of Tenji's daughters because Tenji thought those marriages would help to strengthen political ties between the two brothers. The nieces he married included Princess Unonosarara, today known as the Empress Jitō, and Princess Ōta. Tenmu also had other consorts whose fathers were influential courtiers.

Tenmu had many children, including his crown prince Kusakabe by Princess Unonosarara; Princess Tōchi; Prince Ōtsu and Princess Ōku by Princess Ōta (whose father also was Tenji); and Prince Toneri, the editor of Nihonshoki and father of Emperor Junnin. Through Prince Kusakabe, Tenmu had two emperors and two empresses among his descendents. Empress Shōtoku was the last of these imperial rulers from his lineage.

Events of Tenmu's life[edit]

Emperor Tenmu is the first monarch of Japan, to whom the title tennō was assigned contemporaneously—not only by later generations.[4]

The only document on his life was Nihonshoki. However, it was edited by his son, Prince Toneri, and the work was written during the reigns of his wife and children, causing one to suspect its accuracy and impartiality.

Tenmu's father died while he was young, and he grew up mainly under the guidance of Empress Saimei. He was not expected to gain the throne, because his brother Tenji was the crown prince, being the older son of their mother, the reigning empress.

After Tenji ascended to the throne, Tenmu was appointed crown prince. This was because Tenji had no appropriate heir among his sons at that time, as none of their mothers was of a rank high enough to give the necessary political support. Tenji was suspicious that Tenmu might be so ambitious as to attempt to take the throne, and felt the necessity to strengthen his position through politically advantageous marriages.

Tenji was particularly active in improving the military institutions which had been established during the Taika reforms.[5]

In his old age, Tenji had a son, Prince Ōtomo, by a low-ranking consort. Since Ōtomo had weak political support from his maternal relatives, the general wisdom of the time[citation needed] held that it was not a good idea for him to ascend to the throne, yet Tenji was obsessed with the idea.

In 671 Tenmu felt himself to be in danger and volunteered to resign the office of crown prince to become a monk. He moved to the mountains in Yoshino, Yamato province (now in Yoshino, Nara), officially for reasons of seclusion. He took with him his sons and one of his wives, Princess Unonosarara, a daughter of Tenji. However, he left all his other consorts at the capital, Omikyō in Ōmi Province (today in Otsu, Shiga).

A year later, (in 672) Tenji died and Prince Ōtomo ascended to the throne as Emperor Kōbun. Tenmu assembled an army and marched from Yoshino to the east, to attack the capital of Omikyō in a counterclockwise movement. They marched through Yamato, Iga and Mino provinces to threaten Omikyō in the adjacent province. The army of Tenmu and the army of the young Emperor Kōbun fought in the northwestern part of Mino (nowadays Sekigahara, Gifu). Tenmu's army won and Kōbun committed suicide (Jinshin incident).

Post-Meiji chronology
  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), designated his son as his heir; and modern scholars construe this as meaning that the son would have received the succession (senso) after his father's death. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Kōbun is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[6] If this understanding were valid, then it would it would follow:
  • In the 1st year of Kōbun (672): Emperor Kōbun, in the 1st year of his reign (弘文天皇1年), died; and his uncle Ōaomi-shinnō received the succession (senso) after the death of his nephew. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Tenmu could be said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[7]
Pre-Meiji chronology
Prior to the 19th century, Otomo was understood to have been a mere interloper, a pretender, an anomaly; and therefore, if that commonly accepted understanding were to have been valid, then it would have followed:
  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), died; and despite any military confrontations which ensued, the brother of the dead sovereign would have received the succession (senso); and after a time, it would have been understood that Emperor Tenmu rightfully acceded to the throne (sokui).

As might be expected, Emperor Tenmu was no less active than former-Emperor Tenji in improving the Taika military institutions. Tenmu's reign brought many changes, such as: (1) a centralized war department was organized; (2) the defenses of the Inner Country near the Capital were strengthened; (3) forts and castles were built near Capital and in the western parts of Honshū—and in Kyushu; (4) troops were reviewed; and all provincial governors were ordered to complete the collection of arms and to study tactics.[8]

Memorial Shinto shrine and mausoleum honoring Emperor Tenmu

In 673 Tenmu moved the capital back to Yamato province on the Kiymihara plain, naming his new capital Asuka. The Man'yōshū includes a poem written after the Jinshin conflict ended:

Our Sovereign, a god,
Has made his Imperial City[9]
Out of the stretch of swamps,
Where chestnut horses sank
To their bellies.
– Ōtomo Miyuki[10]

At Asuka, Emperor Tenmu was enthroned. He elevated Unonosarara to be his empress. Events of his reign include:

Tenmu reigned from this capital until his death in 686. The actual site of his grave is known.[1] This emperor is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine (misasagi) at Nara. The Imperial Household Agency designates this location as Tenmu's mausoleum. It is formally named Hinokuma no Ōuchi no misasagi.[13]

Buddhism[edit]

In 675 Emperor Tenmu banned the consumption of animal meat (horse, cattle, dogs, monkeys, birds), due to the influence of Buddhism.[14]

Politics[edit]

The Nihon Shoki entry of April 15, 683 CE (Tenmu 12th year), mandates the use of copper coins instead of silver, suggesting that Japanese currency predates his reign. Excerpt of the 11th century edition.
Early Japanese currency: Fuhonsen coins (富本銭), found in Tobishimaike (飛島池), thought to have been minted during the reign of Emperor Tenmu, end of 7th century, copper and antimony. Japan Currency Museum.

In Nihonshoki Tenmu is described as a great innovator, but the neutrality of this description is doubtful, since the work was written under the control of his descendants. It seems clear, however, that Tenmu strengthened the power of the emperor and appointed his sons to the highest offices of his government, reducing the traditional influence of powerful clans such as the Ōtomo and Soga. He renewed the system of kabane, the hereditary titles of duty and rank, but with alterations, including the abolition of some titles. Omi and Muraji, the highest kabane in the earlier period, were reduced in value in the new hierarchy, which consisted of eight kinds of kabane. Each clan received a new kabane according to its closeness to the imperial bloodline and its loyalty to Tenmu.

Tenmu attempted to keep a balance of power among his sons. Once he traveled to Yoshino together with his sons, and there had them swear to cooperate and not to make war on each other. This turned out to be ineffective: one of his sons, Prince Ōtsu, was later executed for treason after the death of Tenmu.

Tenmu's foreign policy favored the Korean kingdom Silla, which took over the entire Korean peninsula in 676. After the unification of Korea by Silla, Tenmu decided to break diplomatic relations with the Tang dynasty of China, evidently in order to keep on good terms with Silla.[citation needed]

Tenmu used religious structures to increase the authority of the imperial throne. During his reign there was increased emphasis on the tie between the imperial household and the Grand Shrine of Ise (dedicated to the ancestor goddess of the emperors, Amaterasu) by sending his daughter Princess Oku as the newly established Saiō of the shrine, and several festivals were financed from the national budget. He also showed favor to Buddhism, and built several large temples and monasteries. It is said that Tenmu asked that each household was encouraged to build an altar with a dais where a Buddha-image and a sutra could be placed so that family worshiping could be held, thus inventing the butsudan. On the other hand, all Buddhist priests, monks and nuns were controlled by the state, and no one was allowed to become a monk without the state's permission. This was aimed at preventing cults and stopping farmers from turning into priests.

Kugyō[edit]

Kugyō (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 Tenmu's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:

Era of Tenmu's reign[edit]

The years of Tenmu's reign were marked by only one era name or nengō which was proclaimed in the final months of the emperor's life; and Shuchō ended with Tenmu's death.[16]

Non-nengō period[edit]

The early years of Tenmu's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō.[16] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods – nengō – was discontinued during these years, but it was reestablished briefly in 686. The use of nengō languished yet again after Tenmu's death until Emperor Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.

In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taihō time-frame:

"The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695–698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji [695].) ...In the third year of the Taika era [697], Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince."[17]

Wives and Children[edit]

Empress: Princess Uno-no-sarara (鸕野讃良皇女) (Empress Jitō) (645–703)

Hi: Princess Ōta (大田皇女) (644–667), daughter of Emperor Tenji

Hi: Princess Ōe (大江皇女) (?–699), daughter of Emperor Tenji

Hi: Princess Niitabe (新田部皇女) (?–699), daughter of Emperor Tenji

Bunin: Fujiwara no Hikami-no-iratsume (藤原氷上娘) (?–682), daughter of Fujiwara no Kamatari

Bunin: Soga no Ōnu-no-iratsume (蘇我大蕤娘) (?–724), daughter of Soga no Akae

Bunin: Fujiwara no Ioe-no-iratsume (藤原五百重娘), daughter of Fujiwara no Kamatari

  • Prince Niitabe (新田部皇子) (?–735)

Court lady: Nukata no Ōkimi (額田王)

Court lady: Munakata no Amako-no-iratsume (胸形尼子娘), daughter of Munakata-no-Kimi Tokuzen

Court lady: Shishihito no Kajihime-no-iratsume (宍人梶媛娘), daughter of Shishihito-no-Omi Ōmaro

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Japanese Imperial kamon — a stylized chrysanthemum blossom
  1. ^ a b Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 天武天皇 (40); retrieved 2013-8-22.
  2. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 53.
  3. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 55–58, p. 55, at Google Books; Brown, Delmer M. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 268–269.
  4. ^ "Tennō" at Critannica.com; retrieved 2013-8-28.
  5. ^ Asakawa, Kan'ichi. (1903). The Early Institutional Life of Japan, p. 313.
  6. ^ Brown, pp. 268–269; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 44; a distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Emperor Go-Murakami.
  7. ^ Titsingh, pp. 55–58; Varley, p. 44.
  8. ^ Asakawa, pp. 313–314.
  9. ^ Emperor Tenmu's capital was built on the plain of Kiymihara at Asuka.
  10. ^ Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai. (1969). The Man'yōshū, p. 60.
  11. ^ Beillevaire, Patrick. (2000). Ryūkyū Studies to 1854: Western Encounter, Vol. 1, p. 272, p. 272, at Google Books; excerpt, "Im dritten Jahre der Regierung des Mikado Ten mu (674) kamen auch Gesandte von Tane no kuni au den japanischen Hof. Jakusima und das heutige Tanegasima waren die nördlichsten der mehrgenannten Südseeinseln...."; compare NengoCalc Temmu 2 (天武二年)
  12. ^ Hakuhou jidai 白鳳時代, JAANUS (Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System); retrieved January 24, 2011; see also Nussbaum, "Yakushi-ji" at p. 1035., p. 1035, at Google Books; compare NengoCalc Temmu 8 (天武九年)
  13. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 420.
  14. ^ Hisao Nagayama. 「たべもの江戸史」 新人物往来社, 1976. ISBN 4309473105 p. 66. 『、「牛馬犬猿鶏の宍(肉)を食うことなかれ」の殺生禁断の令は有名拍車をかけたのが仏教の影響である。』
  15. ^ a b Brown, p. 269.
  16. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 55-58.
  17. ^ Brown, p. 270.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Kōbun
Emperor of Japan:
Temmu

672–686
Succeeded by
Empress Jitō