|Memorial Shinto shrine and mausoleum honoring Kōken|
|Empress of Japan|
|Enthronement||August 19, 749|
|Empress of Japan|
|Enthronement||January 26, 765|
|Era name and dates|
|Tenpyō-kanpō, Tenpyō-shōhō, Tenpyō-hōji, Tenpyō-jingo, Jingo-keiun: 749, 749–757, 757–765, 765–767, 767–770|
|Burial||Takano no misasagi (Nara)|
Empress Kōken (孝謙天皇 Kōken-tennō?, 718 – August 28, 770), also known as Empress Shōtoku (称徳天皇 Shōtoku-tennō?), was the 46th (with Empress Kōken name) and the 48th monarch of Japan (with Empress Shōtoku name), according to the traditional order of succession. Empress Kōken first reigned from 749 to 758, then she reascended the throne as Empress Shōtoku from 765 until her death in 770.
In the history of Japan, Kōken/Shōtoku was the sixth of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The five female monarchs before Kōken/Shōtoku were (a) Suiko, (b) Kōgyoku/Saimei, (c) Jitō, (d) Gemmei, and (e) Genshō; and the two women sovereigns reigning after Kōken/Shōtoku were (f) Meishō, and (g) Go-Sakuramachi.
Kōken is traditionally venerated at her tomb; the Imperial Household Agency designates Takano no Misasagi (高野陵?, Takano Imperial Mausoleum), in Nara, Nara, as the location of Kōken's mausoleum. The site is publicly accessible.
Events of Kōken's life
- August 19, 749 (Tenpyō-kanpō 1, 2nd day of the 7th month): 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, Kōken is said to have acceded to the throne.
- 757: Conspiracy to overthrow Empress Kōken was not successful.
- 758: Koken abdicated in favor of a cousin who would become known as Emperor Junnin. The Empress had reigned as for ten years.
- 764: In the sixth year of Junnin-tennō 's reign, the emperor was deposed by his adoptive mother, and the succession was received by former-Empress Kōken.
- January 26, 765 (Tenpyō-hōji 9, 1st day of the 1st month): Kōken formally reascended the throne (sokui) as Empress Shōtoku.
- August 28, 770 (Jingo-keiun 4, 4th day of the 8th month: Empress Shōtoku died of smallpox at age 57, leaving the throne vacant. She was succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, Emperor Kōnin. Empress Shōtoku had reigned for five years.
Eras of her reigns
Koken's reign was 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 she honored with titles and power. An oracle from Usa Shrine, the shrine of the kami Hachiman (八幡?) in Usa, is said to have proclaimed 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.
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, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
She is also known for sponsoring the Hyakumantō Darani, one of the largest productions of printed works in early 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:
- Taihō, Emi no Oshikatsu (formerly Fujiwara no Nakamaro).
- Sadaijin, Tachibana no Moroe (formerly Katsuragi-ō, Prince Katsuragi) (half brother of Empress Kōmyō).
- Udaijin, Fujiwara no Toyonari (first son of Fujiwara no Muchimaro).
- Udaijin, Fujiwara no Nakamaro (second son of Fujiwara no Muchimaro).
The kugyō during Shōtoku's reign included:
- Emperor Kōnin, Takano Imperial Mausoleum, Imperial Household Agency
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 58, 59.
- Brown and Ishida, p. 274; Varley p. 149.
- Brown and Ishida, p. 274
- Shōtoku's misasagi – image
- Shōtoku's misasagi – map (top left)
- Julian dates derived from NengoCalc
- Brown and Ishida, pp. 274; Varley, 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.
- Bender, Ross. (2009). "The Suppression of the Tachibana Naramaro Conspiracy," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37/2:223–245; compare mirrored full-text; retrieved 2012-10-23.
- Brown and Ishida, pp. 276; Varley, p. 44, 145.
- Brown and Ishida, p. 276 has the year as 769, 4th day of the 8th month, instead of 770. Believe this to be a typo, because Brown-Ishida's own timeline gives 770, and the Japanese Wikipedia article on Empress Kōken is using the 4th day of the 8th month of 770.
- Brown and Ishida, p. 276.
- Bender, Ross. "The Hachiman Cult and the Dōkyō Incident," Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 34, No. 2 (1979). pp. 125–153.
- Titsingh, p. 73.
- Titsingh, p. 78.
- Bender, Ross. (2009). "The Suppression of the Tachibana Naramaro Conspiracy," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37/2:223–245; compare mirrored full-text; retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Titsingh, pp. 78–81.
- "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl," Japan Times. March 27, 2007.
- Brown, Delmer M.; Ishida, Ichirō (1979). The Future and the Past (a translation and study of the Gukanshō, an interpretive history of Japan written in 1219). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03460-0. OCLC 251325323.
- Imperial Household Agency (2004). "称徳天皇 高野陵" [Empress Shōtoku, Takano Imperial Mausoleum] (in Japanese). Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
- Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Nihon Odai Ichiran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
- Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. 10-ISBN 0-231-04940-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842
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