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Image of Genbō in prayer

Genbō (玄昉?, d. 746) was a Japanese scholar-monk and bureaucrat of the Imperial Court at Nara.[1] He is best known as a leader of the Hossō sect of Buddhism and as the adversary of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu.[2]


In 717–718, Genbō was part of the Japanese mission to Tang China (Kentōshi) along with Kibi no Makibi[3] and Abe no Nakamaro.[4] Genbō stayed in China for 17 years.[5] Genbō brought many esoteric Buddhist texts with him when he returned to Japan.[6]

At Kōfuku-ji, he was appointed abbot (sōjō)[7] by Emperor Shōmu.[1]


  • 740 (Tenpyō 12): Hirotsugu petitioned for the removal of Genbō; and then Kibi no Makibi and Genbō used this complaint as a pretext to discredit Hirotsugu.[8] As a result, Hirotsugu initiates a futile military campaign in the 9th month of the same year.
  • 745 (Tenpyō 17): Genbō was exiled to Dazaifu on the island of Kyushu.[9]

At the time of Genbō's death, it was popularly believed that he was killed by the vengeful spirit of Hirotsugu.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Gembō" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 235, p. 235, at Google Books.
  2. ^ Eliot, Charles. (1935). Japanese Buddhism, pp. 212-213.
  3. ^ Nussbaum, "Kibi no Makibi" at p. 512.
  4. ^ Nussbaum, "Abe no Nakamaro" at p. 3.
  5. ^ Fogel, Joshua. (1996). The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China, p. 22, p. 22, at Google Books; excerpt, "Like Genbō, Kibi no Makibi remained in China after the embassy ships returned to Japan, returning home himself at the same time as Genbō seventeen years later."
  6. ^ Tyler, Royall. "Kōfukuji and Yamato," Japan Review: Bulletin of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Kokusai Nihon Bunka Kenkyū Sentā), Issue 1-4 (1990), p. 164.
  7. ^ Nussbaum, "Sōjō" at p. 899.
  8. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 57; excerpt, "Gembo, having made improper overtures to the beautiful wife of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu, the Viceroy of Dazaifu, the latter petitioned for the ...."; Matsunaga, Daigan. (1996). Foundation of Japanese Buddhism: The Aristocratic Age, p. 124; excerpt,"Since the account [in Shoku Nihongi] is somewhat contradictory and ambiguous in classical Japanese, some historians mistakenly believed that Gembo had seduced Empress Komyo, the wife of Shomu, while others thought that this was the wife of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu...'
  9. ^ Grapard, Allan G. (1992). The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History, p. 67; excerpt, "We have no information concerning Gembo's exile; the Shoku-Nihongi states simply that Gembo behaved in a manner that did not befit his ecclesiastic position and that he died in 746 as he was trying to escape"; Matsunaga, p. 125; excerpt, "... the degree of Gembo's corruption remains equivocal"
  10. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, p. 72., p. 72, at Google Books; Herman Ooms. (2009).Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: the Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800, p. 219., p. 219, at Google Books