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Unformatted text preview: ’s death in 622, the Soga, who had been
the progressive advocates of Buddhism and the adoption of Chinese culture a half-century earlier, became the chief obstacles to reform of the
decentralized uji system. In the early 640s, there formed at court an antiSoga faction that included an imperial prince, leaders of various ministerial houses, and men who had studied in China. In 645 this group
forcibly overthrew the Soga, reasserted the supremacy of the throne (the
Soga were accused of having plotted to supplant the imperial family),
and instituted the reform of Taika (“Great Change”).
The Taika Reform was essentially a land reform patterned on the institutions of T’ang China. Although a paucity of records makes it impossible to determine just how extensively it was carried out, the intent
of the Reform was to nationalize all agricultural land—that is, to make it
the emperor’s land—and to render all the people of the country direct
subjects of the throne. Land was then to be parceled out in equal plots
to farmers to work during their lifetimes. Upon the death of a farmer,
his plot would revert back to the state for redistribution.
This is a gross oversimplification of the provisions of the Taika Reform,
but it will suffice to show the idealistic concept of land equalization
upon which the Reform rested. This concept had evolved from Confucian egalitarianism, which held that the equal division of land would
render the people content and harmonious. Equality, however, was to
apply only to the lower, peasant class of society. Members of the aristocracy were to receive special emoluments of land based on considerations
such as rank, office, and meritorious service. In this way, the aristocracy
was enabled to remain about as privileged economically as it had been
before the Reform.
In practice, then, the equal-field system of the Taika Reform was only
equal for some people. Moreover, its conscientious implementation
would have required an administrative organization far more elaborate
than Japan possessed in this age. Perh...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13