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was more advanced. Reference to the office of “provincial governor,” for
example, seems anachronistic, since that office was not established until
the late 600s. Also questionable, in the minds of some scholars, is
whether the principle of supreme imperial rule as set forth in the following articles of the Constitution could have been articulated and subscribed to by the Japanese as early as 604: “When you receive imperial
commands, fail not scrupulously to obey them. The lord is Heaven, the
vassal is Earth. Heaven overspreads, and Earth upbears. When this is so,
the four seasons follow their due course, and the powers of Nature obtain
their efficacy” (III); and “In a country there are not two lords; the people
have not two masters. The sovereign is the master of the people of the
whole country” (XII).
These are lofty Chinese ideas about emperorship, which hold that the
emperor not only enjoyed absolute authority over all the people but, in
the proper exercise of his office, was essential to the basic functioning of
nature itself. Nor is anything said in these or other articles of the Constitution about the native deities, the kami, whose supreme representative,
Amaterasu the Sun Goddess, is said by Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, as we
have seen, to have mandated the imperial family’s right to rule forever.
In other words, the Constitution is silent about what subsequently became the unassailable basis for the legitimacy of single-dynasty rule in
Japan: Amaterasu’s mandate. During the early and middle seventh century the Japanese appear to have experimented with various ideas, drawn
from Confucianism and Buddhism as well as Shinto, to justify imperial
rule. Probably not until the late seventh and early eighth centuries did
they finally settle on the Shinto interpretation, as reflected in Amaterasu’s
mandate, and codify it for all future generations in Kojiki and Nihon
Despite Prince Shòtoku’s efforts to stimulate central reform, very little
of real significance could be achieved so long as the aristocratic clans continued to exercise almost complete autonomy over their lands and the The Introduction of Buddhism 27 people on them. After Shòtoku...
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- Spring '13