Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
Functioning Provincial Governors (Zuryo) and The Central Government in Ten and Eleventh Century Japan
Muneo Sasaki
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1987 Volume 96 Issue 9 Pages 1409-1444,1559-


The inspection of documents after delivery of taxes (kumon kankai 公文勘会), which was one of the main mechanisms for the control of citizens under the ritsuryo 律令 system, began to change significantly between the late ninth and early tenth century, as the duties of officially appointed provincial governors (kokushi kancho 国司官長), especially the collection of taxes, became entrusted to a group of administrators known as zuryo 受領. Together with zuryo assuming tax collection, evidenced by their holding of receipts (sphensho 惣返抄) for delivery of taxes to public offices and powerful families, the inspection system concerning provincial tax registers (shozeicho 正税帳) also went through changes. Up until that time, tax register auditing had not been very accurate as to the reporting of provincial rice tax income (kanmotsu 官物) or the type and amount of expenditures incurred during the year. However, at the beginning of the tenth century, the re-location and use of tax rice stored by provincial governments was systemized and became the major resource for public works and ceremonies, as well as for the payment of official salaries. Needless to say, tax register auditing also came to demand more precision. In this process, registers recording tax income allocation to the provinces (shozei henkyakucho 正税返却帳) and the issuance of receipts for delivery came to serve the same function. Zuryo administrators by receiving both of these documents, took complete control of the tax document auditing system. At the same time, the central government also made changes in the supervision system over the appointment of new provincial governors, and strengthened the auditing function so as not only to include register calculation, but also to initiate actual provincial storehouse inventory control. In other words, zuryo were now the sole responsible parties for increases and decreases occurring in provincial rice stores during the time of their assumption of gubernatorial duties. Moreover, reports from functionaries together with a report on related puplic documents came to be reviewed by a council of top-ranking aristocrats. This review of the achievements and failures of zuryo completed the system for assuring the transfer of tax income on to the central government stores, thus giving rise to a reliable source of funds for the performance of public projects and ceremonies. Document inspection was carried out between the central government and zuryo administrators. Given the various procedures involving petitions to the review council and reporting to the monarch, the process was by no means easy for zuryo. Following document inspection, a review of zuryo performance involved evaluation of present and past zuryo governors, and concentrated on their handling of provincial rice tax income. Zuryo who passed document inspection and review of performance would be elevated in rank and be eligible for re-appointment as experienced office holders (kyuri 旧吏). However, between the tenth and eleventh centuries zuryo appointments came to include a goodly number of persons holding other official positions, thus giving rise to bitter disputes over the re-appointment of many experienced zuryo. The zuryo review system was done away with altogether in the early twelfth century. At that time there began to appear such practices as automatic re-appointments and relocation of zuryo, refusal to recognize experienced appointees, and the mere formalization of the document inspection and performance review processes. This reduction of appointment procedures to mere formality continued during the house government of the ex-emperor Shirakawa-in 白河院.

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© 1987 The Historical Society of Japan
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