Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
The Execution of Governmental Affairs and Royal Authority in Japan During the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries
Muneo Sasaki
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1990 Volume 99 Issue 6 Pages 1084-1110,1201-


The affairs of government in Japan under the ritsuryo 律令 system can be divided into two stages: dajokan-chosei 太政官聴政 and the process of reporting to the monarch &ltTenno&gt. The term chosei refers to the representatives of the Dajokan proper &ltdaijin 大臣, nagon 納言, shonagon 小納言, geki 外記&gt holding hearings on governmental affairs from the benkan 弁官, or sansho 三省 &lti.e. the three main bureaus under the Dajokan: the Shikibu-sho 式部省, Minbu-sho 民部省 and Hyobu-sho 兵部省&gt. Then from the contents of these hearings the more important matters would be reported to the monarch in the Shishinden 紫宸殿 by a shonagon. It was in the final years of the tenth century when Uda Tenno first employed this practice of those presiding over the chosei proceedings directly reporting governmental affairs to the monarch. In the present paper this practice will be referred to as kanso 官奏. The practice of kanso and the document containing the report, called moshibumi, was a quick and efficient way of taking care of governmental affairs to be dealt with in the presence of the monarch, or jinza 陣座. Fujiwara-no-Tadahira, who became regent after the death of Daigo Tenno, would sometimes postpone judgment on kanso matters until he had time to consult with and question various court nobles. This is the origin of an aristocratic council known as jin-no-sadame 陣定. It was in this way that a non-dictatorial royal authority, emphasizing the consultative role of the court nobles, came into existence during the tenth and eleventh centuries. Also during this period this way of taking care of governmental affairs aIso appeared in the process of reviewing the performance of zuryo 受領 and in conducting public projects and ceremonial events. For example, the administration of disaster ravaged agricultural land &ltfukandenden 不堪佃田&gt and fiscal cutbacks, both for the purpose of securing rice taxes from the provinces, was reported in the form of moshibumi through the process of kanso and decided upon through actual deliberations among the court nobles. While affairs concerning zuryo were formally decided upon by the Tenno, in most cases this amounted to an announcement of what the jin-no-sadame had already concluded on the matter. The affairs reported by means of kanso had for the most part to do with securing sufficient tax revenues for the central government, and the auditing of the merits of the zuryo was no exception. As a matter of fact, given the central role played by these appointed governors in the fiscal affairs of the provinces, zuryo occupied the focal point of most kanso-reported agendas. In the case of public projects and ceremonies, the court nobles involved carried out their duties swiftly and sometimes forcibly under the direction of the Tenno and regent. In these cases, as well, the wherewithal for carrying out the projects and events was apportioned from provincial tax funds. And the final auditing measure required was none other than the review of the zuryo governors. As the zuryo review system began to breakdown at the beginning of the twelfth century, the kanso reporting process and the way of apportioning provincial taxes for public projects were force to go through significant changes. The role of jin-no-sadame declined in influence, as well as the executive power of its members charged with conducting public projects and ceremonies. In its place, we see the expansion of the authority of the retired Tenno &ltin 院&gt and a trend toward a land and taxation system dominated by shoen 荘園 proprietary rights and customs.

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© 1990 The Historical Society of Japan
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