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Empress Kōgyoku
Empress Saimei
Empress of Japan
Empress Kogyoku-Saimei.jpg
Reign 642-645 and 655-661
Born 594
Died the 24th Day of the 7th Month of the 7th Year of Saimei's reign (661)[aged 67]
Place of death Asakura no Miya
Buried Ochi-no-Okanoe no Misasagi (Nara)
Predecessor Emperor Jomei
Successor Emperor Kōtoku (645)
Emperor Tenji (661)
Consort Emperor Jomei
Offspring Emperor Tenji
Emperor Temmu
Princess Hashihito
Father Prince Chinu
Mother Princess Kibitsu-hime

Empress Kōgyoku (皇極天皇 Kōgyoku-tennō), also Empress Saimei (斉明天皇 Saimei-tennō) (594–August 24, 661[1]) was the 35th and 37th sovereign empress of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. She was the second woman to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.[2]. From February 18, 642[3] she ruled as Kōgyoku, but abdicated after the assassination of Soga no Iruka and gave up the throne to her brother Emperor Kōtoku on July 12, 645.[4] After Kōtoku died on November 24, 654,[5] she re-acceded to the throne as Empress Saimei on February 14, 655,[6] and ruled under that name until her death in 661. The two reigns of this powerful woman spanned the years from 642 through 661.[7]

Contents

Genealogy

Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name (her imina)[8] was Ame Toyo-takara ikashi-hi tarashi-hime.[9]

She was a great-granddaughter of Emperor Bidatsu.[10] Her birth name was 'Princess Takara' (宝皇女).

She was the wife and Empress Consort of Emperor Jomei. They had three children: Prince Naka no Ōe (Emperor Tenji), Prince Ōama (Emperor Temmu), and Princess Hashihito (Empress Consort of Emperor Kōtoku).

Events in Kōgyoku's life

During her first reign the Soga clan seized power. Her son Naka no Ōe planned a coup d'état and slew Soga no Iruka at the court in front of her throne. The Empress, shocked by this incident, abdicated the throne.

Empress Kōgyoku reigned for four years. Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century.[11] Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.

Kōgyoku's reign: a non-nengō period

The years of Kōgyoku's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō.[12] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods -- nengō -- was yet to be initiated during her son's too-brief reign.

In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taiho time-frame:

"The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695-698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji [695].) ...In the third year of the Taka era [697], Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince."[13]

The years of Kōgyoku's reign are not more specifically identified by more than one era name or nengō which was an innovation of her son's brief reign.[14]

Events in Saimei's life

After Emperor Kōtoku died, though Naka no Ōe was the crown prince, he had his mother reascend the throne, and remained as the crown prince under his mother. He, and not his mother, however, led the politics of Japan. In the fifth year of her second reign, Paekche in Korea was destroyed in 660. Japan assisted Paekche loyals to the attempt of retrieving former Paekche territory. Early in 661, Saimei started from the capital in Yamato province in Honshū with both an army and a navy and crossed the Inland Sea of Japan from east to west. The empress stayed in Ishiyu Temporary Palace in Iyo province, today Dōgo Onsen. In May she arrived at Asakura Palace in the north part of Tsukushi province in Kyūshū, today a part of Fukuoka prefecture. The allied army of Japan and Paekche was prepared the war against Silla but on July 24 (Japanese calendar), 661 she died in the Asakura Palace before the army departed to Korea. In October her body was brought from Kyūshū by sea to Port Naniwa-zu (today Osaka city). Her funeral ceremony was held in early November.

Empress Saimei ruled for seven years. As with the seven other reigning empresses whose successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, she was followed on the throne by a male cousin, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century.[11] Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.

After her death, her son Naka no Ōe ascended to the throne in 663, after the battle against Silla and the Tang Dynasty.

Kugyō

Kugyō (公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras.

In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Saimei's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:

Saimei's reign: a non-nengō period

The years of Saimei's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō.[14] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods -- nengō -- languished until Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ August 24, 661 corresponds to the Twenty-fourth Day of the Seventh Month of 661 (shinyū) of the traditional lunisolar calendar used in Japan until 1873.
  2. ^ The sole empress who reigned before Kōgyoku was Suiko-tennō; and the women sovereigns reigning after Kōgyoku/Saimei were (a) Jitō, (b) Gemmei, (c) Genshō, (d) Kōken/Shōtoku, (e) Meishō, and (f) Go-Sakuramachi.
  3. ^ February 18 642 corresponds to the Fifteenth Day of the First Month of 642 (jin'in).
  4. ^ July 12, 645 corresponds to the Fourteenth Day of the Sixth Month of 645 (isshi).
  5. ^ November 24 654 corresponds to the Tenth Day of the Tenth Month of 654 (kōin).
  6. ^ February 14 655 corresponds to the Third Day of the First Month of 655 (itsubō).
  7. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 43-54; Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gokanshō, p. 265-267; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki. p. 130-134.
  8. ^ Brown, pp. 264; n.b., Up until the time of Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the emperors (their imina) were very long and people did not generally use them. The number of characters in each name diminished after Jomei's reign.
  9. ^ Ashton, William. (2005). Nihongi, p. 171.
  10. ^ Brown, p. 265.
  11. ^ a b "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl," Japan Times. March 27, 2007.
  12. ^ Titsingh, pp. 43-47.
  13. ^ Brown, p. 270.
  14. ^ a b Titsingh, pp. 43-54.
  15. ^ a b Brown, p. 267.

References

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Jomei
Empress of Japan:
Kōgyoku

642-645
Succeeded by
Emperor Kōtoku
Preceded by
Emperor Kōtoku
Empress of Japan:
Saimei

655-661
Succeeded by
Emperor Tenji
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