Tuesday 7 March 2017

Asuka Period Of Japan

Classical Period of Japan was a period in History of Japan lasting from 538 to 1185 CE(from end of Kofun Period to the beginning of Shogunate). The period is divided into three sub-periods the Asuka Period(538 -710 CE), the Nara Period(710 - 794 CE) and the Heian Period(794 - 1185 CE).

The Yamato polity evolved greatly during the Asuka period, which is named after the Asuka region, about 25 km south of the modern city of Nara. The Asuka period is known for its significant artistic, social, and political transformations, having their origins in the late Kofun period but largely affected by the arrival of Buddhism from China. The introduction of Buddhism marked a change in Japanese society.  

The Daibutsu at the Asuka-dera in Asuka, the oldest known sculpture of Buddha in Japan with an exact known date of manufacture, 609 AD

The Asuka period, as a sub-division of the Yamato period(250 - 710 CE), is the first time in Japanese history when the Emperor of Japan ruled relatively uncontested from modern-day Nara Prefecture, then known as Yamato Province. 

Emperor Kinmei(first Asuka Emperor(29th Emperor of Japan))

The Soga clan intermarried with the imperial family, and by 587 Soga no Umako, the Soga chieftain, was powerful enough to install his nephew as emperor and later to assassinate him and replace him with the Empress Suiko (r. 593–628). Suiko, the first of eight sovereign empresses, was merely a figurehead for Umako and Prince Regent Shōtoku Taishi (574–622).

Empress Suiko(33rd Emperor of Japan)

About twenty years after the deaths of Soga no Umako (in 626), and Empress Suiko (in 628), court intrigues over succession led to a palace coup in 645 against the Soga clan's monopolized control of the government. The revolt was led by Prince Naka no Ōe and Nakatomi no Kamatari, who seized control of the court from the Soga family and introduced the Taika Reform.

Prince Naka no Oe(later Emperor Tenji(38th Emperor of Japan))

The Taika Reform, influenced by Chinese practices, started with land redistribution aimed at ending the existing landholding system of the great clans and their control over domains and occupational groups. The court now sought to assert its control over all of Japan and t.o make the people direct subjects of the throne. Land was no longer hereditary but reverted to the state at the death of the owner. Taxes were levied on harvests and on silk, cotton, cloth, thread, and other products.

pagoda of Hokki-ji temple, built in 706

Chinese culture had been introduced to Japan by the Three Kingdoms of Korea before the imperial Japanese embassies to China were established. Although the missions continued, the transformation of Japan through Chinese influences declined, despite the close connections that had existed during the early Kofun period. 

Wall mural, late 7th century

From 600 to 659, Japan sent seven emissaries to Tang China. But for the next 32 years, during a period when Japan was formulating its laws based on Chinese texts, none were sent. Though Japan cut off diplomatic relations with China, Japan sent 11 emissaries to Silla, and Silla is also recorded in Nihon Shoki as sending embassies to Japan 17 times during the reigns of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō.

Emperor Tenmu(40th emperor of Japan)

Taoism was also introduced during the Asuka period. In the mid-7th century, Empress Saimei built Danzan Shrine, a Taoist temple, at Mt. Tōnomine. The octagonal shape of monarchs' tombs of this age and the celestial maps drawn in the Kitora and Takamatsuzuka kofun also reflect the Taoist cosmology. Tennō, the new title of the Japanese monarch in this period, could also be argued to derive from the name of the supreme God of Taoism, the God of Polaris.

Danzan Shrine

Some architectural structures built in the period still remain today. Wooden buildings at Hōryū-ji, built in the seventh century, show some influence from Chinese and west Asian countries. For instance, the pillars at Hōryū-ji are similar to the pillars of the Parthenon of ancient Greece, as seen in their entasis. The five-storied pagoda is a transformation from the Indian mound-like reliquary structure called a stupa.

Five storied pagoda of Hōryū-ji

The second stage of Buddhist art, coming after the Asuka (cultural) period, is known as the Hakuhō culture, and is generally dated from the Taika Reform (646) until the moving of the capital to Nara in 710. During the latter half of the 8th century, a large number of songs and poems were composed and performed by various ranked people from warriors to the Emperor. The earliest collection of these poems is known as the Man'yōshū ("collection of 10,000 leaves"). This includes works by several remarkable poets such as Princess Nukata and Kakinomoto no Hitomaro.

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro

The shift of the state capital from Asuka region to the Nara region marked the end of the Asuka period and beginning of the Nara period of History of Japan.

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