Japan: The Heian Period (794-1185)

This period is named after the city that was occupied in 794; The place later called Kyoto remained the imperial residence until 1869, when the monarch moved to the new “Eastern Capital” (Tokyo). Emperor Kammu was one of the most powerful rulers in Japan according to extrareference. He reorganized the army, what v. a. by the repeated campaigns against the Emishi (Ainu) in the north of the main island had become necessary. The control of the local administrations was strict in his time, he also took steps against the growth of tax-free, private large estates, especially against those of temples and monasteries. But even under his sons the power and prestige of the throne suffered a loss; Fujiwara no Yoshifusa guided 842 through intrigue and skillful tactics(* 804, † 872) the accelerated disempowerment of the imperial family. With his appointment as regent in 866, the late phase of the rule of the court nobility, also known as the Fujiwara period, began.

Another high point was reached culturally. Chinese still prevailed in literature: anthologies appeared in this language; the genealogical handbook Shinsen shōjiroku (814) and the official commentary on the Taihōcodex or Yōrōkodex (833) emerged, as well as the third of the imperial stories (841/842). The executives were trained at the state university in Kyoto. The founder of the Buddhist Shingon school with its strongly mystical features, Kūkai (* 774, † 835), opened a private school in 829. Saichō (* 767, † 822)founded the Buddhist Tendai school based on teachings from China with the Enryakuji temple on Mount Hiei near Kyoto. In 838 the last legation went to China for the time being; In 894 these connections were broken off on the advice of the noble scholar Sugawara no Michizane (* 845, † 903) due to the travel hazards, and the culture of the Japanese court nobility had now reached a level in almost all areas that made these contacts superfluous. In 901 the last of the imperial stories was completed.

Since the 10th century, the warriors gained increasing importance, and the formation of tax-free lands (Shōen) continued to grow. In 967 the position of the Fujiwara was so solid that they remained one of the most important noble families until 1868. Outstanding among them was Fujiwara no Michinaga. He directed the affairs of government from his private house chancellery; the state administrative organs largely lost their functions. In military terms, Fujiwara no Michinagas was But the government was already so weak that he needed the help of the warriors, who were gradually rising to the military nobility, to protect the court and the capital as well as to carry out coercive state measures. Nothing changed about that under the following regents and emperors. In 1039 units of the Taira family protected the metropolis. Over 3,000 monk soldiers from the monastery on Mount Hiei pressed the city; the great temples maintained armed forces at that time, regardless of the Buddhist law not to kill.

The emperors repeatedly tried to free themselves from the tutelage of the Fujiwara regents. This succeeded in 1087 when Emperor Shirakawa (72nd Tennō 1073-87) resigned and as ex-emperor built a court with its own administrative apparatus. From this the form of government of the ex-emperors developed (period of insurrection, up to the 13th century), whereby the decline in authority was continued, but the court remained for the time being remnants of power. The support of the new military or warrior nobility (Buke), which was basically despised by the court nobility (Kuge), was always necessary. The court first committed itself to the members of the Minamoto family by granting them privileges in the provinces and conferring titles. In the first half of the 12th century the Taira grew stronger: Taira no Kiyomori (* 1118, † 1181) had secured the monopoly for trade in China while serving the ex-emperor and controlled shipping on the inland sea. There were soon complicated front formations in the capital. Contrasts arose within the imperial family due to the simultaneous existence of several ex-emperors. This caused disputes among the Fujiwara as well. And finally the warrior noble families of the Taira and the Minamoto stood in opposing camps. In the Heiji uprising (1159/60) the Minamoto put in a coup: They imprisoned emperors and ex-emperors, but could not assert themselves. Taira no Kiyomori defeated the Minamoto and consolidated his position; the surviving sons of the rebels were banished, including Minamoto no Yoritomo (* 1147, † 1199) and his half-brother Yoshitsune (* 1159, † 1189). Taira no Kiyomori drew the displeasure of wide circles, especially since his grandson Antoku (* 1178, † 1185; 81st Tennō since 1180) was enthroned. In 1180 a prince and a Minamoto called for an uprising against the Taira. Minamoto no Yoritomo responded to this call. He left in agreement with his overseer Hōjō Tokimasa (* 1138, † 1215) his estate, to which he was exiled, and gathered troops. Then the so-called Gempeikkrieg began between the two clans, which brought about the end of the supremacy of the Taira and that of the Heian period. Taira no Kiyomori died in 1181, the fighting continued after his death. Minamoto no Yoritomo created a power base in the east, where his ancestors were in high regard; he had chosen the fishing village of Kamakura as his headquarters. Since 1183 his armies fought in the center and west of the main island. The organizational skills and tactical talent of Minamoto no Yoshitsune put the Taira in dire straits, and the fighting ended in the sea battle of Dannoura, at the entrance to the Strait of Shimonoseki, with a victory for the Minamoto (1185). Many taira were killed, Emperor Antoku drowned. With the war, the age of the rule of the court nobility also came to an end.

Japan - The Heian Period