The early medieval Kyoto imperial court and the "tenjin correlation" : An essay on the Japanese medieval state

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  • 中世前期京都朝廷と天人相関説 : 日本中世<国家>試論
  • 中世前期京都朝廷と天人相関説 : 日本中世〈国家〉試論
  • チュウセイ ゼンキ キョウト チョウテイ ト テンニン ソウカンセツ : ニホン チュウセイ 〈 コッカ 〉 シロン

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Within the recent research done on the Japanese medieval state, a debate has arisen over how to evaluate the Kamakura Bakufu in contrast to the imperial court in Kyoto. If we try to relocate the problem somewhat differently, we end up fundamentally focusing on the question of what is the meaning of "state" in medieval Japan. The present article focuses on contemporary ideology and extraordinary events from the analytical perspective of the relativization of the modern nation-state, in order to trace indicators and characteristic features of the "state" within the Japanese medieval world, within the context of the time-space continuum of premodern East Asia. In concrete terms, the author takes up the political ideology of correlating divine will with human action (tenjin 天人) in connection with extraordinary events, a set of beliefs which originated in China then spread throughout the regions on its periphery, as the ideology developed in Kyoto aristocratic society during the early medieval period, which is a given factor when trying to place the Kamakura Bakufu within context of the state at that time. This tenjin ideology involved understanding the origins of extraordinary events, both favorable and disastrous, as stemming from divine judgement towards corresponding good or bad political governance. What the author terms the "tenjin correlation" can therefore be identified as the fundamental necessary condition for aristocratic organizations responsible for political action and therefore for those political entities of the premodern East Asian world which we conceptualize as "states". Although the research to date has tended to undervalue and de-emphasize the importance of the "tenjin correlation" in the workings of the imperial court in early medieval Kyoto, the author is able to verify the continuing existence of an ideology of causality based on the "tenjin correlation," in particular with respect to extraordinary natural phenomena. That is to say, the idea of such phenomena as crucial events being a characteristic feature of the medieval world is the key to evaluating the early medieval Kyoto imperial court as a "state" within the time-space continuum of premodern East Asia. On the basis of such ideology, the various political responses that were selected and implemented on the occasion of extraordinary natural events can be understood structurally as composed of invocation (exorcism) and public acts of benevolence. The author concludes that the medieval Japanese "state" model can be understood in terms of extraordinary natural events, etc. being ultimately judged as divine punishment for immoral, mistaken political governance on the part of the ruler, and also as a political entity composed of rulers and their counselors responding to the will of heaven with two kinds of human action, acts of expiation and public displays of benevolence. It is within this context that the situation of the Kamakura Bakufu and medieval social structure should be placed.



    SHIGAKU ZASSHI 121 (6), 1084-1110, 2012

    The Historical Society of Japan

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