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The Jinshin Rebellion and the politics of historical narrative in early Japan.

  When viewed from the far future, the Jinshin Disturbance of
  summer 672 stands out as a major event in Japanese political
  history, the moment when generations of foreshadowing gave
  way to decades of fulfillment. In significant part the
  moment looks that way because our primary source of
  information, Nihon Shoki, wishes it to do so. But even
  when we discount that source's grand hyperbole, shrewd
  selectivity, and handsome inventiveness, the summer of
  seventy-two still displays a watershed quality comparable
  to that of such years as 1185, 1600, 1868, or 1945.

  Conrad Totman, A History of Japan (1)

As someone who specializes in late seventh century Japan, I am inclined to agree with Conrad Totman's proposal to upgrade the Jinshin Rebellion into that class of "major events" that determine the boundaries of historical periods. Such recognition is surely well deserved. After all, its victors and their descendants were responsible for adopting the titles, promulgating the laws, establishing the institutions, and building the capital cities that transformed the Yamato court into the imperial-style state of "Nihon." In a sense, therefore, we could say that the victors of the Jinshin Rebellion were the first to articulate the political contours of the "Japan" that is the subject of Totman's history. I suspect, however, that most people working in later periods of Japanese history would be unlikely to identify the date of 672 with the same readiness as they would the Genpei Wars, Tokugawa Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara, the Meiji Restoration, or the end of the Pacific War. In large part, this is due to the fact that our "primary source of information," the Nihon shoki, does not present the Jinshin Rebellion in the unequivocal terms that Totman suggests, but rather as the culminating event of a highly convoluted narrative of imperial history that has multiple other watershed moments. In addition to the mythical and legendary foundations of the imperial realm--Ninigi's heavenly descent to earth, Jinmu's conquest of Yamato in 661 B.C., and Jingu's conquest of the Korean kingdoms--the Jinshin Rebellion is preceded by other watershed events such as the Isshi Incident of 645 that led to the Taika reforms and Prince Shotoku's reforms during Suiko's reign in the early seventh century. In fact, it was only in the late twentieth century, when all of these previous foundational moments came to be treated as anachronistic fabrications--to different degrees--of the Nihon shoki, (2) that Totman's "far future" finally arrived and the Jinshin Rebellion came to be treated as the epoch-making event that he describes.

Most of the voluminous scholarship produced on the Jinshin Rebellion in the last fifty years (3) has been dedicated to reading between the lines of the Nihon shoki account in order to try to separate the facts of the historical process from the fictions of historical writing. (4) Some of these attempts, such as those that speculate about the intentions of the main actors, have not been very productive. (5) Others, however, have been quite successful, particularly those that deal with broader issues such as the involvement of uji lineages from outside the Yamato area and the overall significance of the conflict. My aim in this article is quite different. Rather than attempting to discount the "grand hyperbole, shrewd selectivity, and handsome inventiveness" of the Nihon shoki account, my main focus is precisely the fictional nature of the account and the ways in which imperial historiography is configured as a literary narrative. (6) At the same time, however, my point is not simply that the historical process is only accessible through the constructed narrative of historiography, but also that historiography itself is in turn subject to the historical process. Although the Nihon shoki's account of the Jinshin Rebellion appears on the surface to make up a unified narrative that has been constructed by the winners, upon closer examination there is an underlying tension concerning the nature and basis of Tenmu's authority throughout the last four volumes of the Nihon shoki. This is most evident in the differences between alternative stories of Tenmu's departure from the Omi capital to Yoshino in 672. As I will show, these different stories form a complex tangle of competing succession narratives that are the expression of a historical process--the political struggles over the nature of Tenmu's legitimacy and the historical record in the early eighth century when the Nihon shoki was being compiled.


The Rebellion of the Jinshin Year (7) was a brief succession dispute that took place in 672, the year of the "yang water monkey" (mizunoe saru or jinshin (8) from which it takes its name. According to accounts in the official imperial chronicle, the Nihon shoki (Document Chronicles of Japan, 720), shortly before his death the ruler we know by his posthumous name of Tenchi (r. 662-671) offered his younger brother Prince Oama (631?-686) the throne. Oama declined, alleging ill-health, and suggested that Tenchi make his main consort (the childless Yamato-hime his successor and appoint his son Prince Otomo. (648-672) as crown prince. Oama then left the Omi capital to go and practice Buddhism at Yoshino, (9) south of the old capital of Asuka, and Tenchi died less than two months later. (10) In the summer of the following year, Oama received news from Mino province that Otomo was planning to attack him. He immediately set out eastward and with the help of his allies in Mino established a blockade in order to cut off the Omi capital from any potential allies in the east. The Omi armies were defeated in less than a month and Otomo committed suicide. Once the conflict was over, Oama pardoned the entire Omi court except for the top ministers in Tenchi's government, all of whom had sworn loyalty to Otomo. (11) The Minister of the Right, Nakatomi no Muraji Kane (12) (d. 672), was executed along with eight other people (presumably troublesome mid-ranking officials), and Minister of the Left Soga no Omi Akae Great Councilor Kose no Omi Hito, and the children of Nakatomi no Muraji Kane and Great Councilor Soga no Omi Hatayasu (who had committed suicide during the rebellion) were all banished. Having removed the entire upper level of the previous court's government, Oama--more commonly known as the ruler with the posthumous name of Tenmu (r. 672-686)--now held a degree of power unlike any ruler before him.

By making participation on the winning side a main criterion for the awarding of titles, rank, and office, Tenmu radically transformed the traditional configuration of political influence in the Yamato state. Such participation was memorialized in the account of the Jinshin Rebellion in the Nihon shoki, which lists the "original followers" who are with Tenmu from the very first day when he leaves Yoshino and sets out toward the east on the twenty-fourth of the sixth month of 672, as well as those who join him at their first stop at Aki in the district of Uda. In addition to his main consort Jito and their eleven-year-old son Prince Kusakabe (662-689), these include a small group of loyal retainers, of whom thirteen are listed by name. Later he is joined by more loyalists, who leave the Omi capital and join him at Tsumue (in Iga) and at the TO River (in Ise): his sons, the nineteen-year-old Prince Takechi (654-696) and the ten-year old Prince Otsu (663-686), as well some twenty-odd retainers, all of whose names are also listed. (13) As Tenmu's "followers," these men are the co-protagonists of the Jinshin campaign that is the foundation of Tenmu's imperial order, and thus are granted recognition and a central role in the imperial history. The names of many of these men reappear in the second Tenmu volume, which features numerous announcements of the deaths of those who "rendered service in the Jinshin year". In most of these cases the text emphasizes that Tenmu was "greatly shocked", "greatly saddened", or "greatly grieved" upon hearing news of their death, and it records their posthumous advancements in rank. A total of seventeen men are memorialized in this manner in the fifteen years of Tenmu's reign, with entries occurring almost every year. The ostensible purpose of these tributes and posthumous grants of rank was to recognize the men and reward their offspring, but they also seem to have functioned as continuous ritual commemorations of the Jinshin victory throughout Tenmu's reign. It is significant that while these tributes continue in decreased number throughout JitO's reign (the Nihon shoki records three instances in eleven years), in Monmu's reign (697-707) they increase again and appear almost yearly; the Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan Continued, 797) records eight instances in ten years, including a gift of fiefs to all those "subjects who served in the Jinshin year" in the first year of Taiho (701). (14) Service in the Jinshin Rebellion thus led to court office, higher rank, economic rewards, and historical recognition, which in turn served as unmistakable proof of office and rank for posterity. (15)


What makes historiography imperial? Like Sima Qian's (145 or 135-89 B.C.) Shiji (J. Shiki, Records of the Historian, c. 100 B.c.E.), the Nihon shoki is a universal history that begins in mythological times and ends in the recent past. In most other respects, however, it is a dynastic history on the model of the Han shu (J. Kanjo, Documents of the Han, c. 92 c.E.) and Hou Han shu (J. kanjo, Documents of the Later Han, c. 432 c.E.). The Nihon shoki's conception of imperial historiography, like that of its Sinic dynastic models, is founded upon the ideal of comprehensively chronicling the emperor's acts. "The Treatise on Arts and Letters" (C. Yiwenzhi, J. Geimonshi) in the Han shu describes this ideal as follows:

  As for the kings in ancient times, each reign had its official
  scribes, and the acts of the ruler were certain to be recorded.
  This was to revere his words and deeds and make manifest his laws
  and rites. The scribe of the left recorded his words, and the
  scribe of the right recorded his deeds. The record of deeds
  became the Annals, and the record of words became the Documents.

A similar passage appears in the Record of Rites (C. Liji, J. Raiki) in the "Jade Pendants" (C. Yuzao, J. Gyokuso) volume, which is dedicated to the ceremonial propriety and etiquette of the ruler's daily attire, food, and drink: "When [the son of heaven] moves, the scribe of the left records it; when he speaks, the scribe of the right records it" While both of these texts claim to describe the situation at the Zhou court, in all likelihood they are a reflection of Han dynasty ideals of court recording in ancient times. This idealized version of imperial historiography as originating in the ritual recording of the ruler's deeds and words remained highly influential throughout the various subsequent re-imaginings of imperial historiography that culminated in the Tang dynasty (618-907). The Han shu and Liji descriptions of such diligent recording of the emperor's deeds and words were not so much models to be enacted at court--even though they could be 18--as ideal principles that served to structure imperial historiography: just as the court scribes of ancient times recorded every deed and word of the king, so the imperial chronicle should be structured as a record of the deeds and words of the emperor.

The extant eighth-century Yamato administrative codes +19 make no reference to this idealized division, but both the Han shu passage, which is cited in the "Histories and Biographies" section of volume 55 of the Yiwen leiju (Collection of Classified Literature, J. Geimon ruiju c. 624), and the Liji, which according to the "State Learning Ordinances" (gakuryo) was one of the nine classics on the imperial university curriculum, (20) would have been familiar to the Nihon shoki historiographers. As is the case in the imperial chronicles of Sinic dynastic histories, in the Nihon shoki the figure of the emperor is the organizing subject that defines the historical field, that is to say, the geographical and temporal frames of the historical narrative and the types of information that it includes or excludes. As a general rule, the places and persons that appear in the Nihon shoki are mentioned only by virtue of their interaction with the sovereign, who is the main protagonist and subject "common to all the referents of the various sentences that register events as having occurred" (21) in the historical narrative. All dialogue is either spoken by or addressed to someone who is or will be emperor, with the interesting exception of characters involved in plotting treason. All movements take place between the capital and somewhere else. Either the sovereign leaves the capital to tour the realm, or he summons or dispatches his subjects. All movement in the realm depends on the sovereign's acts and deeds.

The representational field of the Nihon shoki can be described in geometrical terms as a series of concentric squares around the central figure of the emperor: those privileged enough to be in the inner square will appear in the historical record and those who are not will be forgotten. This geometry of historical representation is based on the ideal structure of the classical "all-under-heaven" realm as a series of concentric square areas with the imperial palace as the center, surrounded by the "home provinces," and by successive areas of decreasing civilization until the outer "barbarian" areas that remain untouched by the emperor's influence and thus outside the boundaries of history. Just as the figure of the emperor represents the center and origin of order in the spatial and temporal realms (in the forms of the imperial palace and the calendar), so too does it organize and bring unity to the historical text. Indeed, the analogy between spatial and textual organization is exemplified by the close correspondence between the exclusive physical space of the sovereign's court and the textual space of imperial historiography, both of which are restricted to aristocrats of lower fifth rank and above. The main "subject" that brings unity to the historical record of each reign in the Nihon shoki is thus not the one who records, but the one whose acts and words must be recorded. (22)

If the narrative of each reign is organized around the figure of the reigning sovereign, what unifies the entire text of the Nihon shoki is the plotline of imperial succession. While Tenmu may have been the first ruler to take the title of "Heavenly Sovereign" the Nihon shoki retroactively articulates an imperial genealogy of Heavenly Sovereigns since legendary times. The text begins in a mythical age of heavenly gods who create the islands of Japan and then send a god down to rule the earth. This "heavenly descendant" is the ancestor of the legendary first emperor "Divine Yamato Iwarebiko" (a.k.a Jinmu). From this point on, the text narrates the genealogical history of the succession of Heavenly Sovereigns of the state called Nihon/Yamato and its historical formation as a universal realm of "all under heaven" complete with tributary peoples on the Korean peninsula. Unlike its Chinese dynastic models of historiography, the Documents of the Han (Han shu) and Documents of the Later Han (Hou Han shu), the Nihon shoki focuses exclusively on the chronicling of each sovereign reign and the plot of imperial succession. Indeed, the title Nihon shoki is believed to be an abbreviation of Nihonsho no teiki literally, "The Imperial Chronicles of the Documents of Japan," thus explicitly modeling itself only on the "imperial chronicle" volumes of the Han shu and Hou Han shu without incorporating the volumes of tables (J. hyo, C. biao), treatises (J. shi, C. Zhi), or biographies (J. retsuden, C. liezhuan) that collect a wide variety of other significant information about the imperial realm.

Thus in its ideal version of itself, the Nihon shoki is a unified genealogical account in which first the heavenly gods create the islands of Nihon/Yamato and the natural world, and then their imperial descendants create the human realm of "all under heaven" through their conquests, marriages, and institutional reforms. In practice, however, the text is far messier and more complex. The structure of polygynic marriage, the importance of matrilineal rank, and the absence of clear rules of succession mean that in any given reign the central figure of the sovereign is surrounded by a constantly shifting web of marriage alliances and genealogical/political interests. Each time a ruler dies, succession to the throne involves a struggle among multiple candidates and a subsequent genealogical reconfiguration of the court around the new sovereign. At each change of reign, the political process of succession typically involves a combination of negotiation, tactical yielding, and often considerable violence. Among legendary emperors, famous cases of succession struggles are those of Nintoku (r. 313-399), who has his older brother oyamamori killed, and Yuryaku (r. 456-479), who kills all three of his brothers. In the last volumes of the Nihon shoki, succession is particularly violent, with disputes after the death of Suiko (r. 593-628), after Kogyoku's abdication in 645, after Saimei's death in 661, after Tenchi's death in 671, and after Tenmu's death in 686, each of which ends in the assassination or execution of one of the claimants to the throne (Princes Yamashiro, Furuhito, Arima, Otomo, and Otsu, respectively). The messy reality of court politics shapes the historical narrative in that, while the main protagonist of each reign is the sovereign, the appointed crown prince also claims a degree of protagonism as the future ruler, and would-be usurpers also claim their share of protagonism as might-have-been rulers. Whereas the figure of the sovereign defines the field of representation within a particular reign, the figure of the crown prince serves to foreshadow the diachronic plot of the narrative, and the figure of the defeated usurper--the loser in the succession struggle--can serve to structure alternative visions of imperial history.

Unlike the Kojiki, which is a unified and internally coherent account expressed in a consistent linguistic and narrative style, the Nihon shoki is a text that incorporates multiple variant versions of events, as well as different linguistic and narrative styles. This suggests that the Nihon shoki is the product of a highly complex compilation process by different parties. Indeed, differences in the styling of variant texts, inserted notes, kana usage, particle usage, and citations from other texts have led scholars to distinguish between two groups or "lines" of volumes that appear to have been compiled by two different compilers or compiling committees. As summarized in Fig. 1, most scholars agree that Vols. 3 to 13 (Jinmu to Ingyo/Anko), Vols. 22 and 23 (Suiko, Jomei), and Vols. 28 and 29 (Tenmu 1 and 2) were composed by a different compiler from Vols. 14 to 21 (Yuryalcu to Yomei/Sushun) and Vols. 24 to 27 (Kogyoku to Tenchi). There are differences of opinion concerning the status of Vols. 1 and 2 (the two "Age of the gods" volumes), with some arguing that they share characteristics of both groups, and others putting them in the first group. Vol. 30 (the Jito volume), on the other hand, may belong to a third compiler--one who was perhaps the final compiler of the entire chronicle. (23)


Before examining the multiple perspectives of Tenmu's reign in the Nihon shoki, for the purpose of comparison it is useful to look at the more straightforward "pro-Tenmu" account in the Kojiki preface, which celebrates Tenmu's reign as follows:

  Then came the reign of the Heavenly Sovereign who ruled
  over the Great Land of Eight Islands from the Asuka
  Kiyomihara Palace. A submerged dragon, he embodied the
  imperial virtue, and responded to the time of repeated
  thunder. Hearing the song in a dream, he divined he
  would succeed to the duty. Arriving at the river by
  night, he knew he would receive the throne. But
  the time of heaven had not yet arrived, so like a
  cicada he molted in the southern mountain, and when
  the will of men eventually gathered, like a tiger
  he marched on the eastern lands. His imperial
  carriage swiftly set forth, traversing and crossing
  mountains and rivers, his six regiments rumbled like
  thunder and his three armies advanced like lightning.
  The long battle axes inspired fear and the fierce
  warriors rose up like smoke. The red banners shone
  upon the weapons and the evil rebels scattered like
  tiles. Before a fortnight had passed, the calamitous
  vapors were naturally purified. Then he released
  the oxen and rested the horses, with joy and
  reverence returned to the central land, furled
  the flags and stored the spears, and amid dances
  and songs settled in the capital.

The passage begins by describing Tenmu as a "submerged dragon"--one reluctant but with the necessary virtue to become emperor--who was called upon by heaven (repeated thunder) and encouraged by dreams and divination to take the throne. While waiting for the right "time of heaven", Tenmu "molted like a cicada" at Yoshino. The "molting cicada" is often taken to be a reference to becoming a monk (shedding the secular world), but it could also be interpreted as suggesting "corpse liberation" (C. shijie, J. shikai), a magical transformation in which a recluse sheds his body and is reborn as a transcendent. (25) The fact that Yoshino is referred to as the "southern mountain" could lend support to either interpretation. (26) From Yoshino, Tenmu leads his men as a mighty general (tiger) and defeats the enemy forces--an accomplishment referred to as the purification of "calamitous vapors." The purification metaphor is an important one here. For instance, earlier in the Kojiki preface, before the heavenly grandson Ninigi descends to earth, the heavenly gods "pacify all under heaven" and "purify the land", (27) and in the Nihon shoki, after his conquest of Yamato, the first emperor Jinmu remarks:

  In the six years that my subjugation of the
  east has lasted, due to my reliance on the
  majesty of sovereign heaven, the evil rebels
  have met their death. Although the frontier
  lands are still unpurified and the remaining
  rebels are still fierce, in the Central Land
  there is no more wind and dust. Truly we should
  make a vast and spacious imperial capital, and
  plan it great and strong. (28)

Just as the act of "purifying" is associated with the legitimate exercise of ritual and military imperial authority, "wind and dust", along with similar expressions of the impure such as "calamitous vapors", are common metaphors in classical Sinic texts for rebellious armies. (29) The Kojiki preface account thus eulogizes Tenmu as one who was called upon by heaven to cleanse the Eastern Lands of "evil rebels" (a conventional term that is also used to describe Jinmu's enemies in the Nihon shoki passage). His victorious return to the capital is described in the grandiose language of a great pacification of the realm and dynastic change--employing expressions such as "released the oxen and rested the horses" similar to those in the account of King Wu of Zhou's defeat of the Shang in the "completion of the war" section in the "old script text" of the Shangshu (J. Shosho). (30)

Following the description of Tenmu's victory in the Jinshin Rebellion, the Kojiki Preface portrays Tenmu as an exemplary sage emperor whose wisdom enabled him to see clearly into the "mirror" of history:

  In the Way he exceeded the Yellow Emperor, in
  virtue he surpassed the King of Zhou. Holding
  the heavenly regalia he ruled over the six
  directions, and gaining the heavenly succession
  he embraced the eight outer regions. He conformed
  to the truth of the Two Essences and regulated
  the order of the Five Phases. He established
  divine principles and encouraged them throughout
  the world, cultivated excellent customs and
  propagated them throughout the realm. And this
  was not all: amid the vast sea of his wisdom,
  he investigated the depths of high antiquity;
  through the brilliant mirror of his mind, he
  saw clearly into previous ages.

  It was then that the Heavenly Sovereign issued
  an edict, saying, "I have heard that the Imperial
  Chronicles and Old Tales kept by the various
  lineages have come to differ from the truth,
  and that many falsehoods have been added to them.
  If now at this time we do not correct these errors,
  before many years have passed their significance
  will be lost. They are the warp and weft of the
  state and the great foundation of kingly rule.
  Thus I think to select and record the Imperial
  Chronicles and examine and research the Ancient
  Tales, erasing falsehoods and establishing the
  truth, in order to transmit them to later ages.

Most scholars have characterized the historiography of the Yamato state in the absolutist terms suggested by the Kojiki Preface's record of Tenmu's command to compile "Imperial Chronicles" and "Ancient Tales". In the usual reading of this passage, Tenmu's instruction to correct previous historical accounts by "erasing falsehoods and establishing the truth" represents a desire to establish a single version of history that favors those in power and eliminate all narratives that might suggest anything other than their legitimacy. (32) As David Lurie has suggested, however, the most immediate context within which Tenmu's statement should be interpreted is as part of the Kojiki Preface's attempt to legitimize the version of history that the Kojiki text represents. (33) In fact, as I argue in this article, the presence of different versions of the past within the Nihon shoki suggests that the establishment of historical narratives was a far more complex and contested process than the Kojiki preface suggests.


The Nihon shoki represents the Jinshin Rebellion as the final conflict that marks the conclusion of a long period of political unrest. Tenchi, known in life as Prince Naka no Oe (626-671), was himself a veteran of three succession struggles (the so-called Isshi Incident of 645, Prince Furuhito's rebellion later that same year, and Prince Arima's plot in 658), as well as three changes of capital (to Naniwa in 645, back to Asuka in 655, and to Omi in 667), and a disastrous conflict on the Korean peninsula from 660 to 663. In fact, Tenchi spent most of his life as crown prince--the twenty-seven years that spanned the reigns of Kogyoku (r. 642-645), Kotoku (645-654), Saimei (r. 655-661), and the first six years of his own reign (r. 662-671) (34)--and only officially acceded to the throne in 667, four years before his death. There is some ambiguity in the Nihon shoki over who Tenchi appointed as crown prince after his accession. In general, the text refers to Oama in terms that indicate he was the crown prince: "Eastern Prince" or with the unusual title "Mighty Sovereign's Younger Brother", which most commentators read as hitugi no miko (prince successor). On the other hand, as we will see, a variant account within the Nihon shoki suggests that the appointed heir to the throne was in fact Tenchi's son Prince Otomo.

FIG. 2 shows the genealogical configuration of Tenchi and Oama's alliance as well as Otomo's peripheral position within it. On paper, Oama certainly looks like he would have been the more legitimate candidate of the two, since, like Tenchi, both of his parents were previous sovereigns, (35) whereas Otomo's mother Yakako was an uneme (a low-ranking tribute concubine) from the province of Iga. (36) Moreover, Tenchi and Oama had clearly been allies throughout most of their lives, given that Tenchi had married four of his daughters to oama--a move that seems to have been intended to keep the succession within the ruling family and curb the influence of the court lineages such as the Soga from the succession.

The Nihon shoki account of the Jinshin Rebellion is of course far more extended and detailed than the brief account in the Kojiki preface, and also much more complex. The four last volumes of the Nihon shoki (those dedicated to Tenchi, Tenmu, and Jito) present several different views of the Jinshin conflict and Tenmu's legitimacy. A good point of entry into these different perspectives is the contrast between the two accounts of Tenmu's departure from the Omi capital to Yoshino. In the first version of the story, which occurs in the Tenchi volume, Tenmu is summoned to Tenchi's deathbed and offered the throne. Citing ill health, he declines, advises Tenchi to give the throne to his consort and hand over the administration of the realm to his son Otomo, and asks leave to go to Yoshino so he can "practice the way of the Buddha."

  On the seventeenth day, the Heavenly Sovereign's illness
  took a turn for the worse. He ordered to send for the
  Eastern Prince, called him into his sick-chamber, and
  spoke to him, saying: "My disease is grave. I entrust
  all thereafter to you," and so on. But [the Eastern Prince],
  bowing repeatedly and citing [his own] ill-health,
  declined firmly and would not accept. He said, "I
  request you take the great duty and entrust it to the
  Great Consort, and let Lord Otomo undertake the
  administration of the various affairs of government.
  Your subject requests, for the Heavenly Sovereign's sake,
  to renounce the world and practice the way." The
  Heavenly Sovereign gave his consent, and the Eastern
  Prince arose, bowed repeatedly, straight away proceeded
  to the south of the Buddhist Hall in the inner palace,
  sat down upon a chair, shaved off his hair and became
  a priest. The Heavenly Sovereign then sent Sukita no
  Oiwa to him with a gift of a Buddhist robe.

On the nineteenth day, the Eastern Prince visited the Heavenly Sovereign and asked leave to go to Yoshino and practice the way of Buddha. The Heavenly Sovereign granted him permission. The Eastern Prince accordingly went to Yoshino. The Great Ministers escorted him as far as Uji and then returned to the capital.

This story portrays Tenchi and Tenmu as allies, and suggests that the conflict only arises later, after Tenchi's death, between Tenmu and Tenchi's son Otomo. However, in the first Tenmu volume, the same story is retold with some key differences.

  In the fourth year [of Tenchi's reign], winter,
  in the tenth month on the seventeenth day, the
  Heavenly Sovereign took to his sick-bed in extreme
  pain. He sent Soga no Omi Yasumaro to summon the
  Eastern Prince and bring him into the Great Hall.
  At this time, Yasumaro, who had always been favored
  by the Eastern Prince, discreetly turned to him and
  said, "Think carefully before you speak." The
  Eastern Prince suspected a secret plot and was
  therefore cautious. When the Heavenly Sovereign spoke
  to him and entrusted him with the great duty, he
  declined, saying, "Your subject has unfortunately
  always been afflicted by many illnesses. How could
  he protect the state? I request Your Majesty bestow
  all under heaven to the Great Consort, and raise Prince
  Otomo as the crown prince. Your subject will today
  renounce the world, and wishes to perform acts of merit
  for Your Majesty's sake." The Heavenly Sovereign gave
  his consent. On the same day, he renounced the world
  and put on priestly robes. He accordingly collected
  his private weapons and deposited every one of them
  in the court offices.

  On the nineteenth day, he went to the Yoshino Palace.
  At this time, Minister of the Left Soga no Akae no
  Omi, Minister of the Right Nakatomi no Kane no Muraji,
  the Great Counselor Soga no Hatayasu no Omi, and the
  rest escorted him until Uji and then returned. Someone
  said, "Give a tiger wings and let him go." That night
  he lodged at the Shima Palace.

  On the twentieth day he arrived at Yoshino and
  settled there.

According to this version, before Tenmu enters Tenchi's chamber he is advised by Soga no Yasumaro to "consider carefully before you speak", and thus declines the throne because he suspects that Tenchi's offer is part of a "secret plot" against him. In other words, while the Tenchi volume version presents Tenmu as Tenchi's legitimate but reluctant successor, the Tenmu volume version suggests that Tenchi and Tenmu had become enemies, and that the offer of the throne was in fact a trap. In the context of this second story, Tenmu is a rebel, albeit one who will be legitimated by heaven. (39)

The Tenmu court's attitude toward the previous reign is suggested in a series of Nihon shoki entries in the second year of Tenmu's reign (673), in which embassies from various Korean kingdoms arrive in Tsukushi. Two of these are tribute envoys from Tamna and Koguryo, (40) and another two are from Silla--one to offer condolences for Tenchi's death, the other to offer congratulations of Tenmu's accession.

  On the twenty-fifth day, the envoys sent to
  congratulate the imperial accession, Kim
  Sungwon and the others, more than twenty-seven
  visitors of the middle ranks and higher, were
  summoned to the capital. The Sovereign instructed
  the Governor to speak to the Tamna envoys, saying:
  "The Heavenly Sovereign has newly pacified all under
  heaven, and is the first to assume the throne.
  For this reason he summons no envoys to court except
  those who bring congratulations."

While the Nihon shoki only records Tenmu's communication with the Tamna envoys, a subsequent entry in the Nihon shoki makes clear that the two tribute embassies and the condolence embassy are all entertained in Tsukushi and sent home without being allowed to proceed to the capital. As Konoshi Takamitsu and others have argued, the phrase "the Heavenly Sovereign has newly pacified all under heaven, and is the first to assume the throne", together with the refusal of condolences and tribute for the previous ruler, is an unequivocal declaration of dynastic change. (42) Tenmu is not defined as a legitimate successor of the previous sovereign, but as a military champion and dynastic founder with a new "Heavenly Mandate."

The theme of dynastic change is also present on the only occasion when Tenmu returned to Yoshino after the Jinshin Rebellion, in the eighth year of his reign (679), for a pledge in which he made his sons and nephews swear not to engage in a succession dispute after his death. It is worth quoting the Nihon shoki passage in full:

  In the fifth month, fifth day, the Sovereign visited
  the Yoshino palace. On the sixth day, the Heavenly
  Sovereign spoke to the Sovereign Consort, Sovereign
  Prince Kusakabe, Prince Otsu, Prince Takechi, Prince
  Kawashima, Prince Osakabe, and Prince Shiki, saying:
  "Today I wish to pledge together with all of you in
  this palace, so that there be no incidents until one
  thousand years from now. What do you think of this?"
  The princes answered together: "The logic of this is
  clear." Then the Sovereign Prince Kusakabe stepped
  forward and pledged, saying, "Heavenly Gods, Earthly
  Gods, and Heavenly Sovereign, bear witness! We, elder
  and younger brothers, mature and children, more than
  ten lords in all, are born of different wombs. However,
  without distinction [of whether we are] of the same or
  different [womb], together in accordance with the Heavenly
  Sovereign's command, we will aid each other and will not
  come into conflict. If, from now onward, [one of us] were
  not to keep this pledge, may they lose their life and may
  their descendants die out: we will not forget, we will not
  fail." The five princes one after the other pledged in the
  same fashion. After this the Heavenly Sovereign said, "My
  sons, each of you was born from a different womb. And yet
  from now you shall be cherished as if you were all born
  from the same one mother." Then he opened his collar and
  embraced the six princes. Accordingly he pledged, saying,
  "If we contravene this pledge, may our bodies perish
  instantly!" The Sovereign Consort's pledge was the same
  as the Heavenly Sovereign's.

  On the seventh day, the Imperial Carriage returned to
  the capital.

  On the tenth day, all six princes paid their respects
  to the Heavenly Sovereign before the Great Hall. (43)

Except for the presence of the Sovereign Consort, the pledge is an all male affair: none of Tenmu or Tenchi's daughters is present. There are in fact two pledges: that of Kusakabe and the princes, and that of Tenmu and his consort. The main objective seems to be to establish Kusakabe as successor to the throne: he is listed first, with the other princes listed after him in order of rank, is the first to make the pledge, which the other five princes repeat after him, and is distinguished by the title of "Sovereign" prince. (44) The pledge begins by acknowledging that the source of potential strife between the various princes is the fact that they "each are born of different wombs", and promises to remedy this by disregarding distinctions of maternal lineage and obeying the imperial command of the sovereign not to rebel. In other words, what the pledge promises is that Tenmu's command will take precedence over the different political interests of their maternal lineages. What the pledge does not mention, however, is the fact that two of the princes (Kawashima and Shiki) also have a different father--the previous sovereign, Tenmu's brother Tenchi. This is confirmed in Tenmu's pledge in which he addresses all six princes as his own children ("my sons")--although in actual fact only four (Kusakabe, Otsu, Takechi, and Osakabe) were his biological offspring. (45) This "adoption" of Tenchi's sons by Tenmu is significant, since it means that Tenchi's lineage is not being recognized as a basis for legitimate claims to the throne, and Tenmu is representing himself as the single male imperial ancestor, as befits one who has "pacified all under heaven for the first time."

Having implicitly adopted Tenchi's sons, Tenmu then pledges that all six of the princes shall be cherished as if they were born from the same mother, who is of course Tenmu's sovereign consort and Prince Kusalcabe's mother, Princess Uno later to become Sovereign Jito (r. 687-696), and who herself co-recites this pledge of motherhood. Jito's symbolic adoption of the six princes elevates her to a position of great symbolic power as the single female imperial ancestor among Tenmu's ten wives. (46) According to the pledge, no other paternal or maternal lines are to be recognized except those stemming from Tenmu and Jito. (47) Thus the only possible successor--the only possible resolution to the imperial plotline--is Jito's son Kusakabe.

This tale of Tenmu's new dynasty is one that has to be reconstructed from clues that remain in the Tenmu volumes: it is not the ultimate story of the Nihon shoki. In fact, the significance of the phrase "the Heavenly Sovereign has newly pacified all under heaven, and is the first to assume the throne" was only first pointed out by Akima Toshio in 1976. (48) Until then the phrase had been ignored or explained away (49) due to the assumption that the Nihon shoki was a unified account of succession. What ultimately shapes the Nihon shoki main version of events and plot of imperial succession is the perspective of the Jito and post-Jito courts, which is reflected in the first story of Tenmu's departure to Yoshino in the Tenchi volume. This reflects the Jito court's interest in re-establishing a narrative of continuity between the reigns of her father (Tenchi) and husband (Tenmu), and more broadly a continuity of the imperial line since Jinmu. (50) The Jito court transforms the Tenmu court narrative of a new dynastic order so as to reflect its own interests. This is evident in the very opening of the Jito volume:

  The Heavenly Sovereign Takama no Hara Hirono Hime's
  [Jito] name as a child was Princess Uno no Sarara,
  and she was the second daughter of the Heavenly
  Sovereign Ame Mikoto Hirakasu Wake [Tenchi]. Her
  mother's name was Lady Wochi (also called Lady
  Minotsuko). The Heavenly Sovereign was of a calm
  and magnanimous disposition. In the third year of
  the Heavenly Sovereign Ame Toyo Takara Ikashihi
  Tarashi Hime [Saimei], she was married to the
  Heavenly Sovereign Ama no Nunahara Oki no Mahito
  [Tenmu] as his consort. Though she was the daughter
  of an emperor, she valued propriety and modesty,
  and was possessed of motherly virtue. In the first
  year of the Heavenly Sovereign Ame Mikoto Hirakasu
  Wake [Tenchi], she gave birth to the Sovereign Prince
  Kusakabe in the palace of Otsu. In the tenth year,
  tenth month, she accompanied the Priest Heavenly
  Sovereign Ama no Nunahara Oki no Mahito and went
  to Yoshino in order to avoid the suspicions of the
  court. This account is in the chronicle of the
  Heavenly Sovereign Ame Mikoto no Hirakasu Wake
  [Tenchi], in the first year of the reign of the
  Heavenly Sovereign Ama no Nunahara Oki no Mahito
  [Tenmu], in summer, the sixth month, she followed
  the Heavenly Sovereign when he escaped the danger
  in the eastern provinces, addressed the troops and
  gathered them, and then together formed a plan,
  in which they divided and commanded the many myriads
  of fearless men to take up their various defensive
  posts. In autumn, the seventh month, the Mino generals
  together with the Yamato heroes executed the Prince
  Otomo and sent his head to the Fuha Palace. In the
  second year she was raised to the rank of Sovereign

  The Sovereign Consort from the beginning until now had
  assisted the Heavenly Sovereign in pacifying all under
  heaven. She constantly served the Sovereign in the
  performance of his duties by giving advice on government
  affairs and being of the greatest assistance. (51)

Jito "values modesty and propriety" as the daughter of an emperor (Tenchi) and she is "possessed of motherly virtue" as the mother of a crown prince (Kusakabe). But it is her status as Tenmu's wife and sovereign consort that is presented as the main source of her legitimacy as successor to the throne. She is portrayed as having been co-ruler with her husband both in his military victory and in his subsequent civil administration, since the very first days of the escape from Omi to Yoshino "from the beginning until now assisting the Heavenly Sovereign in pacifying all under heaven" The argument is that her own reign is simply a continuation of Tenmu's, since she has in fact already been ruling with him throughout his reign from the "beginning" at Yoshino.

The Jito volume thus adopts the main features of the Tenmu volume narrative, but it changes some key details. Note that when referring to the account of Tenmu and Jito's departure to Yoshino, the passage refers the reader specifically to the account in the "chronicle of the Heavenly Sovereign Ame Mikoto no Hirakasu Wake", i.e., the Tenchi volume of the Nihon shoki. (52) This is the version of the story in which her father and her husband were allies, and otomo and the Omi ministers were the enemies. The "suspicions" that are given as their reason for escaping to Yoshino are not those of her father Tenchi, but of Prince Otomo and his ministers. This is not the Tenmu volume version in which Tenmu "considers before speaking" to Tenchi, or the Omi perspective in which he is called a "tiger with wings." The Jito volume's version of the past maintains the Tenmu volume's articulation of a new political order after the Jinshin Rebellion, but is careful to de-emphasize any suggestion of conflict between Tenmu and his predecessor. In this way, the basis of Jito's legitimacy is constructed around two conflicting arguments: first, around Tenmu's foundation of a new order (which MO had inherited), and second, around the genealogical connection to her father Tenchi and the genealogy of rulers since Jinmu which is outlined in the Nihon shoki. By maintaining both stories, the MO volume manages to have it both ways: MO is the successor both to the "new realm" founded by her husband's "pacifying of all under heaven" and to the long lineage of emperors (including her father) that began with Tinmu.

This position is also reflected in Jito's declaration to the Silla embassy that comes to offer condolences for Tenmu's death, in which there is no reference to Tenmu having "newly pacified all under heaven." (53) In fact, in the midst of admonishing Silla for having sent an envoy of lower rank than was customary, Jito specifically mentions the precedents of the death of Kotoku (r. 645-654) and her father Tenchi (r. 662-671).

  Now if former matters are gone into, long ago there was
  the case of the time when the Heavenly Sovereign who
  ruled all under heaven from the Palace of Naniwa
  [Kotoku] passed away, when Kose no Inamochi and others
  were sent to announce the imperial decease, and Kim
  Ch'unch'u, of Yech'on [second] rank, received the
  imperial message. Thus if it is said that it is those
  of Sop'an [third] rank who should receive imperial
  commands, this would be contrary to former precedent.
  Again, when the Heavenly Sovereign who ruled all under
  heaven from the Omi Palace [Tenchi] passed away, Kim
  Salyu, of II Gilch'on [seventh] rank, was sent to
  offer condolences. And now it is an official of
  Kupch'on [ninth] rank that offers condolences, which
  once more is contrary to precedent.

In Jito's mention of Kim Salyu's condolences for Tenchi there is no reference to the fact that these condolences were, according to the Tenmu volume, turned away and refused--in other words, not recognized--by the Tenmu court. Jito's rule over the realm of "all under heaven" that includes Silla as a tributary kingdom depends here on rules of precedent established throughout the succession of past reigns--those of Kotoku, her father Tenchi, and her husband Tenmu--and on Jito's position as inheritor of that succession.


There is a third story about Tenmu in the Nihon shoki, which appears only in muted form, according to which Tenmu was not a heavenly legitimized rebel who pacified the realm but a usurper and bringer of chaos. The clearest evidence of this version of events is a well-known variant text cited in the Tenchi volume of the Nihon shoki:

  On the sixth day, the Eastern Prince, the Mighty Sovereign's
  Younger Brother, made a proclamation (one book says, "Prince
  Otomo proclaimed") announcing the implementation of
  cap-ranks and laws. There was a great amnesty throughout all
  under heaven. (The names of the laws and cap-ranks are
  described in detail in the New Ritsuryo codes.)

While the main text portrays Tenchi's brother Tenmu as the legitimate successor (the Eastern Prince) who implements the cap-ranks and laws, a variant book attributes this act to Tenchi's son Prince Otomo, thereby suggesting that it was Otomo, not Tenmu, who was the appointed crown prince. This is an entirely plausible suggestion given that immediately before this there is another entry describing Prince Otomo's appointment as "Great Minister of Government". This points to the possibility of a different story of political succession that would contradict the other two stories of Tenmu as the legitimate successor who declines Tenchi's throne. (56) Another portrayal of Tenmu as a rebel is one that has been largely overlooked: the famous phrase that one of Otomo's ministers utters when Tenmu leaves for Yoshino: "someone said: give a tiger wings and let him go". (57) The figure of the tiger can have a positive sense of awesome military prowess, as it does in the Kojiki preface, where the comparison of Tenmu to a tiger occurs in the context of portraying him as a "submerged" dragon--one who has the potential or right to become emperor. (58) But the usual connotations of the specific phrase "give a tiger wings" are clearly negative, as the following examples from the Han Feizi and the Huainanzi illustrate:

  ... Thus those who use their power to bring chaos to
  all under heaven are many and those who use their power
  to bring rule to all under heaven are few. Indeed,
  power can serve to facilitate rule or to precipitate
  chaos. Hence the Documents of Zhou says, "Do not give
  wings to tigers. Otherwise, they will fly into the
  cities, take the people, and devour them." To give
  power to an unworthy man is the same as giving
  wings to a tiger.

  The reason for the establishment of rulers is to forbid
  violence and control chaos. But when they ride on the
  power of their myriad subjects and commit atrocities,
  they are like tigers that have been given wings--why
  should they be spared?

In these contexts, a "tiger with wings" refers to someone wicked who has been placed in a position of power. A more specific source for the Nihon shoki phrase is the opening of Zhang Heng's (78-139 C.E.) "Eastern Metropolis Rhapsody") in the Wen xuan:

  The last of the Zhou Ji were unable to govern. Their
  government was filled with iniquity, beginning with
  those close to the palace, and ending with the metal
  tiger. The Ying clan gave itself wings (61) and
  took the western cities as its meat.

The "metal tiger" refers to the state of Qin, whose king Ying Zheng conquered the six warring states and proclaimed himself "First Emperor". Here Qin is portrayed as the "tiger with wings" that devours the people. The anonymous "someone" who says the words "give a tiger wings and let him go" in the Nihon shoki--someone who as one of Otomo's ministers was either executed or banished after Tenmu's victory--is thus criticizing the wisdom of Tenchi's decision in letting a potential rebel such as Tenmu leave the capital. From the perspective of those who lament the destruction of the Omi Court, Tenmu is the savage tiger with wings that will bring calamity and disorder to the realm. Although this story of Tenmu as rebel and bringer of chaos appears only in muted form and is barely perceptible in the Nihon shoki, it resurfaces thirty years later in the Kaifuso preface's description of the cultural glory of the Omi capital and its subsequent destruction:

  When the Omi Emperor received the command [of heaven],
  he broadened the imperial task and widened the
  sovereign policies. His Way reached all of heaven and
  earth and his merits illuminated the universe. He
  then thought that to regulate customs and transform
  the people there was nothing that surpassed writing,
  and to provide luster to virtue and polish oneself,
  what could be better than learning? He thus founded
  a school, summoned abundant talent, established the
  five rites, and settled the hundred regulations.
  From ancient times to the present never before had
  the codes, laws, and norms spread so far and wide.
  Peace shone throughout the [palace's] three stories
  and prosperity flourished in the four seas. The
  sovereign thus ruled through inaction, and in his
  lofty halls there was much time for leisure.
  Sometimes he would summon men of learning;
  other times he would hold banquets for his
  pleasure. On these occasions, his majesty
  himself would write compositions and his sage
  ministers would offer their praise. Such
  well-wrought compositions and beautiful brushwork
  numbered well over one hundred. But time passed
  and there was disorder and chaos, and everything
  was burnt to ashes. Thinking of all that
  destruction grieves and pains the heart.

The events of the Jinshin Rebellion that the pro-Tenmu Kojiki preface described as Tenmu's "purifying of foul vapors" are described here in the pro-Otomo Kaifuso preface as a tragic event of "disorder and chaos". Whereas the Kojiki preface compared Tenmu's victory to that of the first Zhou ruler over the Shang, in the Kaiuso preface it is the Omi court's cultural achievements that are likened to the Zhou. Tenmu's destruction of the Omi capital is then implicitly compared to the Qin First Emperor's infamous "burning of the books" when the Kaifuso preface writer later notes that he has "collected these worm-eaten remainders from the walls of Lu, gathered leftover writings from the ashes of Qin". The negative depiction of Tenmu is further elaborated in the Kaifuso preface to Prince Otomo's poems, where Prince Otomo tells Fujiwara no Kamatari about a dream in which an old man wearing crimson robes appears out of a cave in the sky holding the sun and is offering it to him, when suddenly another man emerges from the lower corner of the sky, snatches the sun and disappears. Kamatari interprets this as:

  Perhaps [it means that] after the myriad years of
  the Sage Court [Tenchi's reign], a cunning giant
  will seize an opening. (65)

The phrase "a cunning giant will seize the opening" appears in almost identical form in, once again, Zhang Heng's "Eastern Metropolis Rhapsody" in the Wen xuan, referring to the usurper of the Han throne, Wang Mang (45 B.C.E.-23 C.E.), whose courtesy name was Jujun or "Giant Lord." (66) The graph katsu has the sense of "cunning like a beast," but it is also synonymous with the graph and can be read as midasu, "to rebel." (67) "Cunning giant" in fact suggests something like "that rebel [known as] the Giant." This is, in other words, an overt comparison of Tenmu with a famous usurper. The Otomo preface concludes by lamenting that Prince Otomo died in the "Rebellion in the Jinshin Year", "before he could fulfill the command of heaven", thus clearly portraying Otomo as the legitimate successor and Tenmu as the rapacious rebel representing disorder and chaos.


The mainstream narrative of the Jinshin Rebellion within the Nihon shoki is the one that accords with the overall plot of the Nihon shoki itself. It is the story in which Tenmu is a remarkable sovereign who inherits the throne as Tenchi's rightful successor after defeating Otomo and founds a new imperial era that is continued by his wife and successor Jito. This account deemphasizes any suggestion of conflict between Tenmu and his predecessor, and recasts Otomo as the sole villain. In addition to this main story, the Nihon shoki preserves another narrative of Tenmu as dynastic founder. In this account, which appears primarily in the two Tenmu volumes, there is the clear suggestion that Tenmu's enemies were both Tenchi and Otomo. Tenmu is portrayed as a righteous rebel who is legitimized by heaven and "newly pacifies all under heaven" to "be the first to ascend the throne" and found a new dynastic line. In addition to these two versions, the Nihon shoki also contains faint traces of a third story, that of Tenmu as an illegitimate usurper, in which Otomo is the rightful successor. Evidence that such a pro-Omi/Otomo account was developed outside the Nihon shoki is provided by the Kaifuso prefaces.

The reason that the second and third accounts remain in the Nihon shoki is probably the result of the different political interests of competing factions at court at the time that the Nihon shoki was compiled. While the Tenmu court story of a new dynasty probably originated as the Tenmu court's account of itself, its presence in the final Nihon shoki text and the powerful supporting role Tenmu's son Prince Takechi has in the narrative of the Jinshin war are unlikely to be unrelated to the fact that Takechi's son Nagaya was a high-ranking minister at the time of the Nihon shoki's compilation. Similarly, while the hint of a pro-Otomo anti-Tenmu account that is later developed in the Kaiffiso may in part be attributed to the interests of its probable compiler, Otomo's great grandson Omi no Mifune (722-785), it is also likely to have some relation to the Fujiwara narrative of the origins of their own authority and legitimacy at the Omi Court, and to political tensions in the first half of the eighth century between Tenmu's grandson Lord Nagaya am' (684-729) and Fujiwara no Fubito (659-720) and his sons. This is not to say that the Fujiwara perspective is necessarily "anti-Tenmu." For instance, in the Toshikaden (Traditions of the Fujiwara Lineage, 762) there is an episode in which Tenmu is said to have plunged a spear into the floor in front of Tenchi at his succession ceremony in 668. Tenchi is enraged but Kamatari succeeds in persuading him not to retaliate. The text notes that up to this time Tenmu had never liked Kamatari but that after this they became close; later, when Tenmu was about to leave Yoshino on his Eastern campaign in the Jinshin year, he lamented that the entire conflict could have been avoided if Kamatari had been alive. In other words, the main point of this episode in its context within the biography of the founder of the Fujiwara lineage is to portray Kamatari as the skillful Fujiwara minister who manages to negotiate peaceful successions. A less obvious implication of this episode is that it was Kamatari who shaped the historical process of imperial succession from Kogyoku's reign (r. 642-645) and the Isshi Incident (645) onwards, and would have continued to do so had he not died before the Jinshin conflict. (68)

These various narratives and their intersections are the product of the web of genealogical interests that both formed and informed narratives of imperial succession as the Nihon shoki was being compiled in the first two decades of the eighth century. As Fig. 3 illustrates, each of the three Jinshin Rebellion narratives that I have outlined corresponds to a different version and style of genealogical legitimacy. For both the "heavenly mandate" story of Tenmu as dynastic founder (in which his enemies are Tenchi and otomo), and the narrative of Tenmu as rightful successor of Tenchi according to the prestige of his matrilineal lineage (in which the villain is Otomo alone), rightful succession goes from Tenmu to Kusakabe, through Jito, and then to Tenmu's grandson Monmu. In the story of Tenmu the usurper, legitimate succession according to the Sinic ideal of male primogeniture is broken after Tenchi but then undergoes a (somewhat tortuous) restoration through his daughter MO and then through Kusakabe and Genmei (also Tenchi's daughter) once again to Monmu, whose consort is Fujiwara no Fubito's daughter. Thus while each of the three narratives diverge insofar as they are invested in different versions of the past, they also intersect because they are all invested, for different reasons, in the same conclusion to the Nihon shoki chronicle: Jito's abdication in Monmu's favor. As the teleological endpoint of all these historical narratives, Monmu is thus the central figure of agreement on which these multiple narratives representing different political interests converge.


As we have seen, the discursive space of imperial historiography in the Nihon shoki is organized around the central figure of the sovereign and the main plotline of imperial succession. Within this ideal framework, the genealogical complexities of succession politics are expressed in the form of a narrative politics within the text itself. To conclude, I would like to remark upon the interesting case of how the figure of Prince Otsu, a "might-have-been" sovereign who is the loser of the last political struggle in the Nihon shoki, is appropriated to play a role in the revisionist imperial history suggested in the various Kaifuso prefaces.

Otsu appears for the first time in the Tenmu volumes in a minor role as joining Tenmu's "original followers" on the second day of the Jinshin campaign and as second-in-line to the throne after Kusakabe in the Yoshino pledge. Like his older brother Takechi, he leaves Omi to join his father's campaign in Yamato, but unlike Takechi, given that he was a young child at the time, (69) he is very much a secondary character on the "Yoshino" and "Yamato" side of the conflict. Later, in the Yoshino pledge, he continues to represent a secondary role as a potential second-in-line to continue Tenmu's "new dynasty." It is only when he reaches adulthood and with a change in the plot of succession after Tenmu's death that he comes to represent the protagonist role of potential threat to Crown Prince Kusakabe's succession.

According to the second Tenmu volume of the Nihon shoki, Otsu began to plot rebellion against Kusakabe after Tenmu's death as soon as mourning began on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of 686. The Jito volume notes that on the second day of the tenth month Otsu's plot was discovered, he was captured with over thirty of his followers, and put to death the following day. His wife Princess Yamabe (one of Tenchi's daughters) followed him in death (apparently voluntarily) but most of his co-conspirators were pardoned. This is the Nihon shoki's last succession struggle, and it describes the Jito court witnessing Otsu's death with great sadness:

  Prince Otsu was the third child of the Heavenly Sovereign Ama no
  Nunahara Oki no Mahito [Tenmu]. He had a tall and noble demeanor and
  his language was eloquent and refined. He was much beloved by the
  Heavenly Sovereign Ame Mikoto Hirakasu Wake [Tenchi]. When he grew to
  adulthood he showed discernment and a talent for learning, and was
  very fond of writing. The practice of composing odes and rhapsodies
  began with Otsu. (70)

This is quite a remarkable eulogy for someone who never became sovereign. None of the protagonists of previous rebellion plots--Prince Furuhito no Oe in Kotoku's reign and Prince Arima in Saimei's reign--receives such treatment, nor do Princes Kusakabe or Takechi, both of whom died as crown princes. Perhaps most surprising is the statement that, while Otsu's rank and status at court derived from his being Tenmu's son and second in line to the throne after Kusakabe, he was "much beloved" by Tenchi. This provides an interesting contrast to Tenmu's Yoshino pledge, in which Tenchi is not mentioned and his sons Kawashima and Shiki are "adopted" by Tenmu. Since Otsu's mother Princess Ota (Jito's older sister) had died when he was a child, it is likely that Otsu would indeed have been close to his maternal grandfather. But a different kind of link between Otsu and Tenchi seems to be facilitated by the fact that "Otsu" was also the name of the Omi palace. This ambiguity between Otsu the prince and Otsu the palace is illustrated in the phrase "the practice of composing odes and rhapsodies (i.e., Sinic-style poetry) began with Otsu", which, given the omission of the "prince" title, suggests that the "Otsu" in this phrase might refer in another context to Tenchi's Otsu palace. (71) The MO volume thus portrays Otsu as a highly accomplished prince and would-be usurper who leads his followers astray. We do not and cannot know whether he in fact intended to usurp the succession or whether it was MO who moved to eliminate him first. But as a talented young man in his twenties when Tenmu died, the threat that the figure of Otsu represents in this narrative was probably a close reflection of reality.

The mid-eighth century Kaifuso portrayal of the Omi court as the foundational source of imperial legitimacy elaborates on the Jito volume description of Otsu as a highly accomplished prince and associates him fully with the Omi court by placing him in the anthology after Tenchi's sons Otomo and Kawashima. Unlike the MO volume in the Nihon shoki, in which Otsu is condemned to death for having inspired his followers to commit treason, the Kaifaso recasts him as a tragic figure who is led astray by others. Like Prince Otomo, Otsu is portrayed as a talented but politically neve prince who was destined for great things until he met with misfortune. In fact, the Kaifuso draws multiple parallels between Otomo and Otsu. Just as Otomo was Tenchi's eldest son, Otsu is described as Tenmu's "eldest son" (even though according to the Nihon shoki, he was the fourth son). Both Otomo and Otsu are described as being of such uncommonly distinguished appearance that diviners proph-esize that they will rule the realm (a priest from Tang in Otomo's case, a priest from Silla in (Otsu's), and they both are said to have the ideal combination of a love of learning and literary pursuits with uncanny martial skills that would make them ideal rulers. The character of Prince Otsu thus shifts from playing a secondary character as a loyal follower on the "Yoshino" side of the Jinshin conflict in the Tenmu volumes of the Nihon shoki, to a protagonist as a would-be usurper in the struggle for succession in the MO volume, where he is first associated with Tenchi and the Omi court, to the Kaifuso narrative in which he is eulogized as a "submerged dragon" (someone with the virtue and potential to become emperor) and fully identified with the political and cultural legacy of the Omi court--in other words, with the losers of the Jinshin conflict. In effect, the figure of Prince Otsu is appropriated by the Omi-centered Kaifuso narrative in part for his association with Sinic-style poetry (which serves to lend some credibility to the Kaifuso's claim that the Omi court was the origin of imperial literary culture) and in part as a kind of proxy for Otomo. Just as the figure of Monmu was the crucible around which all political interests and narratives of imperial history converged, the narrativized figure of Prince Otsu as an alternative "might-have-been" sovereign also became central to the politics of imperial historiography.


In this article I have discussed the ways in which the Jinshin Rebellion was historicized as a foundational event in eighth-century narratives of the Yamato imperial state. Most of these are stories that allude to the classical models of imperial authority of Sinic historiography in order to portray Tenmu and Jito's reigns as the beginning of a new political order. For instance, the Kojiki preface compares Tenmu's victory to the Zhou conquest of the Shang, and the Nihon shoki compares Tenmu with two righteous dynastic founders: Gaozu (r. 202-195 B.C.E.), the first emperor of the Han, and Guangwu (r. 5-57 C.E.), the first emperor of the Later Han. However, as we have seen, the Jinshin Rebellion also became the source of a different narrative that legitimized Tenchi as the original founder of the new imperial state. In the Nihon shoki, this is hinted at in variant texts that refer to Otomo as Tenchi's chosen successor and indicate that he promulgated ritsuryo codes for the first time at the Omi court, and in a veiled description of Tenmu by Otomo's ministers as a usurping "tiger with wings." In the Kaifuso prefaces this narrative is fully developed as a narrative of loss--in which Tenchi's reign is compared to the Zhou dynasty and the destruction of the cultural legacy of the Omi capital to the Qin "burning of the books," which suggests a parallel between Tenmu and the infamous Qin First Emperor (r. 221-210 B.c.E.). In the Kaifuso's preface to Prince Otomo's poems Tenmu is compared to another negative model, the usurper and "cunning giant" Wang Mang (r. 9-23 A.D.).

As I noted at the beginning, the traces of a complex politics of historiography preserved within the Nihon shoki are evidence not simply that there is a lot more to the historical facts than the Kojiki preface's triumphant story of Tenmu's Jinshin victory, but also that there is a lot more to the politics of historiography than what is suggested by the Kojiki preface's quotation of Tenmu's command to "erase falsehoods and establish the truth". The clearest evidence for the fact that the historical narrative at the Yamato court was never monopolized by the winners comes from the preface to the Kaifuso, which provides an account of the Jinshin Rebellion that is almost diametrically opposed to the Kojiki preface version. Whereas in the triumphant story of the Kojiki preface, the Jinshin conflict is described as a "purifying" and its conclusion as an occasion for "peaceful rejoicing", the Kaifuso preface refers to the Jinshin Rebellion as a time of "disorder and chaos" that led to the "complete destruction" of the Omi court's cultural legacy and as the source of "grief and sorrow". But what the Kojiki and Kaifuso prefaces do agree on is that the Jinshin Rebellion was an event that should provoke deep emotions in its retelling: a triumphant and elated pride in the new imperial age after Tenmu's victory, and a sense of the tragic loss of the ideal political and cultural order of the Omi capital. While Otomo and otsu may have failed in their political ambitions, their characters lived on to serve as appealing historical protagonists and tragic might-have-been sovereigns whose stories could be as moving as--if not more than--the narratives of those who were successful.

The relationship between the stories of these protagonists of imperial history and the political fortunes of their descendants illustrates what the late Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949-2012) refers to, in a different context, as "the power in the story," (72) that is, the question of what makes some historical narratives more powerful or compelling than others, and why certain stories matter to particular groups of people. In the context of the early eighth-century Yamato imperial court, in which genealogical proximity to the sovereign defined both access to political power and inclusion in the discursive space of historiography, the overlapping relationship between the historical process and the historiographical record is particularly treacherous, not only for those who will always insist on making a positivist distinction between the two, but also for those who maintain that the historical process can only be accessed through and is always subject to its representation. The different accounts of the Jinshin Rebellion indicate that historical representation was the object of political dispute, i.e., that historiography was also subject to the historical process, and that it is sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of this historical process through the gaps between the different accounts in the historiographical record.

(1.) Totman, A History of Japan (London: Blackwell Publishing, 2000), 60. Journal of the American Oriental Society 133.2 (2013)

(2.) Reforms during Suiko's reign probably included the use of imperial titles (given the evidence in the Suishu), but the Rank System of 603 and the Seventeen Article Code of 604 as they appear in the Nihon shoki are clearly the creations of a later age. The question of the Taika Reforms is more subtle: archaeological evidence points to substantial reforms undertaken in the mid-seventh century, but they were clearly not the major imperializing reforms that are described in the Nihon shoki.

(3.) For a summary of Japanese historiography on the Jinshin Rebellion see Hoshino Ryosaku, Kenkyushi Jinshin no ran, zohoban (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 1978) and Jinshin no ran kenkyu no tenkai (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 1997). The three classical studies from the early postwar are Kameda Takashi, Jinshin no ran (Shibundo, 1961), Naoki Kojiro, Jinshin no ran (Hanawa shobo, 1961), and Kitayama Shigeo, Jinshin no nairan (Iwanami shoten, 1978). More recent works are Tooyama Mitsuo, Jinshin no ran (Chuo Koronsha, 1996), Kuramoto Kazuhiro, Jinshin no ran (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2007), and Hayakawa Mannen, Jinshin no ran o yomitoku (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2009). For a description of the Jinshin conflict in English, see Joan Piggott, The Emergence of Japanese Kingship (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1997), 128-31; William Wayne Farris, Heavenly Warriors: The Evolution of Japan's Military, 500-1300 (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard Univ. Press, 1992), 41-47; Herman Ooms, Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai'i Press), 30.

(4.) A recent attempt to do this is Kuramoto Kazuhiro's study Jinshin no ran (Yoshikawa kounkan, 2007), in which he analyzes the Jinshin volume of the Nihon shoki and attempts to distinguish between actual historical material that was based on "original sources"--diaries written by some of the participants in the different battles of the Jin-shin Rebellion--and fictional additions and embellishments. There are traces of these "original sources" in the Shaku Nihongi's citations of the collected "Private Records" of the Nihon shoki lectures carried out during the Heian period, which in turn cite fragments of no longer extant texts that appear to have been accounts of the Jinshin conflict. These include three texts called "The Diary of Ato no Chitoko", the "Diary of Tsuki no Muraji Omi", and the "Record of Wanibe no Omi Kimite". However, as Hayalcawa Mannen has pointed out, if the Jinshin account in the Nihon shoki was based on various "original sources," then why does it provide such sparse and unbalanced details of the actual conflict? Moreover, the few brief citations of these texts that survive do not make up sufficient material to provide any sense of what kind of accounts they were, and whatever their original form was, there is no reason to believe that they necessarily preceded the Jinshin Rebellion account in the Nihon shoki or were any less ideologically motivated.

(5.) Examples of such unresolvable debates are Tooyama Mitsuo's argument that Tenchi's offer of the throne to his brother Tenmu was part of a plot to try to eliminate him, versus Kuramoto Kazuhiro's view that Tenchi genuinely intended to have his brother succeed him.

(6.) For the most part I use the term "historiography" in this article in its older sense of "the writing of history." On a few occasions I also use it in its more modern senses of "historical writing on a given topic," and "historical methodology."

(7.) This is the term by which it is referred to in both the Kaifuso (Anthology of Remembrances of Old Styles, c. 751) and the Man 'yoshi (Collection of Myriad Ages, c. late eighth century?). See Kaiffuso, Bunka shureisha, Honcho monzui, NKBT vol. 69 (Iwanami shoten, 1964), 71, and Man 'yoshu Vol XIX: 4260-61. I refer to the conflict by using the literal translation "Jinshin Rebellion" here instead of a more neutral term like "Jinshin War" or "Jinshin Disturbance" because there is nothing neutral about the word. The question is how different parties understood it. In the case of the Kaifuso, there is no doubt that the term is used to suggest that Otomo was the victim of the rebellion. In the Man 'yoshu, however, Tenmu is portrayed as the one who quelled it.

(8.) The ninth year in the sexagenary cycle.

(9.) On Tenchi 10 (671). 10. 19. See SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 292-93.

(10.) On Tenchi 10. 12. 3. Ibid., 296-97.

(11.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 294-95.

(12.) Younger brother of Fujiwara no Kamatari (614-669).

(13.) See SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 310-15.

(14.) See SNKBT Shoku Nihongi 1 (Iwanami shoten, 1989), 42-43. There are two more references in Genmei's reign (707-715) in 707 and 710, and one in Gensho's reign (715-723) in 716, after which they no longer appear.

(15.) On the topic of meritorious service in the Jinshin conflict, see Hayakawa, 125-31. Hayakawa's analysis shows that such instances of recognition of meritorious service not only functioned to reward past services, but also as strategies to establish present and future alliances. It is in this light that the references in the "Private Records" of the Nihon shoki collected in the Shaku Nihongi to the "Diaries" and "Records" of those who participated in the Jinshin Rebellion should perhaps be evaluated: not so much as the "original sources" that served as the basis for the embellished Nihon shoki account, but as texts that functioned to memorialize the part played by their protagonists in the Jinshin Rebellion and were thus as likely to have been embellished (although perhaps in different ways) as the Jinshin account in the Nihon shoki.

(16.) See Ban Gu, Han shu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 30.1715. The passage appears as a comment after the bibliographical list on the Spring and Autumn Annals (C. Chunqiu, J. Shunju) bibliography, in the "six arts" section at the beginning of the volume.

(17.) See Liji zhengyi in Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 14 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2000), 1022.

(18.) In the late seventh century, two parallel groups of diarists at the Tang court that had been institutionalized at different times in the late sixth and early seventh century were given the names of "scribes of the right" and "scribes of the left," and "theoretically divided their functions on the lines described in the Liji and other early texts." See Denis Twitchett, The Writing of Official History under the Tang (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), 7.

(19.) The codes are only extant in the form of a mid-Heian period commentary to the Yoro code of 757 called Ryo no shuge (c. 868) that includes citations from a commentary to the Taino code of 701 known as the "Old Record".

(20.) See Ryo no shuge 2, Shintei zoho Kokushi taikei, ed. Kuroita Katsumi (Yoshikawa kabunkan, 1974), 447.

(21.) Hayden White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," in The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1987), 16. Indeed, the sovereign is the explicit or implicit grammatical subject of almost all court actions and pronouncements recorded in the Nihon shoki.

(22.) The Nihon shoki has no authorial perspective in the modern sense, the kind that some twentieth-century theorists have conceived as a "triangle" of representation. Neither does it have the kind of "official court scribe" perspective that can be seen in much Sinic historiography--perhaps most famously in the commentaries of the "Lord Grand Historian" at the end of each volume of the Shiji. The Nihon shoki editors are anonymous, occasionally citing other texts (none of which are extant) when offering variant accounts of the same incident.

(23.) See Nishimiya Kazutami, Nihon jodai no bunsho to hyoki (Kazama shobo, 1970). For a more recent overview, see Mori Hiromichi, Nihon shoki no nazo wo toku: josakusha wa dare ka (Chao shinsho, 1999), who argues that one of the compilers was a native speaker of Tang Chinese and the other a non-speaker of Chinese from Yamato.

(24.) SNKZ Kojiki (Shogakukan, 1997), 18-21.

(25.) A process described in Yiwenleiju 73.4. See Ouyang Xun, ed. and comp., Yiwen leiju, vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua shiju, 1965), 1255.

(26.) Poem no. 73 in the Kaifuso, by Ki no Obito, refers to Yoshino as "the southern peak" and describes it as "the dwelling of immortals". See Kaifuiso, Bunka shureishu Honcho monzui, NKBT vol. 69 (Iwanami shoten, 1964), 136-37.

(27.) SNKZ Kojiki (Shogakukan, 1997), 16-17.

(28.) See SNKZ Nihon shoki 1 (Shogakukan, 1994), 230-31.

(29.) Like its classical Sink models, the Nihon shoki is full of expressions that refer to military conquest as a "purifying." This can be seen in such phrases such as "all within the seas has been purified and pacified" (Keitai 7.12.8, in SNKZ Nihon shoki 2, 304-5), "all under heaven has been purified and calmed" (Keitai 24.2.1, in SNKZ Nihon shoki 2, 322-23), "within and without has been purified and cleared" (Ankan 2.1, in SNKZ Nihon shoki 2, 342-43).

(30.) See Shangshu zhengyi, in Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 3, 341-42. The source for the Nihon shoki episode is probably an unattributed citation in Yiwen leiju, which notes that "After King Wu overcame the Shang, he released his oxen and horses into the fields around Taolin". See Yiwen leiju, vol. 2, 1467. For a detailed commentary on the complete Kojiki preface see David Lurie. "Ideology and Writing: The Kojiki and Its Preface," in "The Origins of Writing in Early Japan" (PhD. diss., Columbia Univ., 2001).

(31.) SNICZ Kojiki, 20-21.

(32.) See, for instance, Gary Ebersole, Ritual Poetry and the Politics of Death in Early Japan (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1989), 8.

(33.) It should be emphasized that the claim that the Kojiki was commissioned by Tenmu is not confirmed anywhere else. For a discussion of the Kojiki preface, see Lurie, "The Origins of Writing in Early Japan," 246-305.

(34.) This is according to the Nihon shoki account. It is likely, however, that the crown prince during Kogyoku's reign was not Tenchi but his older brother Furuhito no Oe.

(35.) Jomei (r. 629-641) and Kogyoku/Saimei.

(36.) The Nihon shoki lists Yakako last of Tenchi's eleven wives, after his main consort (daughter of his elder half-brother), four "wives" (daughters of high-ranking lineage leaders), four "palace women", and two women who appear to be the daughters of provincial chieftains. Yakako's son's name was initially "Prince Iga" (not exactly a flattering name) and was later changed to "Prince Otomo." This name is often confused (at least in English-language scholarship) with that of the famous Otomo lineage that fought on Tenmu's side in the Jinshin conflict, but in fact Prince Otomo's name derives from that of a lesser lineage which is written with different graphs.

(37.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 292-93.

(38.) Ibid., 300-303. The first Tenmu volume dates this event to the "fourth year, tenth month, seventeenth day." It would seem that whereas the Tenchi volume counted Tenchi's reign from Saimei's death in 661, the Tenmu volume counted it from the year after his official accession in 668. The Tenchi volume's stance is somewhat contradictory, however, since it refers to Tenchi as "the Crown Prince" until his official accession in 668. Some have speculated that Tenchi's sister Hashihito, who was the previous sovereign Kotoku's consort, may have reigned as an interim sovereign between Saimei and Tenchi. See, for instance, Kobayashi Toshio, "Nakatsu sumeramikoto ni tsuite," in Kodai jotei no jidai (Azekura shobo, 1987), 212-49. The Nihon shoki provides no indication of this, but the date of Hashihito's death in 665, her joint burial together with Saimei one month before the move of the capital to Omi in 667, and her identification with a person called "The Intermediate Sovereign" (Nakatsu sumeramikoto) in the Man'yoshu do indeed suggest this.

(39.) Kuramoto Kazuhiro argues that the account in the Tenchi volume was probably closer to historical reality. His evidence for this is that in the Tenchi volume, Tenchi's main wife and his son Otomo are referred to as "the Great Consort" and "Lord Prince", whereas in the Tenmu volume they are described as "the Imperial Consort" and "the Imperial Prince". This suggests that the Tenmu account was written after the establishment of the title of "Heavenly Sovereign in Tenmu's reign and its institutionalization together with other imperial titles in Jito's reign, whereas the Tenchi account preserves "pre-imperial" titles. As a reference in the Yuryaku volume of the Nihon shoki to the "King, Great Consort, and Lord Prince" of Paekche indicates, "Great Consort" and "Lord Prince" are titles that would have corresponded to the main wife and son of a "King" not an imperial "Heavenly Sovereign." I certainly agree with Kuramoto that this seems to be an instance where the Nihon shoki compilers of the Tenchi volume "slipped" and did not convert the titles into imperial ones, thus leaving traces of an older account. What I disagree with is his assumption that the "older" account is more likely to be based in historical fact. See Kuramoto, Jinshin no ran (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2007), 32-33.

(40.) Koguryo had been destroyed by Silla and the Tang in 668. These envoys are from the puppet state of Koguryo that Silla had established in the old territory of Paekche.

(41.) The entries occur in the intercalary sixth month and in the eighth month of the second year. See SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 352-55.

(42.) See Konoshi, Kakinomoto no Hitomaro kenkyu: kodai waka bungaku no seiritsu (Hanawa shobo, 1992), 145-46.

(43.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 388-89.

(44.) This was argued by Kitayama Shigeo, "Jito tenno ron," in Nihon kodai seijishi no kenkyu (Iwanami shoten, 1959), 121-233.

(45.) The pledge also makes reference to Tenmu's other younger male children when Kusakabe says, "We, older and younger brothers, mature and young, more than ten lords in all." The fact that Tenmu's other sons Naga (d. 715), Yuge (d. 699), Hozumi, Shiki, Niitabe, and Toneri (the head compiler of the Nihon shoki) are not present to speak the pledge was probably due to their being too young at the time, but as Kusakabe's words indicate, the content of the pledge was clearly meant to apply to them too.

(46.) Teranishi Sadahiro argues that this was in fact the main objective of the pledge. See "Uno no himemiko to Yoshino no meiyaku" in Kodai tennosei shiron: koi keisho to Tenmu die) no koshitsu (Osaka: Sogensha, 1988), 113-32.

(47.) Tenmu had nine other wives, of whom three were, like Jito, Tenchi's daughters. Tenmu may have been able to leave the other mothers out because they were either deceased (the mother of Prince Otsu, Jito's elder sister Princess Ota, had died in 667 during Tenchi's reign), or were of low rank (the mothers of Tenmu's two sons Prince Takechi and Prince Osakabe, and Tenchi's sons Prince Kawashima and Prince Shiki. On the other hand, the mothers of the younger princes were of high rank: Naga and Yuge's mother was a princess (Tenchi's daughter Oe) and Niitabe's mother was Kamatari's daughter be), but this may not have been a factor since the princes themselves were too young to participate in the pledge.

(48.) Akima, "Hitomaro to Omi," Bungaku 44 (Oct. 1976), 1307-23.

(49.) The phrase I translate as "is the first to assume the throne" can also be interpreted as "has recently assumed the throne" in order to avoid the connotations of dynastic change. However, there is no mistaking the sense of "has newly pacified all under heaven," and from a stylistic perspective, "first" parallels "new" much better than "recently."

(50.) This is not to say that the motif of Tenmu as a dynastic founder is completely absent from the overall plot of the Nihon shoki. One striking reminder of Tenmu's special status is the division of his reign into two volumes, the first an account of how he came to power and the second a chronicle of his actual reign. This follows the model of the Han shu (J. Kanjo, Documents of the Han, c. 92 c.E.), which assigns two volumes to the founder of the Han dynasty Gaozu (r. 202-195 B.c.E.), and the Hou Han shu (J. Gokanjo, Documents of the Later Han, c. 432 c.E.), which gives two volumes to the founder of the Later Han dynasty, the Guangwu emperor (r. 5-57 c.E.).

(51.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 472-75.

(52.) Aston's translation mistakenly has it referring to the Tenmu volume. See W. G. Aston, Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697 (Boston: Tuttle, 1972), vol. 2,382.

(53.) See Torquil Duthie, "Omikotoka no sakuchti shutai no nimensei," Ridai bungaku (Nov. 2003), 27-41.

(54.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 492-95.

(55.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 286-88.

(56.) I should make clear that the above variant is somewhat suspect, particularly since it appears in close proximity to the note immediately following the passage concerning the detailed description of the cap-rank regulations in "the New Ritsuryo codes", which is believed by many to be a later interpolation. But whether the variant attributing the act of promulgating the codes to Prince Otomo was in the original Nihon shoki text or was a later addition, it still represents an alternative narrative.

(57.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 302-3.

(58.) Saigo Nobutsuna notes that the tiger is a figure of awesome might, but does not comment on its negative connotations. See Jinshinki o yomu: Rekishi to bunka to gengo (Heibonsha sensho, 1993), 32-33.

(59.) Hanfeizi jijie (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 389-40; Kanpishi 40 in Shinshaku kanbun taikei, vol. 12 (Meiji shoin, 1964), 709.

(60.) Huainan honglie jijie (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1989), 490; Enanji 15 in Shinshaku kanbun taikei, vol. 62 (Meiji shoin, 1982), 820.

(61.) Or "beat its wings." I am interpreting as in light of the Han Feizi and the Huainanzi examples. The point, in any case, is that it is a tiger with wings.

(62.) See Monzen: fuhen 1, Shinshaku kanbun taikei 79 (Izumi shoin), 136.

(63.) Kaifuso, Bunka shureishu, Honcho monzui, NKBT vol. 69 (Iwanami shoten, 1964), 59-60.

(64.) Ibid., 62. The English translation of this phrase is from Wiebke Denecke, "Chinese Antiquity and Court Spectacle in Early Kanshi," Journal of Japanese Studies 30:1 (2004), 105.

(65.) Ibid., 68-71.

(66.) See Monzen: fuhen 1, 145. This rhapsody is also in Yiwen leiju, 61.1. See Yiwen leiju, vol. 2, 1100-1102. Of twelve instances of the character in the Yiwen leiju, five occur in the expression "cunning giant", referring to Wang Mang, thus suggesting that the reference was a well-known one.

(67.) This is its sense in the classical phrase, "the barbarian tribes rebel against our court," which appears in the Shang shu and is quoted in countless other texts, including the Shiji, Han shu, Hou Han shu, etc., as well as in Yiwen leiju 49-4. See Shangshu zhengyi, in Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 2, 89, and Yiwen letju, vol. 2, 882. The third-century C.E. dictionary Guangya also gives katsu as a synonym for. See Guang ya shu zheng (Nanjing: Jiangsu gu ji chu ban she, 2000), 79.

(68.) Toshikaden: Kamatari, Joe, Muchimaro den chushaku to kenkyu, ed. Okimori Takuya et al. (Yoshikawa kobunkan. 1999), 221-22.

(69.) Otsu was born in 663 and Tenchi died in 671.

(70.) SNKZ Nihon shoki 3 (Shogakukan, 1998), 474-77.

(71.) In every other occasion in the Nihon shoki the prince is referred to as "the Otsu prince" or "Prince Otsu". The Prince's name originally derives from another Otsu palace in Kyushu, where he was born in 663.

(72.) See Michel-Rolph Trouillot, "The Power in the Story," in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon, 1995), 1-30.


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Author:Duthie, Torquil
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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