- Empress Suiko
was the 33rd "tenno" of
Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, and the first of eight women to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne. [The seven Empresses who reigned after Suiko were: (a) Kōgyoku/Saimei, (b) Jitō, (c) Gemmei, (d) Genshō, (e) Kōken/Shōtoku, (f) Meishō, and (g) Go-Sakuramachi.] Her reign spanned the years from 593 until her death in 628. [Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). "Annales des empereurs du Japon," pp. 39-42; Brown, Delmer "et al." (1979). "Gukanshō," pp. 263-264; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). "Jinnō Shōtōki," pp. 126-129.]
Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name (her "iminia") [Brown, pp. 264. [Up until the time of Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the emperors (their "iminia") were very long and people did not generally use them. The number of characters in each name diminished after Jomei's reign.] ] was Mikekashiya-hime-no-mikoto. [Varley, p. 126.] , also called Toyomike Kashikiya hime no Mikoto. [Ashton, William. (2005). "Nihongi," p. 95 n2.]
Empress Suiko had several names including Princess Nukatabe and (possibly posthumous) Toyomike Kashikiya. She was the third daughter of
Emperor Kimmei. Her mother was Soga no Iname's daughter, Soga no Kitashihime. Suiko was the younger sister of Emperor Yōmei. They had the same mother.
Events of Suiko's life
Empress Suiko was a consort to her half-brother,
Emperor Bidatsu, but after Bidatsu's first wife died she became his official consort and was given the title Ōkisaki (official consort of the emperor). She bore two sons and three daughters.
After Bidatsu's death, Suiko's brother,
Emperor Yōmei, came to power for a brief period of about two years before dying of illness. Upon Yōmei's death, another power struggle arose between the Soga clanand the Mononobe clan, with the Sogas supporting Prince Hatsusebe and the Mononobes supporting Prince Anahobe. The Sogas prevailed once again and Prince Hatsusebe acceded to the throne as Emperor Sushunin 587. However, Sushun began to resent the power of Soga no Umako, the head of the Soga clan, and Umako, perhaps out of fear that Sushun might strike first, had him assassinated by nihongo|Yamatoaya no Ataikoma|東漢直駒 in 592. When asked to accede to the throne to fill the power vacuum that subsequently developed, Suiko became the first of what would be several examples in Japanese history where a woman was chosen to accede to the throne to avert a power struggle.
* "593 ": In the 2nd year of Sushun"-tennō"'s reign (崇峻天皇2年), he died; and contemporary scholars then construed that the succession (‘‘senso’’) [Varley, p. 44. [A distinct act of "senso" is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have "senso" and "sokui" in the same year until the reign of Go-Murakami.] ] was received by the consort of former Emperor Bidatsu. Shortly thereafter, Empress Suiko is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’). [Titsingh, p. 39; Brown, pp. 263-264; Varley, p. 126-127.]
Prince Shōtokuwas appointed regent the following year. Although political power during Suiko's reign is widely viewed as having been wielded by Prince Shōtoku and Soga no Umako, Suiko was far from powerless. The mere fact that she survived and her reign endured is proof of not insignificant of political skills.
In this period, there were difficulties other than political ones. For example, in 599, an earthquake destroyed buildings throughout
Yamato provincein what is now Nara Prefecture. [Hammer, Joshua. (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=yokohama+burning&sig=rbgbEDXJV5fht4wdSD1HBoAMANg#PPA62,M1 "Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II," p. 62] -63.]
Suiko's refusal to grant Soga no Umako's request that he be granted the imperial territory known as Kazuraki no Agata in 624 is cited as evidence of her independence from his influence. Some of the many achievements under Empress Suiko's reign include the official recognition of Buddhism by the issuance of the Flourishing Three Treasures Edict in 594, the opening of relations with the Sui court in 600, the adoption of the
Twelve Level Cap and Rank Systemin 603 and the adoption of the Seventeen-article constitutionin 604. Suiko was also one of the first Buddhist monarchs in Japan and had taken the vows of a nunshortly before becoming empress.
At a time when imperial succession was generally determined by clan leaders, rather than the emperor, Suiko left only vague indications of succession to two candidates while on her deathbed. One, Prince Tamura, was a grandson of Emperor Bidatsu and was supported by the main line of Sogas, including
Soga no Emishi. The other, Prince Yamashiro, was a son of Prince Shōtoku and had the support of some lesser members of the Soga clan. After a brief struggle within the Soga clan in which one of Prince Yamashiro's main supporters was killed, Prince Tamura was chosen and he acceded to the throne as Emperor Jomeiin 629.
Empress Suiko ruled for 35 years. Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century. [ [http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070327i1.html "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl,"] "Japan Times." March 27, 2007.]
Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
* Aston, William G. (2005). "Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697." Tokyo:
Charles E. Tuttle Company. ISBN 0-804-83674-4
* Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979). [
Jien, c. 1220] , " Gukanshō(The Future and the Past, a translation and study of the Gukanshō, an interpretative history of Japan written in 1219)." Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
* Hammer, Joshua. (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Tokyo+1923&lr=&source=gbs_summary_r "Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II."] New York:
Simon & Schuster. 10-ISBN 0-743-26465-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-743-26465-5 (cloth)
* Titsingh, Isaac, ed. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/
Hayashi Gahō, 1652 ] , " Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M. Isaac Titsingh avec l'aide de plusieurs interprètes attachés au comptoir hollandais de Nangasaki; ouvrage re., complété et cor. sur l'original japonais-chinois, accompagné de notes et précédé d'un Aperçu d'histoire mythologique du Japon, par M. J. Klaproth." Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. [http://books.google.com/books?id=18oNAAAAIAAJ&dq=nipon+o+dai+itsi+ran ...Click link for digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)]
* Varley, H. Paul , ed. (1980). [
Kitabatake Chikafusa, 1359] , " Jinnō Shōtōki("A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa" translated by H. Paul Varley)." New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04940-4
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