Japan in the 8th century experienced sudden and intense economic and cultural growth. At the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the islands participated in a cosmopolitan East Asian sphere, receiving new innovations in art, architecture, law, and religion from both Tang China and the Korean peninsula. The disruption was so extreme that some have compared this period to the modern Meiji era, when Japan opened itself to the West and rapidly transformed itself into a modern nation.Nara was the capital for most of the century; it was an urban center with a population of about 100,000. The years 749-757 saw the dedication of the Giant Buddha statue at Todaiji, the abdication of the great Buddhist Emperor Shomu, and the accession of his daughter, Empress Koken. She was the last premodern empress of Japan, the sixth of a remarkable series of women rulers in ancient Japan.The year 757 was an especially turbulent year, with the failed conspiracy of Tachibana no Naramaro. The Empress Koken and her loyal nobles almost immediately smashed the plot and exiled or executed about 400 of the aristocratic conspirators.This is a translation of the Shoku Nihongi for the years 749-757. Shoku Nihongiwas the official court chronicle of eighth-century Japan, presented to the court of Emperor Kanmu in 797. The language of the narrative is classical Chinese, but it also includes 62 imperial edicts inscribed in Old Japanese. It is an invaluable source the history of Japan's Nara period, providing both great detail about court life, the texts of imperial edicts, and narratives of events such as the dedication of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), the death of Emperor Shomu, and the Tachibana Naramaro conspiracy.
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About the Author
Ross Bender received the Ph.D. in Premodern Japanese History and Religion from Columbia University in 1980. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles, book reviews, translations, and the chapter on Nara in the textbook "Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850."