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Heian Palace

Heian Palace

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The Heian Palace was the original imperial palace of Heian-kyō
Heian-kyo
Heian-kyō , was one of several former names for the city now known as Kyoto. It was the capital of Japan for over one thousand years, from 794 to 1868 with an interruption in 1180....

 (present-day Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

), the capital of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, from 794 to 1227. In Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, this palace is called Daidairi. The palace, which served as the imperial residence and the administrative centre of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 for most of the Heian Period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

 (from 794 to 1185), was located at the north-central location of the city in accordance with the Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 models used for the design of the capital.

The palace consisted of a large rectangular walled enclosure, which contained several ceremonial and administrative buildings including the government ministries. Inside this enclosure was the separately walled residential compound of the emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 or the Inner Palace. In addition to the emperor's living quarters, the Inner Palace contained the residences of the imperial consorts, as well as certain official and ceremonial buildings more closely linked to the person of the emperor.

The original role of the palace was to manifest the centralised government model adopted by Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 from China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 in the 7th century—the Daijō-kan and its subsidiary Eight Ministries. The palace was designed to provide an appropriate setting for the emperor's residence, the conduct of great affairs of state, and the accompanying ceremonies. While the residential function of the palace continued until the 12th century, the facilities built for grand state ceremonies began to fall into disuse by the 9th century. This was due to both the abandonment of several statutory ceremonies and procedures and the transfer of several remaining ceremonies into the smaller-scale setting of the Inner Palace.

From the mid-Heian period, the palace suffered several fires and other disasters. During reconstructions, emperors and some of the office functions resided outside of the palace. This, along with the general loss of political power of the court, acted to further diminish the importance of the palace as the administrative centre. Finally in 1227 the palace burned down and was never rebuilt. The site was built over so that almost no trace of it remains. Knowledge of the palace is thus based on contemporary literary sources, surviving diagrams and paintings, and limited excavations conducted mainly since the late 1970s.

Location


The palace was located at the northern centre of the rectangular Heian-kyō, following the Chinese model (specifically that of the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 capital of Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

) adopted already for the two earlier capitals Heijō-kyō (in present-day Nara
Nara, Nara
is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture...

) and Nagaoka-kyō. The south-eastern corner of the Greater Palace was located in the middle of the present-day Nijō Castle
Nijo Castle
is a flatland castle located in Kyoto, Japan. The castle consists of two concentric rings of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, various support buildings and several gardens...

. The main entrance to the palace was the Suzakumon gate (35°0′49"N 135°44′32"E), which formed the northern terminus of the great Suzaku Avenue
Suzaku Avenue
is the name given to the central avenue leading to the Imperial Palace from the south in Japanese capitals. Traditionally the Imperial palace complex faces south, whilst Suzaku Avenue leads directly away from the main gate. Cities were often based on a traditional Chinese grid pattern. Suzaku...

 that ran through the centre of the city from the Rashōmon
Rashomon
Rashomon may refer to:* Rashōmon, the former main city gate in two Japanese capital cities, Heijokyō and Heiankyō * Rashōmon , a short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa first published in 1915...

 gate. The palace thus faced south and presided over the symmetrical urban plan of Heian-kyō. In addition to the Suzakumon gate, the palace had 13 other gates located symmetrically along the side walls. A led to each of the gates, except for the three along the northern side of the palace, which was coterminous with the northern boundary of the city itself.

Greater Palace (Daidairi)


The was a walled rectangular area extending approximately 1.4 kilometre (0.869921831309729 mi) from north to south between the first and second major east-west avenues ( and and 1.2 kilometre (0.745647283979768 mi) from west to east between the and north-south avenues.
The three main structures within the Greater Palace were the Official Compound , the Reception Compound and the .


Chōdō-in was a rectangular walled enclosure situated directly to the north of the Suzakumon gate in the centre of the southern wall of the Greater Palace. It was based on Chinese models and followed Chinese architectural styles, and archaeological evidence from earlier capitals shows that this building complex was present in earlier palaces and had a remarkably stable design from the 7th century onwards.

The main building within the Chōdō-in was the or the Great Audience Hall, facing south at the northern end of the compound. This was a large (approximately 52 m (170 ft) east to west and 20 m (65 ft) north to south) Chinese-style building with white walls, vermilion pillars and green tiled roofs, intended to host the most important state ceremonies and functions. The southern part of the Chōdō-in was occupied by the Twelve Halls where the bureaucracy was seated for ceremonies according to strict order of precedence. The Heian Jingū
Heian Jingu
The is a Shinto shrine located in Kyoto, Japan. The torii before the main gate is one of the largest in Japan. The architecture of the mirrors the stylge and features of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.-History:thumb|right|220px|Lake at Heian Shrine...

 shrine in Kyoto includes an apparently faithful reconstruction of the Daigokuden in somewhat reduced scale.

It was in the Chōdō-in that Accession Audiences were held, the emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 was supposed to preside over early morning deliberations on major state affairs by the bureaucracy, receive monthly reports from officials, hold New Year Congratulations and receive foreign ambassadors. However, the practice of the morning deliberations ceased to be followed by 810 as did the monthly reports. Foreign ambassadors were no longer received for most of the Heian period, and the New Year celebrations were abbreviated and moved into the Dairi by the end of the 10th century, leaving the Accession Audiences and certain Buddhist ceremonials as the only ones held in the Chōdō-in.

The Buraku-in was another large rectangular Chinese-style compound, situated to the west of the Chōdō-in. It was built for official celebrations and banquets and used also for other types of entertainment such as archery contests. Like the Chōdō-in, also the Buraku-in had a hall at the central northern end of the enclosure overseeing the court. This hall, the , was used by the emperor and courtiers presiding over activities in the Buraku-in. However, like the Chōdō-in, the Buraku-in also fell gradually into disuse as many functions were moved to the Dairi. Its site is one of the few within the palace area that has been excavated.

Apart from the Inner Palace, the remaining area of the Greater Palace was occupied by ministries, lesser offices, workshops, storage buildings and the large open space of the Banqueting Pine Grove or to the east of the Dairi. The buildings of the Council of State or were situated in a walled enclosure immediately to the east of the Chōdō-in, laid out in the typical symmetrical plan of buildings opening to a courtyard in the south. The palace also housed the , apart from Tō-ji
To-ji
is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect in Kyoto, Japan. Its name means East Temple, and it once had a partner, Sai-ji . They stood alongside the Rashomon, the gate to the Heian capital. It is formally known as which indicates that it previously functioned as a temple providing protection for the...

 and Sai-ji
Sai-ji
or the West Temple was one of the two large Buddhist temples established in Kyoto, Japan.-History:Sai-ji was founded in the early Heian period. The temple dates from 796, two years after the capital moved to Heian-kyō. Sai-ji was established together with the other temple, Tō-ji...

, the only Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 establishment permitted within the capital. Its placement right next to the Inner Palace shows the influence of the Shingon sect
Shingon Buddhism
is one of the mainstream major schools of Japanese Buddhism and one of the few surviving Esoteric Buddhist lineages that started in the 3rd to 4th century CE that originally spread from India to China through traveling monks such as Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra...

 during the early Heian Period.

Inner Palace (Dairi)


The Inner Palace or Dairi was located to the north-east of the Chōdō-in, somewhat to the east of the central north-south axis of the Greater Palace. Its central feature was the Throne Hall. The Dairi encompassed the emperor's quarters and the pavilions of the imperial consorts and ladies-in-waiting (collectively, the Kōkyū
Kokyu
The is a traditional Japanese string instrument, the only one played with a bow. Although it was introduced to Japan from China along with the shamisen, its material, shape, and sound are unique to Japan...

). The Dairi was enclosed within two sets of walls. In addition to the Dairi itself, the outer walls enclosed some household offices, storage areas, and the , a walled area of Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 buildings associated with the emperor's religious functions, situated to the west of the Dairi itself, at the geographic centre of the Greater Palace. The principal gate of the larger enclosure was the , located in the southern wall along the median north-south axis of the Dairi.

The Dairi proper, the residential compound of the emperor, was enclosed within another set of walls to the east of Chūwain. It measured approximately 215 m (710 ft) north to south and 170 m (560 ft) east to west. The main gate was the at the centre of the southern wall of the Dairi enclosure, immediately to the north of the Kenreimon gate. In contrast to the solemn official Chinese-style architecture of the Chōdō-in and the Buraku-in, the Dairi was built in more intimate Japanese architectural style — if still on a grand scale. The Inner Palace represented a variant of the shinden style architecture used in the aristocratic villas and houses of the period. The buildings, with unpainted surfaces and gabled and shingled cypress bark roofs, were raised on elevated wooden platforms and connected to each other with covered and uncovered slightly elevated passages. Between the buildings and passages were gravel yards and small gardens.

The largest building of the Dairi was the Throne Hall or , a building reserved for official functions. It was a rectangular hall measuring approximately 30 m (98 ft) east to west and 25 m (82 ft) north to south, and situated along the median north-south axis of the Dairi, overseeing a rectangular courtyard and facing the Shōmeimon gate. A tachibana orange tree and a sakura cherry tree stood symmetrically on both sides of the front staircase of the building. The courtyard was flanked on both sides by smaller halls connected to the Shishinden, creating the same configuration of buildings (influenced by Chinese examples) that was found in the aristocratic shinden style villas of the period.


The Shishinden was used for official functions and ceremonies that were not held at the Daigokuden of the Chōdō-in complex. It took over much of the intended use of the larger and more formal building from an early date, as the daily business of government ceased to be conducted in the presence of the emperor in the Daigokuden already at the beginning of the ninth century. Connected to this diminishing reliance on the official government procedures described in the Ritsuryō code
Ritsuryo
is the historical law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese Legalism in Japan. The political system in accord to Ritsuryō is called "Ritsuryō-sei"...

was the establishment of a personal secretariat to the emperor, the Chamberlain's Office or . This office, which increasingly took over the role of coordinating the work of government organs, was set up in the , the hall to the south-west of the Shishinden.

To the north of the Shishinden stood the , a similarly constructed hall of somewhat smaller size that was intended to function as the emperor's living quarters. However, beginning already in the ninth century, the emperors often chose to reside in other buildings of the Dairi. A third still smaller hall, the was located next to the north along the main axis of the Dairi. After the Dairi was rebuilt following a fire in 960, the regular residence of the emperors moved to the smaller , an east-facing building located immediately to the north-west from Shishinden. Gradually the Seiryōden began to be used increasingly for meetings as well, with emperors spending much of their time in this part of the palace. The busiest part of the building was the , where high-ranking nobles came to meet in the presence of the emperor.

The empress, as well as the official and unofficial imperial consorts, was also housed in the Dairi, occupying buildings in the northern part of the enclosure. The most prestigious buildings, housing the empress and the official consorts, were the ones that had appropriate locations for such use according to the originally Chinese design principles (the , the and the , as well as the ones closest to the imperial residence in Seiryōden (the and the ).
The lesser consorts and ladies-in-waiting occupied other buildings in the northern half of the Dairi.

One of the Imperial Regalia of Japan
Imperial Regalia of Japan
The , also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, consist of the sword Kusanagi , the mirror Yata no Kagami , and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama...

, the emperor's replica of the sacred mirror
Yata no kagami
is a sacred mirror that is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. It is said to be housed in Ise Shrine in Mie prefecture, Japan, although a lack of public access makes this difficult to verify. The Yata no Kagami represents "wisdom" or "honesty," depending on the source. Its name literally means...

, was also housed in the of the Dairi.

The present-day Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Gosho
The is an imperial palace of Japan, though the Emperor of Japan is not in residence. The Emperor has resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace since 1869 and ordered the preservation of the Kyōto Imperial Palace in 1877....

, located in what was the north-eastern corner of Heian-kyō, reproduces much of the Heian-period Dairi, in particular the Shishinden and the Seiryōden.

History


The palace was the first and most important structure to be erected at the new capital of Heian-kyō, where the court moved in 794 following Emperor Kanmu's order. The palace was not completely ready by the time of the move, however—the Daigokuden was completed only in 795, and the government office in charge of its construction was disbanded only in 805.

The grand Chinese-style compounds of Chōdō-in and Buraku-in started to fall into disuse quite early on, in parallel with the decline of the elaborate Chinese-inspired ritsuryō government processes and bureaucracy, which were gradually either abandoned or reduced to empty forms. The centre of gravity of the palace complex moved to the Inner Palace or Dairi, and the Shishinden and later even the Seiryōden overtook the Daigokuden as loci for the conduct of official government business.

In parallel with the concentration of activity within the Dairi, the Greater Palace began to be regarded as increasingly unsafe, especially by night. One reason may be the prevalent superstition of the period: uninhabited buildings were avoided for fear of spirits and ghosts, and even the great Buraku-in compound was thought to be haunted. In addition, the level of actual security maintained at the palace went into decline, and by the early 11th century only one palace gate, the Yōmeimon in the east, appears to have been guarded. Hence burglary and even violent crime became a problem within the palace by the first half of 11th century.

Fires were a constant problem as the palace compound was constructed almost entirely of wood. The Daigokuden was reconstructed after fires in 876, 1068 and in 1156 despite its limited use. However, after the major fire of 1177 which destroyed much of the Greater Palace, the Daigokuden was never again rebuilt. The Burakuin was destroyed by a fire in 1063 and was never rebuilt.

As of 960, the Dairi was also repeatedly destroyed by fires, but it was systematically rebuilt and used as the official imperial residence until the late 12th century. During periods of rebuilding the Dairi following fires, the emperors frequently had to stay at their secondary palaces within the city. Often these secondary palaces were provided by the powerful Fujiwara family, which especially in the latter part of the Heian period exercised de facto control of politics by providing consorts to successive emperors. Thus the residences of the emperors' maternal grandparents started to usurp the residential role of the palace even before the end of the Heian period. The institution of rule by retired emperors or the from 1086 further added to the declining importance of the palace as retired emperors exercised power from their own residential palaces inside and outside the city.

After a fire in 1177, the original palace complex was abandoned and emperors resided in smaller palaces (the former sato-dairi) within the city and villas outside of it. In 1227 a fire finally destroyed what remained of the Dairi, and the old Greater Palace went into complete disuse. In 1334 Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo was the 96th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession....

 issued an edict to rebuild the Greater Palace, but no resources were available to support this and the project came to nothing. The present Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Gosho
The is an imperial palace of Japan, though the Emperor of Japan is not in residence. The Emperor has resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace since 1869 and ordered the preservation of the Kyōto Imperial Palace in 1877....

 is located immediately to the west of the site of the , the great Fujiwara residence in the north-eastern corner of the city.

Primary sources


While the palace itself has been completely destroyed, a significant amount of information regarding it has been obtained from contemporary and almost contemporary sources. The Heian Palace figures as a background for action in many Heian period literary texts, both fiction and non-fiction. These provide important information on the palace itself, court ceremonies and functions held there as well as everyday routines of the courtiers living or working there. Notable examples include the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

, the so-called Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon
Sei Shonagon
Sei Shōnagon , was a Japanese author and a court lady who served the Empress Teishi around the year 1000 during the middle Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Pillow Book .-Name:...

 and the chronicle Eiga Monogatari
Eiga monogatari
is a Japanese monogatari, or epic, which relates events in the life of courtier Fujiwara no Michinaga. It is believed to have been written by a number of authors, over the course of roughly a century, from 1028 to 1107....

. In addition, paintings in certain emakimono
Emakimono
, often simply called , is a horizontal, illustrated narrative form created during the 11th to 16th centuries in Japan. Emakimono combines both text and pictures, and is drawn, painted, or stamped on a handscroll...

picture scrolls depict (sometimes fictional) scenes that took place at the palace; the Genji Monogatari Emaki, dating from about 1130 is perhaps the best-known example. Finally, there are also partially damaged contemporary maps of the palace from the 10th and 12th centuries showing the layout and function of the buildings within Dairi.

In addition to literary evidence, archaeological excavation conducted mainly since the late 1970s have revealed further information about the palace. In particular, the existence and location of buildings such as the Buraku-in compound has been verified against the contemporary documentary sources.

Further reading

. The main Japanese reference work on the Palace according to McCullough (1999). First volume of a ten-volume general history of Kyoto.. Originally published in 1964.. A reissue of the 1931 ed. published in Hong Kong, with some new illus. and minor changes, under title: Kyoto: its history and vicissitudes since its foundation in 792 to 1868. First published in article form 1925–28.

External links