Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Kuge

Kuge

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Kuge'
Start a new discussion about 'Kuge'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The was a 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...

ese aristocratic
Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India,...

 class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 that dominated the Japanese imperial court in 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:...

 until the rise of the Shogunate in the 12th century at which point it was eclipsed by the daimyo
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

. The kuge still provided a weak court around 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...

 right up until the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

.

History


The word means literally "public house" or "public family" and originally described the Emperor and his court. The meaning of the word changed over time to designate bureaucrat
Bureaucrat
A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can comprise the administration of any organization of any size, though the term usually connotes someone within an institution of a government or corporation...

s at the court. Later, in the Kamakura period
Kamakura period
The is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura Shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo....

 (1185-1333), kuge became an antonym to buke (warriors' house), that is, samurai who swore loyalty to the Shogunate. At this point, kuge began to be used to describe those who worked in the Court; both aristocratic noblemen and commoners.

Two classes formed the kuge: the noblemen who sat on the floor with the Emperor and the who were unable to sit with the Emperor. Although kuge included those two classes, mainly this word described the dōjō, the noblemen.

The highest offices at the court were called kugyō
Kugyo
is the collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras. The kugyō was broadly divided into two groups: the , comprising the Chancellor of the Realm, the Minister of the Left, and the Minister of the Right; and the , comprising the...

and eligibility was limited to members of dōjō kuge. During the Edo period there were about 130 families of dōjō kuge. The most prominent members of the kuge became sessho or kampaku, acting as imperial regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

s. These daijō-kan offices were restricted to members of the Fujiwara family
Fujiwara family
The Fujiwara clan , descending from the Nakatomi clan, was a powerful family of regents in Japan.The clan originated when the founder, Nakatomi no Kamatari , was rewarded by Emperor Tenji with the honorific "Fujiwara", which evolved as a surname for Kamatari and his descendants...

.

Though they lost most of their political power, they sustained the court culture and maintained a cultural influence. In particular, after the Sengoku period they lost most of their financial basis and were no longer in a position to act as patrons of culture, but they passed on their knowledge as masters of particular fields such as writing waka
Waka (poetry)
Waka or Yamato uta is a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature...

 and playing instruments like the biwa
Biwa
The is a Japanese short-necked fretted lute, often used in narrative storytelling. The biwa is the chosen instrument of Benten, goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education in Japanese Shinto....

, and they had disciples among the daimyo
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 and sometimes rich commoners. As masters of a certain field, kuge gave their disciples many licenses certifying that the disciples had learned a certain field and allowed them to perform in public or sometimes to teach others. Disciples were expected to pay their master a fee for each issued license. During the Edo period, this was an important source of income for the kuge.

In 1869 during the Meiji restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

 the kuge merged with the daimyo to form a single aristocratic group, the kazoku
Kazoku
The was the hereditary peerage of the Empire of Japan that existed between 1869 and 1947.-Origins:Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the ancient court nobility of Kyoto regained some of its lost status...

.

Others associated with the kuge included Buddhist priests, Kyoto cultural patrons, geisha
Geisha
, Geiko or Geigi are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.-Terms:...

, and actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s.

Classification


In the 12th century conventional differences were established among the dōjō, separating the kuge into groups according to their office at court. These determined the highest office to which they could be appointed. The groupings were:: could be appointed as sessho and kampaku: This was the highest class of kuge. Only five families belonged to this class, all derived from Fujiwara no Michinaga
Fujiwara no Michinaga
represents the highpoint of the Fujiwara regents' control over the government of Japan.-Early life:He was the fourth or fifth son of Fujiwara no Kaneie by his wife Tokihime, daughter of Fujiwara no Nakamasa...

.: could be appointed daijin (minister), including daijō-daijin, the highest of the four daijin of the court. They derived from the Fujiwara clan or Minamoto clan
Minamoto clan
was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were demoted into the ranks of the nobility. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian Period , although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku Era. The Taira were another such offshoot of...

, descendants of the emperors.: could be appointed naidaijin, if this office became vacant. In reality, the highest office they could normally achieve was dainagon
Dainagon
was a counselor of the first rank in the Imperial court of Japan. The role dates from the 7th century.This advisory position remained a part of the Imperial court from the 8th century until the Meiji period in the 19th century....

.: was a military class; they could be appointed dainagon or rarely to naidaijin.: was a civilian class; they could also be appointed dainagon.: was the lowest class among the dōjō, created in the late Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

. They could only be appointed to lower ranks than sangi or chūnagon
Chunagon
was a counselor of the second rank in the Imperial court of Japan. The role dates from the 7th century.The role was eliminated from the Imperial hierarchy in 701, but it was re-established in 705...

.

Most of highest-classed kuge belonged to the Fujiwara clan and Minamoto clan
Minamoto clan
was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were demoted into the ranks of the nobility. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian Period , although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku Era. The Taira were another such offshoot of...

, but there were still other clans like the Sugawara clan, the Kiyohara clan, and the Ōe clan.