Mandate of Heaven

Mandate of Heaven

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The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

 concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of Heaven is predicated on the conduct of the ruler in question. The Mandate of Heaven postulates that heaven (天; Tian
Tian
Tian is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang Dynasty the Chinese called god Shangdi or Di , and during the Zhou Dynasty Tian "heaven; god" became synonymous with Shangdi...

) would bless the authority of a just ruler, as defined by the Five Confucian Relationships, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate, leading to the overthrow of that ruler. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best. The mere fact of a leader having been overthrown is itself indication that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.

The Mandate of Heaven does not require that a legitimate ruler be of noble birth, and dynasties were often founded by people of modest birth (such as the Han dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 and Ming dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

). The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used to support the rule of the kings
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 of the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

, and their overthrow of the earlier Shang dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

. It was used throughout the history of China
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

 to support the rule of the Emperors of China, including 'foreign' dynasties such as the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

.

The Mandate of Heaven is a well-accepted and popular idea among the people of China, as it argues for the removal of incompetent or despotic rulers, and provided an incentive for rulers to rule well and justly. The concept is often invoked by philosophers and scholars in ancient China as a way to curtail the abuse of power by the ruler, in a system that otherwise offered no other check to this power. The Mandate of Heaven had no time limitations, instead depending on the just and able performance of the ruler. In the past, times of poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 and natural disasters were taken as signs that heaven considered the incumbent ruler unjust and thus in need of replacement.

Origins


The concept is first found in the written records of the words of the Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou
The Duke of Zhou played a major role in consolidating the newly-founded Zhou Dynasty . He was the brother of King Wu of Zhou, the first king of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty...

, younger brother of King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhōu or King Wu of Chou was the first sovereign, or ruler of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1046-1043 BCE or 1049/45-1043. Various sources quoted that he died at the age of 93, 54 or 43. He was considered a just and able leader. Zhou Gong Dan was one of his...

 and 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...

 for King Wu's infant son King Cheng of Zhou
King Cheng of Zhou
King Cheng of Zhou or King Ch'eng of Chou was the second sovereign of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1042-1021 BC or 1042/35-1006 BC King Cheng was young when he ascended the throne...

. He is considered by many to have been the originator of the idea. The notion of the Mandate of Heaven was later invoked by Mencius
Mencius
Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

, a very influential Chinese philosopher, considered by most to be the second greatest Confucian philosopher next to Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

.

The Mandate of Heaven was first used by the Zhou Dynasty to justify its overthrow of the Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 and would be used by many succeeding dynasties in the same way. The Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou
The Duke of Zhou played a major role in consolidating the newly-founded Zhou Dynasty . He was the brother of King Wu of Zhou, the first king of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty...

 explained to the people of Shang that if their king had not misused his power, his Mandate would not have been taken away. Eventually, as Chinese political ideas developed further, the Mandate was linked to the notion of the dynastic cycle
Dynastic cycle
Dynastic cycle is an important political theory in Chinese history. According to this theory, every dynasty goes through a culture cycle.-The cycle:The dynastic cycle appears as it follows:...

. Severe floods or famines were considered portents and monitions indicating divine disapproval of the recent activities of the ruler.

The Shang had legitimized their rule by family connections to divine power. The Shang believed that their founders were deities, and their descendants went to join them in Heaven. As shown by the divination texts preserved on oracle bones from the later Shang, Heaven was thought to be very active and to interfere in mysterious ways with earthly rule. The philosophy of the Mandate of Heaven changed the right to rule from one of purely divine legitimization to one based on just rule.

Although the Mandate had no time limitation, it held rulers to a clear standard. Over the passage of time, there would inevitably arise a ruler who would cause Heaven to withdraw its Mandate. As the Mandate of Heaven emphasized the performance of the ruler, the social background of the ruler became less important. Historical documents found in ancient China stated that a legitimate ruler could come from any spectrum of the society. The Zhou said that the Xia Dynasty
Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him...

 had existed long before the Shang, and that they too were overthrown by reason of their losing the Mandate. The existence of the Xia dynasty is attested only in legend. Archaeological finds indicate human habitations including fairly large cities before the Shang, but so far no evidence has surfaced that would verify either the names of those who ruled over these cities, their form of government, or any other specifics. There is, likewise, no evidence that anyone before Zhou times had enunciated the idea of Tian Ming, the Mandate of Heaven. On the other hand, this idea appears in more than one context in the 書經 Shū Jīng (Book of Records) as an accepted fact of life rather than something that needed any introduction.

The Mandate of Heaven is based on four leading ideas:
  1. The right to rule China is granted by Heaven.
  2. There can be only one legitimate ruler of China.
  3. The right to rule is based on the virtue of the ruler and his good performance as a steward for Heaven.
  4. The right to rule may be passed down from father to son, but only on the conditions established above. Once the Mandate is lost, the will of Heaven towards a successor will only be known by the working out of the imponderable force of events in human history.


These four leading ideas have important implications:
  1. Legitimization of the ruling house in the eyes of the people who come under its sway
  2. Times of divided rule require some rationalization after the fact to establish which ruler can claim truly to have the Mandate
  3. The rulers put checks on their own behavior, and are encouraged to invest in the well-being of their subjects.
  4. The rulers necessarily fear rebellion, possibly because they believe in active intervention from Heaven, and/or possibly because they know that misbehavior will give positive sanction to attempts by others to overthrow them.

Manifestations of the Mandate of Heaven



Chinese scholar-bureaucrats
Scholar-bureaucrats
Scholar-officials or Scholar-bureaucrats were civil servants appointed by the emperor of China to perform day-to-day governance from the Sui Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, China's last imperial dynasty. These officials mostly came from the well-educated men known as the...

 were encouraged to become administrators for the emperor's court first, and then, when the time was right, possibly become king, or emperor. This can be seen in the Confucian adage: 修身, 齊家, 治國, 平天下(Translation: The student must first cultivate his moral character. Second, the scholar must get married and manage a harmonious household/family. Third, the scholar must become a bureaucrat by running a government. Finally, the scholar must pacify all under heaven to become an emperor.) This Confucian doctrine had inspired many Chinese scholar-bureaucrats.
  1. 君權天授 (Translation: The king, or emperor, is appointed by and derives power from Heaven.)
  2. 天壇 The Temple of Heaven
    Temple of Heaven
    The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest...

    , where only kings, or emperors are allowed to perform ritual prayers and make offerings to Heaven.
  3. 聽天由命 (Translation: All mortals, or Baixing
    Baixing
    Baixing or lao baixing in Chinese means "ordinary folks", "the people", or "commoners." The word Lao is used here as an adjective, which give it a warm and friendly touch....

    , must obey the order of Heaven(天命).
  4. 天朝 (Translation: the Celestial Court), since the mandate is granted by Heaven, it is only natural to name the imperial court the Celestial or Heavenly Court.

The Mandate of Heaven is a cycle...

Transition between the Shang and the Zhou


The Shang Dynasty had its prosperous times fill with many outstanding accomplishments. Notably, the dynasty lasted for a considerable number of years in which 31 Kings ruled over an extended period of 17 generations. During this period, the dynasty was able to enjoy a period of peace and tranquility in which
citizens could make a good living. The government was originally able to control most of its internal affairs due to the firm support provided by the people. As time went on, however, the rulers' abuse of the other social classes led to social unrest and instability. The corruption in this dynasty created the conditions necessary for a new ruling house to rise. It became the Zhou dynasty. Rebellion against the Shang was led by Zhou Wu
King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhōu or King Wu of Chou was the first sovereign, or ruler of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1046-1043 BCE or 1049/45-1043. Various sources quoted that he died at the age of 93, 54 or 43. He was considered a just and able leader. Zhou Gong Dan was one of his...

. They explained their right to assume rule as coming from the will of heaven. They believed that the Shang ruling house had become morally corrupt, and that the Shang leaders' loss of virtue entitled their own house to take over. The overthrowal of the Shang Dynasty, they said, was in accord with the mandate given by Heaven.

After the Zhou
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 gained control of the dynasty, they instituted mostly their own officials. However, in order to appease some of the citizens, they allowed some of the Shang
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 beneficiaries to continue governing the small Kingdoms in which they had been governing but in compliance with the Zhou rules and regulations. As the empire continued to expand, much intermarriage became eminent. This was done because the rulers believed that it was a method of forming strong allies that enabled them to absorb more countries into the dynasty. In case of a war, the Zhou Dynasty boasted an excellent military and technology mostly because of influence from annexed countries. They also excelled in shipbuilding
Shipbuilding
Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roots to before recorded history.Shipbuilding and ship repairs, both...

, which made them excellent mariners because of their discovery of navigating their ships to a precise destination by using the star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s as their guide. Intellectually, the Zhou excelled in fields of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. Many governmental positions were dictated around the intellectual ability of a candidate. Many of the literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 from the Zhou period included the Book of Changes
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, Book of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

, Book Etiquettes, Book of Song
Book of Song
The Book of Song , also called "The History of the Song," is a historical text of the Liu Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties of China. It covers history from 420 to 479, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories, a traditional collection of historical records. It was authored by Shen Yue from...

, Book of Odes, and the Book of Rites. Most of these literatures observed the progress and political movement of the dynasty. In philosophical terms, Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 and his followers played an important role in shaping the mentality of the government. These critical thinkers served as a foundation for the government. Their works primarily stressed the importance of the ruling class, respect and their relationship with the lower class. Due to the growing size of the dynasty, it became apparent that a centralized government would lead to a lot of confusion and corruption because the government would not be able to exert its influence or compromise the needs of everyone. To address this political barrier, the dynasty formed a decentralized government in which the empire was broken down into sections. Within these districts were administrators who were appointed by the government, in return, they had to maintain their allegiance to the main internal government. In effect, the Zhou dynasty became a collection of districts. Consequently this marked the fall of the dynasty as it became difficult for the central government to exert influence on all other regions of the empire.

Finally, after the Zhou dynasty became less powerful, it was then wiped out by the Qin
Qin
-Chinese dynasties and states:*Qin , a state of China during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty*Qin Dynasty , which followed Qin's unification of China in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC*Da Qin , Roman Empire, 202 BC to AD 220...

 because they believed that the Zhou became unfit in ruling. This transition emphasizes the customary trend of Mandate of Heaven which provided leeway for the rise of new power. The Qin initially attempted to capitalize on the mistakes/errors made by the Zhou, by either eliminating the source of error or reforming it. During this reformation, administrative changes were made and a system of legalism
Legalism
Legalism may refer to:In philosophy:* Legalism , Chinese political philosophy based on the idea that a highly efficient and powerful government is the key to social order....

 was developed which stated that the law is supreme over every individual, including the rulers. Although significant progress was made during the Qin Dynasty, however, the persecution of scholars and ordinary citizens led to an unstable state.

After the death of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi of the Qin dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

, a widespread revolt by prisoners, peasants, and unhappy soldiers inevitably led to the fall of the Qin Dynasty due to its tyrannical practices. The establishment of the Han Dynasty marked a great period in China’s history. This period was marked by significant changes in the political structure of China. During the Han dynasty, significant changes were made in which the government introduced entrance examinations known as civil service examinations for governmental positions. Additionally, the Han dynasty prospered economically through the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 and other trading means. Throughout the reign of the Han Dynasty, the wealthy elites and the peasants benefited from the wise decisions made by the brilliant minds of the dynasty.

Five Dynasties Period


During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, there was no dominant Chinese dynasty that ruled all of China. This created a problem for the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 that followed, as they wanted to legitimize their rule by claiming that the Mandate of Heaven had passed on them. The scholar-official Xue Juzheng
Xue Juzheng
Xue Jucheng was a Chinese historian and scholar who served under the Song Dynasty, as well as four of the Five Dynasties that preceded the Song. Xue is best known for compiling the Five Dynasties History which was put together in the 960s and 970s....

 compiled the Five Dynasties History
Five Dynasties History
The Five Dynasties History was an official history of the Five Dynasties , which controlled much of northern China. It was compiled by the Song Dynasty official-scholar Xue Juzheng in the first two decades of the Song Dynasty, which was founded in 960...

(五代史) during the 960s and 970s, after the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 had taken northern 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...

 from the last of the Five Dynasties
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms was between 907–960/979 AD and an era of political upheaval in China, between the fall of the Tang Dynasty and the founding of the Song Dynasty. During this period, five dynasties quickly succeeded one another in the north, and more than 12 independent states were...

, the Later Zhou Dynasty
Later Zhou Dynasty
The Later Zhou Dynasty was the last a succession of five dynasties that controlled most of northern China during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, which lasted from 907 to 960 and bridged the gap between the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty.-Founding of the Dynasty:Guo Wei, a Han...

. A major purpose was to establish justification for the transference of the Mandate of Heaven through these five dynasties, and thus to the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

. He argued that these dynasties met certain vital criteria to be considered as having attained the Mandate of Heaven despite never having ruled all of China. One is that they all ruled the traditional Chinese heartland. They also held considerably more territory than any of the other Chinese states that had existed conterminously in the south.

However, there were certain other areas where these dynasties all clearly fell short. The brutal behavior of Zhu Wen and the Later Liang Dynasty
Later Liang Dynasty
The Later Liang was one of the Five Dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in China. It was founded by Zhu Wen, posthumously known as Taizu of Later Liang, after he forced the last emperor of the Tang dynasty to abdicate in his favour...

 was a source of considerable embarrassment, and thus there was pressure to exclude them from the Mandate. The following three dynasties, the Later Tang
Later Tang Dynasty
The Later Tang Dynasty was a short-lived dynasty that lasted from 923 to 937 one of the five dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was also the first in a series of three dynasties ruled by the Shatuo Turks...

, Later Jin
Later Jin Dynasty (Five Dynasties)
Note that there are four periods of Chinese history using the name "Jin" The Later Jìn was one of the Five Dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in China. It was founded by Shi Jingtang, posthumously known as Gaozu of Later Jin...

, and Later Han
Later Han Dynasty (Five Dynasties)
The Later Han Dynasty was founded in 947. It was the fourth of the Five Dynasties and the third consecutive Shatuo Turk dynasty...

 were all non-Han Chinese dynasties, all having been ruled by the non-Chinese Shatuo Turks. There is also the concern that though each of them was the most powerful Chinese kingdom of its respective era, none of them ever really had the ability to unify the entire Chinese realm as there were several powerful states to the south. However, it was the conclusion of Xue Juzheng
Xue Juzheng
Xue Jucheng was a Chinese historian and scholar who served under the Song Dynasty, as well as four of the Five Dynasties that preceded the Song. Xue is best known for compiling the Five Dynasties History which was put together in the 960s and 970s....

 that the Mandate had indeed passed through each of the Five Dynasties, and thus onto the Song Dynasty when it conquered the last of those dynasties.

In Contemporary China


The idea of the Mandate of Heaven was developed by the Zhou as an ideology of legitimation, and it continues to serve this function. By emphasizing the unity of the Chinese nation into pre-historic times, the concept legitimates the rule of a single centralised state and implicitly relegates any other potential power holders (both historical and contemporary) to positions of subordination or illegitimacy. Although the archaeological record shows clearly that multiple cultures and kingdoms existed in the area that was to become China, Chinese archaeologists continue to date all Bronze Age sites to the Xia, Shang or Zhou, implying that the territory controlled today belonged to the ancestors of the current Chinese state. In Chinese schools today the concept is not taught explicitly, but by tracing the origins of the Chinese state to the Xia, Shang and Zhou, rather than emphasizing the diversity of the actual archaeological record, the Chinese education system continues to promote the idea of the Mandate of Heaven.

Japan


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...

, the concept of a divine political legitimacy that is conditional and could be withdrawn was ideologically problematic. 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 problem was obviated because the Imperial House of Japan
Imperial House of Japan
The , also referred to as the Imperial Family or the Yamato Dynasty, comprises those members of the extended family of the reigning Emperor of Japan who undertake official and public duties. Under the present Constitution of Japan, the emperor is the symbol of the state and unity of the people...

 claimed to be descended in an unbroken line from the Japanese sun goddess
Solar deity
A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms...

, Amaterasu
Amaterasu
, or is apart of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. the name Amaterasu derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is "the great August kami who...

. Nevertheless, while maintaining this role, the Japanese emperor became politically marginalized in the Nara and 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...

s by powerful regents of the Fujiwara clan who seized executive control of state. Even though the Japanese imperial line itself remained unbroken after the eighth century, actual political authority passed through successive dynasties of regents and shogun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

s which cycled in a manner similar to that of Chinese dynasties. Even after 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...

 in 1868, when the emperor was placed back in the center of the political bureaucracy, the throne itself had very little power vis-à-vis the Meiji oligarchy
Meiji oligarchy
The Meiji oligarchy was the name used to describe the new ruling class of Meiji period Japan. In Japanese, the Meiji oligarchy is called the ....

. Actual political power has passed through at least four systems since the Meiji restoration: the Taishō democracy
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

, the militarists
Japanese militarism
refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.-Rise of militarism :...

, the Occupation of Japan, and postwar democracy
Post-Occupation Japan
Post-Occupation Japan is a phrase used to describe the period in the history of Japan which started at the end of the Allied occupation in 1952.During this period, Japan re-established itself as a global economic and political power....

. The emperor today is a political figurehead and not a ruling sovereign. It could be said the imperial line of Japan survived for so long precisely because it did not have control over the state, and that the turmoil of succession was projected onto a series of proxy rulers.

Divine right in other countries


The Mandate of Heaven is similar to the European notion of the Divine Right of Kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

 in that both sought to legitimize rule using divine approval. However, the Divine Right of Kings granted unconditional legitimacy, whereas the Mandate of Heaven was conditional on the just behavior of the ruler. Revolution is never legitimate under the Divine Right of Kings, but the philosophy of the Mandate of Heaven approved of the overthrow of unjust rulers. Chinese historians interpreted a successful revolt as evidence that the Mandate of Heaven had passed. In China, the right of rebellion against an unjust ruler has been a part of political philosophy ever since the Zhou dynasty, and a successful rebellion was interpreted by Chinese historians as evidence of that divine approval had passed on to the successive dynasty.

The greatest theologians of Europe, from John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 and John Knox
John Knox
John Knox was a Scottish clergyman and a leader of the Protestant Reformation who brought reformation to the church in Scotland. He was educated at the University of St Andrews or possibly the University of Glasgow and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1536...

 to Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

, Robert Bellarmine
Robert Bellarmine
Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation...

, and Juan de Mariana
Juan de Mariana
Juan de Mariana, also known as Father Mariana , was a Spanish Jesuit priest, Scholastic, historian, and member of the Monarchomachs....

, were closer in their beliefs to the Mandate of Heaven than to the Divine Right of Kings. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Institutes of the Christian Religion is John Calvin's seminal work on Protestant systematic theology...

, first published in 1536 and the foundational document of Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, Calvin argued that legitimate governments are those ruling with the consent of the governed and in covenant with God and the people. When ordinary citizens are confronted with tyranny, he wrote, ordinary citizens have to suffer it (whereas in the Mandate of Heaven and in the theology of the Jesuits Bellarmine and Mariana, they have the right to rebellion and tyrannicide
Tyrannicide
Tyrannicide literally means the killing of a tyrant, or one who has committed the act. Typically, the term is taken to mean the killing or assassination of tyrants for the common good. The term "tyrannicide" does not apply to tyrants killed in battle or killed by an enemy in an armed conflict...

), but magistrates have the duty to "curb the tyranny of kings," as had the Tribunes in ancient Rome, the Ephori in Sparta, and the Demarchs
Demarchy
Demarchy is a form of government in which the state is governed by randomly selected decision makers who have been selected by sortition from a broadly inclusive pool of eligible citizens...

 in ancient Athens -- and indeed the Censorate
Censorate
The Censorate was a top-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin Dynasty ....

 of China.

See also

  • Tianxia
  • Auctoritas
    Auctoritas
    Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

  • Divine right of kings
    Divine Right of Kings
    The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

  • Hua-Yi Distinction
    Hua-Yi distinction
    The distinction between Hua and Yi is an ancient Chinese conception that differentiated a culturally defined "China" from cultural or ethnic outsiders...

  • Impeachment
    Impeachment
    Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

  • Imperial Seal of China
    Imperial Seal of China
    The Imperial Seal of China, or the Heirloom Seal of the Realm is a Chinese jade seal carved out of the He Shi Bi, a historically famous piece of jade.-Creation:...

  • Tiananmen
    Tiananmen
    The Tiananmen, Tian'anmen or Gate of Heavenly Peace is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is widely used as a national symbol. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tian'anmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City...

  • Zhou Dynasty
    Zhou Dynasty
    The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...