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Nara period

Nara period

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Encyclopedia
The of the history of Japan
History of Japan
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human...

 covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei
Empress Gemmei
, also known as Empress Genmyō, was the 43rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Gemmei's reign spanned the years 707 through 715....

 established the capital of Heijō-kyō
Heijo-kyo
Heijō-kyō , was the capital city of Japan during most of the Nara period, from 710–40 and again from 745–84. The Palace site is a listed UNESCO World Heritage together with other places in the city of Nara Heijō-kyō (平城京, also Heizei-kyō, sometimes Nara no miyako), was the capital city of Japan...

 (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...

). Except for 5 years (740–745), when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu
Emperor Kammu
was the 50th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Kammu reigned from 781 to 806.-Traditional narrative:Kammu's personal name was . He was the eldest son of Prince Shirakabe , and was born prior to Shirakabe's ascension to the throne...

 established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō
Nagaoka-kyo
was the capital of Japan from 784 to 794. Its location was reported as Otokuni District, Yamashiro Province, and Nagaokakyō, Kyoto, which took its name from the capital...

, in 784 before moving to Heian-kyō, or 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:...

, a decade later in 794.

Most of Japanese society during this period was agricultural in nature and centered around village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s. Most of the villagers followed a religion based on the worship of natural and ancestral spirits called kami
Kami
is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

.

The capital at Nara was modeled after 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...

, the capital city of Tang China
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...

. In many other ways, the Japanese upper classes patterned themselves after the Chinese, including adopting Chinese written characters (Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

: kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

), fashion, and the religion of Buddhism
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...

.

Etymology


According to the most complete extant historical record of ancient Japan Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

the name "Nara" derived from the Japanese verb narasu "to flatten".

"Nara" means a "country" in modern Korean word "나라 (nara)". Modern Korean hypotheses suggest that it is cognate with the modern Korean word nara "country, kingdom". More specifically, Modern Korean nara derives from Middle Korean narah, which in turn is from reconstructed Old Korean *narak. The initial na may be related to Goguryeo language
Goguryeo language
The Goguryeo language was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo , one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The language is also known as Old Koguryo, Koguryoic, and Koguryoan....

 na "earth". According to Bae HakTae (배 학태), The final -ra < -rah < -rak may be identified as meaning "land, territory" and is also seen in other geographical places such as Nara, Gara
Gaya confederacy
Gaya was a confederacy of territorial polities in the Nakdong River basin of southern Korea, growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period.The traditional period used by historians for Gaya chronology is 42–532 CE...

, and Silla
Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

, the last two of which were spelled with a final k- in Old Japanese (cf, Shira-gi(しらぎ)). Also, Nara was variously written as 那羅,平,平城,乃楽,儺羅,那良,楢,寧楽,諾楽,寧,奈羅. 乃楽 and 寧楽 suggesting a reading of *Nei-Raku, also with a final k- ending. This hypothesis was introduced to Japan by the Japanese pressman.

Nara period literature


Concentrated efforts by the imperial court to record and document its history produced the first works of Japanese literature
Japanese literature
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan...

 during the Nara period. Works such as the Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

and the Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

were political in nature, used to record and therefore justify and establish the supremacy of the rule of the emperors within 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...

.

With the spread of written language, the writing of Japanese poetry
Japanese poetry
Japanese poets first encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For...

, known in Japanese as waka
Waka (poetry)
Waka or Yamato uta is a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature...

, began. Over time, personal collections were referenced to establish the first large collection of Japanese poetry known as Man'yōshū sometime after 759. Chinese characters were used to express sounds of Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 until kana
Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

were invented. The Chinese characters used to express the sounds of Japanese are known as man'yōgana.

Economic, social, and administrative developments



Before the Taihō Code
Taiho Code
The was an administrative reorganization enacted in 701 in Japan, at the end of the Asuka period. It was historically one of the . It was compiled at the direction of Prince Osakabe, Fujiwara no Fuhito and Awata no Mahito...

 was established, the capital was customarily moved after the death of an emperor because of the ancient belief that a place of death was polluted. Reforms and bureaucratization of government led to the establishment of a permanent imperial capital at Heijō-kyō
Heijo-kyo
Heijō-kyō , was the capital city of Japan during most of the Nara period, from 710–40 and again from 745–84. The Palace site is a listed UNESCO World Heritage together with other places in the city of Nara Heijō-kyō (平城京, also Heizei-kyō, sometimes Nara no miyako), was the capital city of Japan...

, or 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...

, in AD 710.
It is to be noted that the capital was moved shortly (for reasons described later in this section) to Kuni-kyō
Kuni-kyo
Kuni-kyō , was the capital city of Japan between 740 and 744, with the palace built in present-day city of Kizugawa by order of Emperor Shōmu. The city of Kuni-kyō was not completed, as the capital was once again moved to Naniwa-kyō , only four years later...

 (present-day Kizugawa
Kizugawa, Kyoto
is a city in southern Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The city was founded on March 12, 2007 by the merger of the towns of Kamo, Kizu and Yamashiro, all from Sōraku District. It is the southernmost city in the prefecture...

) in 740–744, to Naniwa-kyō
Naniwa-kyo
is a historical Japanese capital city, which was located in present-day central Osaka city.Traces of ancient palaces in Naniwa were found in 1957. Through more recent excavations, the existence of a city was confirmed, at least for the latter period in the 8th century.- External links :*...

 (present-day Osaka
Osaka
is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

) in 744–745, to Shigarakinomiya (紫香楽宮, present-day Shigaraki) in 745, and moved back to Nara in 745. Nara was Japan's first truly urban center. It soon had a population of 200,000 (representing nearly 4% of the country's population) and some 10,000 people worked in government jobs.

Economic and administrative activity increased during the Nara period. Roads linked Nara to provincial capitals, and taxes were collected more efficiently and routinely. Coins were minted, if not widely used. Outside the Nara area, however, there was little commercial activity, and in the provinces the old Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku
, also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was a son of Emperor Yōmei and his younger half-sister Princess Anahobe no Hashihito. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan, and was involved in the defeat...

 land reform systems declined. By the mid-eighth century, shōen
Shoen
A was a field or manor in Japan. The Japanese term comes from the Tang dynasty Chinese term zhuangyuan.Shōen, from about the 8th to the late 15th century, describes any of the private, tax-free, often autonomous estates or manors whose rise undermined the political and economic power of the...

(landed estates), one of the most important economic institutions in medieval Japan, began to rise as a result of the search for a more manageable form of landholding. Local administration gradually became more self-sufficient, while the breakdown of the old land distribution system and the rise of taxes led to the loss or abandonment of land by many people who became the "wave people" (furōsha). Some of these formerly "public people" were privately employed by large landholders, and "public lands" increasingly reverted to the shōen.

Factional fighting at the imperial court continued throughout the Nara period. Imperial family members, leading court families, such as the Fujiwara, and Buddhist priests all contended for influence. Earlier this period, Prince Nagaya
Nagaya
Nagaya was a politician of the Nara period and an imperial prince of Japan, a son of Prince Takechi ....

 seized power at the court after the death of Fujiwara no Fuhito
Fujiwara no Fuhito
Fujiwara no Fuhito was a powerful member of the imperial court of Japan during the Asuka and Nara periods...

. Fuhito was succeeded by four sons, Muchimaro
Fujiwara no Muchimaro
was a Japanese politician of the Asuka and Nara periods. The eldest son of Fujiwara no Fuhito, he founded Nanke , one of the principal kuge families led by the Fujiwara's. His mother was Soga no Shōsi, daughter of Soga no Murajiko...

, Umakai
Fujiwara no Umakai
was a Japanese statesman, courtier, general and politician during the Nara period.-Career:He was a diplomat during the reign of Empress Genshō; and he was minister during the reign of Emperor Shōmu...

, Fusasaki
Fujiwara no Fusasaki
Fujiwara no Fusasaki was a member of the Fujiwara clan and the founder of the Hokke branch of the Fujiwara.-Career:Fusasaki was a Sangi in the Daijō-kan....

, and Maro. They put Emperor Shōmu, the prince by Fuhito's daughter, on the throne. In 729, they arrested Nagaya and regained control. However, as the first outbreak of smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 spread from Kyūshū in 735, all four brothers were killed two years later, resulting in temporary shrinking of Fujiwara's dominance. It is without doubt that the Emperor was heavily shocked about this disaster, and he moved the palace three times in only five years since 740, until he eventually returned to Nara. In the late Nara period, financial burdens on the state increased, and the court began dismissing nonessential officials. In 792 universal conscription was abandoned, and district heads were allowed to establish private militia forces for local police work. Decentralization of authority became the rule despite the reforms of the Nara period. Eventually, to return control to imperial hands, the capital was moved in 784 to Nagaoka-kyō
Nagaoka-kyo
was the capital of Japan from 784 to 794. Its location was reported as Otokuni District, Yamashiro Province, and Nagaokakyō, Kyoto, which took its name from the capital...

 and in 794 to Heian-kyō (literally Capital of Peace and Tranquility), about twenty-six kilometers north of Nara. By the late eleventh century, the city was popularly called 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:...

 (capital city), the name it has had ever since.

Cultural developments and the establishment of Buddhism



Some of Japan's literary monuments were written during the Nara period, including the Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

and Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

, the first national histories, compiled in 712 and 720 respectively; the Man'yōshū, an anthology of poems; and the Kaifūsō
Kaifuso
is the oldest collection of Chinese poetry written by Japanese poets.It was created by an unknown compiler in 751. In the brief introductions of the poets, the unknown writer seems sympathic to Emperor Kōbun and his regents who were overthrown in 672 by Emperor Temmu after only eight months of the...

, an anthology written in Chinese by Japanese emperors and princes.

Another major cultural development of the era was the permanent establishment of Buddhism
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...

. Buddhism was introduced by Baekje
Baekje
Baekje or Paekche was a kingdom located in southwest Korea. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, together with Goguryeo and Silla....

 in the sixth century, but had a mixed reception until the Nara period, when it was heartily embraced by Emperor Shōmu
Emperor Shomu
was the 45th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Shōmu's reign spanned the years 724 through 723.-Traditional narrative:...

. Shōmu and his Fujiwara consort were fervent Buddhists and actively promoted the spread of Buddhism, making it the "guardian of the state" and a way of strengthening Japanese institutions.

During Shōmu's reign, the Tōdai-ji
Todai-ji
, is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall , the largest wooden building in the world, houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu . The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the ...

 (literally Eastern Great Temple) was built, and within it was placed the Great Buddha Daibutsu
Daibutsu
or 'giant Buddha' is the Japanese term, often used informally, for large statues of Buddha. The oldest is that at Asuka-dera and the best-known those of Tōdai-ji in Nara and Kōtoku-in in Kamakura , both National Treasures.- Examples :...

; a sixteen-metre-high, gilt-bronze statue. This Buddha was identified with the Sun Goddess, and a gradual syncretism of Buddhism and Shinto ensued. Shōmu declared himself the "Servant of the Three Treasures
Three Jewels
The Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures, the Siemese Triples, Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem , are the three things that Buddhists take refuge in, and look toward for guidance, in the process known as taking refuge.The Three Jewels are:* BuddhaTaking refuge in the Three Jewels is...

" of Buddhism: the Buddha, the law or teachings of Buddhism, and the Buddhist community.

The central government also established temples called kokubunji
Provincial temple
Emperor Shōmu of Japan established so-called provincial temples in each province of Japan...

 in the provinces
Provinces of Japan
Before the modern prefecture system was established, the land of Japan was divided into tens of kuni , usually known in English as provinces. Each province was divided into gun ....

. The Tōdai-ji was the kokubunji of Yamato Province
Yamato Province
was a province of Japan, located in Kinai, corresponding to present-day Nara Prefecture in Honshū. It was also called . At first, the name was written with one different character , and for about ten years after 737, this was revised to use more desirable characters . The final revision was made in...

 (present-day Nara Prefecture
Nara Prefecture
is a prefecture in the Kansai region on Honshū Island, Japan. The capital is the city of Nara.-History:The present-day Nara Prefecture was created in 1887, making it independent of Osaka Prefecture....

).

Although these efforts stopped short of making Buddhism the state religion, Nara Buddhism heightened the status of the imperial family. Buddhist influence at court increased under the two reigns of Shōmu's daughter. As Empress Kōken
Empress Koken
, also known as , was the 46th and the 48th emperor of Japan respectively, according to the traditional order of succession. Empress Kōken first reigned from 749 to 758, then she reascended the throne as Empress Shōtoku from 765 until her death in 770....

 (r. 749–758) she brought many Buddhist priests into court. Kōken abdicated in 758 on the advice of her cousin, Fujiwara no Nakamaro
Fujiwara no Nakamaro
, later also given the name of by Emperor Kōnin, was an aristocrat and poet of Nara period in Japan. His father was Fujiwara no Muchimaro, founder of Nanke lineage of Fujiwara clan....

. When the retired empress came to favor a Buddhist faith healer named Dōkyō
Dokyo
was a Nara Period Japanese monk of the Dharma character school. As he was born in the family of Yuge, in the lineage of the Mononobe clan, Dōkyō was also known as . He was the brother of Yuge no Kiyoto.-Background:...

, Nakamaro rose up in arms in 764 but was quickly crushed. Kōken charged the ruling emperor with colluding with Nakamaro and had him deposed. Kōken reascended the throne as Empress Shōtoku (r. 764–770). The empress commissioned the printing of 1 million prayer charms—the Hyakumantō dharani
Hyakumanto Darani
The , literally the One Million Pagodas and Dharani Prayers, is a famous large-scale woodblock printing, the earliest recorded uses of woodblock printing in Japan....

 —many examples of which survive. The small scrolls, dating from 770, are among the earliest printed works in the world. Shōtoku had the charms printed to placate the Buddhist clergy. She may even have wanted to make Dōkyō emperor, but she died before she could act. Her actions shocked Nara society and led to the exclusion of women from imperial succession and the removal of Buddhist priests from positions of political authority.

Many of the Japanese artworks and imported treasures from other countries during the era of Emperors Shōmu and Shōtoku are archived in Shōsō-in of Tōdai-ji temple. They are called Shōsōin treasures, and illustrate the cosmopolitan culture also known as Tempyō culture. Imported treasures show various influences of 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...

 areas, including China, Korea, India, and Islamic Empire. Also, Shosoin stores more than 10,000 paper documents so-called . These are records written in the reverse side of the sutra or in the wrapping of imported items, and survived as a result of reusing wasted official documents. Shōsōin documents contribute greatly to the research of Japanese political and social systems of the Nara period, while they even indicate the development of Japanese writing system
Japanese writing system
The modern Japanese writing system uses three main scripts:*Kanji, adopted Chinese characters*Kana, a pair of syllabaries , consisting of:...

s (such as katakana
Katakana
is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji, and in some cases the Latin alphabet . The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji. Each kana represents one mora...

).

International relations


The Nara court aggressively imported 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...

 civilization by sending diplomatic envoys known as kentōshi to the Tang
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...

 court every twenty years. Many Japanese students, both lay and Buddhist priests, studied in 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...

 and Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

. One student named Abe no Nakamaro passed the Chinese civil examination
Imperial examination
The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

 to be appointed to governmental posts in China. He served as Governor-General in Annam
Annam (Chinese Province)
Annam or Jiaozhi was the southernmost province of the Chinese Empire. It is now part of present-day Vietnam...

 or Chinese Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 from 761 through 767. Many students who returned from China, such as Kibi no Makibi, were promoted to high government posts.

Tang China never sent official envoys to Japan, for Japanese kings, or emperors as they styled themselves, did not seek investiture from the Chinese emperor. A local Chinese government in Lower Yangzi Valley sent a mission to Japan to return Japanese envoys who entered China through Balhae
Balhae
Balhae was a Manchurian kingdom established after the fall of Goguryeo. After Goguryeo's capital and southern territories fell to Unified Silla, Dae Jo-yeong, a Mohe general, whose father was Dae Jung-sang, established Jin , later called Balhae.Balhae occupied southern parts of Manchuria and...

. The Chinese local mission could not return home due to the rebellion of An Lu Shan
An Shi Rebellion
The An Lushan Rebellion took place in China during the Tang Dynasty from CE December 16, 755 to CE February 17, 763, beginning when general An Lushan declared himself emperor, establishing the rival Yan Dynasty in Northern China...

 and remained in Japan.

Relations with the Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

n kingdom of Silla
Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

 were initially peaceful, with regular diplomatic exchanges. However, the rise of Balhae
Balhae
Balhae was a Manchurian kingdom established after the fall of Goguryeo. After Goguryeo's capital and southern territories fell to Unified Silla, Dae Jo-yeong, a Mohe general, whose father was Dae Jung-sang, established Jin , later called Balhae.Balhae occupied southern parts of Manchuria and...

 north of Silla destabilized Japan-Silla relations. Balhae
Balhae
Balhae was a Manchurian kingdom established after the fall of Goguryeo. After Goguryeo's capital and southern territories fell to Unified Silla, Dae Jo-yeong, a Mohe general, whose father was Dae Jung-sang, established Jin , later called Balhae.Balhae occupied southern parts of Manchuria and...

 sent its first mission in 728 to Nara, which welcomed them as the successor state to Goguryeo
Goguryeo
Goguryeo or Koguryŏ was an ancient Korean kingdom located in present day northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula, southern Manchuria, and southern Russian Maritime province....

, with which Japan was allied until Silla unified the Three Kingdoms of Korea
Three Kingdoms of Korea
The Three Kingdoms of Korea refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium...

.

Events

  • 710: Japan's
    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...

     capital is moved from Fujiwara
    Fujiwara-kyo
    was the Imperial capital of Japan for sixteen years, between 694 and 710. It was located in Yamato Province , having been moved from nearby Asuka. However, in the Nihon Shoki, the name Fujiwara-kyō had never been used...

     to 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...

    , modeled after China's
    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...

     capital 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...

  • 712: The collection of tales Kojiki
    Kojiki
    is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

  • 720: The collection of tales Nihon Shoki
    Nihon Shoki
    The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

  • 743: Emperor Shōmu
    Emperor Shomu
    was the 45th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Shōmu's reign spanned the years 724 through 723.-Traditional narrative:...

     issues a rescript to build the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), later to be completed and placed in Tōdai-ji
    Todai-ji
    , is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall , the largest wooden building in the world, houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu . The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the ...

    , 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...

  • 752: The Great Buddha(Daibutsu
    Daibutsu
    or 'giant Buddha' is the Japanese term, often used informally, for large statues of Buddha. The oldest is that at Asuka-dera and the best-known those of Tōdai-ji in Nara and Kōtoku-in in Kamakura , both National Treasures.- Examples :...

    ) at Tōdai-ji was completed
  • 759: The poetic anthology Man'yōshū
  • 784: The emperor moves the capital to Nagaoka
  • 788: The Buddhist monk Saichō
    Saicho
    was a Japanese Buddhist monk credited with founding the Tendai school in Japan, based around the Chinese Tiantai tradition he was exposed to during his trip to China beginning in 804. He founded the temple and headquarters of Tendai at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. He is also said to have...

     founds the monastery of Mt Hiei
    Mount Hiei
    is a mountain to the northeast of Kyoto, lying on the border between the Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Japan.The temple of Enryaku-ji, the first outpost of the Japanese Tiantai sect of Buddhism, was founded atop Mount Hiei by Saichō in 788. Both Nichiren and Honen studied at the temple before...

    , near 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:...

    , which becomes a vast ensemble of temples

English

  • Brown, Delmer, ed. Cambridge History of Japan: Ancient Japan (1993)
  • Farris, William. Japan's Medieval Population: Famine, Fertility, and Warfare in a Transformative Age (University of Hawaii Press, 2009)
  • Ooms, Herman. Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650–800 (University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2009)
  • Sansom, G. B. Japan: A Short Cultural History (Stanford University Press, 1978) pp 108=187 online

Other

Japan
< Asuka period
Asuka period
The , was a period in the history of Japan lasting from 538 to 710 , although its beginning could be said to overlap with the preceding Kofun period...

 | History of Japan
History of Japan
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human...

 | 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...

>