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Prince Shotoku

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Title: Prince Shotoku  
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Subject: Constitution, Emperor Yōmei, List of Buddhists, 622, 604, Nara period, List of Japanese people, Emperor Sakuramachi, List of Emperors of Japan, Yamato period
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Prince Shotoku

Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku flanked by younger brother (left: Prince Eguri) and first son (right: Prince Yamashiro), drawn by unknown author.[1]
Father Emperor Yōmei
Mother Princess Anahobe no Hashihito
Born (572-02-07)7 February 572
Died 8 April 622(622-04-08) (aged 50)

Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子 Shōtoku Taishi?, February 7, 572 – April 8, 622[2]), also known as Prince Umayado (厩戸皇子 Umayado no ōji?) or Prince Kamitsumiya (上宮皇子 Kamitsumiya no ōji?), 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,[3] and was involved in the defeat of the rival Mononobe Clan.[4] The primary source of the life and accomplishments of Prince Shōtoku comes from the Nihon Shoki.

Over successive generations, a devotional cult arose around the figure of Prince Shōtoku for the protection of Japan, the Imperial Family, and for Buddhism. Key religious figures such as Saichō, Shinran and others claimed inspiration or visions attributed to Prince Shōtoku.[4]

Cultural and political role

Shōtoku was appointed as regent (Sesshō) in 593 by Empress Suiko, his aunt. Shōtoku, inspired by Buddha's teachings, succeeded in establishing a centralized government during his reign. In 603, he established the Twelve Level Cap and Rank System at the court. He is credited with promulgating a Seventeen-article constitution.

The Prince was an ardent Buddhist and composed commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the Sutra of Queen Srimala. He commissioned the Shitennō-ji (temple) in Settsu province (present-day Osaka). Shōtoku's name has been linked with Hōryū-ji, a temple in Yamato province. Documentation at Hōryū-ji claims that Suiko and Shōtoku founded the temple in the year 607. Archaeological excavations in 1939 have confirmed that Prince Shōtoku's palace, the Ikaruga-no-miya (斑鳩宮), stood in the eastern part of the current temple complex, where the Tō-in (東院) sits today.[5]

Sui Emperor, Yangdi (kensui taishi), dispatched a message in 605 that said:

"The sovereign of Sui respectfully inquires about the sovereign of Wa."[6]

Shōtoku responded by sponsoring a mission led by Ono no Imoko in 607. The Prince's own message contains the earliest written instance in which the Japanese archipelago is named "Nihon", literally, sun-origin. The salutation said:

"From the sovereign of the land of the rising sun (nihon/hi izuru) to the sovereign of the land of the setting sun."[7]

He is said to be buried at Shinaga, in the former Kawachi province (today Osaka prefecture).[8]

Titles and name

Shōtoku is known by several titles, although his real name is Prince Umayado (厩戸皇子 Umayado no ōji?, literally the prince of the stable door) since he was born in front of a stable.[9] He is also known as Toyotomimi (豊聡耳?) or Kamitsumiyaō (上宮王?). In the Kojiki, his name appears as Kamitsumiya no Umayado no Toyotomimi no Mikoto (上宮之厩戸豊聡耳命?). In the Nihon Shoki, in addition to Umayado no ōji, he is referred to as 豊耳聡聖徳, 豊聡耳法大王, and 法主王.

The name by which he is best known today, Prince Shōtoku, first appeared in Kaifūsō, written more than 100 years after his death in 751.


See also



  • Como, Michael A. Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-518861-5
  • Varley, H. Paul. (1973). Japanese Culture: A Short History. New York: Praeger Publishers.
  • Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. 10-OCLC 59145842

External links


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