Just a quick one this week, since I’m off to the war. I was looking through translated excerpts of the Nihon Shoki(SoTJ:48), and I came across some imperial edicts very similar in style to the award scrolls used in the modern Society for Creative Anachronism. Since the Nihon Shoki, as an early Nara period work, is written in Classical Chinese, I’m not going to even consider trying to put together a parallel translation. These edicts are attributed to the Empress Shōtoku.

Notable in this edict are the focus on family merit over individual merit, reflecting the clan-oriented nature of Japanese society, and the focus on both religion and on engineering.(SoTJ:48)

It being my desire to encourage the Inner Doctrines, I was about to erect a Buddhist temple, and for this purpose sought for relics. Then thy grandfather, Shiba Tattō, offered me relics. Moreover, there were no monks or nuns in the land. Thereupon thy father, Tasuna, for the sake of the Emperor Tachibana no Toyohi, took priestly orders and reverenced the Buddhist law. Also thine aunt Shimame was the first to leave her home and, becoming the forerunner of all nuns, to practice the religion of Shākya. Now we desired to make a sixteen-foot Buddha and, to that end, sought for a good image of Buddha. Though didst provide a model which met our wishes. Moreover, when the image of Buddha was completed, it could not be brought into the hall, and none of the workmen could suggest a plan for doing so. They were, therefore, on the point of breaking down the doorway when thou didst manage to admit it without breaking down the doorway. For all these services of thine, we grant thee the rank of Dainin, and we also bestow on the twenty chō of paddy fields in the district of Sakata in the province of Afumi,

This next one has more political subtext, and also shows how much those who notionally retired from political life to become monks or nuns could retain political influence.(SoTJ:119)

It has been represented to us, in view of the master’s constant attendance on us, that he has ambitions of rising to high office like his ancestors before him, and we have been petitioned to dismiss him from our court. However, We have observed his conduct and found it to be immaculate. Out of a desire to transmit and promote Buddha’s Law, he has extended to us his guidance and protection. How could we lightly dismiss such a teacher?

Although our head has been shaven and we wear Buddhist robes, we feel obliged to conduct the government of the nation. As Buddha declared in the Sūtra, “Kings ye who take up thrones, receive the ordination of the bodhisattvas!” These words prove that there can be no objection even for one who has taken holy orders in administering the government. We deem it proper therefore, since the reigning monarch is ordained, that the chief minister should also be an ordained monk. Hearken, all ye people, to our words: We confer on the Master Dōkyō the title of chief minister and master, though the title is not of his seeking.

And with that, I’m off. Mata raishū!