Sh%C5%8Dtoku Taishi
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Sh%C5%8Dtoku Taishi
Prince Sh?toku
Prince Shotoku.jpg
Prince Sh?toku flanked by younger brother (left: Prince Eguri) and first son (right: Prince Yamashiro), drawn by unknown author.[1]
BornFebruary 7, 574
DiedApril 8, 622(622-04-08) (aged 48)
SpouseUji no Shitsukahi
Tojiko no Iratsume
IssuePrince Yamashiro
FatherEmperor Y?mei
MotherPrincess Anahobe no Hashihito

Prince Sh?toku (?, Sh?toku Taishi, February 7, 574 - April 8, 622[2]), also known as Prince Umayado (?, Umayado no ?ji) or Prince Kamitsumiya (?, Kamitsumiya no ?ji), was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was the son of Emperor Y?mei and his consort, Princess Anahobe no Hashihito, who was also Y?mei's younger half-sister. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan[3] and he was involved in the defeat of the rival Mononobe clan.[4] The primary source of the life and accomplishments of Prince Sh?toku comes from the Nihon Shoki.

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

Cultural and political role

Shotoku Taishi by Kogan Zenji

According to tradition, Sh?toku was appointed as regent (Sessh?) in 593 by Empress Suiko (554-628), his aunt.[5] Sh?toku, inspired by the 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 is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Sangy? Gisho or "Annotated Commentaries on the Three Sutras" (the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the ?r?m?l?dev? Si?han?da S?tra). The first of these commentaries, Hokke Gisho, is traditionally dated to 615 and thus regarded as "the first Japanese text", in turn making Sh?toku the first Japanese writer.

A legend claims that when Bodhidharma came to Japan, he met with Prince Sh?toku whilst under the guise of a starving beggar. The Prince asked the beggar to identify himself, but the man did not reply. Instead of going ahead, Sh?toku gave him food, drink, and covered him with his purple garment, telling him to "lie in peace". The Prince then sang for the starving man.

Alas! For The wayfarer lying And hungered for rice On the hill of Kataoka (The sunshiny) Art thou become Parentless? Hast thou no lord Flourishing as a bamboo? Alas! For The wayfarer lying And hungered for rice!

The second day, the Prince sent a messenger to the starving man, but he was already dead. Hereupon, Sh?toku was greatly grieved and ordered his burial. Sh?toku later thought the man was no ordinary man for sure, and sending another messenger, discovered the earth had not been disturbed. On opening the tomb there was no body inside, and the Prince's purple garment lay folded on the coffin. The Prince then sent another messenger to claim the garment, and he continued to wear it just as before. Struck by awe, the people praised the Prince "How true it is that a sage knoweth a sage." This legend is linked with the temple of Daruma-dera in ?ji, Nara, where a stone stupa was found underground, which is exceedingly rare.

Prince Sh?toku commissioned the Shitenn?-ji (temple) in Settsu Province (present-day Osaka) after his military victory against the powerful Mononobe clan, for he is said[by whom?] to have summoned them to crush his enemies. Sh?toku's name has been linked with H?ry?-ji, a temple in Yamato Province, and numerous other temples in the Kansai region. Documentation at H?ry?-ji claims that Suiko and Sh?toku founded the temple in the year 607. Archaeological excavations in 1939 have confirmed that Prince Sh?toku's palace, the Ikaruga no miya (), stood in the eastern part of the current temple complex, where the T?-in () sits today.[6]

Despite being credited as the founder of Japanese Buddhism, it is also said that the Prince respected Shinto and never visited Buddhist temples without visiting Shinto shrines.[7]

In his correspondence with Emperor Yang of Sui, the Prince's letter contains the earliest known written instance in which the Japanese archipelago is referred to by a term meaning "land of the rising sun." The Sui Emperor had dispatched a message in 605 that said, "the sovereign of Sui respectfully inquires about the sovereign of Wa," and Sh?toku responded by sponsoring a mission led by Ono no Imoko in 607, who brought along a note reading: "From the sovereign of the land of the rising sun (hi izuru tokoro) to the sovereign of the land of the setting sun."[8][9][10]

He is said[by whom?] to have been buried at Shinaga in Kawachi Province (modern Osaka Prefecture).[11]

His face has appeared on 100, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen bills.

Two tickets made with different types of materials and special inks with a face value of 100,000,000 (One hundred million yen) were also issued.

The characteristic of these bills is that they have a border around it to prevent its alteration.

As characteristics It has a seal and figures in different positions starting from the middle outwards.

The measures of these 2 issues of bills are 35.3 cm x 16 cm and the other with a small variation of 34.3 by 16.5 cm.

These cloth tickets were used for the exchange of important values at that time.


A number of institutes are named after him, such as Shotoku Gakuen University and its associated junior college (both in Gifu). The first syllable of his name (?), can be read sh? in Go-on and can also be read sei in Kan-on. The later reading is found in Seitoku University and its associated junior college (both in Matsudo, Chiba) as well as Tokyo's defunct Seitoku Junior College of Nutrition (and indirectly its replacement Seiei College).

Titles and name

Sh?toku is known by several titles, although his real name is Prince Umayado (?, Umayado no ?ji, literally 'the prince of the stable door') since he was born in front of a stable.[12] He is also known as Toyotomimi () or Kamitsumiya? (). In the Kojiki, his name appears as Kamitsumiya no Umayado no Toyotomimi no Mikoto (). In the Nihon Shoki, in addition to Umayado no ?ji, he is referred to as Toyomimito Sh?toku (), Toyotomimi no Nori no ?kami (), and simply Nori no Ushi no ?kami ().

The name by which he is best known today, Prince Sh?toku, first appeared in Kaif?s?, written more than 100 years after his death in 751.


See also


  1. ^ Binyon, Laurence (2006). Painting in the Far East: An Introduction to the History of Pictorial Art in Asia, Especially China and Japan. p. 85. ISBN 0-543-94830-7. The author of this portrait is unknown; it is generally held to be the work of Korean artist, but is quite probably the work of native hand.
  2. ^ A History of Japan, R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger, Charles E.Tuttle Company, Inc., Tokyo 1977, 0221-000349-4615
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-16. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b Como, Michael I. (2006). Sh?toku: ethnicity, ritual, and violence in the Japanese Buddhist tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-518861-6.
  5. ^ Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 811-812. ISBN 9780691157863.
  6. ^ John Whitney Hall (1988). "The Asuka Enlightenment". The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University. p. 175. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Sh?ichi Watanabe (Professor Emeritus at Sophia University) (2014), ?:[My opinion concerning education: What I must hand down regarding the Emperor and the Imperial Family of Japan]. In Seiron, 508, 204-211.
  8. ^ Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinn? Sh?t?ki, p. 128.
  9. ^ Varley, Paul. (1973). Japanese Culture: A Short History. p. 15
  10. ^ "". Chinese Encyclopedia Online. Original text? (Book of Sui, Volume 81)
  11. ^ Guth, Christine. "The Divine Boy in Japanese Art." Monumenta Nipponica 42:1 (1987). p12.
  12. ^ "Answers - The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions".


  • Como, Michael A. (2008). Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518861-5
  • Varley, H. Paul. (1973). Japanese Culture: A Short History. New York: Praeger Publishers.
  • Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinn? Sh?t?ki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842


  • Pradel, Chari (2008). Shoko Mandara and the Cult of Prince Shotoku in the Kamakura Period, Artibus Asiae 68 (2), 215-246

External links

Media related to Prince Sh?toku at Wikimedia Commons

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