and Heian Periods
Social, and Administrative Developments
Before the Taiho Code
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 Heijokyo, or Nara, in
A.D. 710. The capital at Nara, which gave its name to
the new period (710-94), was styled after the grand
Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907) capital at Chang'an and
was the first truly urban center in Japan. It soon had a
population of 200,000, representing nearly 4 percent of
the country's population, and some 10,000 people worked
in government jobs.
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 Shotoku land reform systems
declined. By the mid-eighth century, shoen
(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.” Some of these formerly
"public people" were privately employed by
large landholders, and "public lands"
increasingly reverted to the shoen.
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. 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 and in 794 to Heiankyo (Capital of Peace and Tranquility),
or Heian, about twenty-six kilometers north of Nara. By
the late eleventh century, the city was popularly called
Kyoto (Capital City), the name it has had every since.
offer the Internet's largest selection of Asian Arts,
Crafts, and Collectibles with over 5,000 different
items in stock in our Maryland warehouse. Our products
are handcrafted and imported from Japan, China, Korea,
Bali, India, Vietnam, Russia, Ceylon, Nepal, and
Thailand. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your visit.