Taika Reforms

The introduction of Taika reforms in japan

The Taika reforms were brought by emperor Kotoku in 645. They were a set of doctrines written after death of Prince Shotoku, and they united Japan.

Emperor Kotoku was the 36th emperor of japan and his ruled from 645 to 654, until his death in 654. He enacted the Taika reforms and the Hasshou kyakkan during his reign as an emperor.

Before the Taika era began, japan was under the Soga clan which united the nation and they also dominated to court for 50 years.

The characteristic features of taika reforms

The T’ang dynasty’s political model and practices were implemented but not in their complete entirety, but with changes to suit the Japanese society. The first step taken towards the implementations of the reforms was to establish the ultimate supremacy of the imperial court. Then the reorganization of the central government took place along with the abolishment of the offices of Omi and Muraji and in their place the minister of right, left and center took charge. The minister of the center was the most important and the personal advisor of the emperor.

Taika reforms were a set of political and social innovations that were implemented after the defeat of the Soga clan. They were an imitation of the Chinese system of a centralized government. The Chinese tradition of naming the eras of an emperor’s reign was being followed by emperor Kotoku and so he, for his reign took the name “Taika” meaning “Great Reform” as the name of the era in which he reigned. More specifically, his rule is identified into more than one era, namely, ‘Taika’ from 645 to 650 and ‘Hakuchi’ from 650 to 655.

Japan imitated the centralized government system of political development from the Chinese T’ang Dynasty, and these reforms were a bit more practical in Japan than in China because Japan was a small island country but China was very big in size and different tribal and ethenic groups also posed as serious problem for the Chinese government to implement them. Plus quarrelsome neighbors also made it difficult for the Chinese government to retain proper and strict order in the country.

The Taika reforms were based on the ideas of Confucianism and on the political philosophies that came from China.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

According to the Taika reforms the ruler was now the emperor and not just a clan leader, who exercised absolute authority.

The Taika reforms firstly abolished any private ownership of land and established a feudal system. That is all of the land belonged to the emperor ultimately although the lords could exercise some power in their respective land, but still all the land was under the emperor who enjoyed absolute authority.

Secondly, the freedom of the regional officials was reduced and a centralized administration was established which was run by educated bureaucrats. The new military organizations and administrations that were answerable to the emperor were established in capital as well as all the provinces.

Thirdly, the construction of a road network began, even a survey was conducted regarding the population density and about the use of land and productivity of the land for fair distribution of the land. The main idea about the redistribution of land was to cut short the land holdings of the clan leaders, to shrink the number of people under them so as to reduce their power and authority. Because of this the land and the clan heads were now under the direct control of the imperial government.

But this idea of fully nationalizing the land was not completely implemented as some important clansmen were given some freedom to hold certain amount of land as per their ranks. And as a special advantage to the aristocrats some estates were made tax- free.

The land that was nationalized was redistributed among the people. Everyone was given smaller allotments of the land except the salves that were given nothing. But the imperial family and the nobles were given huge land holdings; from 16 to 160 acres depending upon the rank and the positions held by them. Every 6 years the redistribution of land took place.

Lastly, the fair redistribution of land lead to a new and equitable system of taxation according to the reform. A tax of 2- 3 percent on the harvest was levied. The burden of the land tax was fairly lesser but the burden of other forms of taxation was nearly exhausting for the people. Each person had to perform unpaid labor as a form of tax for the use of land. The labor performed by the people was to be minimum for 10 days but it could be extended to forty more days. But if the person was not able to perform labor he had to pay the taxes in the form of produce. All the male had to provide gods such as silk and hemp fabrics as a part of taxation. The estates under the monasteries and shrines were however exempted from paying any taxes. The authority to levy taxes lied in the hands of the provincial governors. But the term of the provincial governors on the office was only up to 6 years unlike that of the county heads who had lifetime tenures and after then their sons used to inherit the authority.

Finally, students were also sent to china to learn everything about their culture. From their reading and writing system to the eating habits of the people. The students learned about the Chinese literature, the religion followed, as well as the architecture. The impact of these Chinese social practices can still be seen in Japanese culture till date.

There was also a military code as well. About one- third of all the males, ranging from 20 years old to 60 years old were required to serve in the army, and the person who will be enlisted in the army was selected by the respective families for a period of one to three years.

The nation was again organized into 66 imperial provinces and 592 counties and these counties were further broken down into townships having 50 households in each township. Governors were appointed to and they were given the task of enquiring and preparing the data about all the land holdings and which clan was the land under, who held the ownership of the land.

But this did not mean the end of authority of the clan heads in any way. The clan heads were appointed as the governors of the provinces.

Source: Mikiso Hane

One thought on “Taika Reforms

Comments are closed.