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Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient JapanThe Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800$
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Herman Ooms

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832353

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832353.001.0001

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(p.49) 3 Alibis
Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan

Herman Ooms

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter focuses on the alibis—one of which is divine origin—that were devised for Tenmu and his successors to provide their exercise of power with an otherwordly status. Tenmu is portrayed in the historical record as a Daoist transcendental, a master of cosmic knowledge, and adept at secret methods of prognostication. These are some of the ways he distanced himself from his predecessors, especially Tenji. The manipulation of signs, portents, and geomancy played an important role in this operation, which culminated in the creation of Fujiwara-kyō, Japan's first capital, along cosmic delineations. Indeed, Tenmu personified a master and drafter of signs. No other historical ruler of ancient Japan has been positioned, by himself and his biographers, as personally within the realm of the supernatural to the extent that Tenmu was imagined to be.

Keywords:   divine origin, Tenmu, Daoist transcendental, cosmic knowledge, geomancy, Fujiwara-kyō

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