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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.253) 10 Purity
Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan

Herman Ooms

University of Hawai'i Press

This concluding chapter discusses how Tenmu used the notion of purity toward the end of his life to signal the central quality of rulership. In the Law Codes, the enthronement of emperors is stipulated to be preceded by a lengthy period of abstinence, far longer than in the Tang model. Nevertheless, Tenmu's use of purity as the preeminent sign for the center of the realm and its emperor has precedents in ancient China; it is a central value in Daoism, and in aspects of Buddhism as well. For Heian political practice, the preservation of purity isolated the emperor, transforming him into a sacred icon encountered by few, untouched, and surrounded daily by precautionary ritual. Toward the end of the Heian period, the counter value of impurity became a stigma that was explicitly, although inconsistently, being applied socially.

Keywords:   Tenmu, purity, Law Codes, abstinence, Daoism, Buddhism, Heian political practice, impurity

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