One common feature of each reign was that the retired sovereign became a Buddhist priest and governed in a way that theoretically respected the teachings of Buddhism. The secularization of Buddhism continued apace. In hopes of salvation, many aristocrats donated funds to construct temples or took holy vows and went to live in temples, which thus became centres of political intrigue. Most higher positions in the religious world were occupied by members of the imperial family and former aristocrats. This effectively closed advancement to commoners, and the lower-ranking monks in the temples often resented their superiors on this account.
Whenever some particularly serious grievance arose, they would march in a body on the capital and try to force acceptance of their demands by a direct appeal to the court, a common phenomenon in the last century of the Heian period. Some idea of the nuisance they constituted can be gleaned from the fact that even the most powerful of the retired emperors, Shirakawa, ranked them with the waters of the Kamo River and the dice in games of chance as one of three forces that he was powerless to control.
Nor did the monks hesitate to resort to armed force; it was an age in which some members of a priesthood ostensibly committed to compassion and respect for life in all its forms could openly bear arms and engage in slaughter. In the late Heian period, the more powerful of the samurai , who, as noted above in Aristocratic government at its peak , first established their power in the provinces, gradually gathered in or near the capital, where they served both the military needs of the state against potential outbreaks of rebellion and as bodyguards for the great noble houses.
Through association with the aristocracy, they gradually established a foothold at court. Outstanding among these samurai were the branch of the Minamoto or Genji family descended from the emperor Seiwa and the Taira Heike family lineage that traced its roots to the emperor Kammu.
CULTURE IN THE HEIAN PERIOD | Facts and Details
The Seiwa Genji established themselves as clients in the service of successive Fujiwara regents even before Michinaga was regent. Their fame as a warrior clan was greatly heightened in the midth century when they quelled a rebellion in northeastern Japan. The Taira took advantage of this relative decline to advance their own fortunes again.
With the revitalization of the imperial family, the Taira curried favour with the retired emperors. Tadamori also initiated trade with Song dynasty China as a means of amassing wealth. The Minamoto were thoroughly defeated, and Taira Kiyomori emerged as a major power in the land. Although Kiyomori was born into a middle-ranking provincial warrior family, he became in effect a military noble and dominated the political scene in ways reminiscent of the Fujiwara. Over the two decades following the Heiji Disturbance, Kiyomori and his kinsmen gradually assumed power at court, at first under the sponsorship of the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa but ultimately by seizing power from his patron in All his daughters were married into powerful noble families, and one even became the consort of the emperor Takakura.
Not being a Fujiwara, however, Kiyomori never became regent. His repairing of the Inland Sea route, however, and his encouragement of trade with Song China—by which the Taira became wealthy—were farseeing measures that distinguished Kiyomori from earlier Fujiwara regents. The high-handed manner in which Kiyomori and his kinsmen dominated the court, however, naturally provoked reaction.
While the Taira thrived in the capital, the descendants of the Minamoto quietly built up their strength in the provinces. Finally, Yoritomo, the oldest surviving son of Yoshitomo, who grew up in exile at Izu, invoked the authority of a passed-over imperial prince to rally the Minamoto and other great warrior families in eastern Japan in insurrection. From the initial uprising in to the final sea battle at Dannoura at the southernmost tip of Honshu, the so-called Gempei Genji and Heike War engulfed Japan in warfare on a scale theretofore unseen.
Yoritomo himself spent most of the five years recruiting warrior vassals, organizing institutions of control and reward, and planning strategy. Although traditionally portrayed as a simple Taira-versus-Minamoto conflict, the Gempei War was in actuality a combination of interclan and intraclan fighting, as well as a struggle between central control and forces for local autonomy combined under the larger banner of clan rivalry.
The final rout of the fleeing Taira forces on the sea, however, put a more or less decisive end to the swing of fortune between Minamoto and Taira. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.
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