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An Empress in Japanese History

It is interesting to learn that there was only one Empress in 3000 years of Chinese History. Instead, Japan had 10 Empresses in its history. Women in China look more liberated than Japan, today. On the other hand, Japanese women are noted to be holding and quiet. It may not be true in these days, but world impression about Japanese women is obedient. It appears that the Samurai Regime is to be blamed for putting Japanese women in obedient positions. Especially, Tokugawa Edo Shogun Government determined that women should be behind the political and social scenes.

In older days than Samurai government, established in 1492, Japanese women were more liberal and freely appeared often in politics. The very first Ruler of Japan was a woman, Himiko. Among above 10 Empresses, 8 Empresses were in between 6th and 8th Century. This Empress name is “Komyo Empress”. She played a vital role in Buddhism became national religion in Japan.

Buddhism is interesting religion. Siddhartha Gautama started Buddhism in India between 6th and 4th Century BC. After severe training, Siddhartha became Buddha, Awaken One, started to teach and lead people. For some reason, Buddhism did not become major in India, its original place. In India, according to their national survey, 2001, the largest religion is Hinduism, 80.5%. The second largest religion is Islam, 13.4%. Christianity has the third position of 2.3% of population of India. The Buddhist population is only 0.8% in the survey above.

The Buddhism became extremely popular in China between 5th and 7th Century. The Japanese Imperial Government in 8th Century decided Buddhism to be its national religion. Empress Komyo was pious Buddhist. She became an Empress in 724. She was the wife of Emperor Shomu. Emperor Shomu introduced Buddhism to be against existing aristocrats’ Local religion. The Local religion, Shitoism, became too dominant to intervene government in many ways. Later, Buddhism became major religious authority in Japan centered on its concept of “Love, Equality, and Unlimited Mercy”.

In 8th and 9th Centuries, Japan built world heritage status historical monuments. Todaiji Temple is one of them. Yakushiji Temple is another. Daibutsu “Big Statue of Buddha” in Nara represents all the Buddhism monuments built during this period.

Empress Komyo stayed to be consort of Japanese Emperor Shomu. She was, however, known as the central promoter of Buddhism. She was the one who planned and implemented building of all the Nara Period Buddhism monuments, including Todaiji, Yakushiji, and Daibutsu. She built the first Japanese national hospital, Seyakuin. Japanese mythology tells Empress Komyo involved herself in treatments of patients. She did not limit the function of this national hospital just to Emperor family or aristocrats. Anybody sick despite their social class could use this hospital.

One day, Empress Komyo was engaging in patient’s treatment, in the national hospital. An old man with Hansen’s disease came to her. Empress Komyo tried to clean his body, but she could not clean all pus from his wounds. Empress Komyo started to suck his pus with her mouth for cleaning. Suddenly the old leper changed his appearance. He was one of Buddha’s messengers, Nyo-Rai. Nyo-Rai told her Buddhism would protect her country and people so that her people would enjoy prosperity. Buddhism became the national religion with Empress Komyo’s success.

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