Book Announcement: The Last Female Emperor of Nara Japan, 749-770

The Last Female Emperor of Nara Japan, 749-770
by Ross Bender

The last female emperor of Nara Japan was Kōken/Shōtoku Tennō, who ruled from 749 to 770, with an interregnum from 758 to 764. She was the last in a series of six ancient empresses regnant in Japan, who ruled, interspersed with male royals, from 592 to 770. These female sovereigns were designated as ‘Tennō‘ in the chronicles, a term normally translated as ‘Emperor.’ She was a powerful ruler, an adroit politician who overcame three challenges to her rule by male members of the nobility. After her death, female emperors took the throne only twice more, many years later in the 17th and 18th century when the imperial house was completely dominated by the military rulers, the Tokugawa shoguns. This study is a narrative of the period of her reign. It is a companion to my five volumes of translation from the Shoku Nihongi, published from 2015-2016. The book has minimal bibliographic notes and is intended as an introduction for Western readers; scholars may consult my translations for a more detailed account. It is dedicated to Kimoto Yoshinobu, the expert on the Fujiwara in the 8th century.

Table of Contents

Female Rule in Ancient Japan
Kōken’s Reign, 749-757
The Junnin Interregnum and the Nakamaro Supremacy, 758-783
The Fall of Nakamaro and the Rise of Dōkyō, 764-766
The Dōkyō Supremacy and the Death of the Empress, 767-770
Appendix 1: Shoku Nihongi
Appendix 2: Imperial Edicts – Senmyō, Choku, and Shō
Epilogue
Selected Bibliography

For more information: The Last Female Emperor of Nara Japan 749-770

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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