Empress Kōken (孝謙天皇,Kōken-tennō, 713 – August 28, 770), also known as Empress Shōtoku (称徳天皇,Shōtoku-tennō), was the 46th (with Empress Kōken name) and the 48th monarch of Japan (with Empress Shōtoku name), according to the traditional order of succession.
Empress Kōken first reigned from 749 to 758, then, following the Fujiwara no Nakamaro Rebellion, she reascended the throne as Empress Shōtoku from 765 until her death in 770. Empress Kōken was involved in an affair with priest Dōkyō and appointed him Grand Minister in 764. In 766, he was promoted to Hōō (priestly emperor) and in 770 had tried to ascend the throne by himself. The death of the Empress and resistance from the aristocracy destroyed his plans. This incident was a reason for the later move of the Japanese capital from Nara (Heijō).
August 19, 749 (Tenpyō-kanpō 1, 2nd day of the 7th month): In the 25th year of Shōmu-tennō 's reign (聖武天皇二十五年), the emperor renounced his throne and the succession (senso) was received by his daughter. Shortly thereafter, Kōken is said to have acceded to the throne.
757: Conspiracy to overthrow Empress Kōken was not successful.
758: Kōken abdicated in favor of a cousin who would become known as Emperor Junnin. The Empress had reigned for about ten years.
764: In the sixth year of Junnin-tennō 's reign, the emperor was deposed by his adoptive mother, and the succession was received by former-Empress Kōken.
January 26, 765 (Tenpyō-hōji 9, 1st day of the 1st month): Kōken formally reascended the throne (sokui) as Empress Shōtoku.
August 28, 770 (Jingo-keiun 4, 4th day of the 8th month: Empress Shōtoku died at age 57, leaving the throne vacant. She was succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, Emperor Kōnin. Empress Shōtoku had reigned for five years.
Eras of her reigns
The years of Kōken's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name.
Koken's reign was turbulent, and she survived coup attempts by both Tachibana no Naramaro and Fujiwara no Nakamaro. Today, she is remembered chiefly for her alleged affair with a Buddhist monk named Dōkyō (道鏡), a man she honored with titles and power. An oracle from Usa Shrine, the shrine of the kami Hachiman (八幡) in Usa, is said to have proclaimed that the monk should be made emperor; but when the empress sent Wake no Kiyomaro (和気清麻呂) to verify the pronouncement, Hachiman decreed that only one of imperial blood should ascend to the throne.
As with the seven other reigning empresses whose successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal imperial bloodline, she was followed on the throne by a male cousin, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century.Empress Genmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
She is also known for sponsoring the Hyakumantō Darani, one of the largest productions of printed works in early Japan.
Kugyō (公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras.
In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Kōken's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included: