III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > E. East Asia, to 1527 > 5. Japan, 552–1185
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See Geography)
5. Japan, 552–1185
It is traditionally believed that in this year Buddhism was introduced to Yamato Japan from Paekche. Although there were probably Buddhist converts already in Japan at the time, at this point Buddhism began to play a major role in Japanese history and to stimulate the continued influx of mainland culture by way of Paekche. Supported by the powerful Soga clan and strengthened by the recent arrival of Buddhist monks from Korea, Buddhism made headway at court, but a temporary proscription of it was enacted by the Nakatomi and Mononobe clans, political rivals of the Soga. It was soon restored and embraced by Emperor Ymei (r. 587–88) shortly before his death.  1
Silla drove Japan out of Kaya, ending Japan's long influence over a portion of the Korean Peninsula.  2
The Soga crushed their rivals in a short civil war, thereby establishing their political supremacy and the right of Buddhism to an unhampered development in Japan.  3
Soga Umako (d. 626), having decided not to occupy the throne himself and enthroning children of Soga women instead, had one of them, Emperor Suchun (r. 588–92), assassinated.  4
Soga Umako placed his niece Empress Suiko on the Yamato throne, the first officially recognized empress. Suiko was served as regent by Crown Prince Shtoku (574–624), who worked vigorously to import continental civilization to Japan. Under his aegis, the foundations for a Chinese-style state and Buddhist religion were laid that would last for several centuries. During this period, such famous Buddhist temples as Shintennji (593), Hkji (or Asukadera, 588–96) and Hryuji (607?) were built.  5
A “cap ranks” (kan'i) system of bureaucratic rankings at court was adopted by Shtoku that closely followed comparable systems from 6th-century Kogury and Paekche.  6
Prince Shtoku issued his Seventeen-Article Constitution (or Seventeen Injunctions), a list of moral injunctions imbued with the spirit of Confucian ethics and mainland theories of centralized political rule. They also bore clear Buddhist influences, indicating an awareness of Buddhism's philosophical and ethical importance. In this same year, the court adopted the Chinese-style calendar.  7
Ono no Imoko, the first official envoy from the Yamato government, was dispatched to the Sui court, and relations with China were thus established. Another embassy followed in 608, a third in 614, and there were many more over the course of the next three centuries, with the subsequent Tang dynasty. Since Japanese students, scholars, and monks accompanied the envoys to China—during the Tang, the embassies tended to be extremely large—and sometimes remained there for prolonged periods of study, these embassies were a very important factor in the importation of Chinese civilization to Japan.  8
The first embassy to the Tang.  9
Prince Yamashiro no e, heir of Prince Shtoku, was forced to commit suicide by Soga no Iruka (d. 645), son of Emishi (d. 645), the kingmaker of the period. This was the culmination of a power struggle, following the death of Shtoku in 622, between the Soga and Nakatomi clans.  10
The Downfall of the Soga in a coup led by Nakatomi no Kamatari (614–69) and the future Emperor Tenchi (r. 668–71); the Nakatomi were henceforth given the surname Fujiwara. The coup was supported by the Sinophilic elements at court who encouraged continued reforms along mainland models and continued missions to and ties with China and Korea. There were five missions between 653 and 669 alone.  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.