In 662 AD, Heavenly Sovereign Tenji Tennō ordered the courtier Fujiwara no Kamatari to compile the laws of Japan into a single legal code. The result was the Ōmi code (Ōmi Ritsu-Ryo) which contained twenty-two volumes of code and penal law, but the task was left unfinished by the time of Emperor Tenji’s death in 672 AD. His son, Kōbun, succeeded him as emperor. However, it was during the reign of Monmu (Tenji’s grandson) that the compilation of the laws was completed more than thirty years later. The Daiho Legislation is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History around 700 AD.
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Monmu, who was only fourteen years old at the time of his accession, ordered his court to resume the compilation of the laws in 697 AD. The legal code was enacted in 701 AD and named Daiho or Taiho Ritsu-Ryo (Great Treasure) after the discovery of gold in Tsushima in the same year. The code was revised multiple times by a 10-man committee presided by the influential courtier Fujiwara no Fuhito and Duke Awada Mahito. The result of the revision was pared down to eleven volumes of Administrative Code (ritsu) and six volumes of Penal Law (ryo) which were then publicized in the following year. The sections included:
The laws were copied extensively from the Tang Code of China but revised and adapted to suit Japanese traditions (the laws in the ryo were more “Japanese” compared to the ritsu). The Taiho Code was more than just a set of laws as it also reorganized the Yamato polity into two departments: the Jingi-kan or Department of Worship and the Dajo-kan or Department of State. The Department of Worship was in charge of religious ceremonies and the administration of shrines of the native religion; the Department of State was more secular and had a clear hierarchy of ministers and councilors who were ruled over by a chancellor. The Yamato domain was now divided into provinces or kuni which were then divided into districts. Provincial and district governors were in charge of the allotment of land, tax collection, and labor.
The laws in the Taiho Code were updated in 718 AD into the Yōrō Code which the Japanese used until the 15th century. Unfortunately, many portions of the Taiho code were lost. Except for some fragments that could be found in the Yōrō Code.
Picture By Unknown – Homepage of the Dojoji Buddhist Temple, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11012924
Brinkley, F., and Dairoku Kikuchi. A History of the Japanese People from the Earliest times to the End of the Meiji Era. New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1915.
“Introduction to the Heian Period: The Asuka and Nara Periods.” Accessed August 17, 2016. https://www.courses.psu.edu/spcom/spcom483_sdp2/lectures/Bill/intro.html.
Steenstrup, Carl. A History of Law in Japan until 1868. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991.
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