Kabane System

Kabane System

The Kabane System was a system of division between different clans (uji). It was also known as the Shisei system and developed from the interchange of ideas from Paekche.

This system saw to it that the uji would give the imperial monarch needed services as well as acting to reinforce imperial authority outside of Yamato through the use of regional members given kabane titles. This allowed provincial leaders to be incorporated into the kabane system even if they had no direct relation to an uji family.

The uji created more types of Be professions allowing uji groups to grow and spread into new branch families. Marriage alliances would link high and low ranking members of the uji at court together.

During the 6th century the four major level of kabane were Omi (), Muraji (), Tomo no miyatsuko and Kuni no miyatsuko (国造). But by the 7th century this system came to be dismantled into a system of a corps of officials charge with leading a place for a specific time.

The Taika Reforms would emphasise the need for this change so that the Emperor could consolidate power. A few consessions were made and in 664 the uji were divided into ‘Great uji‘, ‘Small uji‘ and ‘tomo no miyatsuko.’

By 670 the titles had become hereditary to male descendants and in 684 the Yakusa no Kabane system was created.1

Yakusa no Kabane

The Yakusa no Kabane (八色の姓) was a system established in 684 by Emperor Tenmu to strengthen imperial authority. This system involved bestowing eight honorary titles (kabane) to certain families after the events of the Jinshin no Ran.1

These titles were Mahito, Ason (Asomi) (朝臣), Sukune, Imiki, Michinochi, Omi (), Muraji () and Inagi (Inaki).12

The titles of Mahito and Ason were given to close Imperial relatives. Sukune and Imiki to members with illustrious lineage. With the other titles bestowed to lesser officials. The titles were appended to family names.

The highest four titles were used to reconcile the kabane status of families with a heirarchy based on rank and office and a legal ruling made it that an uji’s prestige was a criteria for promotion. The Taihō Code however, in 702, did away with this provision.1

Kabane Titles

The Kabane () were hereditary titles indicative of the social rank and duty of the uji no kami. The kabane were also held by the uji no kami’s close kin and originally may have been to show deference from the uji no bito to the uji no kami.1

The titles of Omi (), Muraji () and Miyatsuko (国造) were traditionally given to those who were in service at court. Kimi (/), Atae ,() and Obito were given to regional lords with Imiki and Fuhito given to families of continental origin (Kikajin).1

This system was reorganised in 684 into the Yakusa no Kabane, but did not fully die out until the 10th century.12

Individuals/Clans who held these titles:

Ason:

Atae:

    • Ohoshikafuchi no Atahe
    • Yamashiro no Atahe

Omi:

Kimi

    • Ichishi no kimi
    • Ise no Ihitaka no kimi
    • Kimi of Kamo
    • Kimi of Ōmiwa

Kuni no miyatsuko

Muraji:

Sukune

Footnotes

1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.

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