Empress Komyo (光明皇后)

Empress Komyo (701 - July 27, 760) was a person in the Nara period. She was the Empress of Emperor Shomu. She was a daughter between FUJIWARA no Fuhito and Agata no INUKAI no Michiyo (ACHIBANA no Michiyo) and FUJIWARA no Miyako, mother of Emperor Shomu, was her paternal half-sister. Her name was Asukabehime. She was also called Komyoshi or Tosanjo. Empress Komyo' was not a shigo (posthumous title) or a posthumous title, but a common name, and her formal honorary title was 天平応真仁正皇太后 (Empress Dowager Tenpyo Oshinninsho).

She married Emperor Shomu when he was the Crown Prince and gave birth to Empress Koken in 718. When her husband ascended the throne in 724, she received the the title of Fujin (consort of the emperor) as Ikai (Court rank) of kokyu (empress's residence). She gave birth to Motoio in 727. Since Motoio who had been selected as Crown Prince died young in 728, a race for successor began and the Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao) occurred. An imperial edict that she became empress was issued in 729 after the Nagayao no Hen. This was the first time that a person other than the royal family became empress. This set a precedent that children of the Fujiwara clan became empress.

After the investiture of the Crown Princess to her daughter the Imperial princess Abe and her enthronement as Empress Koken (749), Kogogushiki (the Queen-consort's Household Agency) was renamed to Shibi chudai (the office handled the principal empress Komyo's affairs) and her nephew FUJIWARA no Nakamaro was assigned to its chief to implement various measures. Her husband Shomu Daijo Tenno (the retired Emperor) died in 756. She was given the title of Empress Dowager two years later. She died and was buried in Sahoyama no higashi no misasagi (the eastern Imperial tomb in Saho-yama mountain) in 760.

Cultural aspects
Empress Komyo embraced the Buddhist faith and advised her husband to build Todai-ji Temple and Kokubun-ji Temple. She practiced charity by establishing 'Hidenin Temple' for giving alms to the poor and a medical facility 'Seyaku-in'. She donated articles of her deceased husband to Todai-ji Temple 49 days after the death of her husband and Shosoin Treasure House was built to store them. In addition, she founded and renovated many temples, such as Kofuku-ji Temple, Hokke-ji Temple and Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple.

She was skilled in calligraphy, she and Emperor Shomu are famous as calligraphers of Nara period, and she created "Gakki-ron essay" and "Toka rissei zassho yoryaku".

Gakki-ron essay
This essay was a masterpiece created by copying "Wang Xizhi Text" written by Xizhi WANG, 43 lines of text were written on two and half sheets of white mashi (paper made of hemp) with vertical streaks, and a sheet of yellow mashi was attached to the rear shaft, with a signature of 'October 3, Tenpyo 16, Tosanjo'. The brush strokes are powerful.

Four waka poems are collected in 'Manyoshu' (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves).


There are many legends about her as a Buddhism patron and it is a well-known episode that when Empress Komyo sucked the pus of a severely ill leper, the patient was Ashuku Nyorai.

It is said that when boulevard trees were planted along the main thoroughfare of the metropolis, peach and nashi (Japanese pear) trees were planted so that the poor would not starve.

The name of the Komyo-ike pond located at the boundary of Izumi City and Minami Ward (Sakai City), Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture is derived from a legend that it was the birth place of Empress Komyo. At present, her name is used as the name of a station (Komyo-ike) of the Semboku Rapid Railway and the names of public organizations, such as schools and the Driver's License Center.

The area around Kumeda-dera Temple in Kishiwada City, Osaka Prefecture, is specified as 'Kumeda burial mounds', which includes 'Komyo (Empress Komyo) tumulus'.

[Original Japanese]