Asukakiyomihara-ryo Code (飛鳥浄御原令)

Asukakyomihara-ryo Code is a systematic legal code that was enacted in the second half of the Asuka period in Japan. It consisted of 22 volumes of the ryo code (the administrative and civil code). Of the ritsu (the penal code) and ryo codes, only the ryo code was established and put in force. Although it is thought to be the first systematic ritsuryo code in Japanese history, the volumes do not exist and many of the details are unknown.


As a ritsuryo code that preceded Asukakiyomihara-ryo Code, there is Omi-Ryo (Omi Administrative Code), which is said to have been enacted by Emperor Tenchi in 668. Among various views on Omi-Ryo including the one which insists on its nonexistence, the most popular one is that it was a generic name for various individual laws and ordinances made with the aim of establishment of the system ruled by the ritsuryo codes and was not a systematic code.

Emperor Tenmu, who had seized political power by force of arms from Emperor Kobun, the successor of Emperor Tenchi, began conducting Koshin politics, under which Imperial princes and other Imperial family members assumed key posts in the government, and thus strengthened the autocracy. In order to enforce his powerful political views, he established a bureaucratic system and various laws to regulate the system. Such governance philosophy that highly valued bureaucrats (or government officials) and laws culminated in the introduction of the ritsuryo system (the system of centralized administration established under the ritsuryo legal codes), since it shared the same governance principle. On February 25, 681, Emperor Tenmu issued an imperial decree ordering princes and retainers to establish a ritsuryo system. But since Emperor Tenmu died in 686 before the ritsuyo code was completed, Empress Jito and Crown Prince Kusakabe inherited the enterprise to conclude it. Prince Kusakabe was supposed to ascend the throne after the period of mourning was over. But, he died suddenly in April 689.

It was right after that, in June of that year, that Asukakiyomihararyo Code was distributed to government officials. Since all of a sudden only ryo was distributed without ritsu, it is believed that ryo was issued ahead of schedule in haste in order to quell the unrest within the government caused by the sudden death of Prince Kusakabe and to clearly express that the will of Emperor Tenmu to enact ritsuryo would be followed.

It is said that Asukakiyomihara-ryo Code determined some important issues. There is a view that the title of Tenno was regulated by this ryo, but another view that it was established during the reign of Emperor Tenmu and was written into law by this ryo is accepted more widely. It is believed that the structural framework of the ritsuryo system was systematized by this code, which included the stipulation that the ancient family register had to be revised every six years, definition of the smallest administrative division consisting of 50 families in the regional system, and the enactment of the law of the rice field allotment system. There is a theory which says that ritsu was enacted at the same time (the Asukakiyomihara Ritsuryo theory), but a commonly accepted view is that at the time the ritsu part was adopted from Tang Code but not established in its own terms.

Partly because it was enacted in such a rush, Asukakiyomihara-ryo Code was not really a completed product. Hence, the compilation of the code continued after its issuance, and the enterprise which had been undertaken by Emperor Tenmu was finalized with Taiho Ritsuryo Code in 701 at last.

[Original Japanese]