Engi, Tenryaku no chi (延喜・天暦の治)

Engi, Tenryaku no chi is the magnificent imperial reign name for the reigns of Emperor Daigo and Emperor Murakami in the mid Heian Period (the 10th century). Engi is the era name of Emperor Daigo, and Tenryaku of Emperor Murakami. See also Engi no chi and Tenryaku no chi.

In both reigns the emperor ruled directly and this era has been considered by succeeding generations as the golden age of government and culture under the dynasty. This elevated view became apparent as early as the late 10th century and it became prevalent in all parts of noble society in around the first half to the middle of the 11th century. At that time, the regency government that Sekkan-ke (the families which produced the Regent and the Chief Adviser to the Emperor) monopolized the highest level of political power was developed and the forming social standing and fixing family business and trade were undergoing so the nobility in the middle lower class only inherited a specific government post and could not ask any more promotion. In these situation, the idea that viewed the Engi and Tenryaku eras as ideal reigns when even the middle class of noblemen could be promoted to higher level to some extent became popular among the middle lower class noblemen.

Actually, the eras of Engi and Tenryaku fell upon the transitional period to the dynasty state from the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) and the period when various reforms were carried out and these reforms were supported by not the direct rule by emperors but Sekkan governments which had been gradually formed. However, the Engi and Tenryaku eras were consciously trumpeted by people of succeeding generations and they were firmly fixed as an ideal politic symbol in the latter half of the Heian period. Emperor Godaigo also acknowledged the Engi and Tenryaku eras as the ideal reigns when the direct rule by emperors was carried out and he rejected a samurai government and conducted the Kenmu Restoration. Also toward the end of the Edo period, the idealization of the Engi and Tenryaku eras became one of the drivers for the Meiji Restoration and this thought carried over into Kokoku Shikan (emperor-centered historiography which is based on state Shinto) after the Meiji period.

As further research was done after World War II, it became apparent that the eras were overrated by people in the literary nobility in the middle and lower classes who were potentially frustrated at the system of rule at the time, and the actual policies of that time were merely an extension of the ones by the Emperor Uda era and under Insei (rule by the retired emperor) of consecutive reign by Retired Emperor Uda. It was also revealed that, the assumption of a regency government, Sessho Kanpaku (regent and chief adviser to the Emperor), was only a temporary post in the Engi and Tenryaku eras. Following this reappraisal, the view that the period from the 9th century to the 11th century was a transition period from the Japanese nation under the ritsuryo codes to a dynastic state system became commonly accepted, without focusing on the Engi and Tenryaku eras too much.

[Original Japanese]