Four Fujiwara Brothers (藤原四兄弟)

Fujiwara shi kyodai/Fujiwara yon kyodai (Four Fujiwara Brothers) was the historical term that refers to the four sons of FUJIWARA no Fuhito who held the reins during the Tenpyo era (729-748) in the early Nara period. They were also called as Fujiwara shishi/Fujiwara yonshi (Four Fujiwara Brothers).

Four Fujiwara Brothers

FUJIWARA no Muchimaro, 680 - 737 (the founder of the Southern House of the Fujiwara clan)

FUJIWARA no Fusasaki, 681 - 737 (the founder of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan)

FUJIWARA no Umakai, ca. 694 - 737 (the founder of the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan)

FUJIWARA no Maro, 695 - 737 (the founder the Western House of the Fujiwara clan)

Muchimaro, Fusasaki, and Umakai were maternal half-brothers while Maro was a paternal half-brother. FUJIWARA no Miyako, the mother of Emperor Shomu, and Empress Komyo, the wife of Emperor Shomu, were paternal half-sisters.

Four Fujiwara brothers government

After the death of Fuhito who was involved with the compilation of Ritsuryo codes, the relocation of Heijo-kyo capital and so on, four brothers fought for the political power with Prince Nagaya through the reigns of Empress Gensho to Emperor Shomu. After defeating the Prince Nagaya in the Conspiracy of Nagayao, along with Muchimaro (Dainagon [chief councilor of state]) and Fusasaki (Sangi [councilor]) who had already become a court noble, Umakai and Maro also became sangi, and four brothers occupied the power among the nine court nobles and they played a political role in the Imperial Court from 729 to 737.
It is called 'Four Fujiwara brothers government.'

In the 'Four Fujiwara brothers government' era, the finance under the Ritsuryo codes was established, in 734, shozei (the rice tax stored in provincial offices warehouse) with the mixed Kanto (rice gathered as rice field tax and stored in various provinces) was enacted, and in 736, land taxes on Koden (field administered directly by a ruler) paying to Kyoto were begun. They deployed a Sokan (a military authority) in Kyoto and Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara), a Chinbushi (a temporary government post), later a Setsudoshi (a military governor), in every route in areas west of Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara) to improve the maintenance of security. As the external policies, they dispatched a Kenshiragi-shi (Japanese envoy to Shilla) and conducted expeditions to Tohoku region.

Four brothers died one after another due to the epidemic of smallpox that occurred in 737, which brought to an end of the four Fujiwara brothers government. Because the children of four brothers were young, TACHIBANA no Moroe (Prince Kazuraki), who was a maternal half-brother of Empress Komyo (a daughter of Fuhito) and descended to subject status, was responsible for the government as Udaijin (minister of the right). FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu, the son of Umakai was subdued in the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu in 740; thereafter a period of absence of high rank officials from Fujiwara clan continued for a certain time until FUJIWARA no Toyonari and FUJIWARA no Nakamaro, the sons of Muchimaro, gained power in the Emperor Koken's era.

Each lineage of descendants of four Fujiwara brothers was called 'Fujiwara Nanke' (the Southern House of the Fujiwara clan), 'FUJIWARA Hokke' (the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan), 'Fujiwara Shikike' (the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan), and 'Fujiwara Kyoke' (the Western House of the Fujiwara clan); although they went through the rise and fall, they left a major mark on later politics, learning, and culture. Refer to Four Fujiwara Families.

[Original Japanese]