Jushichijo Kenpo (The 17-Article Constitution; a code consisting of 17 articles in ancient Japan) (十七条憲法)

Jushichijo Kenpo was a code consisting of 17 articles, which was described under the article of May 9, 604 of "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) and "Sendai Kujihongi" (Ancient Japanese History) as follows: 'In summer on May 9, the Crown Prince himself wrote 17 articles of constitution.'
Here the crown prince means 'Umayado no toyotomimi no miko' (Prince Shotoku). It is also called Kenpo Jushichijo or Jushichijo no Kenpo (both means the 17-Article Constitution).

Unlike today's constitution, it stipulates moral codes for bureaucrats and nobilities, and it can be said that its nature is similar to the National Public Service Act, Local Public Service Act and National Public Service Ethics Act of the present day.

It synthesizes the concepts of Confucianism and Buddhism, and also shows influences of Legalism and Taoism.


The first appearance of The 17-Article Constitution was in the "Nihonshoki" completed in 720 which quoted its full text, and the original book or manuscript preceding it doesn't exist. There is no way but to believe the description in the "Nihonshoki" and "Sendai Kujihongi" that it was established in 604.
(According to "Jogu Shotoku Hoteisetsu" [Biography of Shotoku Taishi], it was established in 605.)
(According to "Isshinkaimon" [The Precepts of One-Mind], it was established in 602).

With the appearance of modern history, this theory has been discredited.

Sokichi TSUDA stated in "Nippon jodaishi kenkyu"(Research in the ancient history of Japan) published in 1930 that the terms such as 'Kokushi and Kuni no miyatsuko' (provincial governors and the heads of local governments) as well as the contents written in The 17-Article Constitution did not match the political system of the time of the reign of Empress Suiko, and that it was therefore established at a later time, i.e. around the time when the "Nihonshoki" was compiled.

Taro SAKAMOTO (a historian) stated in "Prince Shotoku" published in 1979 that since 'Kokushi' might have existed at the time of the reign of Empress Suiko and there had been also some sorts of bureaucratic systems prior to the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), the description in the "Nihonshoki" could be correct.

Hiromichi MORI commented in "Nihon shoki no nazo o toku" (Solving the Enigma of the Chronicles of Japan) published in 1999 as follows: 'Considering the grammatical deviations affected by Japanese (washu) in the kanbun (Chinese classics) used in The 17-Article Constitution, it is unlikely that the Constitution was established in the seventh century, and it was created at the time when the "Nihonshoki" was compiled.'

[Original Japanese]