The Shie Incident (紫衣事件)

The Shie Incident occurred in the early Edo period and was a conflict between the Shogunate and the Imperial Court that shows the oppression and control exercised by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) on the Imperial Court. It is considered the most serious discord or feud between the Shogunate and the Imperial Court in the early Edo period. It is said that this incident was the trigger that led to Emperor Gomizunoo deciding to abdicate, and was a serious blow to the relationship between the Shogunate and the Imperial Court.

Shie (Purple Robe)
Shie indicates the clerical garment or surplice robe worn by Buddhist priests that were worn by monks and nuns of high virtue regardless of their religious branch and had been traditionally presented by the Imperial Court. Not only did it indicate the high virtue of the monk or nun, but also an income source for the Imperial Court.

The background of the incident
In 1613, the bakufu aimed to oppress the temples and monks and balance the relationship between the Imperial Court and the religious groups, decreed 'Chokkyo (imperial sanction) Shie tome and Yamashiro Daitoku-ji Temple Myoshin-ji Temple to Shoji Nyuin Hatto' ('Chokkyo Shie Hatto' and 'Daitoku-ji Temple Myoshin-ji Temple to Shoji Nyuin Hatto') and established the Kinchu Narabini Kuge Shohatto (Various Regulations for the Imperial Court and Court Nobles) 2 years later and prohibited the Imperial Court from easily presenting Shie and Shonin names.

In previous times, monks in purple robes were rare. In recent times, imperial sanctions have been issued without reason, disrupting roji and defiling state-sponsored temples, and this is very unsuitable. From now on, monks should be selected for their virtue and have enough experience and knowledge before asking for the Nyuin ceremony.
(Kinchu Narabani Kuge Shohatto, Article 16)

Summary of the Incident
Although the bakufu regulated the presenting of Shie, Emperor Gomizunoo followed the previous tradition of giving Imperial decrees, allowing the wearing of Shie by about 15 Buddhist monks without asking for the bakufu's opinion. In 1627, when the bakufu, Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third Shogun learned of this, and since there was no consultation in advance he therefore considered this a violation of the law and annulled many of the Imperial decrees and ordered Shigemune ITAKURA of the Kyoto Shoshidai to confiscate any illegal Shies.

Against the strong-handed stance of the bakufu, the Imperial Court strongly objected to the annulment of Imperial decrees allowing the wearing of Shie and high priests of major temples such as Takuan Soho, the resident priest of Daitoku-ji Temple and Eto TOGEN of Myoshin-ji Temple also agreed with the Imperial Court and submitted a document of complaint.

In 1629, the bakufu exiled Takuan and other high priests who rebelled against the bakufu to the Provinces of Dewa and Mutsu.

[Original Japanese]