Sugawara no Kiyokimi (菅原清公)

SUGAWARA no Kiyokimi (also "Kiyotomo," 770 -November 26, 842) was the early Heian period court noble and literatus. His father's name was SUGAWARA no Furuhito. SUGAWARA no Koreyoshi was his son, and SUGAWARA no Michizane was his grandson.

During his career he passed from the position of Monjo hakase (chief calligrapher to the court) to such posts as Daigaku no kami (headmaster of the Academy), Shikibu taifu (chief judge of Civil Services), Sachuben (first assistant controller of the left) and Danjo daihitsu (Major Deputy Inspector of the Police Bureau), thereafter reaching Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and receiving imperial permission for a visit, via ox-drawn carriage, to the Emperor's palace. During that period, in 804, he was appointed Inspector of the envoy to Tang China, and as such crossed over to China together with Kukai, Saicho, and the rest of the emissaries. At Kiyokimi's suggestion, in 818--after his return to Japan--ceremonies and customs at court were modified to reflect a more Tang style. One example of a specific aspect of this change that survived to affect later generations is that the process of assigning names to people, heretofore done in Japanese style, was changed into Tang style. Specifically, for male children, names in a longer format, like 'Tamuramaro' from 'Tamuramaro SAKANOUE' were shortened into two- character names (read in kun-yomi, meaning Japanese pronunciation) like 'Michizane' from 'SUGAWARA no Michizane' or 'Kintsune' from 'FUJIWARA no Kintsune,' or alternatively one-character names (also read in kun-yomi) like 'Toru' from 'MINAMOTO no Toru' or 'Makoto' from Lord 'MINAMOTO no Makoto'; as regards names for female children, the format of one character followed by 'ko' (also pronounced 'shi') was introduced thanks to a proposal by Kiyokimi.

Kiyokimi was also called 'the greatest of the Confucians,' and was invested into the nobility at Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), as befitting his official post as Monjo hakase (Chief court calligrapher); under the Ritsuryo system, he essentially stole the position of 'top brush' (i.e., chief calligrapher) from Myogyo, an instructor in the Confucian classics at the Academy. Moreover, his reputation as a literatus meant there were some, like OE no Otondo, who in fact went as far as visiting him at his private residence to request lessons (as recorded in the "Fuso Rakuki," or Abridged History of Japan). As a result, the large hallway of the Sugawara clan's private estate (in those days, the hallways had sufficient space to be used as a regular room, costing rent and all) became a gathering point for Academy students, thereby acquiring the name 'the Kanke (Sugawara family) hallway' among later generations (as recorded in the "Kitano Tenjin onden," or Legends of Kitano Tenjin Shrine (which was dedicated to Michizane). Starting with Kiyokimi, instructors at the Academy began to have personal interactions with their students as master and pupils, leading to the creation of a kind of school clique as well as a more concentrated effort by instructors like Kiyokimi truly to teach their students (of course, the contribution to this new system made by Kiyokimi's talented successors Koreyoshi and Michizane is also quite large) and as a result, the position of Monjo hakase became a more or less hereditary one, held by many from the Sugawara clan; this earned the clan the resentment of all the other Monjo hakase, especially MIYAKO no Haraaka (uncle of MIYAKO no Yoshika), who insisted that ability (real merit) should be the key to success, not birth privilege or personal connections. The antagonism between the Sugawara clan and the rival faction continued to fester through successive eras, leading some to view this antagonism as the true cause of Michizane's famous demotion later on (in the Shotai Incident).

Once his grandson Michizane was deified as the god Tenjin, Kiyokimi and his son Koreyoshi were deified together at Tenmangu Shrine.

In addition to his contributions to the family poetry collection, the 'Kankeshu' (Collected Poems of the Sugawara family), Kiyokimi is also known for his work, together with KIYOHARA no Natsuno, to edit the 'Ryo no gige' (Clarification of the Code).

[Original Japanese]