Monjo Hakase (文章博士)

Monjo hakase of Daigaku-ryo (大学寮: an institute for the training of government officials established under ritsuryo-sei [a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo codes], which belonged to Shikibu-sho [Ministry in charge of ceremonies in the Nara and Heian periods]) was a teacher of kiden-do (the study of histories, one of the subjects taught at Daigaku-ryo), and was ryoge-no-kan (a government post outside those determined under ritsuryo-sei). Monjo hakase taught history to monjo-sho (students of histories), which included such subjects as Chinese classical literature and Chinese official history. Its Tang name was 翰林学士 (which is pronounced kanrin-gakushi in Japanese).


The post of Monjo hakase was established on August 30, 728 in order to supplement Myogyo-do (Daigaku-ryo's then main subject to study and teach Chinese classics of Confucianism such as shisho-gokyo [四書五経: the four books and five classics]) through teaching Chinese classics of other than Confucianism, and at that time Ritsugaku hakase (teacher of law, which was later called myobo hakase) was concurrently established. The status of monjo hakase was initially regarded as equivalent to the official court rank of Shoshichiinoge (senior seventh rank, lower grade) corresponding to that of an assistant teacher of myogyo-do. Two years later, myobo-sho (subject of law) and monjo-sho (subject of history and Chinese literature) were recruited on April 18, 730, and as a result, these subjects became virtural independent subject each.

Gakuryo (the law on scholarship) formulated under the ritsuryo codes focused, following Tang's system, on myogyo-do which was to teach Confucianism, the dominant philosophy in Chinese dynasties, and the post of monjo hakase was installed for the purpose of supplementing myogyo-do. In Japan, however, literature and history attracted more interest due to their approachable nature than philosophical study (myogyo-do) and administrative study (myobo-do) did. As a result, the status of monjo hakase came to rise as illustrated by OMI no Mifune's assuming office as Daigaku no kami (the principal of Daigaku-ryo) and as monjo hakase at the same time in 772. The status of monjo hakase was raised to be equivalent to the official court rank of Jugoinoge (junior fifth rank, lower grade) on March 15, 811, passing myogyo hakase, the then highest ranking post among various kinds of hakase, and becoming the only teacher within Daigaku-ryo with a Court noble status. Furthermore, the teaching staff quota of Kiden-do was raised to two on April 20, 834 incorporating a post of Kiden Hakase which had been installed in 808. Since then, either kiden-ka or kiden-do came to be used as the subject name, but teacher's title continued to be monjo hakase which had been in use since the Jinki era (except some examples of using 'kiden hakase' to stress the meaning of 'a history teacher' in sentences where hakase of other subjects were mentioned together). Additionally, shikiden (a rice field given to senior bureaucrats based on office) for Monjo Hakase was increased from 4 cho (1 cho under the ritsuryo system equaled to 11,800 sq. m.) to 6 cho in 859.

Roles of monjo hakase were mainly teaching and conducting tests at Daigaku-ryo, but they sometimes included giving lectures to emperors, regents and chancellors, and Court nobles, and writing, on their requests, Chinese-style poems, reports on history, application letters for promotion, etc. Consequently, personnel in the post of monjo hakase often became familiar with persons in positions of authority and, by the end of the Heian period, as many as twelve such personnel became Court nobles based on their recommendations, including HARUZUMI no Yoshitada, TACHIBANA no Hiromi and KI no Haseo. The most outstanding group of people among them was the Sugawara clan founded by SUGAWARA no Kiyokimi who established Monjoin (one of the privately owned dormitories/lecture halls located in Daigaku-ryo) in around the middle of the ninth century. Having produced monjo hakase who later became a Court noble over three consecutive generations, i.e. from Kiyokimi to SUGAWARA no Koreyoshi, then to SUGAWARA no Michizane, the Sugawara clan was in such a strong position that they looked as if they were holding the post of hakase by heredity. In addition, Monjoin was officially recognized as jikiso (Daigaku-ryo's dormitory where lectures were delivered as well), which is said to have made the Sugawara clan so much more outstanding that able scholars such as TACHIBANA no Hiromi and SHIMADA no Tadaomi joined the Sugawara clan's pupils to receive lectures at Sugawara's private residence (a private school familiarly called 'Kanke-roka' [菅家廊下: the hallway of Sugawara's house]). Michizane, who had risen to become Minister of the Right, however, fell in the Shotai Incident (an incident in 901 in which Michizane was defamed by FUJIWARA no Tokihira and relegated to a government office known as Dazaifu in Kyushu). Additionally, both SUGAWARA no Takami and SUGAWARA no Atsushige, who have been implicated in the Incident and appointed respectively Daigaku no kami and monjo hakase after returning to the capital, died at an early age. The Sugawara clan's monopoly of kiden-do failed because of these incidents.

Against the background of those days, however, when most of government posts were increasingly being filled by succession, the Oe clan took the place of the Fujiwara clan, especially monopolizing the two monjo hakase posts from 934 to 943, with OE no Koretoki, the first monjo hakase coming from the Oe clan (appointed in 929), and OE no Asatsuna, who filled the other of the two posts under the monjo hakase quota. The Oe clan, as a result, deprived the Sugawara clan of half the latter's control over Monjoin through a monopoly on the monjo hakase posts, which even the Sugawara clan could not achieve. The presence of the Fujiwara clan in kiden-do, however, was also quite remarkable after the appointment to monjo hakase of FUJIWARA no Sugane (the Southern House of the Fujiwara clan) and FUJIWARA no Sukeyo (the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan). Especially, the Fujiwara clan owned Kangakuin, one of Daigaku-besso (private dormitories/lecture-halls located in Daigaku-ryo), which was believed to have been established in rivalry with Monjoin, and worked, en masse, to enhance the family's presence in the educational scene. Consequently, either of the five families, namely the Sugawara clan, the Oe clan, the Southern House of the Fujiwara clan, the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan and the Hino line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan interchangeably filled both of the two monjo hakase posts after the mid Heian period. It is said that those five families were able to monopolize the quota of two monjo hakase by heredity because a person who once became monjo hakase could be promoted, capitalizing on his many opportunities to be acquainted with influential figures such as emperors, regents and chancellors, and Court nobles, to an important post such as benkan (a key position in the Grand Council of State called Dajokan) in a relatively shorter period of time than could other types of hakase who were hardly able to rise to a higher post and, further, because he could continue to gain the social trust and status, even after that, as a distinguished academic just as monjo hakase could.

[Original Japanese]