The fanaticism of the Emperor Shomu and his consort, Komyo, bore fruit during the reign of Koken. In the third year after Shomu's abdication, a decree was issued prohibiting the taking of life in any form. This imposed upon the State the responsibility of making donations of rice to support the fishermen, whose source of livelihood was cut off by the decree.
On that occasion the Empress Koken, attended by all the great civil and military dignitaries, held a magnificent fete, and in the following year the temple Todai-ji was endowed with the taxes of five thousand households and the revenue from twenty-five thousand acres of rice-fields.
To the Emperor Konin belongs the credit of correcting some flagrant abuses in provincial administration. There was an inconvenient outcome of the religious mania which pervaded the upper classes during the reigns of Shomu and Koken.
Later on, these and cognate creations of credulity take their appropriate places in the realm of folk-lore, but they rank with sober history in the ancient annals. In this respect Japan did not differ from other early peoples. In July, 749, the Emperor Shomu abdicated in favour of his daughter, Princess Abe, known in history as Koken.
Soon, however, they began to petition for reappointment, and under the sway of the Empress Koken a via media was found by extending the period of office to six years.
Twenty years passed before the ceremony could be performed, and means were ultimately furnished by the Buddhist priest Koken son of the celebrated Rennyo Shonin, prelate of the Shin sect who, out of the abundant gifts of his disciples, placed at the disposal of the Court a sum of ten thousand gold ryo,* being moved to that munificence by the urging of Fujiwara Sanetaka, a former nai-daijin.
It is just in relation to these detailed facts that criticisms or even denials of the theory have been most frequent. Koken, otherwise a convinced supporter of the theory, inquires in his “Vorwelt,” apropos of the tortoises, what has become of the genealogical trees that were scattered abroad in the world as proved facts in the early days of Darwinism.
The German Professor, as usual. Ah, Mr. Koken, Mr. Koken those light words of yours have borne a heavy fruit. I possess four hundred implements now, and they will double the weight of my luggage and ruin my starched shirts, especially those formidable "praechellean" skull-cleavers. And I know exactly what the customs officer at Marseilles will say, when he peeps into my bag: "Tiens, des cailloux!
The nun Koken now abandoned the veil and re-ascended the throne under the name of Shotoku. Her affection for Dokyo had been augmented by his constant ministrations during her illness while on a visit to the "detatched palace" at Omi, and she conferred on him a priestly title which made him rank equally with the prime minister.
In 774, Koken issued an edict that provincial governors who had held office for five years or upwards should be dismissed at once, those of shorter terms being allowed to complete five years and then removed. Another evil, inaugurated during the reign of Shomu, when faith in the potency of supernatural influences obsessed men's minds, was severely dealt with by Konin.