Empress Jingū

Empress Jingū

This sculptured image presents an idealized likeness of Empress Jingū (Okinaga-Tarashihime no Mikoto, 1326). Collection of Aka-ana Hachimangū Shrine, Shimane Prefecture
Empress of Japan
Reign 201–269 (traditional)
Predecessor Emperor Chūai (traditional)
Successor Emperor Ōjin (traditional)
Empress consort of Japan
Tenure 192–200
Born 169
Died 269 (aged 100)
Spouse Emperor Chūai
Issue Emperor Ōjin
Posthumous name

Empress consort Jingū (神功皇后 Jingū-kōgō), occasionally known as Empress regnant Jingū (神功天皇 Jingū-tennō),[1] was a Japanese empress who ruled beginning in the year 201. The consort to Emperor Chūai, she also served as Regent from the time of her husband's death in 201 until her son Emperor Ōjin acceded to the throne in 269.[2] Up until the Meiji period, Jingū was considered to have been the 15th Japanese imperial ruler, according to the traditional order of succession (hence her alternate title Jingū tennō 神功天皇); but a re-evaluation of the extant historical records caused her name to be removed from that list; and her son, Emperor Ōjin, is today considered to have been the 15th sovereign.

Legendary narrative

No firm dates can be assigned to this historical figure's life or reign. Jingū is regarded by historians as a "legendary" figure because there is insufficient material available for further verification and study. Jingū's name before her accession to the Chrysanthemum throne is said to have been Okinagatarashi-hime (息長帯比売).

Empress Jingū, woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1880)

Although the final resting place of this legendary regent/sovereign remains unknown, Jingū's officially designated misasagi or tomb can be visited today at Misasagi-chō in Nara.[3] This kofun-type Imperial tomb is characterized by a keyhole-shaped island located within a wide, water-filled moat.[4]

Kitabatake Chikafusa (1293–1354)[5] and Arai Hakuseki (1657–1725) claimed that she was actually Himiko, the third century shaman-queen of Yamataikoku, and, because Himiko was a historical figure, had to be included as a member of the imperial family by the authors of the Nihon Shoki. Among modern scholars, Naitō Torajirō posits that she is Yamatohime-no-mikoto, while Higo Kazuo suggests that she is Yamato-totohimomoso-hime.

In 1881, Empress Jingū became the first woman to be featured on a Japanese banknote;[6] however, since no actual images of this legendary figure are known to exist, the representation of Jingū which was artistically contrived by Edoardo Chiossone is entirely conjectural. Actually, Chiossione used a female employee of the Govt. Printing Bureau as model. This picture was also used for 1908/14 postage stamps, actually the first postage stamps of Japan to show a woman. A revised design by Yoshida Toyo was used for 1924/37 Jingu design stamps. The usage of a jingu design ended with a new stamp series in 1939.[7]

A 1-yen banknote representing Empress Jingū, 1881

The Imperial Household has designated an official mausoleum at Saki no Tatanami no ike no e no Misasagi, Nara, in what was formerly Yamato Province.[8]

Excluding the legendary Jingū, there were eight reigning empresses and their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century.[9] Empress Genmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.


According to the Nihon Shoki,[10] she led an army in an invasion of Korea and returned to Japan victorious after three years. However, there is no evidence of her rule in any part of Korea.[11][12] Her son Ōjin was born following her return. The legend alleges that her son was conceived but unborn when Chūai died. After those three years, the boy was born. Either a period of less than nine months contained three "years" (some seasons), e.g. three harvests, or the paternity of her late husband was just mythical and symbolic, rather than real.[13]

Empress Jingū and her minister Takeuchi, woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada

Some believe that Empress Jingū's conquest is only based on the Gwanggaeto Stele. But the legend of Jingū's invasion of the Korean peninsula also appears in the ancient Japanese chronicles Kojiki written in 680 and Nihon Shoki written in 720. In addition, the Nihon Shoki states that Father of Empress Jingū is Emperor Kaika's grandchild and her mother is of the Katsuragi clan.[14]

Some claim that characters were modified and the Japanese presence added on the Gwanggaeto Stele. Today, Japanese and some Chinese scholars discredit the intentionally damaged stele theory based on the study of the stele itself[15][16] and the pre–Sakō and pre-lime-marred rubbings.[17] Japanese military activities, defeated by Gwanggaeto, occupy half of the stele. The interpretation of the stele is still debated because, whether intentionally or not, the stele was damaged and the missing pieces make it impossible to translate. According to the book "From Paekchae Korea to the Origin of Yamato Japan" the Japanese misinterpreted the Gwanggaeto Stele. The Stele was a tribute to a Korean King, but because of a lack of punctuation the writing can be translated 4 different ways; this same Stele can be intrepreted as saying Korea crossed the sea and subjugated Japan, depending on where you punctuate the sentence.

The Chinese Book of Song of the Liu Song dynasty, written by the Chinese historian Shen Yue (441–513), notes the Japanese presence in the Korean peninsula. However, the Liu Song dynasty, as a southern Chinese dynasty of ancient times, had little contact with northeast Asia and most historians in Japan, Korea, and elsewhere believe that this dynasty most likely treated Baekje, Silla, and Yamato Japan as one and the same. It is unlikely that this error was committed with regards to the Sui dynasty and Goguryeo because they were major powers at the time.

The Chinese Book of Sui says that Japan provided military support to Baekje and Silla.[18]

According to the Samguk Sagi ("Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms"), written in 1145, King Asin sent his son Jeonji as a hostage in 397.[19] And King Silseong of Silla sent his son in 402; both were attempts to secure military aid from Yamato Japan so that the two nations could continue campaigns they had begun prior to the requests. Further complicating the relationship between the Japanese ruler and Korea is that, according to the Nihon Shoki, Korean prince Amenohiboko came to Japan,[20] and became the grandfather of Tajimamori, who served Emperor Suinin.[21] Whether the Koreans sent hostages or relatives with familial ties to Korean is debated.

See also


  1. The Shinto Shrine Agency of Ehime Prefecture
  2. Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 16–19; Brown, Delmer M. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 255; Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, pp. 101–103.
  3. Jingū's misasagi (PDF) (map), JP: Nara shikanko, lower right.
  4. context of kofun characteristics
  5. Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005, p. 29.
  6. History, Bank of Japan.
  7. 続逓信事業史 (Continued - History of Communications Business) vol. 3 郵便 (mails), ed. 郵政省 (Ministry of Postal Services), Tokyo 1963
  8. Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 424.
  9. Yoshida, Reiji. "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl", Japan Times. March 27, 2007; retrieved 2013-8-22.
  10. Nihon Shoki, Volume 9
  11. Kenneth B. Lee (1997). "4. Korea and Early Japan, 200 BC – 700 AD". Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 31–35. ISBN 0-275-95823-X.
  12. Hall, John Whitney (1998). "5. Japan and the continent". The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 308–10. ISBN 0-521-22352-0.
  13. Aston, William. (1998). Nihongi, Vol. 1, pp. 224–253.
  14. Nihon Shoki Vol. 9 "気長足姫尊。稚日本根子彦大日日天皇之曾孫。気長宿禰王之女也。母曰葛城高顙媛。"
  15. Takeda, Yukio. "Studies on the King Gwanggaeto Inscription and Their Basis". Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko. 47(1989):57–87.
  16. Xu, Jianxin. 好太王碑拓本の研究 (An Investigation of Rubbings from the Stele of Haotai Wang). Tokyodo Shuppan, 2006. ISBN 978-4-490-20569-5.
  17. Oh, Byung-sang, "Fountain: Echoes of drumming hoofbeats", JoongAng Ilbo, October 4, 2002.
  18. Chinese History Record Book of Sui: 隋書 東夷伝 第81巻列伝46 : 新羅、百濟皆以倭為大國,多珍物,並敬仰之,恆通使往來.
  19. Samguk Sagi (in Korean). 六年 夏五月 王與倭國結好 以太子腆支爲質
  20. Nihon Shoki, Vol. 6 "天日槍對曰 僕新羅國主之子也 然聞日本國有聖皇 則以己國授弟知古而化歸 (to serve) 之"
  21. Nihon Shoki, Vol. 6 "故天日槍娶但馬出嶋人 太耳女麻多烏 生但馬諸助也 諸助生但馬日楢杵 日楢杵生清彦 清彦生田道間守也"


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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Chūai
Empress of Japan
(traditional dates)
Succeeded by
Emperor Ōjin
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