"Engishiki" (Rules and regulations concerning ceremonies and other events), Vol. 4, Written on the reverse side of another document

Details

"Engishiki" (Rules and regulations concerning ceremonies and other events), Vol. 4, Written on the reverse side of another document

calligraphy / Heian

Heian period, 11th century

Ink on paper

1巻

National Treasure

In the second half of the 7th century, Japanese people studied Chinese law and applied it to Japan. The resulting law system was called ritsuryo. ‘Ritsu’ denotes criminal law and ‘ryo’ denotes other basic laws. However, many aspects of this system did not fully correspond to Japanese society, so supplementary laws known as ‘kyaku’ were also created. The detailed rules and regulations necessary for implementing all these laws were called shiki. These regulations were supplemented and revised several times to meet changes in society during the Heian period, which lasted from 794 to 1192. The Engishiki is a set of these regulations. It began to be compiled in 905, or Engi 5, on the order of Emperor Daigo. Only a small section of the shiki regulations formulated before this time are still with us today, but the Engishiki has survived in almost its complete form, thus making it an invaluable historical document.

This Engishiki is the oldest extant copy. It was transcribed from several other documents. A letter is written on the back of this scroll in Japanese kana script. It is also believed to date back to the Heian period, in the 11th century, and it is characterized by its relaxed, free-flowing brushstrokes. This letter is bookmarked by other documents dated Chogen 8 and 9, or 1035 to 1036 in the western calendar. This is an extremely valuable work for understanding social conditions at that time. It was passed down through generations of the Kujo family, a branch of the Fujiwara family, who held political power throughout the Nara and Heian periods.

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