Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子, Shōtoku Taishi, February 7, 574 –
April 8, 622), also known as Prince Umayado (厩戸皇子, Umayado
no ōji) or Prince Kamitsumiya (上宮皇子, Kamitsumiya no ōji),
was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the
Asuka period in
Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was the son of Emperor Yōmei
and his consort, Princess Anahobe no Hashihito, who was also Yōmei's
younger half-sister. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga
clan and he was involved in the defeat of the rival Mononobe
clan. The primary source of the life and accomplishments of Prince
Shōtoku comes from the Nihon Shoki.
Over successive generations, a devotional cult arose around the figure
Prince Shōtoku for the protection of Japan, the Imperial Family,
and for Buddhism. Key religious figures such as Saichō,
others claimed inspiration or visions attributed to Prince
1 Cultural and political role
3 Titles and name
5 See also
9 External links
Cultural and political role
Shotoku Taishi by Kogan Zenji
According to tradition, Shōtoku was appointed as regent (Sesshō) in
Empress Suiko (554–628), his aunt. Shōtoku, inspired by
the Buddha's teachings, succeeded in establishing a centralized
government during his reign. In 603, he established the Twelve Level
Cap and Rank System at the court. He is credited with promulgating a
The Prince was an ardent Buddhist and is traditionally attributed the
authorship of the
Sangyō Gisho or "Annotated Commentaries on the
Three Sutras" (the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the
Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra). The first of these
commentaries, Hokke Gisho, is traditionally dated to 615 and thus
regarded as "the first Japanese text", in turn making Shōtoku the
first Japanese writer.
A legend claims that when
Bodhidharma came to Japan, he met with
Prince Shōtoku whilst under the guise of a starving beggar. The
Prince asked the beggar to identify himself, but the man did not
reply. Instead of going ahead, Shōtoku gave him food, drink, and
covered him with his purple garment, telling him to "lie in peace".
The Prince then sang for the starving man.
Alas! For The wayfarer lying And hungered for rice On the hill of
Kataoka (The sunshiny) Art thou become Parentless? Hast thou no lord
Flourishing as a bamboo? Alas! For The wayfarer lying And hungered for
The second day, the Prince sent a messenger to the starving man, but
he was already dead. Hereupon, Shōtoku was greatly grieved and
ordered his burial. Shōtoku later thought the man was no ordinary man
for sure, and sending another messenger, discovered the earth had not
been disturbed. On opening the tomb there was no body inside, and the
Prince's purple garment lay folded on the coffin. The Prince then sent
another messenger to claim the garment, and he continued to wear it
just as before. Struck by awe, the people praised the Prince "How true
it is that a sage knoweth a sage." This legend is linked with the
temple of Daruma-dera in Ōji, Nara, where a stone stupa was found
underground, which is exceedingly rare.
Prince Shōtoku commissioned the
Shitennō-ji (temple) in Settsu
Province (present-day Osaka) after his military victory against the
powerful Mononobe clan, for he is said[by whom?] to have summoned them
to crush his enemies. Shōtoku's name has been linked with Hōryū-ji,
a temple in Yamato Province, and numerous other temples in the Kansai
region. Documentation at
Hōryū-ji claims that Suiko and Shōtoku
founded the temple in the year 607. Archaeological excavations in 1939
have confirmed that Prince Shōtoku's palace, the Ikaruga no miya
(斑鳩宮), stood in the eastern part of the current temple complex,
where the Tō-in (東院) sits today.
Despite being credited as the founder of Japanese Buddhism, it is also
said that the Prince respected
Shinto and never visited Buddhist
temples without visiting
In his correspondence with Emperor Yang of Sui, the Prince's letter
contains the earliest known written instance in which the Japanese
archipelago is referred to by a term meaning "land of the rising sun."
The Sui Emperor had dispatched a message in 605 that said, "the
sovereign of Sui respectfully inquires about the sovereign of Wa," and
Shōtoku responded by sponsoring a mission led by
Ono no Imoko in 607,
who brought along a note reading: "From the sovereign of the land of
the rising sun (hi izuru tokoro) to the sovereign of the land of the
He is said[by whom?] to have been buried at Shinaga in Kawachi
A number of institutes are named after him, such as Shotoku Gakuen
University and its associated junior college (both in Gifu). The first
syllable of his name (聖), can be read shō in
Go-on and can also be
read sei in Kan-on. The later reading is found in Seitoku University
and its associated junior college (both in Matsudo, Chiba) as well as
Seitoku Junior College of Nutrition (and indirectly
its replacement Seiei College).
Titles and name
Shōtoku is known by several titles, although his real name is Prince
Umayado (厩戸皇子, Umayado no ōji, literally ‘the prince of the
stable door’) since he was born in front of a stable. He is also
known as Toyotomimi (豊聡耳) or Kamitsumiyaō (上宮王). In the
Kojiki, his name appears as Kamitsumiya no Umayado no Toyotomimi no
Mikoto (上宮之厩戸豊聡耳命). In the Nihon Shoki, in addition
to Umayado no ōji, he is referred to as Toyomimito Shōtoku
(豊耳聡聖徳), Toyotomimi no Nori no Ōkami (豊聡耳法大王),
and simply Nori no Ushi no Ōkami (法主王).
The name by which he is best known today, Prince Shōtoku, first
appeared in Kaifūsō, written more than 100 years after his death in
Wood statue of Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shōtoku depicted as a bodhisattva in Asuka-dera,
10,000 yen banknote featuring the Prince Shōtoku
Statue of Shōtoku as a child, c. 1200-1350 AD
The Tenjukoku Shūchō Mandala, created to commemorate Shōtoku's
death (622 AD)
Jōgū Shōtoku Hōō Teisetsu, biography
Historical Sites of Prince Shōtoku
^ Binyon, Laurence (2006). Painting in the Far East: An Introduction
to the History of Pictorial Art in Asia, Especially China and Japan.
Elibron.com. ISBN 0-543-94830-7. The author of this portrait is
unknown; it is generally held to be the work of Korean artist, but is
quite probably the work of native hand. Unknown parameter
[page= ignored (help)
^ A History of Japan, R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger, Charles E.Tuttle
Company, Inc., Tokyo 1977, 0221-000349-4615
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-16. Retrieved
^ a b Como, Michael I. (2006). Shōtoku: ethnicity, ritual, and
violence in the Japanese Buddhist tradition. New York: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-518861-6.
^ Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton
Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
pp. 811–812. ISBN 9780691157863.
^ John Whitney Hall (1988). "The Asuka Enlightenment". The Cambridge
History of Japan. Cambridge University. p. 175. Retrieved
Shōichi Watanabe (Professor Emeritus at Sophia University) (2014),
concerning education: What I must hand down regarding the Emperor and
the Imperial Family of Japan]. In Seiron, 508, 204-211.
^ Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 128.
^ Varley, Paul. (1973). Japanese Culture: A Short History. p. 15
^ "遣隋使". Chinese Encyclopedia Online. Original text:
日出處天子致書日沒處天子無恙 (Book of Sui, Volume 81)
^ Guth, Christine. "The Divine Boy in Japanese Art." Monumenta
Nipponica 42:1 (1987). p12.
^ "Answers - The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's
Como, Michael A. (2008). Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in
the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Varley, H. Paul. (1973). Japanese Culture: A Short History. New York:
Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and
Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press.
ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842
Pradel, Chari (2008). Shoko Mandara and the Cult of Prince Shotoku in
the Kamakura Period, Artibus Asiae 68 (2), 215-246
Media related to
Prince Shōtoku at Wikimedia Commons
ISNI: 0000 0001 2280 2678
BNF: cb14615128t (data)