From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion
In the interests of keeping this blog's classifications to a minimum, I am including the following under the title "Excerpts" even though it is not in the book. In was in fact edited out before the book went to press in favor of using the space for other entries. So one could say it is an "excerpt wannabe."
It is a rather long entry which I am splitting into three parts. Hopefully, the intro adequately explains the reason for the entry and the contents.
Here is Shinto in Ancient Texts Part 2
Shinto in Ancient Texts (prior to the year A.D.1000)
The Nihon shoki
(image from the website of Nara National Museum)
The first writings from Japan are known only through later mention or quotation in later documents. Here I list chronologically a number of important texts that are continuously being speculated about and reinterpreted, in order to better understand the development of Shinto and of Japanese history.
Kenpo Jushichiju (Seventeen Article Constitution; possibly around 604 - as recorded in the Nihon shoki of 720), Taika Reform and Ritsuryo System (around 645), Omi Code (around 668), Asuka-Kiyomihara Code (689), Taiho Code (701), Yoro Code (718) - the initial organization and subsequent reorganizations of the country, initially along the lines of Chinese government and increasingly introducing uniquely Japanese constructs. A census of the population and land, the division of land and districts, the imposition of taxes, the creation of civil and penal codes, the division of the government into departments of State and Worship, and all matters relating to the governing of the country and religious affairs are gradually defined and established.
Kokki and Tennoki (National Records; 620) - an historical text and history of emperors and court nobles thought to have been written by Shotoku Taishi and Soga no Umako but destroyed by fire in 645.
Kyuji (also known as the Kuji or Honji meaning “Ancient Tales”) and Teiki (Imperial Records) - thought to have been compiled in the mid-seventh century but no longer extant. The Ancient Tales probably contained myths and legends while the Imperial Records contained details on all the emperors up to that time. Said to be the basis for the Kojiki and Nihon shoki and mentioned in both books as existing texts that contained many “errors” and were in need of revision.
From this point we have the first Japanese writings still in existence.
Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters; 712) - creation and founding myths, stories and names of the kami, list of emperors. These three scrolls are one of the two “primary” sources of Shinto beliefs. Largely ignored after it was compiled, until reexamined by scholars beginning in the mid-seventeenth century. It was recorded that a scholar named O no Yasumaro wrote down a set of documents previously memorized by someone named Hieda no Are. The documents memorized were a chronology of the ruling house (Sumera mikoto no hitsugi) and anecdotal historical accounts (Saki no yo no furugoto). It was written in a combination of Chinese characters that were read phonetically, a style called Man'yogana, and Chinese.
Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan; 720) - contains the same creation and founding myths as Kojiki but adds several versions, and extends the chronology of the monarchs. It is also much longer than Kojiki (thirty volumes extant plus one lost volume vs. three for the Kojiki). It is the second “primary” source of Shinto beliefs. Both this and the Kojiki are a mixture of legend, myth, historical accounts and common beliefs. Because they are the oldest existing writings on these subjects, they have been much analyzed for both religious and historical truths and to understand the thinking of the ancient Japanese. Compiled by Prince Toneri (676-735), a son of Emperor Tenmu.
Hitachi, Harima, Hizen, Bungo, Yamashiro and Izumo Fudoki (approximately 713-33) - the Fudoki is a gazetteer or report from the provinces of Japan. This report was ordered by the central government in 713 and was to contain practical information (names of places, products of the province, etc.), as well as local legends, myths and “strange events” as remembered by the elderly. Only a few of these survive, most of them only in fragments. These are valuable local histories and legends, and offer confirmation and contradiction of accounts in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki.
Kaifuso (Fond Recollections of Poetry; 751) - the oldest collection of Chinese-style poetry (kanshi) written by Japanese, it contains one hundred and twenty poems by sixty-four authors, most of who were princes. Neither a historical no religious text, it provides background and a sense of the age.
Shoku Nihongi (History of Japan; 797) - an officially compiled historical work covering the time from the reign of Emperor Mammu (697) to the second year of Emperor Konin (791). Provides valuable information about the Nara period and the official recognition of both kami (called jindo) and Buddhism. This is an important historical document, covering a key part of Japanese history. In total there are considered to be six national histories (rikkokushi) covering the mythological age to 887, beginning with the Nihon shoki and continuing to the Shoku Nihongi (697-791), Nihon Koki (792-833), Shoku Nihon Koki (833-50), Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku (850-58), Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (858-87). They are written in “kanbun”, another system of assigning Japanese meaning and pronunciation to Chinese characters.