Emperor Monmu

Emperor of Japan
Reign 697–707
Coronation September 23, 697
Predecessor Jitō
Successor Gemmei
Born Prince Karu
Died July 18, 707
Fujiwara-kyō, Japan
Burial Hinokuma no Ako no oka no e no misasagi (Nara)
Spouse Unknown
Issue Shōmu by Fujiwara no Miyako
Father Prince Kusakabe, son of Temmu
Mother Princess Abe (Gemmei)

Emperor Monmu (文武天皇 Monmu-tennō, 683–707) was the 42nd emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Monmu's reign spanned the years from 697 through 707.[3]

Traditional narrative

Before his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (imina)[4] was Karu-shinnō.[5]

He was a grandson of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō. He was the second son of Prince Kusakabe. Monmu's mother was Princess Abe, a daughter of Emperor Tenji. Monmu's mother would later accede to the throne herself, and she would be known as Empress Gemmei.[6]

Events of Monmu's life

Karu-shinnō was only six years old when his father, Crown Prince Kusakabe, died.

Emperor Monmu ruled until his death in 707, at which point he was succeeded by his mother, Empress Gemmei, who was also his first cousin once removed and his first cousin twice removed. He left a young son by Fujiwara no Miyako, a daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito: Obito no miko (Prince Obito), who eventually became Emperor Shōmu.

Emperor Monmu's reign lasted 10 years. He died at the age of 25.[8]

The actual site of Monmu's grave is known.[1] This emperor is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine (misasagi) at Nara.

The Imperial Household Agency designates this location as Monmu's mausoleum. It is formally named Hinokuma no Ako no oka no e no misasagi.[9]


Kugyō (公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras.

In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Monmu's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:

Eras of Monmu's reign

Conventional modern scholarship seems to have determined that the years of Monmu's reign are encompassed within more than one era name or nengō.[12]

Non-nengō period

The initial years of Monmu's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō.[13] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods – nengō – languished until Monmu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.

In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taiho time-frame:

"The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695–698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji [695].) ...In the third year of the Taka era [697], Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince."[5]

Consorts and Children

Bunin: Fujiwara no Miyako (藤原宮子) (d. 754), daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito

Hin: Ki no Kamado-no-iratsume (紀竃門娘)

Hin: Ishikawa no Tone-no-iratsume (石川刀子娘)

See also


Japanese Imperial kamon — a stylized chrysanthemum blossom
  1. 1 2 Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 文武天皇 (42); retrieved 2013-8-22.
  2. Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 55.
  3. Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 60–63, p. 63, at Google BooksBrown, Delmer M. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 270–271; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki. pp. 137–140.
  4. Brown, pp. 264; prior to Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the emperors were very long and people did not generally use them. The number of characters in each name diminished after Jomei's reign.
  5. 1 2 3 Brown, p. 270.
  6. Varley, p. 138.
  7. Titsingh, p. 60; Brown, p. 270; Varley, pp. 44, 137–138; a distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fishimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Emperor Go-Murakami.
  8. Varley, p. 140.
  9. Ponsonby-Fane, p. 420.
  10. Brown, p. 266.
  11. Brown, p. 271.
  12. Titsingh, pp. 60–63; Brown, p. 271.
  13. Titsingh, p. 60.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Empress Jitō
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Empress Genmei
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