Famous Deaths, History Today — May 2, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Famous Deaths Today: 756 -Emperor Shōmu, Emperor of Japan.


Emperor Shōmu was the 45th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.
Before his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (imina) is not clearly known, but he was known as Oshi-hiraki Toyosakura-hiko-no-mikoto.
Shōmu was the son of Emperor Mommu and Fujiwara no Miyako, a daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito.
Shōmu had four Empresses and six Imperial sons and daughters.
Shōmu is known as the first emperor whose consort was not born into the imperial household. His consort Kōmyō was a non-royal Fujiwara commoner. A ritsuryo office was created for the queen-consort, the Kogogushiki; and this bureaucratic innovation continued into the Heian period.
Shōmu, a devout Buddhist, is best remembered for commissioning, in 743, the sixteen-meter high statue of the Vairocana Buddha (the Daibutsu) in Tōdai-ji of Nara. At the time, this was such a massive undertaking that later chroniclers accuse him of having completely exhausted the country’s reserves of bronze and precious metals. In 752, the Shōmu held the Eye-opening Ceremony of the Great Buddha.
Earlier in 741, he established the system of provincial temples, making this the closest anyone ever came to declaring Japan a Buddhist nation. In addition he commissioned the observance of the ohigan holiday for both spring and autumnal equinox.
Emperor Shōmu died at age 56.
The actual site of Shōmu’s grave is known. This emperor is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine (misasagi) at Nara. The Imperial Household Agency designates this location as Shōmu’s mausoleum. It is formally named Sahoyama no minami no misasagi. The tomb site can be visited today in Horenji-cho, Tenri City near Nara City. The Imperial tomb of Shōmu’s consort, Empress Kōmyō, is located nearby.
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