Chokushiden (勅旨田)

Chokushiden is a farm developed under the edict of the Emperor in ancient Japan, it was used to provide funding for the Imperial Household. It was established largely during the Tencho and Showa eras (from the 820s to the 840s) of the early Heian period, and it is assumed to have been intended to serve as an incentive measure to spur development during this period.

Summary

Chokushiden had been in existence since the latter half of the eighth century, and its establishment was enhanced in the second quarter of the ninth century. During 810's, Udaijin (minister of the right), FUJIWARA no Sonohito took the initiative in policies that controlled powerful peerage and temples, shrines, and focused on relief of the poor. At that time, however, Japan was experiencing social change in that the individual imposition of taxes under the Ritsuryo legal system was no longer being enforced due to an increase in the number of the poor and further stratification of the agricultural class. For that reason, FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu who became the leader of the Grand Council of State in around 820 years attempted to respond to a changing society by implementing the incentives for development. One of the incentives for development that was enforced in the period of governance under Fuyutsugu was the establishment of Chokushiden.

Chokushiden which was mainly established on vacant land or moorland was funded by shozei (the rice tax stored in provincial offices' warehouse) managed by the provincial governor's office, and the management of Chokushiden was under jurisdiction of the provincial governor. Chokushiden was exempted from tax, and the profit funded the Imperial Household economy. During the period of Tencho (824 - 834), the number of established Chokushiden increased rapidly, and a large number were established in the period of Showa (834 - 847). The established land of Chokushiden was across the country; and was identified in Shimotsuke, Musashi, Mino, Settsu, Bizen, and Hizen Provinces according to historical materials. In the reigns of Emperors Junna and Ninmyo in the Tencho and Showa periods, a royal court culture was in full bloom with academics flourishing as well as court ceremonies that would be practiced in later ages, all supported by the income from Chokushiden.

However, when the reign of Emperor Montoku came after Emperor Ninmyo passed away in 850, Chokushiden was not established anymore. There is a view that such rapid change was caused by FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa who was the political leader at the time. In the early tenth century, FUJIWARA no Tokihira who was oriented to return to laws and the ordinance system took a post as the leader of the Grand Council of State, and Chokushiden gradually disappeared after being prohibited from being newly established in accordance with a Decree Restricting the Expansion of Private Estates in the Engi era promulgated in 902.

However, Emperor Gosanjo enthroned in the latter half of eleventh century announced a Decree Restricting the Expansion of Private Estates in Enkyu to clamp down on unauthorized estates of powerful peerage, and shrines and temples; the estate that didn't fulfill legal requirements was regarded as Chokushiden and placed under the control of the Emperor. This is virtually an estate dominated by the Emperor and was called Gosanjo Chokushiden.

Opinion

There was a large difference in opinion about Chokushiden in the first half of the Heian period. There were views that Chokushiden is not meaningful in that most of the established land for Chokushiden was vacant land or moorland; Chokushiden was used to fund the private economy of the Imperial Household and was a national incentive for development that was actively pursued, etc. Also, some people view Chokushiden as a control measure against the imperial force by Fujiwara clan since Chokushiden was abolished just after the Shotai Incident.