Chigyo is a history-related concept indicating a territory-controlling right executed by territorial lords during the medieval period and early-modern times in Japan. Use of the term, chigyo, started during the Heian period, and the range of control indicated by 'chigyo' varied depending on each era. Territorial lords in Japanese history were not like those under the serf system in Europe who owned the land and people in his or her territory as his or her private property without any restrictions, but possessed a system of certain rights and responsibilities concerning tax-collecting and territory-control. Chigyo indicates this system, and understanding the concept of chigyo is indispensable for understanding the position of the territorial lord class in Japanese history.
Generation of chigyo concept
Around the ninth and tenth centuries, the nation-governing system based on a framework like the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) had changed into a decentralized system called myoden (rice field lots in charge of a nominal holder) relying on rich farmers called tato who constituted a new wealthy class. Entering the eleventh century, in addition to this trend, the trend of levying tax evenly on shoen (manors) and Kokugaryo (the territory governed by a provincial government office) (called Ikkoku heikinyaku) was also generated, and the system in which tax was collected from shoen and Kokugaryo, which had been reorganized into Gun, Sato (an area within Gun) and Ho (an area within Sato), (called shoen koryo sei) was established. Then the class of 'ryoshu' (territorial lord), who newly managed each unit of these tax-collection areas and were engaged in handling disputes among people in the areas, appeared. Ryoshu came to acquire incomes of nengu (land tax), kuji (public duties) and buyaku (labor service) through execution of the right to control areas he managed. The control right that ryoshu executed here was called chigyo, ryochi, ryoshu, or shinshi.
However, the control right that a ryoshu could execute was not necessarily the same, being largely different depending upon rank and social status. Therefore, even when the same term of chigyo was used, its real content was not always the same. The smallest power of chigo was that of nanushi (village headman) who used it for myoden of shoen or Kokugaryo. For a shoen or Kokugaryo, which had been organized into Gun, Sato, and Ho, shokan (an officer) appointed by the ryoshu of the shoen or Gunji (an officer for Gun), Goji (an officer for Go - Sato) and Hoji (an officer for Ho), all of whom were appointed by the kokushi (provincial governor) (also called zuryo), executed their respective chigyo right, working for maintaining security and for collecting taxes. Increasingly more samurai were appointed to these positions, leading to the appearance of the jito (manager and lord of manor) position during the Kamakura period. Furthermore, the powerful groups that executed the chigo right over many manors as a ryoshu of shoen or executed the chigyo right over the entire public land in a province as a chigyo-koku (provincial fiefdom) (described later), typically including Sekkan-ke (the families which produced regents) and kanji (state-sponsored temples), reigned over them. Chigyo and ryoshu constituted a multi-tiered system like this.
Entering the middle era of the Heian period, high-class nobles, dominant temples and shrines (or powerful groups in other words) took hold of the right to collect taxes in a province, acquiring the right to freely appoint kokushi there. This indicates that the chigyo right was expanded to be executable over an entire province, and a province in such a state was called a chigyo-koku. The number of chigyo-koku increased rapidly during the latter half of the Heian period.
The custom of calling territorial control as chigyo, ryochi, ryosho, or shinshi continued throughout the medieval period. Concerning the control range indicated by each of these terms, there are largely two different opinions. One is that each of them indicated territorial control by a ryoshu. The other is as follows; As a result of detailed investigations of historical materials concerning the medieval period, it is considered that the term of shinshi indicated land control, but that of chigyo the right of obtaining profits from land. Opinions denying the latter were proposed, but according to the latter opinion, the state of the national control and tax-collecting systems during the medieval period could be understood more concretely.
Changes in the chigyo concept
A feature of the medieval period was that, concerning land-controlling rights and tax-collecting rights, persons in various social statuses, such as nobles in Kyoto, powerful temples and shrines, local ryoshu, jito and nanushi, were related with each other and formed multi-tiered right oriented relationships (this structure called shiki-no-taikei (literally, a job system)). Around the latter half of the Kamakura period, the multi-tiered relationship disappeared mainly due to the appearance of jito, and it was oriented so as to introduce a unified control system. Such unified control was called ichien chigyo. During the Muromachi period, such a trend was accelerated, the shugo-ryogoku system (in which shugo, or provincial constable, controlled the province) was formed by shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable), and then entering into the Sengoku Period (period of warring states) (in Japan), the daimyo-ryogoku system (a system whereby a daimyo controlled a feudal domain) was developed by daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) during the Sengoku Period.
In such a trend, territorial control, having been carried out by persons in various social statuses, became conducted by samurai alone. Then the term of 'chigyo' came to indicate the territory that a samurai was awarded and was protected by his lord. The size of a chigyo area, called chigyo-daka, was used as the standard of the amount of military service a lord levied on his samurai, and a chigyo-daka was expressed by kandaka (the money corresponding to the amount of rice production based on the size of the chigyo area chigyo) during the Sengoku Period. During the Edo period, koku-data (the amount of rice to be produced in the chigyo) became used for expressing chigyo-daka. During the Edo period when the society was peaceful and stabilized, chigyo-daka played the role of an index indicating the social status of a samurai within the samurai class where a strict system existed.