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Time in Japan: Era Names, Regnal Years, and Imperial Years
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 5:01 pm    Post subject: Time in Japan: Era Names, Regnal Years, and Imperial Years Reply with quote
Welcome to the 6th thread in the Time in Japan class. I started this class almost a year ago. We certainly haven't progressed very fast, but we have had some interesting discussions. A list of previous topics can be found here. I thank those who have participated so far, but the topic of this thread is one most people know something about, so I hope many people will read it, and even participate in discussions.
This thread is dedicated to year designations in Japan--nengô 年号, reign years, and the imperial era. I have been trying to get to it for some time, but other discussions on the forum brought up topics that seems urgent, so this got postponed. However, nengô are probably where people come up most often against time reckoning in Japan.

People who have done any reading about Japanese history have come across expressions as "the Meiji Period," "the Genroku Era," "the Bunroku Invasion (of Korea)," "the Ansei Purges," "the Hogen Disturbances," the "Taika Reforms," "the 10th year of Tenshô," "Heisei 23." These proper names are called Nengô 年号 (more properly, gengô 元号). Using them has been the major way to designate years since the beginning of the 8th century, and it is still the official one. There have been two-hundred forty-seven nengô used in Japan. Of course, most people interested in Japanese history know the basics of the nengô system, but this thread will probably have some material that is new even to old timers.


Nengô means "year name." Nengô are two-character names that are used to designate a period of years, or an era. (Except, for a short period there were 4-character names.) These were used for most dating purposes, and are often used as a general term. For example, you can come across terms like "in the Meij i明治 Era, (1868-1912)" or "Tenshô 天正" period (1573-1592). At present Japan is in the Heisei 平成 era, which started in 1989. Though everyone in Japan knows the western year, most government business, including tax-related paperwork (source: personal experience Very Happy ), is done using nengô.

Nengô are promulgated by the imperial court. The court announces that the year shall be referred to [from when is to be discussed more later] as the first year of XX. There is no set time until the next nengô is promulgated, as you can see in the examples above, though the average is four 1/2 years, and the mean somewhat less. A nengô change can occur any time in the year. At the next New Year Day, it becomes the 2nd year of XX.

Q1 Where did the nengo system come from?
A. From Mesopotamian year names via the Silk Road
B. From China
C. Originated in Japan

Q2 Which of the following applies to the bulk of the nengô?
A. They were the emperor's regnal name.
B. The emperor would be referred to by this name after his death.
B. They were classical Chinese quotations.
C. They were references to omens.
D. They were chosen by character (i.e. kanji) divination.
E. The emperor made them up.

This is not a trivia quiz, so several people can answer, though it helps to repeat the question.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm pretty sure Japan adopted the nengo system from China's government during the 'Taika Reforms' along with many other of Imperial China's practices even though their system was obviously independent of China's. Mesopotamia used dating by reign years, but I don't think China learned it from them.

Since many of the nengo give you clues to why the era name was changed, I'd say the bulk were references to omens.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, nengo came from China. In Mesopotamia, they started off with naming each year, and some states evolved to reign years. On the other hand, China evolved from reign years to nengo. I am planning to talk about the history later in the thread.
By the way, in China, nengô can be reused by different dynasties, and Japan also has used some Chinese nengô.

As far as the names of the nengo go, there are indeed some named after omens. It is well known from the Nihon Shoki that the second nengo, Hakuchi (650-654)白雉 was named for the gift of a white pheasant to the court. (This nengo was often referred to later as Hakuhô, 白鳳 and came to refer to the 2nd half of the 7th century.) It was apparently not common in other countries to name the nengo directly from the omen.
Taihô大宝 commemorated gold from Tsushima, Keiun慶雲, was named after a felicitous cloud, Dôwa 同和 commemorated the gift to the court of copper, and Jinki 神亀 commemorated a white turtle, etc.

However, by far most of the names came from Chinese classics. (B). The first nengo 大化 may be a quote from the "Book of Documents." For some of the early nengô the source is not certain, but from the 10th century on, most of the sources are preserved.  Heisei comes from[書経大禹謨「地平天成」・史記五帝本紀「内平外成」]. So the correct answer is "The bulk of nengô are classical Chinese quotations."
Of course, since the Meiji Period, the emperor has been referred to his nengô name after his death, so at the present B(1) is also true.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Nengo are often accompanied by the western year, but not always. Recently I had a frustrating time time to find the court records for 承平6年 (936) in the multiple volumes of the Six Histories. And even the 2005 English-language The Dog Shogun in several critical places gave only nengo and also had a chart of dates of shogunal officials only in nengô--very confusing!. Furthermore, for modern (post-Edo) nengo, the western dates are often not given. So to do any work you need to be able to change nengô into western years.

Tables listing the nengô and the year they started, usually in chronological order, are published in many dictionaries and some internet sites, including the SA-wiki,Nengo are often accompanied by the western year, but not always. Recently I had a frustrating time time to find the court records for 承平6年 (936) in the multiple volumes of the Six Histories. And even the 2005 English-language The Dog Shogun in several critical places gave only nengo and also had a chart of dates of shogunal officials only in nengô--very confusing!. Furthermore, for modern (post-Edo) nengo, the western dates are often not given. So to do any work you need to be able to change nengô into western years.

Tables listing the nengô and the year they started, usually in chronological order, are published in many dictionaries and some internet sites, including the SA-wiki, http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Japanese_Eras There are also calculators that will calculate between nengô and western years, but they are really unnecessary, and in any case you should at least be able to do it yourself. I am sure most readers can do it, but review does not hurt.

Let us calculate between AD and nengô dates.
Let us say we have to find Tenshô 5 天正五年. Usually we have at least some idea of the period involved, so we start looking in the the appropriate place in the table. In this case, we find that the first year of Tenshô (Tenshô 1) 天正元年 (Tenshô gannen) was 1573. The second year of Tenshô (Tenshô 2 天正二年) was 1574, Tenshô 3 was 1575, etc. Thus to find the date of Tenshô year x, subtract 1 from the first year of Tenshô (i.e. 1573) and add x (1573-1+x). (You have to subtract 1 because 1573 is year 1, not year 0.) Tenshô 5 is therefore 1573-1+5 = 1577. Shôwa started in 1926, so Shôwa 25 is 1926-1+25 = 1950.
To find the nengô year for 1593, which, believe it or not is often necessary, you look at the list and find the nengô that started before 1593, which is Bunroku in 1592. Then you go the other way. 1593- (1592 - 1) = 2, so 1593 is Bunroku 2. 1985 is in Shôwa. 1985 is 1985- (1926-1) = 60, so Shôwa 60.


The following is a list of the starts of several nengô.
1716 享保 Kyôhô
1736 元文 Genbun
1741 寛保 Kanpô
1744 延享 Enkyô
1989 平成 Heisei
These are the numbers 1-10: 一 (or, in nengô, 元)、二、三、四、五、六、七、八、九、十
Use this list to get the year of the following dates. The answers are given following the picture, but work it out for yourself before looking.

Kyôhô 13
Genbun 1
延享3年 (Of course they did not use Arabic numerals then, but you will see this in many modern works.)
寛保元年
享保十八年
Kanpô 3
Enkyô 2
元文四年
享保九年


What is the nengô year for the following years?

1718
1723
1730
1740
1747
2011




Here are the answers to the above

Kyôhô 13-- 1728
Genbun 1 1736
延享3-- Enkyô 3 1746
寛保元年-- Kanpô 1 1741
享保十八年--Kyôhô 18 1733
Kanpô 3 1743
Enkyô 2 1745 
元文四年 Genbun 4 1739
享保九年 Kyôhô 9 1724

1718 Kyôhô 3
1723 Kyôhô 8
1730 Kyôhô 15
1740 Genbun 5
1747 Enkyô 4
2011 Heisei 23

If you got any of these wrong, try to figure out how to do it right, and if you have any comments or cannot figure out how to do it, ask about it.


Q3 One reason you should learn how to figure out the years of a nengô by yourself is that in real documents there can be nengô years beyond the years in a calculator. Under what circumstances can such years be written?
There are at least two.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I added the answer for 2011 to the 'solutions' section of your prior post.

Bethetsu wrote:
Q3 One reason you should learn how to figure out the years of a nengô by yourself is that in real documents there can be nengô years beyond the years in a calculator. Under what circumstances can such years be written?
There are at least two.


I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but government documents and contracts in Japanese use hypothetical future nengo dates. They just extend the present era however far they need to into the future to cover it-so you can get something like "Heisei 150" or the like. I'd imagine anything setting a timetable for the future would do much the same thing.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, future plans and contracts in Japan nowadays often use future nengo dates, and since we do not know when there will be a new nengo, we do not know if those dates will ever exist. Certainly there are documents with unused Showa dates around. Earlier, at least some documents used cyclic years for future contracts. One 1418 contract I saw, sold "the ten harvests of the ten years from the inu year to the following hitsuji year." Whatever happened with the Ôei nengo, there would definately be a hitsuji year.

In China in the 18th and 19th century there were calendars 万年書 that calculated to the 200th year of the current era. However, I saw what appeared to be the Korean edition of a long-term Chinese 1880 calendar that went to 1933. While the Chinese calendar had the nengo all the way to the end, in the Korean edition the nengo stopped at 1880, and after that had only cyclic years. Perhaps a slight sign of rebellion?

One other occurrence of "non-existent years" would be when the nengo change is so late in the year that word doesn't get around till sometime the next year. I suspect there are some Tenshô 21 (1593) documents around, though Bunroku started in the 12th month of 1592. (Of course, Tenshô 20 existed.) The only example I have right off, though, are some old Chinese nengô on mirrors found in Japan, 景初 4 (240), though 正始 began at the beginning of the year 240. There are also some mirrors dated 正始元年.

Similarly, as calendars were prepared several months before they were distributed around the beginning of the 11th month, if there was a late nengo change, you will get calendars for non-existent years, and the first calendar for the nengô will be for the third year. (There is a saying that among non-existent things is a first year 元年 calendar. Why?)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
One question worth considering is this: as the Japanese year did not start on January 1 until the Meiji Period, what does it mean to say that Enkyô 3 is 1746 or that Bunraku started in 1592? We discussed this problem thoroughly towards the end of the thread "Reading and Writing Japanese Dates," , but this is how it works: The Japanese New Year's Day (Ganjitsu 元日) has always been from Jan-Feb of the western year, and the Japanese year is numbered by the BC/AD year of the western year Ganjitsu is in. For example, the Ganjitsu of Kyôhô 3 was Jan. 31, 1718, so Kyôhô 3 is considered the Japanese year 1718. (For early Chinese history, see the previous thread.)
What about the western year of the first year of a nengô? The day of promulgation just marks name change, not the start of a year, so you still use the year of the ganjitsu. For example, Kyôhô was promulgated in the middle of the year that started in 1716, so Kyôhô 1 is 1716. Note this: Bunroku 文禄 was promulgated on 12/8 of the Japanese year that started in February, 1592, so Bunroku 1 is considered 1592,even though it actually did not start to the western date January 10, 1593.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
(There is a saying that among non-existent things is a first year 元年 calendar. Why?)


If the nengo changed during the year, that would make it year 1 of the current era, and the calendars for that year would have already been made and distributed with the prior era name. Since a year could be known as either the last year of the previous nengo or the first year of the new one, there was really no reason to change them.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Heisei 1 started on Jan. 7 of Showa 64 (1989), so some tradesmen did make Heisei 1 (gannen) calendars, and probably some people bought them. But of course, now anyone can make and sell calendars.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Reasons for a new nengô (改元)

A nengô could be established for a number of reasons. For some of them the reason is not clear, or there are several possibililites, or the true reason is probably different. That is probably why for some nengo different sources give different reasons. However, the outline seems pretty clear.

As discussed a little in the third post in this thread, a felicitous omen (Shôzui Kaigen 祥瑞改元) or some other happy occasion was one reason for a change. However, the last change for that reason was in 857 or 877.

As can be expected by the fact that the nengô were promulgated by the imperial court, the most important reason was beginning of a reign. This was broadly called dai-hajime (代始). Early such changes were also listed as "good omen" changes, so it is hard to distinguish them, but the 749 天平勝宝 of Kôken 孝謙天皇 seems to be the first clearly labeled as such.
At first, the change was made at the time of the ascension or shortly after. But when the nengo was changed directly after after the death of Kanmu (806), it was criticized as not being in accordance with filial piety or the feelings of a subject. (Nihon Goki 日本後紀). After that the dai-hajime nengo was one or even two years later.

Q4 Look at a list of emperors and nengô, such as the one in Nelson's kanji dictionary or http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Emperors_of_Japan#Emperors_and_Eras (This is based on the list of emperors above. Note it does not have the Nanboku-Cho period.)
Which emperors did not have dai-hajime nengo? Can you explain any of them?

Q5 Currently, when does the dai-hajime nengo start?


Last edited by Bethetsu on Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q4 Look at a list of emperors and nengô, such as the one in Nelson's kanji dictionary or http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Emperors_of_Japan#Emperors_and_Eras (This is based on the list of emperors above. Note it does not have the Nanboku-Cho period.)
Which emperors did not have dai-hajime nengo? Can you explain any of them?


Chukyo (1221) for starters-basically because he didn't live long enough to get one (and wasn't listed as an official Emperor until the Meiji era).

Shoko (1412-28 )-maybe because he was the first Emperor after the Nanbokucho period.

Later on, looks like Go-Yozei (1586-1611), Go-Mizuno (1611-29), and Reigen (1663-1687) may not have had them, and Meishô (1629-43) for sure. Meisho may not have gotten one as she might have been seen as a 'placeholder' (being a woman). but it's interesting that 1586-1643 seems to be the period where most of the Daihajime Nengo-less Emperors are. Perhaps troubles with the Tokuagwa/Toyotomi influenced court officials not to proclaim a 'reign nengo'.

Bethetsu wrote:
Q5 Currently, when does the dai-hajime nengo start?


As soon as the new Emperor ascends to the throne.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you for your list, Tatsu.
Just now I will discuss two emperors with no or very late dai-hajime, then I will have to take a break for a few days, so any comments on these or the Toyotomi-Tokugawa cases are welcome.

You missed Junnin (758-764), the first case.
He, however, was not recognized as emperor till the Meiji Period (Koken and Shotoku are the same person). I had wondered if he had a dai-hajime that was not recorded, but when I looked at the mokkan data list, there were Tenpyô-hôji mokkan for 758, 760 (in Akita), 762, and 764, so it is clear Junnin never had dai-hajime nengo, which strongly suggests he was never really in control of the court. For the 765 nengô, 天平神護 one source gave the reason for the change as "subduing a disturbance "戦乱の平定 , another as Shotoku's dai-hajime. Which reason is probably contemporary, and which is probably Meiji?Wink.

Shoko's reign started in 1412, but he did not have his dai-hajime until 1428. The J-Wiki says it was because the Bakufu was against it, but it doesn't say why. I don't know if it was because Ouei was peaceful and they didn't want to disturb anything, or they didn't want to excite proponents of the southern court, Shoko being a member of the northern line despite an greement to alternate, or what. My first idea was that it was not to upset trade with Ming China, but I don't know if they were still carrying out trade in 1412. After a shogunal interregnum, Ashikaga Yoshinori became shogun early in 1428, the daihajime was proclaimed in the 4th month, and when Shoko died just after that, Yoshinori chose still another northern branch emperor.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
For the 765 nengô, 天平神護 one source gave the reason for the change as "subduing a disturbance "戦乱の平定 , another as Shotoku's dai-hajime. Which reason is probably contemporary, and which is probably Meiji?Wink.


Almost certainly "Shotoku's dai-hajime" would be Meiji, as establishing that unbroken line was all important.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:

Almost certainly "Shotoku's dai-hajime" would be Meiji, as establishing that unbroken line was all important.
Since Junnin was not recognized till Meiji, they would not have called it her dai-hajime until then. However I don't think that establishing an unbroken line is what was going on here, as neither Koken-Shotoku nor Junnin had children. Of course if in the Meiji period they were most concerned with the unbroken line, they would not have recognized the Southern (Yamato) court, as Meiji (and the present emperor) were descended from the Northern one.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Continuing with Azuchi-Momoyama through early Edo dai-hajime nengo:

When I look closely at various places, it seems that none of the emperors between ôgimachi (r. 1557-1586) and Higashiyama (r. 1687-1709) had a normal dai-hajime nengô.

Go-Yôzei's (r.1586-1611) was brought up in http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=4489, but every place I checked said Bunroku (1592) was his dai-hajime nengo. Since he became emperor in 1586, the question is why it was so late. I couldn't find a discussion of that, however. Hideyoshi at least outwardly honored him, and in 1588 the emperor made a gala progress to Hideyoshi's palace of Jurakutei, so Hideyoshi wasn't trying to ignore him. I don't know why he didn't let/make him have a new nengô sooner. My guess as to the true reason for 1592 would be the Bunroku invasion, but that is a guess.

However, when it comes to the early Edo period, clearly the Bakufu was trying to control things. Most of the reasons for the changes given below follow an article on Tokugawa nengô policy in Rekishi Dokuhon (Jan. 2008).
The shognate apparently forced through and perhaps held back changes and were formally in the "loop" for determining names. The nengô were mentioned in the 1615 bakufu regulations for the court. The shogun Iemitsu even said that as nengô are used by the whole realm, the Buke (ie shogunate) ought to determine the nengô.

Go-Mizuno (r.1611-1629) did not get along well with the bakufu. In the fourth year of Go-Mizuno's reign , immediately after the fall of Osaka, the Bakufu pushed through a nengô change. This is listed as the dai-hajime nengô, but that it hardly the real reason.

The next nengo Kan'ei, 1624, is listed as a (revival of) cyclical Year 1 change, but it also just happened to be the year after Iemitsu became shogun, so it was more like his dai-hajime nengô.

Go-Mizunoo finally resigned in favor of Hidetada's granddaughter over controversies about the custom of giving monks purple garments and Kasuga no Tsubone's court visit, though he kept control of the court. Meishô never did have a nengo--whether that was due to the retired emperor resentment or to the shogunal policy, I do not know.

The 1644 Shôhô nengo is listed as the dai-hajime nengo of Go-Kômei, the next emperor, but a few internet source (one quoting the 国史大辞典) say the reason was that "There have never been three emperors in one nengo." so apparently there was still some reluctance on one side or the other to give a dai-hajime nengô, and it had to be forced. Four years later the name was changed because "Shôhô" resembled "shôbô 焼亡!

For Jôô (1652 ) apparently the official reason was Iemitsu's death and/or Ietsuna's becoming shogun the previous year (i.e. his dai-hajime nengô).

Go-Sai's dai-hajime nengô (1654) may have been a postponement of a change that thad been planned because of a disaster (palace fire) the previous year.

Reigen became emperor in 1663, but the 1673 change was because of a fire.

But from Higashiyama's dai-hajime nengô (Genroku) on,the situation seem to have gotten back to normal, though even after that the shogunate rather arbitrarily rejected the court suggestions about the name.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 4:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
That's all very interesting. I had known about the conflicts between the first three Tokugawa Shoguns and the Court but had no idea the problems went on so long.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
O-hisasiburi.

There were reasons for changing nengô other than the start of a reign. Let us look at them.

According to Wikipedia in its article on Japanese nengô, "A new era name was also often designated on the first [甲子], fifth [戊辰] and 58th [辛酉] years of the sexagenary cycle, because they were inauspicious years in Onmyōdō." These three years were known as the Sankaku三革.
The Kôjien also says that eras were often changed in sankaku years because they were held to have calamities. [But even if they changed the year name, the cyclic year date would remain the same, so what is the point?]
三革: (「革」は、あらたまるの意) 陰陽道おんようどうで、革令(甲子の年)・革運(戊辰の年)・革命(辛酉の年)の総称。これらの年には変事が多いとして、改元などが行われた。[株式会社岩波書店 広辞苑第五版]

First, putting aside the negô, I have a question of my own. If the 58th [辛酉]year is an inauspicious year, why did the Nihon Shoki make Jinmu's reign start in a [辛酉] year? Also, is the first 甲子 year really considered unlucky? I have the feeling 甲子 years or days were rather considered good. According to the Shoki, Shotoku made a major governmental start on such a year (604). I know a Chinese emperor once made an unusual calendar change so the Metonic cycle would start on a 甲子 day. Do high school baseball players who want to play in Kôshien 甲子(=1924)園 simply ignore the inauspiciousness? I really am not much on such ideas, so perhaps someone could tell me.

Going back to nengô, let us see investigate the relation between nengô and sankaku years.

The sanaku years occur every sixty years. Below are some examples.

601, 604, 608,
661, 664, 668,
721, 724, 728,etc.

I went through the list of nengo and looked at the sankaku years before 1500. I noted those that had nengô changes and put an X before years with no change.
The 848 change is listed as due to an auspicious event. For 901, 961, 964, sources gave sankaku, disaster, or both.

X721, 724(dai-hajime), X728
781(daihajime), X784, X788
X841, X844, 848
901, X904, X908
961(+ disaster), 964 (+ disaster), 968 ( dai-hajime)
1021, 1024, 1028
1081, 1084, X1088
1141, 1144, X1148
1201, 1204, X1208
1261, 1264, X1268
1321, 1324, X1328
1381, 1384, X1388
1441, 1444, X1448

Could someone continue the list? Of course disasters could also be the reason for a new nengô,but their criteria is difficult. However, at least make a note if a nengo starting in a sankaku year is also a dai-hajime nengô.

Q5 Summarize your conclusions about the practice of changing nengô in sankaku years.
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Bethetsu
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A continuation of the sankaku years is this:
1501, 1504, X1508
X1561, X1564, X1568
X1621, 1624, X1628
1681, 1684, 1688 (Daishi)
1741, 1744, 1748 (Daishi)
1801, 1804, X1808
1861, 1864, 1868 (Daishi)

My material says the change in 848 was because of a good omen, and 1028 was because of a natural disaster.

So in summary:
There are no examples of the nengo being changed because it was a fifth [戊辰] year, so such statements are wrong.
One can conclude that the custom of changing on on the first [甲子] and 58th [辛酉] years started in 961 and became settled in 1021. They did not change in 1561 or 1564. Could it be because of the political chaos or the poverty of the court? As mentioned above, the 1624 revival of the custom may have been because of Iemitsu's becoming shogun in 1623. And of course, the custom has not been carried out since the Meiji period.

I had assumed changing nengo at the sankaku was a Chinese custom, but when I actually examined the list of Chinese nengo on the J-wiki, I could not find changes in those years for two cycles in a row. So even if there was such a custom, it was virtually never carried out.



Through the 9th century, besides daihajime changes, almost all mere due to good omens 祥瑞 and good events. However, from the 10th century on, these stopped. Instead, we find changes due to natural disasters, pestilence, are even comets. Later wars are mentioned. Major fires were a frequent cause during the Edo period, as in 1658.

So, there were a variety of reasons for changing nengo, but now the only one is the start of a new reign.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
When did the nengô start? These were promulgated by the court.
I am sure someone has really studied this, but I will not try to get into it and just note some strikng tendencies. But I looked at a few concecutive reign starts, and they did not begin on the same cyclical date at all.

First, unlike China, there are no nengô that start on New Year's day, and few start in the 1st month.
For the 甲子and 辛酉 changes, there is a definite preference for the 2nd month.

For start of a reign, the 4th month seems most popular.
5th month and 6th month are very rare, and an intercalary month is only once.

It should be note that the change was made during the day, so the day of promulgation is listed as being in both eras. However, the latest change, that of Heisei, was promulgated during the day Emperor Showa died, but actually took effect at midnight. (改元 was the 7th, but 施行was the 8th). A little before midnight on Jan. 7 the NHK screen said "Showa 64 Jan 7, " and exactly at midnight it changed to "Heisei 1 Jan. 8."


Last edited by Bethetsu on Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Good stuff-I hadn't known about the sankaku cycle. It amazes me the depth you uncover in regards to the issues of time.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Nice to have you back.

Tatsunoshi wrote:
Good stuff-I hadn't known about the sankaku cycle. It amazes me the depth you uncover in regards to the issues of time.

I hope I made clear that with with regard to nengo the sankaku cycle is a myth--it is actually a "nikaku".

Continuing on,

The above dealt with when a change is promulgated. When does it take effect? It varied.
The simplest case is at the time it is promulgated, as it was in case of Taisho and Showa. But as mentioned, in Heisei it started the following midnight.
However, earlier it was often made retroactive, either by proclamation or by historians. Of course it is hard to check when it was made retroactive without looking at the proclamation, but it certainly nengo were considered retroactive during the Edo period. For example, what is known as the Bunroku Invasion actually started in Tenshô. Also I have come across some Edo period dates using nengo before they had started.

In China during the Qin period, and perhaps in the Ming period, when there was normally only one nengo per reign, the new nengo was promulgated when there was a new emperor, but the first year of the new nengo started the following New Year.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
I hope I made clear that with with regard to nengo the sankaku cycle is a myth--it is actually a "nikaku".


Yes, it was clear the 'fifth year' never happened-just the first and 58th.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
BTW, just want to say that I'm still following this thread--there is some wonderful information. I just don't usually have anything to contribute. I don't recall: Have you thought about putting all of this in an article of some sort when you are finished?

-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:
Have you thought about putting all of this in an article of some sort when you are finished?

I would like to sometime, but I wonder where I would publish it. (Any ideas?) It is not a literary analysis or a social analysis and has little original material; the subject just has not been dealt with systematically or at all in English. However, some of the issues are those I think anyone who is doing research in pre-modern Japanese history should at least be aware of. (And some is just fun.) I would like to write something useful that would be put on a reading list in Japanese history classes.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
If you are willing, I'm sure we could put something up on the Samurai-Archives; even the S-A Wiki might work. However, if you put together an article--possibly even a PDF--it could likely be hosted somewhere on the site, if our Shogun is up for it.

-Josh
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