Shotokutaishi Ohitakisai


Shotoku Taishi Ohitakisai (Holy Fire Festival)

Shotoku Taishi Ohitakisai festival is dedicated to the memory of Prince Shotoku (574-622) at the Koryuji temple. The temple was founded in 622 for the repose of the princefs soul by the Hata family, which was given a statue of Miroku Bosatsu by Prince Shotoku. The statue is designated as National Treasure No.1 and most of the Buddha statues housed in the temple were carved in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Hata family brought various technologies, like sericulture in Japan from the Korean Kingdom of Silla. 

Prince Shotokufs birth, like that of Buddha, was a miraculous birth without pain. He was able to speak as soon as he was born. At the age of 19 he took over the reins of political power as regent of his aunt, Empress Suiko. She ascended to the throne as Japan's first female monarch in 593. Prince Shotoku was the de facto ruler of Japan through three decades of rapid change. Even in his lifetime he was given the name Shotoku (holy and virtuous). The prince was so wise that he could rule over ten trials simultaneously and handed down a verdict on all cases without any misjudgement. He knew beforehand what was going to happen. 

Prince Shotokufs academic understandings extended to Buddhist philosophy through Confucianism and he initiated the evolution of Japanese government in Confucian principles and the gradual adoption of Buddhism among the Japanese. His greatest legacy to Japanese history was the Seventeen-Article Constitution, which spelled out the philosophic and religious principles on which Japanese Imperial government would be based. That was peace and harmonization.

Prince Shotoku tried to resume the diplomatic relations with China after a break of one hundred years but the Chinese emperor did not recognise Japan as a nation. The emperor thought that a real nation must be operated by organized bureaucratic system, not by disorderly crowd. Seven years later Prince Shotoku sent a letter to the Chinese emperor again, addressed, gThe Heavenly Ruler of the Land of Sunrise sends his message to the Heavenly Ruler of the Land of Sunset.h This infuriated the emperor but his anger was mollified, when the Japanese envoy told that Shotoku thought of him as a Bodhisattva. The emperor wrote back: gThe Emperor speaks to the Prince of Yamato.h Prince Shotoku responded: gThe Tenno, the Ruler of the East speaks to the Emperor of the West.h

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