Pagan News and Views Since 1998
Our Coloring Page today shows Empress Suiko of Japan being entertained by musicians. Empress Suiko is the first woman to have ruled Japan in her own right who is known for certain to have been an actual historical figure, earlier figures such as Himiko and Jingu being shrouded in legend. Suiko ruled Japan as Empress Regnant from 593 – 628 AD, during the Asoka period. As Empress, Suiko presided over an age of cultural renaissance. Empress Suiko was served by extremely able ministers including her nephew Prince Shotoku and Soga no Umako. Empress Suiko is often portrayed as having been only a figurehead, with her ministers wielding the actual power, however this was not case as she exercised the authority to overrule when she felt the need. Empress Suiko was the daughter of Emperor Kinmei, and was half-sister to Emperor Bidatsu and full sister to Emperor Yomei. Bidatsu became Emperor in 572 AD, with his half-sister Suiko as one of his consorts and later as Empress Consort. Suiko and Bidatsu had seven sons. Emperor Bidatsu died in 585 AD, apparently of smallpox, and his brother Yomei became Emperor, ruling for two years before he also died (in 587 AD), from either illness or assassination. Armed conflict then broke out between imperial candidates backed by rival clans, ultimately resulting in the ascension of the Emperor Sushun in 588 AD. Sushun was the candidate of the powerful Soga clan, of which Suiko’s mother had been a member. In 593 AD, conflict between Emperor Sushun and the Sogas led to the emperor’s assassination. To fill the vacancy they had thus created, and having run out of viable Princes, the Sogas turned to their kinswoman the Dowager Empress Suiko, who had become a Buddhist nun, and persuaded her to take the throne. During Empress Suiko’s reign Japan adopted a new constitution (The Seventeen Article Constitution), a new twelve-level beaurocratic structure based upon the Chinese system, adopted the Chinese calendar, and extended official recognition to Buddhism, of which the Empress and Prince Shotoku were both adherents. Empress Suiko ruled Japan for thirty-five years, dying on April 15, 628 AD, at the age of seventy-four. Empress Suiko was succeeded by Emperor Jomei. The picture shows Empress Suiko during her years as Empress Consort to Bidatsu, being entertained by musicians. All are dressed in the characteristic style of the Asuka period.