Torquil Duthie - Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles
The Jinshin Rebellion of 672 was an epoch-making event that determined the shape of Yamato politics for the next hundred years. Its victor–the ruler we know as Tenmu–took advantage of his military success to reform the basic structure of court politics and establish an imperial-style state. This talk examines how the Jinshin Rebellion was historicized in its aftermath and in the early eighth century. While the official historiography of the Nihon shoki appears at first sight to be a unanimously positive portrayal of Tenmu’s victory, one can in fact identify distinct narrative strands throughout its last four volumes that give different accounts of the nature of the rebellion and of Tenmu’s legitimacy. As I will argue, these different narrative strands are the expression of political struggles over the historical significance of the Jinshin Rebellion at the time the Nihon shoki was being compiled in the early eighth century. Thus it was not simply that the Jinshin conflict had far-reaching political effects as an event in the historical process, but that its literary representation as a historical episode became the very substance of court politics.