Asuka Period - The Yamato Polity

The Yamato Polity

The Yamato polity, which had emerged by the late 5th century, was distinguished by powerful great clans or extended families, including their dependents. Each clan was headed by a patriarch who performed sacred rites for the clan's kami to ensure the long-term welfare of the clan. Clan members were the aristocracy, and the kingly line that controlled the Yamato polity was at its pinnacle. The local chieftainship of Yamato arose to become the Imperial dynasty from the beginnings of Asuka period, at the latest. The Asuka period, as a sub-division of the Yamato period (大和時代, Yamato-jidai?), is the first period of Japanese history when the Emperor of Japan ruled relatively uncontested from modern-day Nara Prefecture, then known as Yamato Province.

The Yamato polity, concentrated in the Asuka region, exercised power over clans in Kyūshū and Honshū, bestowing titles, some hereditary, on clan chieftains. The Yamato name became synonymous with all of Japan as the Yamato rulers suppressed other clans and acquired agricultural lands. Based on Chinese models (including the adoption of the Chinese written language), they developed a central administration and an imperial court attended by subordinate clan chieftains but with no permanent capital. By the mid-seventh century, the agricultural lands had grown to a substantial public domain, subject to central policy. The basic administrative unit of the Gokishichidō (五畿七道?, "five cities, seven roads") system was the county, and society was organized into occupation groups. Most people were farmers; other were fishers, weavers, potters, artisans, armorers, and ritual specialists.

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