Important Cultural PropertyOfficial Record from the Minbushō, Thirteenth Day of the Second Month of Enchō 4 (926)

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  • Hanging scroll; ink on paper
  • Height 29.7 cm, length 45.1
  • Heian period, 926 (Enchō 4)
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1465(書162)

  Land deeds and household registers fell under the purview of the Minbushō, part of the bureaucracy centered at the capital. This document was issued by the Minbushō on the thirteenth day of the second month of 926 (Enchō 4) to the local government in Yamato Province. It makes official the return of land to Gufukuji Temple in Takechi County (present day Takaichi) that the government had seized in 880 (Gengyō 4). The document is a fu, which is a kind of document circulating between the tiers of the government, for instance from the central government to the provincial government—or a higher echelon to a lower one, in the system established by the legal codes (ritsuryō) of the Nara (710–794) and Heian (794–1185) periods.
  It makes reference to three other sources, and from these a detailed picture of the workings of the ritsuryō system comes into view. First, they tell us that Gufukuji Temple wrote to the local government in Yamato Province to request the return of their field. Then, the Yamato Province government passed along information of Gufukuji’s petition to the highest level of government, the Daijōkan, on the 29th day of the intercalary 4th month of 923 (Enchō 1). Then, after deliberations at the Daijōkan, a decision was conveyed in a fu transmitted from the Daijōkan to the Minbushō on the 26th day of the intercalary 12th month of 925 (Enchō 3). This document is where the Minbushō passed along word of the Daijōkan’s decision to the Yamato province government. We can assume, furthermore, that the Yamato province government sent a document after receiving this one to Gufukuji Temple with the decision on its petition. This one piece of paper is therefore of profound importance to paleography and related fields of study: it amounts to a concrete example of how documents involving land disputes were issued and received within the ritsuryō bureaucracy. It is all the more invaluable as the oldest example of a Minbushō fu known to exist.
  The edges on either side and top and bottom have been cut off. While it was written in a single hand, only the name of one official is signed. The writing is stamped eleven times in vermillion with the Privy Seal of the emperor (“Tennō Gyoji”). The appearance of this seal in the 10th century is unusual, making this document incredibly significant.
  Formerly held by Tōji Temple, it is included in such compilations as the Heian ibun (No. 223).