Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Soga clan was one of the most powerful clans in Yamato Japan. For many generations, in the 6th and 7th centuries, the Soga monopolized the position of Great Minister (Ō-omi) and was the first of many families to dominate the Imperial House, influencing the order of succession, and policy both domestic and foreign.
Soga no Iname served as Great Minister from 536 until his death in 570, and was the first of the Soga to carry to extreme lengths the domination of the Throne by the nobility. One of the chief ways he exerted his influence was through marital connections with the Imperial family; Iname married one of his daughters to Emperor Kimmei. In an ironic way, the Soga unified and strengthened the country by expanding the power of the Emperor as a symbol and spiritual leader, even as they, a line of non-Imperial nobles, took control of secular matters.
When Buddhism was first introduced, many opposed it, disliking foreign ideas and resisting its spread. The Soga family, however, supported the introduction of Buddhism, placing a holy image of the Buddha in a major Shinto shrine; Soga no Iname claimed that Buddhism brought with it a new form of government that would subvert the independence of the clans, unifying the Japanese people under the Emperor. After fifty years of ideological war, Buddhism, defended and protected by the Soga, took hold in Japan.
However, by 644, the heads of the Soga clan were no longer satisfied to act behind the Throne. Soga no Yemishi and his son Iruka began to build more and more elaborate palaces and tombs for themselves, styling themselves sovereigns. There seems little doubt that they intended to do away with the reigning dynasty, making themselves the new Imperial line. But the leaders of the Nakatomi clan, long-time enemies of the Soga and of Buddhism, conspired with Soga no Kurayamada and Prince Naka no Oye, and arranged for Iruka's assassination. Yemishi's followers dispersed, and many were subsequently killed. The Soga clan's hold over the Imperial family was broken once and for all. Two years later, Emperor Kotoku enacted the Taika Reforms, further unifying Japan, and returning power to the Throne, especially power over the nobility.
Some Important Members of the Soga Clan:
- Soga no Iname - head of the Clan, served as Great Minister from 536 until his death in 570.
- Soga no Umako - succeeded to post of Great Minister in 570.
- Soga no Yemishi - attempted to overthrow Imperial family in 640s
- Soga no Iruka - son of Yemishi
- Soga no Kurayamada - conspirator against Yemishi and Iruka; became Great Minister in 645.
- Sansom, George (1958). 'A History of Japan to 1334'. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
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