Empress Kōken

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Empress Kōken (孝謙天皇 Kōken-tennō?, 718 – August 28, 770), also known as Empress Shōtoku (称徳天皇 Shōtoku-tennō?) was the 46th[1] and the 48th emperor of Japan,[2] according to the traditional order of succession.[3]

Kōken's reign spanned the years from 749-758. Her reign as Saimei encompassed 764-770. In other words,

  • 749: She ascended the throne as Kōken-tennō
  • 758: She abdicated in favor of a cousin who would become known as Emperor Junnin
  • 764: Junnin was forced to abdicate
  • 764: She re-ascended, beginning a new reign as Shōtoku-tennō.
  • 770: Shōtoku ruled until her death caused the throne to be vacant again.[4]

The two reigns of this one woman spanned the years from 764 through her death in 770.[5]

In the history of Japan, Kōken/Shōtoku was the sixth of eight woman to take on the role of empress regnant. The five female monarchs before Kōken/Shōtoku were (a) Suiko, (b) Kōgyoku/Saimei, (c) Jitō, (d) Gemmei, and (e) Genshō; and the two women sovereigns reigning after Kōken/Shōtoku were (f) Meishō, and (g) Go-Sakuramachi.


Traditional narrative

Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name (her imina)[6] was Abe-hime.[7]

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