The Minamoto were one of four great clans that dominated Japanese politics during the Heian period — the other three were the Fujiwara, the Taira, and the Tachibana.
HistoryEditThe first emperor to grant the surname Minamoto was Emperor Saga, who reportedly had 49 children, resulting in a significant financial burden on the imperial household. In order to alleviate some of the pressure of supporting his unusually large family, he made many of his sons and daughters nobles instead of royals. He chose the word minamoto (meaning "origin") for their new surname in order to signify that the new clan shared the same origins as the royal family. Afterwards, Emperor Seiwa, Emperor Murakami, Emperor Uda, and Emperor Daigo, among others, also gave their sons or daughters the name Minamoto. These specific hereditary lines coming from different emperors developed into specific clans referred to by the emperor's name followed by Genji, e.g. Seiwa Genji. According to some sources, the first to be given the name Minamoto was Minamoto no Makoto, seventh son of Emperor Saga.
In 814, Emperor Saga (reigned 809–823) awarded the kabane Minamoto no Ason to his non-heir sons; thereafter, they and their descendants ceased to be members of the Imperial Family. Several subsequent emperors gave the Minamoto surname to their non-heir sons.
The most prominent of the several Minamoto families, the Seiwa Genji, descended from Minamoto no Tsunemoto (917–961), a grandson of the 56th Emperor Seiwa. Tsunemoto went to the provinces and became the founder of a major warrior dynasty. Minamoto no Mitsunaka (912–997) formed an alliance with the Fujiwara. Thereafter the Fujiwara frequently called upon the Minamoto to restore order in the capital, Heian-Kyo (or Kyoto.)
Mitsunaka's eldest son, Minamoto no Yorimitsu (948–1021), became the protégé of Fujiwara no Michinaga; another son, Minamoto no Yorinobu (968–1048) suppressed the rebellion of Taira no Tadatsune in 1032. Yorinobu's son, Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (998–1075), and grandson, Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039–1106), pacified most of northeastern Japan between 1051 and 1087.
The Seiwa Genji's fortunes declined in the Hōgen Rebellion (1156), when the Taira executed much of the line. During the Heiji Disturbance (1160), the head of the Seiwa Genji clan, Minamoto no Yoshitomo, died in battle. Taira no Kiyomori seized power in Kyoto by forging an alliance with the retired emperors Shirakawa and Toba and infiltrating the kuge. He sent Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199), the third son of Minamoto no Yoshimoto of the Seiwa Genji, into exile. In 1180 Yoritomo mounted a full-scale rebellion against the Taira rule (the Genpei or the Taira-Minamoto War), culminating in the destruction of the Taira and the subjugation of eastern Japan within five years. In 1192 he received the title shogun and set up the first bakufu at Kamakura.
Thus the Seiwa Genji line proved to be the most strong and dominant Minamoto line during the late Heian period with Minamoto no Yoritomo eventually forming the Kamakura Shogunate and becoming shogun in 1192. Also, it's from the Seiwa Genji line that the later Ashikaga (founders of the Ashikaga shogunate), Nitta, and Takeda clans come.
The protagonist of the classical Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, Hikaru no Genji, was bestowed the name Minamoto for political reasons by his father the emperor and was delegated to civilian life and a career as an imperial officer.
The Genpei War is also the subject of the early Japanese epic The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari).
Members of the Minamoto clan (Genji Clan)Edit
Even within royalty there was a distinction between princes with the title shinnō (親王?) ("[having the] ability to advance," i.e., eligible to become the new Emperor), who could ascend to the throne, and princes with the title ō (王?) ("great" or "major"), who were not members of the line of imperial succession but nevertheless remained members of the royal class (and therefore outranked members of Minamoto clans). The bestowing of the Minamoto name on a (theretofore-)prince or his descendants excluded them from the royal class altogether, thereby operating as a reduction in legal and social rank even for ō-princes not previously in the line of succession.
Many later clans were formed by members of the Minamoto clan, and in many early cases, progenitors of these clans are known by either family name. There are also known monks of Minamoto descent; these are often noted in genealogies but did not carry the clan name (in favor of a dharma name).
There were 21 branches of the clan, each named after the emperor from whom it descended. Some of these lineages were populous, but a few produced no descendants.
The Saga Genji were descendants of Emperor Saga. As the Emperor had many children, many were bestowed the uji Minamoto, declassing them from imperial succession. Among his sons, Makoto, Tokiwa, and Tōru became sadaijin; they were among the most powerful in the Imperial Court in the early Heian period. Some of Tōru's descendants in particular settled the provinces and formed buke. Clans such as the Watanabe, Matsura, and Kamachi descended from the Saga Genji.
Noted Saga Genji and descendants include:
- Makoto, seventh son of the Emperor
- Hiromu, eighth son of the Emperor
- Hitoshi, grandson of Hiromu
- Tokiwa, son of the Emperor
- Okoru, first son of Tokiwa
- Sadamu, son of the Emperor
- Shitagō, great-grandson of Sadamu
- Hiroshi, son of the Emperor
- Tōru, son of the Emperor
- Anbō (secular name Minamoto no Shitagō), great-grandson of Tōru
- Watanabe no Tsuna (formally a Minamoto), great-great-grandson of Tōru
- Matsura Hisashi, grandson of Tsuna
- Koreshige, grandson of Tōru
- Mitsusue, great-great-grandson of Koreshige
- Tsutomu, son of the Emperor
- Hiraku, son of the Emperor
History records that at least three of Emperor Saga's daughters were also made Minamoto (Kiyohime, Sadahime, and Yoshihime), but few records concerning his daughters are known.
These were descendants of Emperor Ninmyō. His sons Masaru and Hikaru were udaijin. Among Hikaru's descendants was Minamoto no Atsushi, adoptive father of the Saga Genji's Tsuna and father of the Seiwa Genji's Mitsunaka's wife.
These were descendants of Emperor Montoku. Among them, Yoshiari was a sadaijin, and among his descendants were the Sakado clan who were Hokumen no Bushi.
These were descendants of Emperor Seiwa. The most numerous of them were those descended from Tsunemoto, son of Prince Sadazumi. Hachimantarō Yoshiie of the Kawachi Genji was a leader of a buke. His descendants set up the Kamakura shogunate, making his a prestigious pedigree claimed by many buke, particularly for the direct descendants in the Ashikaga clan (that set up the Ashikaga shogunate) and the rival Nitta clan. Centuries later, Tokugawa Ieyasu would claim descent from the Seiwa Genji by way of the Nitta clan.
These were descendants of Emperor Yōzei. While Tsunemoto is termed the ancestor of the Seiwa Genji, there is evidence (rediscovered in the late 19th century by Hoshino Hisashi) suggesting that he was actually the grandson of Yōzei rather than of Seiwa. This theory is not widely accepted as fact, but as Yōzei was deposed for reprehensible behavior, there would have been a compelling motive to claim descent from more auspicious origins if it were the case.