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Kabane

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  • Japanese: 姓 (kabane)

The kabane were hereditary ranks granted by the Imperial Court, particularly in the Asuka through Heian periods. These were in addition to other systems of official posts and titles granted to officials and nobles, which were more limited in number; since there were only a limited number of posts to be given out, kabane were created to allow officials and nobles without posts to be recognized for their service and honored.

The number of kabane titles were reduced in 684 to the following eight, known as the yakusa no kabane (八色の姓), in descending order of prominence:

1) Mahito (真人) - Granted for the most part only to members of the Imperial family. E.g. Awata no Mahito, who served as an ambassador to Tang China circa 702-718.

2) Ason (朝臣) - A title granted to members of the Imperial family reduced to nobility; closely associated with the founding of clans such as the Fujiwara, Taira, and Minamoto clans, which originated with the granting of those names by the Court. E.g. Minamoto Ason Yoshiie, Fujiwara Ason Toshiyuki.

3) Sukune (宿禰) - Granted in a similar manner to ason, to those formerly known as omi and muraji in early kabane systems. A lesser title than ason.

4) Imiki (忌寸) - Granted in particular to immigrants and their descendants. E.g. Certain members of the Hata clan.

5) Michinoshi (道師) - Granted in particular to scholars and artists.

6) Omi (臣)

7) Muraji (連)

8) Inagi (稲置) - Granted especially to village headmen and other petty regional/local gentry.

In addition to the reduction of titles, Emperor Temmu in that same year began to bestow or grant these titles upon those whom the Emperor or the Court wished to honor. Where the kabane were previously only acquired by birth, they could now be earned through service. Among the first to be bestowed titles in this manner were many who supported Emperor Temmu in the Jinshin War of 672.

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