Christine de Pizan: 1364–1430

Europe • Art Director • Author • Feminism

A long time ago, there once was a fierce girl who never gave up. Empress Shotoku (also known as Empress Koken) ruled Japan twice! Her first reign was from 749AD to 758AD and her second from 765AD until 770AD, when she died. She was the 6th of only 8 women to rule Japan in its history. Shotoku ascended the throne after her father renounced his throne. During her reign, she overcame many conspiracies and coups to overthrow her. After nearly 10 years of rule, she abdicated her throne to her cousin. He ruled for 6 years and then was deposed by his adoptive mother, and Shotokue was placed back on the thrown. During her reign, she was an advocate for the advancement of technology and a prominent supporter of printing. She sponsored one of the most significant printed works in Japan’s early history, the Hyakumanto Durani, which means “one million pagodas and Dharani prayers.” The commission consisted of one million small wooden pagodas containing a woodblock printed Buddhist prayer text. To this day is one of the earliest surviving examples of printing in Japan.

Empress Shotoku’s story tells us that supporting the advancement of technology and arts can have lasting effects, leaving legacies that future generations can appreciate for many centuries.

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