Oneof Prince Shotoku`s most famous achievements as a regent was creatinga constitution. It comprised of 17 different articles that weregeared towards creating order in society and simplifying governance. As a whole, the constitution mainly addressed Buddhist and Confucianmoral values such as obedience and hard work, behavior, beliefs andalso touched on matters of governance largely borrowed from China andKorea.
Thefirst article extol led the value of harmony in the kingdom.Opposition to the emperor or lordship was portrayed as a threat toharmony and hence was discouraged. Harmony on the other hand wasdepicted as a key ingredient to achieve great things both at theempire level and village and family level. The second article alsoextolled revering the three treasures namely Buddha, the doctrine andthe Monastic order. The constitution sanctioned Buddhism as theofficial religion and also called for the three treasures to providespiritual guidance. The third article called for obedience to higherauthority more so the imperials. It cautioned that disobedience leadsto ruin and destruction.
Ethicaland moral conduct of the people was emphasized by article four andsix. As aforementioned, Confucian and Buddhist principles of moralswere heavily relied upon. The fourth article called for ethicalconduct for all superiors in government namely the ministers(machikimatachi) and functionaries (tsukasa tsukasa) so as to confercredibility to the government. The fifth article denounced greed andextolled fairness and justice especially to the poor. The sixtharticle chastised evil and also commended righteousness. The seventharticle called for accountability. It clearly states that publicoffice holders must be men of virtue ready to serve the people andnot enrich themselves. The eighth article called for hard work andcommitment from public officers notably ministers and functionaries.They were required to be in their offices early and leave late.
Fairnessand justice is highly emphasized. This pertains to how ministersutilize their authority over the people. Article nine emphasized onthe importance of faithfulness. It noted that faithfulness was a keyingredient for righteousness and success. Article ten preachestolerance and condemns anger and wrath noting that they as humanbeings, people are prone to err and thus one should not be quick tojudge or be angry toward another. Article 11 emphasizes on the needfor justice and fairness. It also calls for meritocracy where good isrewarded and evil punished. Article 12 reiterates the governancestructure by indicating that ministers and functionaries have noright to levy taxes and other exactions as they are mere subjects ofthe emperor. Article 13 provides additional guidelines on workingethics with public office holders expected to stay informed abouttheir jobs and working full time and any leave days taken coveredfor.
Theconduct of ministers was a reflecting of the emperor. Good behaviorwas expected from ministers and functionaries to set an example tothe people and also be a reflection of the emperor. Article 14 warnsministers against envious behavior as they can pass such behavior tothe commoners leading to chaos. Being content and not envious is asign of wisdom on the ministers and functionaries. Article 15 alsoaddresses ministers and functionaries and calls for putting publicconcerns before private concerns. Article 16 gave authority to theministers and functionaries also to use forced labor on the publicbut only during winter season. The last article emphasizes the needfor dialogue and consultation on major decisions. However, it doesnot articulate who are the participants in any dialogue orconsultations.
Asthe discussion above has shown, all the articles of the constitutiontouched on moral and ethical behaviors of the people and ministersand governance. It did not clear laws on governance such as definingthe supreme authority or articulating clearly the different roles andresponsibilities of specific ministers and functionaries.Additionally, the constitution is not specific. For instance, ittalks about ministers rewarding the good and punishing the bad butdoes not detail specific procedures. In short, the constitution ismore of a code of conduct to guide the public rather than aconstitution according to modern day standards of a constitution.