- A system of government based on governmental codes, both prohibitive (ritsu) and administrative/civil (ryo), first developed in the time of Shotoku Taishi (regent from 593622) by scholars and monks who had been sent to study in Sui China, and from which the Imperial family first derived its ritual calendar (see Engi shiki). The codes were set down in the Taiho Ritsuryo of 701 and revised in the Yoro Ritsuryo a few years later. Shotoku Taishi's seventeen-article constitution of 604 and the Taika ('great change') reforms from 646 exemplify the ritsuryo-type approach heavily influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism and Yin-Yang (onmyo) thought. The earliest ritsuryo document was the Omiryo of 662; the extant written sources date from the early eighth century. The 'Jingiryo' laws covered the deities, and regulations for imperial ceremonies and annual festivals. The ritsuryo system established the emperor as a sacred being, a manifest kami with priestly as well as governmental responsibilities for the community (see Saisei itchi), raising the status of the hereditary monarch over the people to that of a divinely-proclaiming tenno (a Taoist term for the highest heavenly deity) in place of the earlier ten'o (heavenly king). The system affirmed the mutual dependency of imperial law (obo) and the Buddha's law (buppo), and the compatibility of Buddhist divinities and kami (see e.g. Honji-suijaku). The ritsuryo system was not formally replaced until 1885, although Japan was actually ruled from the ninth century onwards not by emperors but by the Fujiwara regents and then by the Kamakura and Ashikaga shoguns or their deputies. The broad principles of the ritsuryo system functioned more or less effectively until the end of the Heian period, which marks the end of what is usually termed 'ritsuryo-type government'. After the disunity of the 'warring states' period, in the late fifteenth century the ritsuryo ideology was in practice replaced by the hoken system of government in the Tokugawa period. Some of the reforms of the Meiji period claimed to emulate aspects of the ritsuryo system (e.g. the re-establishment of a jingikan), though without its Buddhist basis.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.