Toranosuke wrote:[from Toranosuke] ...the Sadaijin and all his followers or subordinates sitting to the emperor's left, and the Udaijin and his men sitting to the emperor's right. ...the emperor's left would have been on the east, and his right on the west. And since the East is associated with the Rising Sun, therefore it's higher in status than the west, associated with the setting sun. Right?...Chinese imperial palaces were certainly organized in a fashion along these lines, with geographic positioning having strong importance/significance.
[from ltdomer98] They copied Chinese (Tang) titles and court/governmental organizations. ...court diaries and so on, and titles are a big thing.
...by the 16th C the titles were "meaningless" ...Yet they're still given out, still sought after, still clearly have "meaning." ...talking about the Ouchi, being Sakyo Daibu or Ukyo Daibu means you're literally "governing" that half of Kyoto, in the early 16th C. ...it's something that fascinates me.
Thank you, your thoughts sent me off on a hunt and I think I found a clue.
This paper Land of the Rising Sun: The Predominant East-West Axis Among the Early Japanese
confirms ltdomer98's summary of how the Japanese Imperial Court adopted the ideal layout of the Chinese capital, and it was based on fengshui/fuusui 風水 (wind water) geomancy. (BTW, thanks for the correction Toranosuke, cosmology is metaphysics, not spatial orientation.)
The author confirms Toranosuke's suggestion that indigenous Japanese beliefs equated the east-west orientation as holding superior value/power/meaning in relation to the origin of the sun. As noted by ltdomer98, by the Heian period, the sources incorporated Chinese geomancy and superimposed it onto the Japanese beliefs.
As evidence of this, the author looked at early references (mythology, literature, archaeology, historical records, scholars) and found the earlier sources clearly included more east-west axis references. The later sources give way to more Chinese north-south axis (North Star, feng shui) references.
There is some debate as to whether the east represents the planetary object, or manifestation of a deity. The author seems to agree with the latter and offers these two translations.
From the Kojiki: Then [Itu-se-no-mikoto] said: 'It is not right for me, the child of the sun-deity, to fight facing the sun. This is why I have been wounded by such a lowly wretch. Now let us go around to where the sun will be at our backs and attack.' Thus agreeing, they went around from the south.26 At this time, Waka-kusaka-be-n6-miko sent word to the emperor: 'It is an awesome thing that you should deign to come with the sun at your back. Rather let me go up directly [to the capital] and serve you.' For this reason, he went back to the palace.
From the Nihon Shoki: The Emperor was vexed, and revolved in his inmost heart a divine plan, saying:- 'I am the descendant of the Sun-Goddess, and if I proceed against the Sun to attack the enemy, I shall act contrary to the way of Heaven. Better to retreat and make a show of weakness. Then sacrificing to the Gods of Heaven and Earth, and bringing on our backs the might of the Sun-Goddess, let us follow her rays and trample them down. If we do so, the enemy will assuredly be routed of themselves, and we shall not stain our swords with blood.'
The author proposes the meaning of these passages goes beyond the tactical advantage of having the sun glaring into the eyes of your enemy and points to superstitious/supernatural instructions. The idea being that keeping your back towards the sun allows the sun deities to infuse your body with mystical power. And conversely, facing the sun drains you of power. The original solar charging system!
So putting two and two together....this means that when the Minister of the Left addresses or visits the Minister of the Right, the sun is shining on his back.
Regarding ltdomer98's comments...what popped into my head is this is why left/east and right/west titles are so important. They offer a divine reinforcement of a lord's authority.
Back to the paper...historian Senda Minoru suggests ritsuryou titles may have been influenced as much by the indigenous east-west axis as T'ang geomancy.
From the Nihon Shoki In this way East and West were reckoned as in a line with the sun, while North and South were reckoned as athwart the sun. The sunny side of the mountains was called the light-face and the shady side of the mountains was called the back-face.
Senda interprets this passage as describing 6 regions under the ritsuryou system. Four named using cardinal directions--Toukaidou/Tousandou (east), Saikaidou (west), Nankaidou (south), Kokurikudou (north). Two named using the east/west axis, Sanyoudou 山陽道 (sunny side of the mountains) and and Sanindou 山陰道 (shady side of the mountains).
I read through this really fast, so apologies in advance if I've misinterpreted things.
BTW, I also like tracing how meaning changes over time. It seems to me that to properly understand Japanese language (and maybe everything?) you must learn to read the void between the sparkly bits.
P.S.--Interesting side note, the paper mentions using the animals of the four quarters to name sections of the city in the late 7th thru 8th century:
north, genbu 玄武、Black Turtle
east, seiryou き竜, Azure Dragon
south, suzaku 朱雀, Red Bird
west, byakko 白虎, White Tiger
If these names look familiar, it's probably because they are the four home-defense units used by Aizu han during the Aizu War (autumn 1968). The Byakkotai are of course famous in Japan for their tragic deaths during the initial invasion of the castle town Wakamatsu.
The Aizu han's home-defense troops were organized using French military strategy, so why label them using 8th century references? Especially because this usage of the animal corners was pretty much discarded by the Heian period and replaced with T'ang geomancy.
I've been doing some reading about the Aizu War and it seems sometime around the Battle of Toba Fushimi (early 1868), pro-imperial forces branded the Aizu as enemies of the emperor. Partly it was the manifestation of the bitter grudge fostered by the Choushuu against the Aizu, but it was also designed to encourage their allies to switch sides.
I am relying on a scant handful of English sources, so take this with a grain of salt...it seems the Aizu pride was severely stung by this accusation. So it got me wondering...perhaps the use of classical names dating back to the Nara period was a statement of the Aizu's alignment with the Yamato Court. In other words, they weren't fighting to usurp Emperor Meiji so much as to uphold a greater, overarching ideal of imperial authority.
At any rate, thanks for the input!