Top Cat

From one of the appendices of a book I’m currently reading on life in the Empress’s court in tenth-century Japan:

“Of vital importance for this aristocracy was the complex rank system, which was an integral part of the Great Reform. In [author] Shonagon’s time the system included four grades for Imperial Princes and thirty ranks for other mortals. Each rank was divided into Senior and Junior, and below the Third Rank each was further subdivided into Upper and Lower grades. Every courtier and official had some sort of rank, ranging from the Senior First Rank for the Prime Minister to the Lesser Initial Rank, Lower Grade, for a Clerk in the Division of Carpentry and Metalwork. As we know from section 8 of The Pillow Book, even a cat could receive Court rank: indeed Emperor Ichijo’s pet cat belonged to at least as high a rank as the governor of the largest province of Japan. The joys of rank were also extended to troublesome ghosts and even to inanimate objects like ships.”


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