Reassessing the Shōen System

Society and Economy in Medieval Japan

(Prof. Yamaguchi/Kato)


Shoen, agricultural estates with a complex hierarchy of rights to income from the land and cultivators, represented a major landholding structure in classical and medieval Japan. Shoen received considerable attention in Japanese scholarship some thirty years ago and now, historians in Japan are beginning to revisit the topic. While knowledge about shoen has informed much English-language scholarship over the last few decades, there have been few intensive studies of the land-holding system per se. 

At this conference, scholars from Japan and the U.S.  presented research on shoen and shoen-related topics. Contributions from the ongoing Obe Estate Project at the University of Southern California are included, but coverage is not limited to a single estate.  Scholars from several disciplines, including history, archaeology, religious studies, and art history, participated. The conference focused on the ways that research on shoen can be applied more broadly to Japanese historical studies, as well as on methods to introduce shoen to undergraduates and non-specialists.


Conference Schedule



  • Conference organizers:  Joan Piggott, Professor of History, USC; Janet Goodwin, Associate in Research, East Asian Studies Center, USC.