Shôtoku was a prince in the Japanese Imperial Family who served as regent for his aunt, the empress Suiko, around the turn of the 7th century AD, during the last years of Soga clan domination of the court. Shôtoku was upheld by later generations as a pinacle of virtue, and was credited with many reforms that more modern scholarship suggests may actually have been enacted by the Soga themselves. Shôtoku was also often credited as a great patron of Buddhism, and credited with founding many Buddhist temples of which he actually founded few or none.
Shôtoku's most famous achievement was his alleged promulgation of a 17-point "constitution," based on Confucian ideals, that set guidelines for the behavior of the government and its officials - one of the first times in Japanese history that government was held to ethical standards. Shôtoku is also credited with initiating a hierarchical cap-based rank system for officials, similar to the one used in China during that time.