CHAPTER VI. THE CIVILIZATION OF THE OLD JAPANOne cannot well begin the story of the transition from the old to the new Japan without interrupting to describe the main characteristics of the nation's culture just before the beginning of the change. The Japan of 1917 is so decidedly the child of the Japan of 1850 that to know the first one must be acquainted with the second.
THE MILITARY CLASS
One of the prominent features of the culture of Japan in the eighteenth century was the dominant position of the military class. This military class, usually headed by the shogun or his ministers, had from the time of Yoritomo controlled the state. The few emperors who attempted to assert themselves were forced to rely as firmly upon an army as did the shoguns. There had been gradually perfected a system closely resembling the feudalism of medieval Europe and like it primarily military in its forms and ideals. Its name, bakufu, "camp office," and the title of its head, sei-i-tai-shogun, "great barbarian-subduing general," were martial. The shogun based his authority on force, and while in theory he was the servant of the emperor, in practice he was the chief power in the state. Underneath the shogun were the great military lords, the daimyo. In Tokugawa times some of these were cadet branches or direct vassals of the ruling family. Some were descendants of former rivals of Iyeyasu, and gave to him and his successors a more or less grudging allegiance. Associated with the daimyo were minor chiefs and especially the samurai, the ordinary knights or soldiers. Their position was hereditary and as a sign of their rank they proudly wore two swords. Most of the sumurai owed allegiance to some baron or to the shogun. From their lords they received a stated allowance. Only a few, called ronin, "wave men," were unattached. Their freedom was not normal and was due either to an unusually adventurous spirit, or to some calamity, such as poverty, disgrace, sorrow, or the extinction of their liege's house. The warrior classes had developed their own code of ethics, bushido, of which more will be said later. The lower social orders seemed to exist for the support of this fighting caste. A wide gulf divided the samurai from the commercial and agricultural classes, and the young bloods of the lower orders paid the warriors the sincere flattery of an imitation in dress and manners carried as far as the laws would allow. The ideals of the nation, as is usually the case, were molded by the standards and the exploits of the élite. It is true that in spite of warlike exercises and education the samurai had lost some of their vigor during the centuries of Tokugawa peace, and that many daimyo had impoverished themselves by luxury and had fallen under the control of their subordinates. The Tokugawa, too, had favored the commoners, possibly in an attempt to offset the power of the daimyo. But the barons and the samurai were still the masters of the nation.
The presence of this military class was in many respects to be a distinct advantage to Japan in the new age brought by contact with the West. It provided a group of disciplined men accustomed to leadership, and whom the nation had been trained to follow. With a few exceptions the leaders in the transition from the old to the new Japan were of the military class. The government is still largely dominated by their descendants. In the possession of this special type of military heritage the island empire has had a distinct advantage over China, for there no hereditary nobility with traditions of loyalty and sacrifice is present to lead the nation through the perils which beset the period of change, and the nation itself does not seem to have developed a capacity for discipline and unity as fully as in Japan. Moreover, the military tradition was a partial preparation for competition with the Occident. Europe, it is true, has long since passed from the feudal stage to that of industry and commerce, but the habit of war is still strong upon it, and the mailed fist is depended upon to further the economic interests of the West. Japan, under the leadership of her samurai, and especially under the influence of her martial tradition, found it comparatively easy to adjust herself to European navalism and militarism. She proved an apt pupil in learning the methods of Occidental warfare. The obedience, physical courage, and willingness to fight bred by the ages of her military past have had no small part in enabling her to make herself feared by Western powers and to assume a place among them. The victories of the Russo-Japanese war were made possible partly, although not by any means entirely, by the long centuries of the bakufu.
In one respect this emphasis upon the military has placed Japan at a disadvantage in the modern age. She was not primarily commercial or industrial. Trade was left to the lower classes. She was lacking in accumulated commercial capital. She had no fleet, either of merchant or of war craft. For the most part her roads were poor. She was almost entirely self-sufficient and her foreign commerce was of the slightest. What industry and trade existed were organized into guilds, a system admirable in its time, but unfitted to cope with the great joint-stock concerns of the Occident. In 1853 Japan entered a world dominated by the ideals of the industrial revolution, bending all its energies to the production and accumulation of wealth. It took her some time to adjust herself to the situation. That she has done so in a little over half a century is marked evidence of adaptability. Moreover, her ethics were military, not commercial. Business integrity bad not achieved the place of honor that it occupies in the codes of the commercial West. The trade of feudal days was not characterized by excessive dishonesty, to be sure, but in the early days of Japan's intercourse with the Occident much of her business was carried on by men who were not of the military class, and who were unrestrained by strong traditional standards of probity and became all too apt pupils of the scheming adventurers who were present in the vanguard of the European commercial invasion.
In the possession of the military ideal the Japanese are in striking contrast to their great continental neighbor. China has been primarily commercial and industrial and only secondarily martial. She has often been devastated by war, but her government has traditionally been in the hands of a civil bureaucracy that is recruited from the ranks of the agricultural, mercantile, and scholarly classes and exercises its power in their behalf. She has found it difficult to organize herself to meet the armies and navies of the West. Japan has, as we shall see, felt compelled to assume the defense of the entire Far East against the aggressive Occident, and to that end has annexed Korea and has taken steps toward a protectorate of China. For her ability to do this and for her victories over the Russians and Germans, Japan must partly thank the training given by the years of military feudalism.
The warrior class was organized by fiefs. The feudal system produced loyalty to the local lord rather than to the state or the emperor or even to the shogun. The shogun as head of the Tokugawa family had his personal retainers and his vassals who were true to him, but the land had many daimyo who were jealous of his power, and the samurai who owed them allegiance could be counted on to obey their lord first, and the shogun second or not at all. Although much weakened, and thoroughly subordinated to loyalty to the emperor, this feudal spirit has persisted in the new Japan. The army is dominated by Choshu, and the navy by Satsuma, both of which we are to hear of later, and at times the rivalries of the two have been important factors in national politics.
THE IMPERIAL INSTITUTION
Another powerful survival from Japan's earlier days is the institution of the emperor. The ruling house is devoutly believed to have reigned from ages eternal and to be the direct offspring of the gods. It has formed the rallying point for the ardent spirit of patriotism that has been so marked a characteristic of the new Japan. Here again the island empire has had the advantage of its continental neighbor, for the latter has no native imperial line around which the awakening nation can unite. Dynasty has followed dynasty, and at the time when the Occident burst in on China, her throne was occupied by a race of alien conquerors whose hold in their position was already weakening. The traditional attitude toward Japan's imperial house was a remarkable preparation for the duties of the new age. By the shoguns, especially the Tokugawa shoguns, the emperor's sanctity had been emphasized, thus strengthening his hold on the imagination of his people and heightening the new-born patriotism of the nineteenth century. Moreover, the precedent had been maintained that he should reign but not govern, and the transition to a constitutional monarchy of the European type was an easy one. The shoguns, Hedeyoshi, and the Fujiwara premiers had ruled in the emperor's name for well over a thousand years. Fujiwara, shoguns, and even daimyo had in turn been dominated by ministers who were likewise content with the substance of power while preserving the nominal dignity of the princes in whose name they held it. From the shogun who exercised absolute authority in the name of a sacrosanct sovereign who but seldom interfered in the administration, to a ministry, likewise acting for the monarch, was no difficult step. Under both, the emperor has been the source of all authority but has exercised little of it himself. This does not mean that in the new age there has been a ministry responsible to a parliament, although toward this goal there seems to have been progress. It does mean that a group of the ablest in the land won the ear of the emperor and governed in his name, assuming all responsibility for his acts. Just how much personal influence he has exerted has never fully been made public. In the mature years of Meiji, the great monarch of the transition period, it seems at times to have been large: under the present ruler it is probably not so great. Both have scrupulously observed at least an outward loyalty to the mini try.
MODERN OUTGROWTHS OF OLD IDEALS
The patriotism of the new Japan, the self-conscious nationalism which so centers in the institution of the emperor, has grown up largely in the past seventy years. Strange as it may seem to those who know only the Japan of the twentieth century, there was but little of what we think of as patriotism until nearly the close of feudal days. The intense national spirit of to-day is, however, partially an outgrowth of features of the older Japan, the loyalty of the samurai to his lord, a keen sensitiveness to ridicule and insult, the solidarity produced by the Tokugawa shoguns, and the atmosphere of sanctity that surrounded the emperor. The individual samurai, as we have seen, had originally little if any feeling of attachment to the emperor at Kyoto or to the nation. He would probably not have tolerated the usurpation of the throne by one not of the lineage of Jimmu Tenno, and he certainly resented the invasion of the land by the Mongols, but it was not until well along in the Tokugawa régime that even some of his class began to be passionately conscious that the country was the "land of the gods" and to be sensitive to the impotence of the rightful sovereign. The samurai did, however, have a real sense of loyalty to his lord. Part of his code of ethics was to be willing to sacrifice all that he held dear, wife, children, life itself, in the service of his master. At the latter's death he might even commit suicide. So extensive indeed did self-destruction become on such occasions that it was necessary for the early Tokugawa shoguns to seek to restrain it by law. The spirit of personal loyalty was during the old régime directed toward the lord, but with the passing of feudalism it centered itself on the person and institution of the emperor with an intensity which it is hard for the Occidental to appreciate, and contact with the nations of the West wakened into life a latent but earnest love of country.
Another characteristic of the code of the samurai was extreme sensitiveness on points of honor. Personal affronts were often avenged by death. Emphasis was laid on the Confucian precept that a son must not live under the same heaven with the murderer of his father and the stories of the vengeance of sons upon the assassins of their sires are numerous. The retainer pursued unto death the slayer of his lord, even at the cost of his own life and that of his wife and children. The sword of the samurai was ever ready to be drawn to maintain what he deemed his honor. He was intensely proud of his rank, at times arrogantly so. This pride seems almost to be a racial characteristic, for it is older than feudalism. It has survived the latter, and it is national as well as personal. It helps to explain the resentment of the Japanese at the discrimination against their fellow-countrymen in the Occident. They are indignant at the land legislation of California and the attempts at exclusion by law from the United States and Canada, partly, it is true, because of the economic disadvantage at which they are thus placed, but primarily because these measures, which are applied to no Europeans, seem to brand them as inferior and so to be a slur on their national honor.
Patriotism is partly the result of the solidarity forced upon the nation by the Tokugawa. Before and even during most of their time the national spirit was low. Feudalism tended to break up the country into loosely connected units. The great daimyo of the South at times tended to act as independent monarchs, as, for example, when they entered into commercial agreements with the European traders of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Tokugawa sought to promote peace by insuring unity and their authority was successfully asserted over the entire land. All the nation was controlled by careful regulations from Yedo.
Commerce, travel, and even dress and food were subject to state supervision. The feeling of nationalism did not prevail, it is true, until after the end of the shogunate, but it was the natural outgrowth of the Tokugawa régime.
The organization of the Tokugawa prepared the way as well for another characteristic of both the old and the new Japan, the predominance of state supervision and social, as contrasted with individual, initiative and activity. As we have seen, all phases of life were subject to regulation and supervision by the shogun's representatives. Foreign commerce was under official control. Order and peace were maintained by the most rigid conformity to law. Collective responsibility was enforced; the family was held accountable for the deeds of its members, and the village for those of its inhabitants. Partly as a result, in the new Japan social action has been emphasized to a high degree. The state has taken the lead in encouraging railways, telegraphs, banking, and foreign commerce. The Japanese merchant marine, for example, whose growth has been so noteworthy, has been heavily subsidized. This emphasis upon collective action has many advantages in the twentieth century, when the nations of the West are being forced by economic competition and war to an ever-increasing state direction of industry, transportation, and commerce. Apparently it is the nation which can be best organized in all phases of its life, intellectual, economic, and military, under the unified control of the central government, that has the best chance of winning in the intensified competition of the twentieth century. For this form of state collectivism Japan is by her past training eminently fitted, and when the situation in which she found herself in the nineteenth century made it necessary to develop it, she did so to a high degree. In the struggle for the maritime hegemony of the Pacific and commercial leadership in China, she can act as a unit, without the waste that comes from haphazard direction and imperfect coördination of the efforts of the citizens in many nations of the Occident.
The agency by which state direction has been exercised under the new régime has been the bureaucracy. This has been one of the outstanding features of the administrative system of the new Japan. Its higher positions have been filled largely from the ranks of the samurai and their descendants. It has formed a hierarchy that has on the whole dominated the nation. It is a continuation in another form of the spirit of the Tokugawa, a careful and minute control by the government of all phases of human activity.
Another characteristic of the old Japan was its experience in assimilating foreign culture. The civilization of the prefeudal ages, as we have seen, was developed largely under the stimulus of contact with China. Even during the feudal ages, so distinctively Japanese, the country was at times and in some phases of its life much affected by the continent. Japanese standards of action, while largely the outgrowth of the people's social needs, were partly molded by Confucian and Buddhist ideals. Bushido, while unmistakably indigenous, showed the effect of both Confucianism and Buddhism. Family life and solidarity bore the imprint of continental influence. Feudalism grew up partly as the result of the failure of the attempt to adapt the administrative system of the T'ang to Japanese conditions. The written characters of China were taken over bodily and its literature was read as eagerly in Japan as on the continent. Buddhism, so influential in the old Japan, was Indian in origin and reached the islands in Chinese garb. Chinese philosophy profoundly influenced Japanese thinkers. And yet the people of Nippon were not blind imitators. As much as they admired the civilization of the continent, they were not content to be slavish copyists. Bushido is very different from Confucianism and Buddhism. The Chinese written language was partly adjusted to Japanese needs by the invention of syllabic marks. A true Japanese literature and art were produced, as different from continental models as was any national art or literature in medieval Europe from those of the Roman world. The Japanese were not overwhelmed by the flood of culture from the continent as was the American Indian by that of Europe; they built on it, as did the peoples of Northern Europe on that of the Mediterranean basin, a civilization of their own.
This experience in assimilating alien ideas and institutions was an admirable preparation for the coming of the European. Japan had for centuries been accustomed to embrace and adapt new ideas from abroad. Her national pride caused her to be fearful of any charge of barbarism, and her past made it natural for this pride to lead her, not to reject the culture of the Occident, but to hasten to adopt as much of it as she needed. She had assimilated the civilization of the Chinese, the highest that she had known. Once she was convinced that that of the West was more powerful she was quick to seize upon it for herself. In this again she had the advantage of China. That country had never known intimately a culture equal to its own. It had for centuries posed as a teacher, not a learner. A much more severe shock than that which aroused Japan was needed to convince the Middle Kingdom that it must adapt itself to the ways of the Occident, and the process of adjustment was accordingly more delayed in beginning and has been more painful.
Nor is it strange that Japan, having been so apt a pupil, should deem herself a competent teacher. Now that she has so successfully learned of the Occident, she poses as the instructor of the other and less facile peoples of the Far East. To her schools come students from all the Far East. The new terms that she has coined from the Chinese ideographs for objects and ideas of the West are being taken over bodily by her great continental neighbor. She aspires to help organize on the modern lines that she has learned from the Occident the industry and commerce, the armies and the diplomacy of the huge Oriental republic.
THE CULTURE OF OLD JAPAN
Still another characteristic of the old Japan was its love of the beautiful. This æsthetic sense has shown itself in painting, sculpture, ceramics, lacquer, and architecture, in landscape-gardening, in an elaborate code of politeness, in flower festivals, the tea ceremony, in the manufacture and decoration of swords, in dancing, and a score of other ways. It would be out of place in a book of this size and scope to go into any but the briefest of discussions of these, interesting as they are. Art was largely influenced by Chinese models. The great masters of the T'ang, the Sung, the Yüan, and the Ming dynasties, all had their followers in Japan. Each art revival on the continent was felt in Japan. There were developed, however, vigorous native schools, and even in following the foreign schools the islanders showed originality. Like their Chinese prototypes, Japanese works of art show the strong influence of Buddhism. Like them, too, the ideal is not so much a photographic reproduction of nature, as an attempt to catch its spirit. To Buddhism the visible world is transient, and it is natural that art produced in its atmosphere should seek to depict the soul that is back of the visible, to portray emotions as much as matter. Users of the Chinese character hold calligraphy to be a fine art, and their emphasis upon line is naturally carried over into painting. If allowance is made for these differences in ideals, however, the best work of Japan will bear comparison with much of the best of the Occident.
Painting has a long and brillant history. The collections to be found in America and Europe and the enthusiasm of its Western students bear witness to its appeal to a more than national artistic sense. The enumeration of its distinct schools and great masters would alone require several pages, and there is room here for only a few. There was the Tosa school, largely Japanese in its subjects and methods. There was the priest Meicho (1351-1427), or Cho Densu, who gave himself to portraying the divinities and themes of the Buddhism faith. There was Sesshu (1420- 1506), also a priest, who after a close study of the great Chinese masters in their home land branched out on lines of his own and left behind him figures and especially landscapes that live to-day. A younger contemporary of Sesshu, Kano Motonobu (1476-1559), the son of a painter, showed a wide variety of subjects and styles and founded a school, the Kano, which still has adherents. All of these had catered to the aristocracy. Hishigawa Aforonobu (1646-1713), an embroiderer's draughtsman and so of the lower orders, showed the growing importance of the common people under the Tokugawa in his portrayals, in the splendid technique of the old schools, of the life that he saw around him He gave an impulse too, to illustrations for books and wood-engravings, a means of education and amusement for his own class. Okyo also illustrated the tendencies of the Tokugawa era. He was the son of a farmer, and attempted to break away from the canons of the Chinese schools and to paint nature exactly as he saw it.
Then there is color printing of broadsides and illustrated books, also a development of the Tokugawa age, and primarily for the masses. It seems to have been distinctively a Japanese idea and not to have been introduced from the continent.
There were noted sculptors in wood, and workers in metal, including those who erected the great bronze statues of Buddha that still charm the traveller. Lacquer and inlay work were known and remarkably well executed. Porcelain had long been imported from China before it was produced in Japan, but the Japanese later spent much labor and skill in its production. A complete history of pottery would fill several large volumes. There were many different schools, often named from a locality, or from a feudal fief whose chief was a patron of the arts. The best examples of the architecture of the past are to be found in Buddhist temples and in the few remaining feudal castles. The well known buildings that adorn the mausoleum of Iyeyasu at Nikko, for example, are the delight of all who see them. Part of the landscape gardening is too grotesque to appeal to an Occidental, but most of it, of a naturalistic school, has a real charm for him. Some of it is in miniature, and stunted trees are trained with infinite care to reproduce the forms of those of normal size. The flower festivals at the cherry blossom season are national holidays.
The leisure of the imperial court circles and later of the daimyo under the Tokugawa gave opportunity for the beauty-loving soul of the people to express itself in elaborate and exquisitely perfect etiquette. The courtesy of the period has come down to the present, although at times rudely shaken by the bustle of the industrial twentieth century. Japanese politeness has become proverbial, and the disregard for it that Western nations have at times shown in their dealings with Tokyo has frequently helped to produce friction. The ceremony of tea drinking with its different schools and minute regulations, the development of the burning and judging of incense into an elaborately ordered pastime of the leisured, the skill that went into the manufacture and decoration of the sword of the samurai, all seem to be outgrowths of a spirit that sets great store upon the beautiful. Dancing, much of it ceremonial, goes back to the earliest historic times and is said to have taken its rise in the days of the Sun Goddess. The æsthetic spirit has of recent years been at times prostituted for commercial purposes, but it still survives and is one of the characteristics of the Japan of to-day.
Of the literature of the old Japan but little need be said. Here, although rather less than in the fine arts, she was strongly influenced by China. Only in poetry did she refuse to conform to foreign models and fully show her originality. This poetry, because of its peculiar canons, defies adequate translation into Western tongues. Japan has had the drama, said in its beginning to have been associated with Shinto, but later deeply colored by Buddhist ideas. Still later it became completely secular and popular in form and content.
Japan has not shown a creative spirit in philosophy, ethics, or religion equal to that which molded the life of China, India, or the Semitic races. Her sons have rather been content to adapt divergent alien systems to their own necessities, and to build on contributions from abroad. The philosophers of China were studied and at times criticized. Buddhist priests arose who thought with a sufficiently vigorous independence to be founders of new sects, but no Japanese has appeared who ranks in originality with Gautama, Confucius, Chu Hsi, Socrates, or Kant.
Family solidarity is one of the characteristics of the old Japan that has persisted in spite of the altered conditions of a new age. It has been one of the ever present factors in Japanese life. Each man must be loyal to his parents, serving them while they are living, honoring them after their death. The family must be continued by male heirs that the forefathers may not lack descendants to pay them honor. Marriage was universal, and failing offspring, adoption could be resorted to to continue the ancestral line. Obedience to parents has been one of the cardinal virtues. The family was more important by far than the individual and each must subordinate his wishes to it. The individualism of the Occident would have been the rankest of heresies. Here the influence of Chinese teachings and models has been very great. In China even more than in Japan, the family is the unit, and there are those who believe that before the advent of Chinese culture the family was of but small importance in Japan. Here also is again the Japanese electicism. Filial piety was not as important as loyalty, and filial duties are perhaps less institutional and more sentimental than in China.
The wife was more abjectly subordinated to the husband than in the great continental empire. Absolute obedience, self-effacement, and fidelity were required of her, and yet her husband might be unfaithful or divorce her almost at will. Within her sphere she might be greatly honored, but she was always the subject of her lord. It must be added, however, that the Japanese wives were not without their charm, and a very real one. Those of the higher classes were models of unobtrusive courtesy; they had a decided influence over the younger years of the children, and left an indelible stamp, chiefly for good, upon the morals of each new generation. The work of the women of the feudal classes, while unspectacular, was noble and far-reaching in its effects. The wife by her intense loyalty and self-effacement inspired her husband to maintain his ideals and to preserve toward his lord something of the same attitude. The wives of the humbler strata of society were real help- meets for their husbands and frequently shared in the bread- winning. There have been empresses on the imperial throne, although only two of these have sat there in recent centuries. The difference in the status of women in China and Japan is possibly one that is natural between a civilization that is essentially agricultural and commercial and one that was primarily military.
RELIGION AND ETHICS OF OLD JAPAN
In the sphere of religion the Japanese have not been creators of the first rank. They have been religious, and deeply so. Their fine loyalty has made them willing to die for a faith once adopted, as was seen in the persecutions of Christianity. But their religious sentiments seem to be influenced largely by their appreciation of the beautiful and by a matter-of-fact attitude toward life. They have not been given to original philosophical or theological speculation, nor even to daring innovations in the field of ethics. They have largely been eclectic; all of their religious beliefs are either foreign in their origin or have been profoundly influenced by foreign ideas. Their primitive faith, it will be remembered, seems to have been a very simple affair. They honored various spirits, the many divinities that had been created by the naïve attempts of the race to account for the beginnings of the world, of life, and the nation. There were the Sun Goddess and hosts of other dieties. The spirits of great warriors were reverenced. A few scholars have even suggested, although on very doubtful evidence, that the gods of the aborigines whom the Japanese drove out may have been adopted, on the ground that they were potent in the conquered land and must be propitiated. There were the beginnings of what resembles taboo, and a method of ceremonial purification by water and wind. There were no images, no ornate temples, and no priestly caste. Such ethical standards as existed had little connection with religious belief.
Under the influence of continental thought and institutions, this primitive religion became much changed. The stories of the gods and goddesses were recorded by those who were more or less familiar with the Chinese cosmogony and other foreign myths, and in the process were altered past hope of accurate restoration. The primitive faith seems to have been modified to exalt the power of the monarch and to emphasize his divine origin. For centuries the native cult was, as it still is, primarily associated with the ruling house. The Chinese reverence for ancestors was introduced, and that phase of the indigenous faith that had to do with the names of the departed was accentuated. Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, the ancestress of the emperor, was honored, as were the spirits of the rulers of the past.
Buddhism came in, and for the first time the native faith achieved self-consciousness and was given a name, Shinto, Chinese in origin, meaning "the way of the Gods," as distinguished from Buppo "the law of the Buddha." For a time Shinto seemed about to be absorbed by Buddhism, for clever monks identified the Japanese divinities as incarnations of Buddhist saints and deities.
The indigenous faith persisted, however, in the imperial household and in shrines through the country. During Tokugawa times it was revived by the group of scholars who were seeking to emphasize the native as contrasted with the foreign, and the attempt was made to purify it of many of its alien elements. It passed over from the Tokugawa to the new age and with the restoration of the emperor achieved a marked official extension in a more purely native form. Its temples are now, as they have traditionally been, simple buildings, reproducing more nearly than any other structures the form of the primitive Japanese house. They have caretakers, who form a sort of hierarchy of priests but are not powerful as a class. There is no image within them, but there are emblems of the deity, usually a sword, mirror, or jewel, the insignia said to have been given by the Sun Goddess to the imperial ancestors. Before the shrines are the torii, resembling ornamental gateways. There was and is no ethical system enforced by Shinto, and it induces but little sense of moral or spiritual guilt. Its ceremonies are confined to formal lustrations, to honoring the spirits of emperors, of national heroes and ancestors, to entreating blessings on the nation, and asking for protection from evil.
In Buddhism, on the other hand, the old Japan had a most highly developed religion. The faith had come to the nation with all the wealth of the philosophy, art, and organization that it had acquired in the course of its growth in India, Central Asia, and China. Its philosophy was elaborate, teaching that this world is but a passing show, a delusion; that man is chained to it and to suffering in an endless series of rebirths, his lot in each new one being determined by his karma, a term that is rather lamely but succinctly defined as meaning the sum of his actions good and bad in preceding existences. Man is to seek and to find salvation by escaping from the transient world and the chain of existence through the means provided by the faith. These means, it may be recalled, were various, differing somewhat with each sect. Buddhism had a voluminous literature. It erected magnificent temples, adorned with all the beauty and skill known to the art of the lands through which it had passed, and with the gifts of generations of pious believers. Its celibate priesthood formed a powerful hierarchy, often noted for learning, devotion, and ability. It had a large pantheon, a complete calendar of holidays and feasts, and encouraged pilgrimages to shrines of noted sanctity. It had been the principal vehicle by which civilization had been brought to Japan, and it had received the support of generations of emperors, nobles, and feudal chiefs. Buddhism, indeed, occupied in Japan much the position that the Catholic Church held in the Europe of the middle ages. Both were the means of bringing to a semi-barbarous people a superior and older civilization. Both dominated society by their philosophy, learning, and priesthood, and their elaborate rituals, their art and architecture. There were six principal sects, it will be recalled, most of them of foreign origin. Each of these developed sub-sects, and there were several minor sects. But while there have been jealousies and quarrels between these divisions there has never been an Inquisition and never mutual persecutions comparable to those that have marred the relations of Christian bodies. In the later years of the Tokugawa, it will be remembered, Buddhism began to lose its hold on the thinking men of the nation. The masses still believed in it, but the educated were inclined to follow the teachings of the great philosophers of the Confucian school. It must not be thought, however, that there was the sharp division between religions that one finds in the Occident. The Japanese for some purposes would frequent the Shinto shrines, for others the Buddhist temples, and could still pay reverence at his ancestral graves and follow the moral precepts of the Chinese sages without any feeling of inconsistency. Even if he had largely lost his faith in Buddhism, he would still resort to its burial rites for his kinsmen, much as an agnostic in Christian lands is apt to desire the services of the church at funerals and weddings.
Confucianism has been a determining factor in the life and thought of Japan. From the time that continental culture had first reached the islands the Chinese classical writings had been studied, although by only a few until the Tokugawa régime. After the time of Iyeyasu Confucius and Mencius were honored and had fully as profound an influence upon the feudal classes as had Aristotle upon medieval Europe. Under the early Tokugawa, especially, Chinese literature and the Chinese sages were extremely popular with the military class. Even after the Japanese revival of the middle and later years of the Tokugawa, when the native religion, language, literature, and institutions were given renewed attention by many scholars, Chinese ethics remained popular with most of the samurai.
The effects of Confucianism on Japan were many. Ancestor worship, so essential a part of the Chinese system, flourished. The five relationships of the classics, between prince and minister, father and son, husband and wife, younger brother and older brother, and friend and friend, became cardinal points in the Japanese moral code, although with modifications due to local conditions and habits of mind. Loyalty of the vassal to his lord, complete sub- servience of the children to the paternal will, subordination of the wife to the husband even to the point of self-effacement, were encouraged. The moral precepts taught in the schools to-day are largely Confucian in their for.
Bushido, the ethical code of the military classes, reminds one of the chivalry of feudal Europe. As it existed under the later Tokugawa, it was the result of years of development. It seems to go back at least to the time when the military class was forming. Under the successors of Iyeyasu it was elaborated and largely made over, until it lost some rather unlovely features of its earlier years. It was essentially Japanese, but in its later and elaborated form it showed the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism, especially the former. Confucius and Mencius, to whom the Chinese system named from the first owed its classical form, it may be added, lived and worked under a feudal organization which in some respects resembled that of Japan. The adaptation of Chinese ethics to bushido was thus facilitated. Perhaps one may say, although the parallelism must not be pushed too far, that somewhat as chivalry showed the influence of the teachings of the Christian church, so bushido gave evidences of having grown up in an environment in which Buddhism and Confucianism were present.
Loyalty was the cardinal virtue of bushido. The samurai must sacrifice life, truth, and even his family if the service of his lord required it. With the passing of feudalism, one may say in parenthesis, the nation, personified in the emperor, has absorbed the loyalty previously paid to the daimyo. Filial piety, the devotion to one's parents and ancestors, although subordinate to loyalty, was prominent. Family unity, promoted by filial piety and by the duties of brothers to one another, was marked. Frugality, simplicity of life, and indifference to wealth were exalted. For recreation military amusements were encouraged. Bread-winning pursuits and regard for money affairs were held in contempt. The warrior above all valued self-control in the presence of pain, and steeled himself to endure the most intense agony without flinching.
Personal honor was highly esteemed and the sword of the samurai, the sign of his rank, although it must not be drawn but for the gravest reasons, was ever held ready to avenge a slight to its owner or to its owner's lord. Honor was dearer than life and in many exigencies self-destruction was regarded not simply as right, but as the only right course. Disgrace and defeat were atoned for by suicide, and on the death of a daimyo loyal followers might show their grief and affection by it. The knight might protest against grave injustice by suicide, and might by the same means try to dissuade his lord from unwise or unworthy action. Part of the training of every samurai was the ritual for disembowelment, the approved means of self-destruction, and one of the highest tests of his character was to be able, if the occasion demanded, to perform it calmly and without flinching. If condemned to death, it was held to be a privilege to execute the sentence on one's own body and to be a disgrace to die at the hands of the public headsman. This stoicism and disregard for the material accessories of life were especially encouraged by the Zen sect. This, it will be remembered, had been marked by a stern discipline and fostered self-reliance, and had been modified by Confucianism.
The wife of the samurai was also influenced by bushido. She was to be self-effacing, and was to hide all traces of suffering or grief. She was taught how to end her life with decorum in case the occasion seemed to demand it. By her example she exercised a profound influence over her husband.
Magnanimity to a defeated enemy was encouraged. Fidelity to one's plighted word was part of the code, as was faithfulness to principle and to friends. These considerations took precedent over an exact regard for objective facts.
It must not be thought that bushido, any more than chivalry, was lived up to by all those who professed to be guided by it. The samurai seldom attained to even his own standards.
As in the case of chivalry, bushido profoundly influenced not only the upper classes, for whom it was primarily intended, but the civil population as well. The lower orders of society copied as far as possible the ethics as well as the manners of the warrior. Bushido, like chivalry, was to remain an active force long after the social order that had produced it had disappeared.
Such were the more prominent features of the organization and life of the old Japan. They were to be profoundly modified and some of them later disappeared, but they have left an indelible stamp upon the ideals and the culture of the nation.
For further reading see: Chamberlain, Things Japanese; Griffis, The Mikado's Empire; Binyon, Painting in the Far East; Fenollosa, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art; Morrison, The Painters of Japan; Aston, A History of Japanese Literature; Chamberlain, Japanese Poetry; Mitford, Tales of Old Japan; Aston, Shinto, The Way of the Gods; Gulick, The Evolution of the Japanese; Hearn, Japan, An Attempt at Interpretation; Knox, The Development of Religion in Japan; Lloyd, The Creed of Half Japan; Nitobe, Bushido, The Soul of Japan; Brinkley, Japan, Its History, Arts and Literature.