CHAPTER VI. CULMINATION OF THE NEW RÉGIME; STAGNATION; RISE OF THE MILITARY RÉGIME
WHATEVER be the merit or the demerit of the reform of the Taikwa, it was after all an honour to the Japanese nation that our ancestors ever undertook this reform. Not only because they were able to provide thereby for the needs of the state of that time, but because they were bold enough, temerarious almost, to aspire to imitate the elaborate system of the highly civilised T'ang. When an uncivilised people comes into contact with one highly civilised, it is needless to say that the former is generally induced to imitate the latter. This imitation is sometimes of a low order, that is to say, it often verges on mimicry, and not infrequently results in the dwindling of racial energy on the part of the imitator. Very seldom does the imitation go so far as to adopt the political institutions of the superior. If they, however, had ventured impetuously to do so, the result would have been still worse, while in the case of Japan as the imitator of China, it was quite otherwise. At first sight, as China of the T'ang was so incomparably far ahead of Japan of that time, it might seem rather foolish of our forefathers to try straightway to imitate her. Moreover, on the whole, the imitation ended in a failure indeed, as should have been expected. But the original institutions of the T'ang itself proved a failure in their own home; hence, had the imitation of those institutions resulted in a success with us, it would have aroused a great astonishment. The very fact that our forefathers dared to imitate China, and did not thereby end in losing spirit and energy, is in itself a great credit to the reputation of the Japanese as a nation, for it testifies that they have been from the first a very aspiring nation, unwitting how to shirk a difficulty. If it be an honour to the Germans not to have withered before the high civilisation of the Romans, the same glory may be accorded to the Japanese also.
This aspiring spirit of the nation not only made itself felt in the importation of Chinese legislation, but also in adopting her arts and literature. As to arts, it is difficult to ascertain to what degree of accomplishment our forefathers had already attained before they came under continental influence. Most probably it was limited to some simple designs drawn on household utensils, haniwa or terracotta-making, and to an orchestra of rudimentary instruments. In what may be regarded as literature, there were ballads, some of which are cited in the Nihongi. Tales of heroic deeds, however, used to be transmitted from generation to generation, not in the form of poetry, that is, not in epic, but in oral prose narrations. In this respect the ancient Japanese fell far short of the Ainu, who had developed a highly epic talent very early. To summarise, the ancient Japanese apparently showed very few indications of excelling other peoples in the same stage of civilisation as regards arts and literature.
In the history of Japanese art, the introduction of Buddhism is a noteworthy event. For, along with it, works of Chinese painting and sculpture, both pertaining mainly to Buddhist worship, were sent as presents to our imperial court by rulers of the peninsular states. Not only articles of virtu, but also artists themselves, were sent over to this country from the continent, who displayed their skill in building temples, making images, decorating shrines with fresco paintings, and so forth. Instructed by them, some gifted Japanese, too, became enabled to develop themselves in several branches of art and artistic industry. Among the plastic arts, painting was very slow in making progress, though a few examples of that age which have remained to this day are very similar in style to those pictures and frescoes recently excavated out of the desert in northwestern China, and have a high historical value, giving us a glimpse of the T'ang painting. Architecture was perhaps the art most patronised by the court. We can see it in the construction of numerous palaces. It is a well known fact that before the Empress Gemmyo, who was one of the daughters of the Emperor Tenchi and ascended the throne next after the Emperor Mommu, each successive emperor established his court at the place he liked, and the residence of the previous emperor was generally abandoned by the next-comer. From this fact we can imagine that all imperial palaces of those times, if they could be named palaces at all, must have been very simply built and not very imposing. The locality, too, where the residence was established, was hardly apt to be called a metropolitan city, although it might have served sufficiently as a political centre of the time. It was in the third year of the said empress, 710 A.D., that Nara was first selected as the new capital which was to be established in permanence, contrary to the hitherto accepted usage, and in fact it remained the country's chief city for more than eighty years. For the first time a plan of the city was drawn, a plan very much like a checkerboard, having been modelled after the contemporary Chinese metropolis. The architectural style of the new palaces was also an imitation of that which then prevailed in China. The only difference was that wood was widely used here instead of brick, which was already the chief building material in China. Nobles were encouraged by the court to build tiled houses in place of thatched. Tiles began to come into use about that time, and not for roofing only, but for flooring also. hough the checkerboard plan of the metropolitan city of Nara might never have been realised in full detail, and though among those palaces once built very few could escape the frequent fires and gradual decay, yet judging from those very few which have fortunately survived to this day, we may fairly imagine that they must have been grandiose in proportion to the general condition of the age. What gives the best clue to the social life of the higher classes of that time is the famous imperial treasury, Shô-sô-in, at Nara, now opened to a few specially honoured persons every autumn, when the air is very agreeably dry in Japan. The treasury contains various articles of daily and ceremonial use bequeathed by the Emperor Shômu, who was the eldest son of the Emperor Mommu and died in 749 A.D. after a reign of twenty-five years. Being so multifarious in their kinds, and having been wonderfully well preserved in a wooden storehouse, these imperial treasures, if taken together with numerous contemporary documents extant today, enable us to give a clear and accurate picture of the social life of that time.
As tatami matting was not yet known, and the houses occupied by men of high circles had their floors generally tiled, it may be naturally supposed that the indoor life of that time might have been nearer to that of the Chinese or the European than to that of the modern Japanese. Accordingly their outdoor life, too, must have been far different from that of the present day. For example, modern Japanese are fond of trimming or arranging flowers, putting two or three twigs into a small vase or a short bamboo tube, by methods which, however dainty, are very conventional after all. What they rejoice in thus is to produce a distorted semblance in miniature as tiny as possible of a certain aspect of nature. In the age of the Nara emperors, on the contrary, large bunches of flowers must have been used profusely in decorating rooms and tables, and perhaps to strew on the ground. A great many flower baskets, which are kept in the said treasury, and are of a kind to the use of which the modern Japanese are not accustomed, prove the above assertion. Again, while modern Japanese ladies play exclusively on the koto, a stringed musical instrument laid flat on the tatami when played, Nara musicians seem to have played on harps, too, one of which also is extant in the treasury. Carpets seem to have been used not only in covering the floor, but were put down on the ground on occasions of some ceremonial processions. Hunting, rowing, and horsemanship were then the most favourite pastimes of the nobles. Unlike modern Japanese ladies, women of that time were not behind men in riding. This one fact will perhaps suffice to attest the jovial and sprightly character of the social life of the Nara age.
If we turn to the literature of the time, the progress was remarkable, more easily perceivable than in any other department. We had now not only ballads as before, but short epics also. Such a change must of course be attributed to the influence of the Chinese literature assiduously cultivated. In the year 751 a collection of 120 select poems in Chinese, composed by the 64 Nara courtiers since the reign of the Emperor Tenchi, was compiled and named the Kwai-fû-sô. These poems are quite Chinese in their diction, rhetoric, and strain, resembling in every way those by first rate Chinese poets, and may fairly take rank among them without betraying any sign of imitation or pasticcio. If we consider that no kind of Japanese literature in its own mother tongue could be committed to writing, save only in Chinese ideographs, the influence of the Chinese literature, which flourished so rampantly at that time in Japan, cannot be estimated too highly. No wonder that, parallel to the compilation of the Chinese poems, a collection of Japanese poems, beginning with that of the Emperor Yûryaku in the latter half of the fifth century, was also undertaken. This collection is the celebrated Man-yô-shû. The long and short poems selected, however, were not restricted, as in the case of the Kwai-fû-sô, to those by courtiers only. On the contrary, it contained many poems sung by the common people, into which no whit of Chinese civilisation could have peneterated. The Man-yô- shû, therefore, is held by Japanese historians to be a very useful source-book as regards the social history of the time.
It is hardly to be denied that some of the Japanese poems of that age were evidently composed and committed to writing with the object of being read and not sung, as almost all modern Japanese poems are accustomed to be. There were still many others at the same time which must have been composed from the first in order only to be sung. Men of the age, of high as well as of low rank, were singularly fond of singing, generally accompanied by dancing. Many pathetic love stories are told about those gatherings of singers and dancers, the utagaki, which literally means the singing hedge or ring. This kind of gleeful gathering used to take place on a street, in an open field, or on a hill-top. In one of the utagaki held in the city of Nara, it is said that members of the imperial family took part too, shoulder to shoulder with citizens and denizens of very modest standing. As to dances of the time there might have been some styles original to the Japanese themselves. At the same time there were to be found many dances of foreign origin, imported, together with their musical accompaniments, from China and the peninsular states. These dances have long ago been entirely lost in their original homes, so that they can be witnessed only in our country now. A strange survival of ancient culture indeed! Of course even in our country those exotic and antiquated dances do not conform to the modern taste, and on that account are not frequently performed. They have been handed down through many generations, however, by the band of court musicians, and at present these dances, dating back to the T'ang dynasty, are performed only at certain archaic court ceremonies.
From what has been stated above, one can well imagine that, in certain respects, Japan of the Nara age had much in common with Greece just about the time of the Persian invasion. In both it was an age in which a vigorous race reached the first flourishing stage of civilisation, when the national energy began to be devoted to æsthetic pursuits, but was nevertheless not yet enervated by over-enlightenment. Whatever those Japanese set their minds on doing, they set about it very briskly and cheerfully, nor was their enthusiasm dampened by any fear of probable mishap. Being naïve, and therefore ignorant of obstacles inevitable to the progress of a nation, they always soared higher and higher, full of resplendent hope. How eager they were to essay at great things may be conjectured from the size of the Daibutsu, the colossal statue of Buddha, in the temple of the Tôdaiji at Nara. The statue, more than fifty-three feet in height, was finished in 749 A.D. after several successive failures encountered and overcome during four years, and is the largest that was ever made in Japan. That such a great statue was not only designed, but was executed by Japanese sculptors, whether their origin be of immigrant stock or not, should be considered a great credit to the enterprising spirit and the artistic acquirements of the Japanese of that epoch.
Such a stride in the national progress, however, was only attained at the expense of other quarters not at all insignificant. On the one hand, it is true that Japan benefited immensely by having had as her neighbor such a highly civilised country as China of the T'ang. On the other hand, it should not be overlooked that it was a great misfortune to us that we had such an over-shadowingly influential neighbour. China of that time was a nation too far in advance of us to encourage us to venture to compete with her. She left us no choice but to imitate her. Who can blame the Japanese of the Nara age if they thought it the most urgent business to run after China, and try to overtake her in the same track down which they knew the Chinese had progressed a long way already? The glory and splendour of the Chinese civilisation of the T'ang was too enticing for them to turn their eyes aside and seek a yet untrodden route. That they strove simply to imitate and rejoiced in behaving as though they were real Chinese should not be a matter for astonishment in the least. Perhaps it may be said to their credit that the imitation was exquisite and the resemblance accurate. One of the brilliant students then sent abroad remained there for eighteen years, and after his return to this country he eventually became a prominent minister of the Japanese government, notwithstanding his humble origin, a promotion very rare in those days. Certain branches of Chinese literature, many refined ceremonies, various kinds of Chinese pastimes, many things Chinese, useful and beneficial to our people, to be found in Japan even to this day have been attributed to his importation. Another scholar who was obliged to stay in China for more than fifty years, distinguished himself in the literary circles of the Chinese metropolis, was taken into the service of a T'ang emperor as a very high official under a Chinese name, and at last died there with a life-long yearning for his native country.
Such an imitation, however Useful it might have proved in behalf of our country at large, could not fail to exact from the nation still young, as Japan was at that time, a tremendous overexertion of their mental faculties. Having been strained to the last extremity of tension, the Japanese became naturally exceedingly nervous. From a lack of patience to observe quietly the maturing of the effect of a stack of laws and regulations already enacted, they hastily repudiated some of them as if they were of no use, and replaced them by new laws quite as confounding as the previous ones, and thus legislations contradictory in principle rapidly succeeded one another, none of them having had time enough to be experimented with exhaustively. Although along with this rage for imitation there was a strong countercurrent, very conservative, which struggled incessantly to preserve what was original and at the same time precious, yet to determine which was worthy of preservation was a matter of bewilderment to the contemporaries, for they were averse from coming into any collision with things Chinese to which they were not at all loth. Excitement and irritacion, the natural result of this topsyturvy state of things, can best be estimated by the belief in ridiculous auspices. The discovery of a certain plant or animal, of rare colour or of unusual shape, generally caused by deformities, was enthusiastically welcomed as an augury of a long and peaceful reign, and was wont to call forth some lengthy imperial proclamation in praise of the government. Bounties were munificently distributed to commemorate the happy occasion, discoverers of these rarities were amply rewarded, criminals were released or had the hardships of their servitude ameliorated. Naturally, many of these auguries proved vain, and only served as a prop to sustain the self-conceit of responsible ministers, or as a means of soothing general discontent, if such discontent could ever be manifested in those "good old times." The greatest evil of this fatuous hankering for sources of selfsatisfaction was the throng of rogues and sycophants thereby produced who vied with one another in contriving false or specious rarities and begging imperial favour for them. Superstitions of this kind would have suited well enough a people quite uncivilised, or too civilised to care for rational things. As for the Japanese, a people already on the way of youthful progress, radiant with hope, belief in auspices was but an intolerable fetter. If viewed from this single point, therefore, the régime ought to have been reformed by any means.
Another and still greater evil of the age was the clashing of interests between the different classes of people. Chinese civilisation could permeate only the powerful, the higher classes. Though the chieftains and lords, who had been mighty in the former régime, were bereft of their power by the appropriation of their lands and people, a new class of nobles soon arose in place of them, and among the latter the descendants of Nakatomi-no-Kamatari were the most prominent. This sagacious minister, of whom I have already spoken in the foregoing chapters, was rewarded, in consideration of his meritorious services in the destruction of the Soga, as well as in the execution of the most radical reform Japan has ever known, with the office of the most intimate advisory minister of the Emperor, and was granted the honourable family appellation of Fujiwara. His descendants, who have ramified into innumerable branches and include more than half of the court-nobles of the present day, enjoyed ever-increasing imperial favour generation after generation. What marked especially the sudden growth of the family position was the elevation of one of the grand-daughters of the minister to be the imperial consort of the Emperor Shômu. For several centuries prior to this, it had been the custom to choose the empress from the daughters of the families of the blood imperial. An offspring of a subject, however high her father's rank might be, was not recognised as qualified to that distinction. The privilege, which the Fujiwara family was now exceptionally honoured with, meant that only this family should have hereafter its place next to the imperial, so that none other would be allowed to vie with it any more. The Fujiwara became thus associated with the imperial family more and more closely, and affairs of state gradually came to be transacted as if they were the family business of the Fujiwara. The worst evil of this aggrandisement was only prevented by the incessant and inveterate internecine feuds within the clan itself, which eventually served to put a bridle on the audacity and ambition of any one of the members.
This influential family of the Fujiwara, together with a few other nobles of different lineage, including scions of the imperial family, monopolised almost all the wealth and power in the country. They kept a great number of slaves in their households, and held vast tracts of private estates, too. As to the land, they developed and cultivated the fields by the hands of their slaves or leased them for rent. Besides, they turned into private properties those lands of which they were legally allowed only the usufruct. By the reform legislation, the usufruct of a public land was granted to one who did much service to the state, but the duration of the right was limited to his life or at most to that of his grand-children. None was permitted to hold the public land as a hereditary possession without time limit. It was by the infringement of these regulations that arbitrary occupation was realised.
Another means of the aggrandisement of the estates of the nobles was a fraudulent practice on the part of the common people. Those who were independent landowners or legal leaseholders of public lands were liable to taxation, as may be supposed, and as the taxes and imposts of that time were pretty heavy, those landholders thought it wiser to alienate the land formally by presenting it to some influential nobles or some Buddhist temples, which came to be privileged, or asserted the right to be exempted from the burden of taxation. In reality, of course, those people continued to hold the land as before, and were very glad to see their burden much alleviated, for the tribute which they were obliged to pay to the nominal landlord by the transaction must have been less than the regular taxes which they owed to the government. Moreover, by this presentation they could enter under the protection of those nobles or temples, which was useful for them in defying the law, should need arise. The number of independent landholders thus gradually diminished by the renunciation of the legal right and duty on the part of the holders, and consequently the amount of the levied tax grew less and less. The state, however, could not curtail the necessary amount of the expenditure on that account. The dignity of the court had to be upheld higher and higher, state ceremonies performed regularly, and the national defence was not to be neglected for a moment. All these were causes which necessitated a continual increase of revenue. In order to fill up the deficit, the burden was transferred, doubled or trebled, to those who remained longer honest, so that it soon became quite unbearable for them also. The hardships borne by the law- abiding people of that time could be compared to those of the Huguenots who, faithful to their confession, were impoverished by the dragonnade. In this way, more and more people were induced to give up their independent stand and take shelter under the shield of mighty protectors. Military service, too, was another grievance for the common people. They had to serve in the western islands against continental invaders, or on the northern frontier against the Ainu. Not only did they thereby risk their lives, but sometimes they were obliged to procure their provisions at their own cost, for the government could not afford it. If those people would once renounce their right of independence and turn voluntary vagabonds, then they could at once elude the military duty and the tax. No wonder this was possible since it was an age in which the national consciousness was not yet developed enough to teach them implicitly that it was their duty to be ready to expose themselves to any peril for the sake of the state. This underhand transaction is one exceedingly analogous to the process in which Frankish allod-holders gradually turned their lands into fiefs, in order to escape taxation and at the same time obtain protection from influential persons. If one should think that the census, which was ordained in the reform law to take place periodically, would prove efficient to check the increase of these outcasts, it would be a great mistake in forming a just conception of these ages. Soon after the enactment of the census law, it ceased to be regularly executed, and even while the law was observed with punctuality, the extent to which it was applied must have been very limited. It was at such a time that the great statue of Buddha was completed in the city of Nara, and ten thousand priests were invited to take part in a grand ceremony of rejoicing.
The palaces and temples in Nara, as well as the imperial mansions and the abodes of nobles scattered about the country, seem in a great measure to have been solidly and magnificently built, with their roofs covered with tiles as beforementioned. The nobles who had no permanent residence in the city, had as their bounden duty to pay certain duty visits, as it were, to the imperial court, and learn there how to refine their country life by adopting the metropolitan ways of living. Some of the household furniture used by the nobles and members of the imperial family was bought in China. The education of the higher classes enabled them not only to read and write the literary Chinese with ease and fluency, but to behave correctly according to Chinese etiquette, as if they were themselves genuine Chinese. These are the bright aspects of the history of the Nara age. Around the metropolitan city, however, and those aristocratic abodes in the country, swarmed the impoverished people, utterly uneducated, receiving no benefit whatever from the imported Chinese civilisation. Here one might perhaps ask, could not Buddhism give them any solace at all? Not in the least. The shrewd Buddhists, having seen that Shintoism had been strangely tenacious in resisting the propagation of their creed notwithstanding its lack of system and dogma, wisely invented a clever method to keep a firm hold even on the conservative mind by identifying the patron deities of Buddhism with the national gods of our country. It resembles in some ways the device of the early Christian missionaries in northern Europe, who tried to blend Teutonic mythology with Christian legend. The only difference between them is that those missionaries did not go so far as our Buddhist priests did. This device of the Buddhists was crowned with complete success. By this identification Buddhism became a religion which could be embraced without any palpable contradiction to Shintoism, in other words, with no risk of injuring the national traditions. Nay, it came to be considered that Shintoism was not only compatible with Buddhism, but also subservient to its real interests. Thus we find almost everywhere a Shinto shrine standing within the same precincts as a Buddhist temple, the Shinto deity being regarded as the patron of the Buddhist creed and its place of worship. This strange combination continued to be looked upon as a matter of course until the Restoration of Meidji, when the revival of the imperial prerogative was accompanied by a reaction against Buddhism, and the purification of Shintoism from its Buddhistic admixture was enthusiastically undertaken. On account of the dubiosity of their religious character, many finely built temples and images of exquisite art were ruthlessly demolished, much to the regret of art connoisseurs.
In the year 794, the Emperor Kwammu transferred his capital to the province of Yamashiro, and gave it the felicitous appellation of Hei-an, which means peace and tranquility. The place, however, has been commonly designated by the name of Kyoto, which means literally the capital, and continued henceforth to be the centre of Japan for more than one thousand years. There might have been several motives which caused the capital to be removed from Nara. The valley, in which the old capital was situated, might have been too narrow to allow free expansion, or it might have been found inconveniently situated as regards communications. Party strife among the nobles might have been another reason. At any rate the choice of the new site cannot be regarded as a mistake. Kyoto is better connected with Naniwa, Ôsaka of the present day, than Nara was at that time. From Kyoto one was able to reach the port within a few hours, by going down the river Yodo by boat. There is no natural hindrance on the way like the mountain chain which divides the two provinces of Yamato and Settsu. At the same time, Kyoto is quite near to Ohtsu, the gate toward the eastern provinces, and those selfsame provinces were the regions which had for long been engrossing the attention of farsighted contemporary statesmen.
The energetic Emperor Kwammu undertook the conquest of the Ainu with a renewed vigour. That part of the Ainu country which faced the Sea of Japan was already made a province before the accession of that sovereign. In the Emperor's reign the success of the Japanese arms was carried far into the Ainu land by the victorious general Sakanouye-no-Tamuramaro. The boundary of the province of Mutsu, the region facing the Pacific, was pushed northward into the middle of the present province of Rikuchû. Enterprising Japanese settled in those lands or travelled to and fro in quest of trade. The Ainu, however, was not completely subjugated, nor was he easily driven away out of the main island. Beyond Shirakawa, the place which had for a long time been considered the northernmost limit of civilized Japan, numerous hordes of half-domesticated Ainu continued to reside as before. As the result of the constant contact with the Japanese, they were slowly influenced by the civilisation which the latter had already acquired. They could consolidate their forces under the leadership of some valiant chiefs, and frequently dared to rise against oppressive governors sent from Kyoto. In short, they proved to be intractable as ever, so that more than three centuries were still necessary to put their land in the same status as the ordinary Japanese province. The interminable wars and skirmishes waged thenceforth between the two races were one of the principal causes of the financial embarrassment of the government at Kyoto, and finally undermined its power.
The imperial family and the nobles lived their lives at Kyoto, largely as they were wont to do at the old capital of Nara. The family of the Fujiwara was ever as ascendant as before. Abundant court intrigues were now not the outcome of the antagonism between the different great families, but of the internal quarrels within the single family of the Fujiwara, not infrequently intermingled with disputes concerning the imperial. succession. All the high and lucrative offices were monopolised by the members of that able and ambitious family. Most of the empresses of the successive sovereigns were their daughters. The regency became the hereditary function of the family, and they filled the office one after another without any regard to the age or health conditions of the reigning emperor. It was very rare indeed for members of families other than the Fujiwara to be promoted to one of the three great ministerships. Even scions of the imperial family had to yield to them in power and position.
Their literary attainments were generally high, being but little inferior to those of the professional literati, who formed a class of secondary courtiers, and proceeded generally from the families of the Sugawara, Kiyowara, and so forth. Ships with ambassadors, students, and priests were sent by them to China of the T'ang as before. For they still burned with an ardent desire to get more and more knowledge about things Chinese. Their Sinicomania was carried indeed to such an excess that the physiognomical type of the Chinese came to be regarded as the finest ideal of mankind, and any Japanese who was of that type was adored as having the ideal features.
The despatch of the official ships continued as in the days of Nara, not at regular intervals, but generally once during the reign of every Japanese emperor. The impetuous imitation of Chinese legislation slackened in fact, for in that respect we had already borrowed enough. The connection of our country with China began to take the form of ordinary international intercourse, with due reciprocation of courtesies. There remained, however, some need of keeping pace with the political changes in China, and we could not make up our minds to refrain altogether from peeping into the land which we held to be far above our country in civilisation. The last of such an embassy was that sent in the year 843. Half a century afterwards another squadron was ordered to be despatched, and Sugawara-no-Michizane was appointed ambassador. But the squadron was never really sent. For at that time the long dynasty of the T'ang was just drawing near to its end, and the civil war of a century's duration was beginning. There was no more any stable government in China with which we could communicate. Moreover, there was danger to be feared that we might be somehow embroiled in the anarchical disturbances in the Middle Kingdom. The ambassador, Michizane himself, was also of the opinion that little was to be gained by the despatch of the intended squadron, and dissuaded the government from sending it.
Japan now entered into the stage of the assimilation of the alien culture already imported in full. Hitherto we had been too busy to make discrimination among those things Chinese which we had engulfed at random. Now we had to make clear which of them was suited, and how others were to be modified in order to make them useful to our country. In short, we had to digest; or to speak by the book, we had to ruminate on what we had already taken. After all it must have been a wise policy to put a stop to the state of national nervousness caused by the incessant introduction of foreign laws, manners, customs, things. The infiltration, however superficial it might have been, left an ineradicable influence owing to the continual process of several centuries. The spirit of the culture of the dominant class became essentially Chinese. Though the saying, "Japanese spirit and Chinese erudition" was henceforth fondly spoken of, the Japanese spirit itself was not yet clearly defined, and did not enter into the full consciousness of the nation. What the ruling nobles, who had imbibed the Chinese spirit already too deeply, could do was only to discard things which became superannuated and untenable.
The characteristics of the age of rumination may be discerned in the history of our literature from the latter half of the ninth century to the beginning of the eleventh. At first, while literary works were still being written almost exclusively in Chinese, we begin to find in their style traces of Japanisation, becoming more and more marked as time goes on. Along with works in Chinese, those in our own language began to appear, though very sparsely at first. Then gradually these attempts in the vernacular increased, so that eventually the end of the tenth century became the culminating period of the classical Japanese literature. Religious and scholastic works were written in Chinese as before. August and ceremonial documents continued to be composed in the same language. Chinese poetry was as much in vogue among the courtiers as ever. At the same time, however, numerous works in Japanese now appeared in the form of chronicles, diaries, short stories, novels, satirical sketches, and poems. What was most remarkable, however, is that the greater part of those works was written not by men, but by court ladies. Among the ladies, who by their wit and literary genius brightened the court of the Emperor Ichijô, stood at the forefront Murasaki-shikibu, the author of the Genjimonogatari, and Sei-Shônagon, the author of Makura-no-sôshi.
That these intelligent and talented court ladies were versed in Chinese literature can be perceived in what they wrote in Japanese. In other words, the culture, essentially Chinese, of the high circles of society was not monopolised by the men only, but shared by the women. And these court ladies were fairly emancipated, and far from being subject to the caprices of men. It is often argued that the progress of a country can be measured rightly by the social status of the women in it. If that be true, Japan at the beginning of the eleventh century must have been very highly civilised. And it was really so in a certain sense. This civilised Japan, however, was confined to the very narrow circle in Kyoto, and for that very circle the Chinese enlightenment penetrated too deep. The great nobles of the Fujiwara family were too refined, too effeminate for holders of the helm of the state, the young state in which there was still much to be done vigorously.
The Ainu on the north were menacing as ever. For though they had lost in extent of territory, they had gained in civilisation. The demand of the state was for energetic ministers as well as for valiant warriors. The high-class nobles became unfitted for both, and especially for the rough life of the latter. As generals, therefore, not to speak of officers, were employed men of comparatively low rank among the courtiers. In this way military affairs became the hereditary profession of certain families which happened to be engaged in them most frequently, and were at last monopolised by them. As the government, however, could not and did not care to provide these generals with a sufficiency of soldiers, provisions, and armaments, they were obliged to help themselves to those necessaries, just like the leaders of the landsknechts in Europe. The intimate relation of vassalage, not legally recognised of course, thus arose between those generals and their private soldiers, and as this condition lasted for a considerable time, the relationship became hereditary. Needless to say that such a condition of affairs was naturally set up in the provinces, where the Ainu was still powerful enough to raise frequent disturbances. On account of the fact that these generals and their relatives were often appointed to the governorship of distant provinces, where the influence of the Kyoto government was too weak to check their arbitrary conduct, the same connection of vassalage was formed there also between them and the provincials who were in need of their protection. Not only did they thus become masters of bands of strong and warlike people, but they also appropriated to themselves by sundry means vast tracts of land, and fattened their purses thereby. That they did not venture at once to overthrow the political régime upheld by the nobles of the Fujiwara family may be accounted for by the time- honoured prestige of the latter. For a long while those warriors went even so far as to do homage to this or that noble of the Fujiwara as his vassals, and served as tools to this or that party in court intrigues. The courtiers, who employed them as their instruments, had no apprehension that those military men, subservient for the moment to their needs, would one day turn into rivals, powerful enough in the long run to overturn them, and flattered themselves that they would remain as their cat's-paws forever. An exact analogy of this in the history of Rome may be found in the shortsightedness of the senate, which complacently believed that the Scipios and the Caesars would for ever remain obedient to their order. It would be a fatal mistake to think that a cat's-paw would always remain docile and faithful to its employer. Especially when it is frequently used and abused it becomes conscious of its own usefulness and real strength; and self- assertion is born. The next step for it must be the sounding of the strength of its master, then the desire awakens to take the place of the master, when it is found that he is not so strong as he looks to be.
Moreover in any country, in whatever condition, war cannot be carried on without a great number of participants, while it must be directed by a single head. War, therefore, tends on the one hand to create a dictator, and on the other hand to precipitate the democratisation of a country. None would be so ignorant for long as to discharge gladly an imposed duty without enjoying their right to compensation for service rendered. The time must come when these military leaders should supersede the ultracivilised Kyoto nobles, and hold the reins of government themselves. The transference of political power from the higher to the lower stratum was unavoidable. These generals, howsoever inferior they might be in rank compared with the court nobles of the Fujiwara, were still to be classed among the nobles, and it was yet a very far cry to the time when the common people could have some share in the politics of their own country.