VIII. THE INTRODUCTION OF CONTENENTAL CIVILIZATION
IF Japan is to Asia what Great Britain is to Europe - according to the comparison so often made by the modern Japanese - then Corea was to Dai Nippon what Norman France was to Saxon England. Through this peninsula, and not directly from China, flowed the influences whose confluence with the elements of Japanese life produced the civilization which for twelve centuries has run its course in the island empire. The comparison is not perfect, inasmuch as Japan sent the conqueror to Corea, whereas Normandy sent William across the Channel. In the moral and æsthetic conquest of Rome by Greece, though vanquished by Roman arms, we may perhaps find a closer resemblance to the events of the second triad of the Christian centuries in the history of Japan.
Is it true among historic nations that anciently the position of woman was higher than in later times? It has been pointed out by more than one writer on Greece "that in the former and ruder period women had undoubtedly the higher place, and their type exhibited the highest perfection." This is certainly the case in Japan. The women of the early centuries were, according to Japanese history, possessed of more intellectual and physical vigor, filling the offices of state, religion, and household honors, and approaching more nearly the ideal cherished in those countries in which the relation of the sexes is that of professed or real equality. Certain it is that, whereas there are many instances of ancient Japanese women reaching a high plane of social dignity and public honor, in later ages the virtuous woman dwelt in seclusion; exemplars of ability were rare; and the courtesan became the most splendid type of womanhood. This must be more than the fancy of poets. As in the Greece of Homer and the tragedians, so in early Nippon, woman's abilities and possibilities far surpassed those that were hers in the later days of luxury and civilization. To a woman is awarded the glory of the conquest of Corea, whence came letters, religion, and civilization to Japan.
In all Japanese tradition or history, there is no greater female character than the empress Jingu (godlike exploit). Her name was Okinaga Tarashi himé, but she is better known by her posthumous title of Jingu Kōgō, or Jingu, the wife or spouse of the mikado. She was equally renowned for her beauty, piety, intelligence, energy, and martial valor. She was not only very obedient to the gods, but they delighted to honor her by their inspiration. She feared neither the waves of the sea, the arrows of the battle-field, nor the, difficulties that wait on all great enterprises. Great as she was in her own person, she is greater in the Japanese eyes as the mother of the god of war.
In the year 193 a rebellion broke out at. Kumaso, in Kiushiu. The mikado Chiuai (191-200) headed his army, and marched to subdue the rebels. Jingu Kōgō, or Jingu, the empress, followed him by ship, embarking from Tsuruga, in Echizen - a port a few miles north-west of the head of Lake Biwa - meeting her husband at Toyo no ura, near the modern Shimonoséki, of indemnity fame. While worshiping on one of the islands of the Inland Sea, the god spoke to her, and said, "Why are you so deeply concerned to conquer Kumaso? It is but a poor, sparse region, not worth conquering with an army. There is a much larger and richer country, as sweet and lovely as the face of a fair vingin. It is dazzling bright with gold, silver, and fine colors, and every kind of rich treasures is to be found in Shiraki (in Corea). Worship me, and I will give you power to conquer the country without bloodshed; and by my help, and the glory of your conquest, Kumaso shall be straightway subdued." The emperor, hearing this from his wife, which she declared was the message of the gods, doubted, and, climbing to the summit of a high mountain, looked over the sea, and seeing no land to the westward, answered her: "I looked everywhere and saw water, but no land. Is there a country in the sky? If not, you deceived me. My ancestors worshiped all the gods: is there any whom they did not worship?"
The gods, answering through the inspired empress, made reply: If you believe only your doubts, and say there is no country when I have declared there is one, you blaspheme, and you shall not go thither; but the empress, your wife, has conceived, and the child within her shall conquer the country." Nevertheless, the emperor doubted, and advanced against Kumaso, but was worsted by the rebels. While in camp, he took sick and died suddenly. According to another tradition, he was slain in battle by an arrow. His minister, Takénouchi, concealed his death from the soldiers, and carried the corpse back to Toyo no ura, in Nagato. The brave Jingu, with the aid of Takénouchi, suppressed the rebellion, and then longed for conquest beyond the sea.
While in Hizen, in order to obtain a sign from the gods she went down to the sea-shore, and baited a hook with a grain of boiled rice, to catch a fish. "Now," said she, "I shall conquer a rich country if a fish be caught with this grain of rice." The bait took. A fish was caught, and Jingu exultingly accepted the success of her venture as a token of celestial approval of her design. "Médzurashiki mono!" (wonderful thing), exclaimed the royal lady. The place of the omen is still called Matsura, corrupted from the word she used. In further commemoration, the women of that section, every year, in the first part of the Fourth month, go fishing, no males being allowed the privilege on that day. The pious Jingu prepared to invade Corea; but wishing another indication of the will of the kami, she on one occasion immersed her hair in water, saying that, if the gods approved of her enterprise, her tresses would become dry, and be parted into two divisions. It was as she desired. Her luxuriant black hair came from the water dry, and parted in two. Her mind was now fixed. She ordered her generals and captains to collect troops, build ships, and be ready to embark. Addressing them, she said: "The safety or destruction of our country, depends upon this enterprise. I intrust the details to you. It will be your fault if they are not carried out. I am a woman, and young; I shall disguised myself as a man, and undertake this gallant expedition, trusting to the gods, and to my troops and captains. We shall acquire a wealthy country. The glory is yours, if we succeed; if we fail, the guilt and disgrace shall be mine." Her captains, with unanimity and enthusiasm, promised to support her and carry out her plans. The enterprise was a colossal one for Japan at that time. Although the recruiting went on in the various provinces, and the ships were built, the army formed slowly. Chafing at the delay, but not discouraged, again she had recourse to the efficacy of worship and an appeal to the gods. Erecting a tabernacle of purification, with prayers and lustrations and sacrifices she prayed the kami to grant her speedy embarkation and success. The gods were propitious. Troops came in. The army soon assembled, and all was ready, A.D. 201.
Before stirting, Jingu issued orders to her soldiers, as follows:
"Neither despise a few enemies nor fear many.
"Give mercy to those who yield, but no quarter to the stubborn.
"Rewards shall be apportioned to the victors; punishments shall be meted to the deserters."
Then the words of the gods came, saying, "The Spirit of Peace will always guide you and protect your life. The Spirit of War will go before you and lead your ships."
Jingu again returned thanks for these fresh exhibitions of divine favor, and made her final preparations to start, when a new impediment threatened to delay hopelessly the expedition, or to rob it of its soul and leader, the Amazonian chief. She discovered that she was pregnant. Again the good favor of the gods enabled her to triumph over the obstacles which nature, or the fate of her sex, might throw in the path of her towering ambition. She found a stone which, being placed in her girdle, delayed her accouchement until her return from Corea.
It does not seem to have been perfectly clear in the minds of those ancient filibusters where Corea was, or for what particular point of the horizon they were to steer. They had no chart or compass. The sun, stars, and the flight of birds were their guides. In a storm they would be helpless. One fisherman had been sent to sail westward and report. He came back declaring there was no land to be seen. Another man was dispatched, and returned, having seen the mountains on the main-land. The fleet sailed in the Tenth month. Winds, waves, and currents were all favorable. The gods watched over the fleet, and sent shoals of huge fishes to urge on the waves that by their impact lifted the sterns and made the prows leap as though alive. The ships beached safely in Southern Corea, the Japanese army landed in the glory of sunlight and the grandeur of war in splendid array. The king of this part of Corea had heard from his messengers of the coming of a strange fleet from the East, and, terrified, exclaimed, "We never knew there was any country outside of us. Have our gods forsaken us?" The invaders had no fighting to do as they expected. It was a bloodless invasion. The Coreans came, holding white flags, and surrendered, offering to give up their treasures. They took an oath that they would be tributary to Japan, that they would never cause their conquerors to dispatch another expedition, and that they would send hostages to Japan. The rivers might flow backward, or the pebbles in their beds leap up to the stars, yet would they not break their oath. Jingu set up weapons before the gate of the king in token of peace. By his order eighty ships well laden with gold and silver, ar ticles of wealth, silk and precious goods of all kinds, and eighty hostages, men of high families, were put on board.
The stay of the Japanese army in Corea was very brief, and the troops returned in the Twelfth month. Jingu was, on her arrival, delivered of a son, who, in the popular estimation of gods and mortals, holds even a higher place of honor than his mother, who is believed to have conquered Southern Corea through the power of her yet unborn illustrious offspring. After leaving her couch, the queen-regent erected in Nagato (Chōshiu) a shrine, and in it dedicated the Spirit of War that had guided her army. She then attended to the funeral rites of her deceased husband, and returned to the capital.
The conquest of Corea, more correctly a naval raid into one of the southern provinces, took place A.D. 203. The motive which induced the invasion seems to have been the same as that carried out by Hideyoshi in 1583, and contemplated in 1873 - mere love of war and conquest. The Japanese refer with great pride to this their initial exploit on foreign soil. It was the first time they had ever gone in ships to a foreign country to fight. For the first time it gave them the opportunity of displaying their valor in making "the arms of Japan shine beyond the seas" - a pet phrase which occurs in many documents in Japan, even in this 2536th year of the Japanese empire, and of our Lord 1876. Nevertheless, the honor of the exploit is given to the unborn son on whom dwelt the Spirit of War, rather than to the mother who bore him.
The queen-mother is worshiped in many temples as Kashii dai miō jin. The son, Ōjin, afterward a great warrior, was, at his death, 313 A.D., deified as the god of war; and down through the centuries he has been worshiped by all classes of people, especially by soldiers, who offer their prayers, pay their vows, and raise their votive offerings to him. Many of the troops, before taking steamer for Formosa, in 1874, implored his protection. In his honor some of the most magnificent temples in Japan have been erected, and almost every town and village, as well as many a rural grove and hill, has its shrine erected to this Japanese Mars. He is usually represented in his images as of frightful, scowling countenance, holding, with arms akimbo, a broad two-edged sword. One of the favorite subjects of Japanese artists of all periods is the group of figures consisting of the snowy-bearded Takénouchi, in civil dress, holding the infant of Jingu Kōgō in his arms, the mother standing by in martial robes. Jingu is the heroine and model for boys, not of the girls. In the collection of pictures, images, and dolls which in Japanese households on the 5th of May, every year, teach to the children the names and deeds of the national heroes, and instill the lessons taught by their example, this warriorwoman is placed among the male, and not among the female, groups.
Nine empresses in all have sat upon the throne of Japan as rulers, four of whom reigned at the capital, Nara. None have won such martial renown as Jingu. It is not probable, however, that military enterprise, will ever again give the nation another ideal woman like the conqueror of Corea. It is now, in modern days, given to the Empress of Japan to elevate the condition of her female subjects by graciously encouraging the education of the girls, and setting a noble example, not only of womanly character and of active deeds of benevolence, but also in discarding the foolish and barbarous customs of past ages, notably that of blacking the teeth and shaving off the eyebrows. This the present empress, Haruko, has done. Already this chief lady of the empire has accomplished great reforms in social customs and fashions, and, both by the encouragement of her presence and by gifts from her private purse, has greatly stimulated the cause of the education and the elevation of woman in Japan. Haply, it may come to pass that this lady in peaceful life may do more for the good and glory of the empire than even the renowned queen-regent, Jingu Kōgō.
The early centuries of the Christian era, from the third to the eighth, mark that period in Japanese history during which the future development and character of the nation were mightily influenced by the introduction, from the continent of Asia, of the most potent factors in any civilization. They were letters, religion, philosophy, literature, laws, ethics, medicine, science, and art. Heretofore the first unfoldings of the Japanese intellect in the composition of sacred hymns, odes, poems, myths, and tradition had no prop upon which to train, and no shield against oblivion but the unassisted memory. The Japanese were now to have records. Heretofore religion was simply the rude offspring of human imagination, fear, and aspiration, without doctrinal systems, moral codes, elaborate temples, or sacerdotal caste. Henceforth the Japanese were to be led, guided, and developed in morals, intellect, and worship by a religion that had already brought the nations of Asia under its sway - a strong, overpowering, and aggressive faith, that was destined to add Japan to its conquests. Buddhism, bringing new and greater sanctions, penalties, motives, and a positive theology and code of morals, was to develop and broaden the whole nature of the individual man, and to lead the entire nation forward. Chinese philosophy, and Confucian morals were to form the basis of the education and culture of the Japanese statesman, scholar, and noble, to modify Shintō, and with it to create new ideals of government, of codes, laws, personal honor, and household ordering. Under their influence, and that of circumstances, have been shaped the unique ideals of the samurai; and by it a healthy skepticism, amidst dense superstition, has been maintained. The coming of many immigrants brought new blood, ideas, opinions, methods, improvements in labor, husbandry, social organization. Japan received from China, through Corea, what she is now receiving from America and Europe - a new civilization.
For nearly a century after the birth of Ōjin, the record of events is blank. In 249 A.D. a Japanese general, Arata, was sent to assist one state of Corea against another. Occasional notices of tribute-bearers arriving from Corea, occur. In 283 a number of tailors, in 284 excellent horses, were sent over to Japan. In 285, Wani, a Corean scholar, came over to Japan, and, residing some time at the court, gave the mikado's son instruction in writing. If the Nihongi - the authority for the date of Wani's arrival in Japan - could be trusted in its chronology, the introduction of Chinese writing, and probably of Buddhism, would date from this time; but the probabilities are against positive certainty on this point. If it be true, it shows that the first missionary conquest of this nation was the work of four centuries, instead of as many decades. Wani died in Japan, and his tomb stands near Ōzaka. In A.D. 403 a court annalist was chosen. Envoys and tribute-bearers came, and presents were exchanged. In 462 mulberry-trees were planted - evidently brought, together with the silk-worm, for whose sustenance they were intended - from China or Corea. Again, tailors in 471, and architects in 493, and learned men in 512, arrived. An envoy from China came in 522. The arrival of fresh immigrants and presents from Corea in 543 is noted. In 551, during a famine in Corea, several thousand bushels of barley were dispatched thither by Japan. In 552, a company of doctors, diviners, astronomers, and mathematicians from Corea came to live at the Japanese court. With them came Buddhist missionaries. This may be called the introduction of continental civilization. Beginning with Jingu, there seems to have poured into the island empire a stream of immigrants, skilled artisans, scholars, and teachers, bringing arts, sciences, letters and written literature, and the Buddhist religion. This was the first of three great waves of foreign civilization in Japan.
The first was from China, through Corea in the sixth; the second from Western Europe, in the fifteenth century; the third was from America, Europe, and the world, in the decade following the advent of Commodore Perry. These innovations were destined to leaven mightily the whole Japanese nation as a lump. Of these none was so powerful and far-reaching in effects as that in the sixth contury, and no one elenlent as Buddhism. This mighty force was destined to exert a resistless and unifying influence on the whole people. Nothing among all the elements that make, up Japanese civilization, has been so potent in forming the Japanese character as the reliogion of Buddha. That the work of these new civilizers may be fully appreciated, let us glance at life in Dai Nippon before their appearance.