Edward Harper Parker.

China and religion online

. (page 18 of 23)
Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 18 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


fallible, but justified the State in turning Shintoism
to what practical account it could ; reverence for
the dead was its leading feature.

Later on in the same year, Mr Satow read his
well-known paper on the " Revival of Pure Shin-
tau." By pure Shin-tau is meant the native belief
previous to the introduction of Confucianism (fifth
or early sixth century), and Buddhism (sixth century),
the object of the revivalists being to eliminate
these two influences ; they repudiate the very



254 SHINTOISM [chap.

word shinto because it had never been used
before, and was only adopted then in order to
distinguish the old belief from the two Chinese
interlopers. It took centuries for Buddhism to
get a hold on the people ; in the ninth
century a mixture called "Two Sorts Shinto"
was compounded out of the pure native article,
Buddhism, and Confucianism : Buddhism gradually
acquired ascendancy ; and though for two centuries
the Mikado's court kept alive pure Shinto, the
foreign faith practically became the national
religion, until the Chinese philosopher Chu Hi,
after studying and rejecting both Buddhism and
Taoism, critically revived Confucianism in China :
on this the intellects of educated Japan followed
suit (a.d. 1200), as they did in most other
Chinese ways. After 300 years or more of civil
wars it was that men began to search for "the
ancient principles of the divine age." The Shinto
liturgies, or norito, were critically studied — and it
may be added none of the revivalists carry these
farther back in date than the seventh century.
It is only necessary here to name the chief
apostle of revived Shint5, Motowori (1730- 1796),
though as a matter of fact he had both predecessors
and successors almost as notorious as himself in
that enterprise. He explains that when Chinese
learning first came, it was necessary to devise a
special name kami-no-micki (gods, their road) for
the lost ancient Japanese customs ; that the
Chinese, having no traditions of the divine age,



XII.] POLEMICAL DISCUSSIONS 255

had invented the theory of Heaven's Decrees ;
that this divine "way" of Japan was established
by the Male and Female founders, or Creative
Deities of Japan ; that man has a natural know-
ledge of right and wrong ; that the Chinese
"benevolence," "justice," " ceremoniousness," and
what not, were the inventions of " Holy Men," to
serve as instruments to rule a vicious population ;
that ancient Japan was spontaneously well-
governed ; that shinto, or kami-no-micki, is not
the same as the apparently similar Taoism of
Lao-tsz, though that philosopher certainly hated
the vain conceits of contemporary scholars ; but
being unfortunately for himself born in an unclean
country, he did not know that the gods are the
authors of every human action, etc., etc. In reply
to a Japanese Confucian scholar who resented
this attack, insinuated that the Mikados were
chargeable with having invented the stories about
the earlier ages, and charged Motowori with
having borrowed wholesale from Lao-tsz, the latter
attempted to prove that the imperial sepulchres
from Jimmu downwards still existed in Japan,
with many other relics of the divine age preserved
at court ; and that some old Japanese families
had even transmitted to their modern descendants
their Shinto liturgical functions. He disclaims,
however, any intention to make Shinto a rule of
life ; his object is only to prove what it really
was, and to disprove the allegation that the
Japanese were an uninstructed people until the



256 SHINTOISM [chap.

Chinese came to civilise them. The central truth
is that the Mikado is the direct descendant of
the gods, and in consequence that Japan ranks
first amongst countries. Motowori's pupil, Hirata,
went further ; he claimed that the Japanese
possessed a written system of their own in the
"divine age," and aimed at establishing a real
religion on the Shinto basis ; every Japanese
was thus a descendant of the gods, and, as such,
superior to the denizens of other countries, all of
which should sooner or later fall under Japanese
rule.

As a political engine, it is manifest that these
modern conceptions of Shintd may, in the
prophetic words of Sir Harry Parkes, make of
that cult whatever the rulers like ; and it is
equally manifest that, if ingeniously manipulated
so as to admit Chinese imperial pride within its
orbit, the political engine might vie in importance
with Orthodoxy, Pan-Germanism, or any other
Western statecraft ; but as a mere philosophy,
no reasonable being acquainted at first hand with
even the rudiments of Chinese religious history
can refuse to see in it the hand of tao, which,
as we have seen, has been extensively drawn
upon by both Nestorianism and Judaism, in at
least an illustrative sense. Touching the historical
pretensions of the Japanese revivalists, as Mr
Satow truly observed in 1874, and again in 1882,
"such of their conclusions as are founded on the
alleged infallibility of the ancient records, or on







■'>v-ifi^-y-^



A Ijcautiful Japanese Teniplc.



[ 7b face p. 256.



xu.] SLENDER BASES OF FACT 257

any premises which involve the supernatural,
must be discredited ; the real nature and origin
of Shin-tau must be decided by the usual canons
of historical criticism." The supposed writing of
the divine aofe has been discovered to be identical
with the vulgar Corean alphabet of the fifteenth
century, which again was inspired by the Sanskrit
letters. Part of the ancient cosmogony can be
traced almost word for word to the Chinese. As
to the Kojiki, the storehouse of ancient customs,
its own preface is the only authority for the
accepted account of its origin, and it was taken
down from the memory of a retainer ; and that
memory was only stored with facts which a deceased
Mikado had related to him or her — for the very
sex is doubtful. The Kojiki is entirely written
with Chinese characters, used phonetically to
represent Japanese sounds ; if a native alphabet
had existed, why was it not used, instead of this
cumbrous foreign system ? The Ni-hon-gi (Chinese
Ji-pen-ki or Japan Annals), in tolerably good
Chinese, is only dated eight years later than the
less intelligible Kojiki, which it soon practically
superseded ; this is the second storehouse of fact,
or alleged fact, connected with the ancient life of
Japan. Such, in brief, is the criticism of
Mr Satow.

Though the Japanese revivalists admit that they
introduced the word shinto in the sixth century,
they do not seem to acknowledge one iota more
of indebtedness than they are obliged to do ; as



258 SHINTOISM [chap.

we have seen, the "Book of Changes" (just
about then introduced into Japan) is the authority
for both the word and its definition.' Taoism and
Confucianism in China were both nourished on
the " Book of Changes," and Taoism (including
natural religion) was vulgarised and replaced by
Buddhism in China just as any natural ideas the
Japanese may themselves have had (or, what is
more likely, imported popular Chinese ideas) were
vulgarised and replaced by the same Buddhism.
Pure Taoism has never ceased to affect the
cultured Chinese mind, just as pure Shinto-
Taoism has never ceased, or did not for long cease,
to affect the cultured Japanese court. Motowori,
and Japanese scholars generally, are not certain
what norito means, but the Chinese characters
used by the Japanese to represent the purely
Japanese word 7iorito are chuh-ts'%, meaning
"invoking language"; the dissyllable goes back
in China exactly as far as in Japan, i.e. to the
T'ang dynasty of China (say, 700-900) ; at the
same date the Chinese apply the word chuh to the
ritual of the Manicheans or other foreign priests,
and to the invocations of themselves. The
Japanese wTite the second half of the word
kami-dana (or "spirit shelf") with a Chinese
character which never means "shelf"; but it is
plain that the Chinese word Van "an altar" is
really meant, and what ought to be written, as
in the precisely corresponding combination shen-
tan, " spirit altar " ; this would seem to be proved



XII.] MODERN INSTANCES 259

by the fact that the Japanese themselves have a
word butsudan (for the Chinese Vut-dan or Fuh-
t'an) meaning " Buddha altar." The specimens of
norito given by Mr Satow correspond with the
prayers of the Emperors of China to Heaven, or
to the notification to Heaven of important dynastic
events, both which have gone on from 4000 or
5000 years ago up to this day. Thus, when
Nanking was taken from the T'ai-p'ings, in 1864,
both Heaven and his ancestors were duly notified,
by the Emperor himself, of that important fact ;
in the same way the justly vaunted Japanese
reverence for ancestors is nothing more nor less
than the regular and periodical ancestral sacrifice
of ancient China. The ascribing of victory by the
Japanese this very year "to the virtues of your
Majesty " is a stock Chinese custom and a stock
Chinese phrase ; the Emperor, as Vicegerent of
Heaven, in due course passes on the acknowledge-
ment to Heaven. When Yakub Beg's empire
was annihilated in 1877, General Tso Tsung-t'ang
said exactly the same thing to the reigning Dowager
and her son, whose virtues are by no means so
conspicuous as those of his Majesty Mutsuhito —
at least in European eyes.

The following arguments of the revivalists of
pure Shinto, as cited by Mr Satow, will be found,
sometimes almost word for word, either in the
exhortations of the ancient classics of China or in
the Taoist classic : —

"So long as the sovereign maintains a simple



26o SHINTOISM [chap.

style of living, the people are contented with their
own hard lot ; their wants are few, and they are
easily ruled. But if the sovereign has a magnificent
palace, gorgeous clothing [etc.], the sight of these
things must cause in others a desire to possess
themselves of the same luxuries. . . In ancient
times, when men's dispositions were straightforward,
a complicated system of morals was unnecessary,
... it was unnecessary to have a doctrine of right
and wrong. . . It is said on the other side that,
as the Japanese had no names for benevolence,
righteousness, propriety [etc.], they must have
been without those principles ; but . . . they exist
in every country ; in the same way as the four
seasons . . . the weather does not become mild
all at once . . . nature proceeds by gradual steps.
According to the Chinese \i.e. Confucian] view, it
is not spring or summer unless it becomes mild or
hot all of a sudden."

Jimmu is represented by the Nihongi to have
said : —

"It is the part of a good general not to be
haughty after conquering in battle."

Motowori argues : —

"The Chinese Holy Men also invented the
" Book of Changes," by which they pretended to
discover the workings of the universe. . . The
Chinese nation has since given itself up to philo-
sophising, to which are to be attributed its constant
internal dissensions. When things go right of
themselves, it is best to leave them alone. . . It
is because the Japanese were truly moral in their
practice that they required no theory of morals. . .
The country was spontaneously well-governed. . .
To have acquired the knowledge that there is no



XII.] BORROWING FROM TAOISM 261

micki {tad) to be learnt and practised is really to
have learnt to practise the way of the gods. . . All
the moral ideas which man requires are implanted
in his bosom by the gods, and are of the same
nature as the instincts which impel him to eat
when he is hungry and to drink when he is
thirsty. . . The foundations upon which the Ancient
Learning is based are the writings in which the
Imperial Court \i.e. of Japan] has recorded the
facts of antiquity. . . It is not wonderful that
[Japanese] students of Chinese literature should
despise their own country for being without a
system of [Confucian] morals ; but it is ridiculous
that Japanese who were acquainted with their own
ancient literature should have pretended, simply out
of a feeling of envy, that Japan also had such a
system. . . Precept is far inferior to example, for
it only arises in the absence of example. . . As
Lao-tsz says : ' When the Great Way decayed,
Humanity and Righteousness arose.' . . Before the
origin of things there was infinite space ; . . . a
thing whose shape cannot be described in words
came into existence in the midst of space ; . . .
this thing floated in space . . . without any support
. . . From it came forth something sprouting like
a horn ... it widened out infinitely. . . This is
what in the Divine Age was called Heaven. . .
In the same way there grew downwards a some-
thing. . . These are the progenitors of all the other
gods. . . It is not necessary to quote the opinions
of foreigners in order to prove that the heavens
are immovable and that the earth revolves, for
these facts are clear enough from ancient traditions ;
but as the Westerners have elaborated astronomy
and physical geography to a very high degree of
minuteness, their account of the matter is more
easily comprehended. . . The principles which
animate the universe are beyond the power of
analysis : . . . although accurate discoveries made



262 SHINTOISM [CHAP.

by men of the Far West . . . infinitely surpass the
theories of the Chinese, still that is only a matter
of calculation, and there are many other things
known to exist which cannot be solved by that
means. . . The celebration of rites in honour of
the crods was considered in ancient times to be the
chief function of the Mikados. . . Everything in
the world depends on the spirit of the gods of
Heaven and Earth, and therefore the worship of
the gods is of primary importance. The gods who
do harm are to be appeased, so that they may not
punish those who have offended them, and all the
gods are to be worshipped, so that they may be
induced to increase their favours. . . Although in
later ages many foreign customs were adopted,
we find that the religious rites of Shinto always
occupied the first place in . . . the rules and
ceremonies of the court."

Thus it is plain, not only that the Japanese have
drawn upon the "Book of Changes" and Lao-tsz
for their Shinto, but also that their revivalists
admit a critical knowledge of both those works,
charge each other with imitation, and reproach each
other with a vain desire to invent a past history
and system of morals ; it requires no European
to formulate charges and incur the reproach of
jealousy. There is, however, nothing heinous in
all this, so long as deliberate attempts to distort
the truth are not made and cherished in the inner
arcana of the governing minds. Statesmen who
consider it a political duty, rightly owing to the
national security, may think fit to "keep hidden
the machine of state and lull the people " in the
way we see stern Lao-tsz himself recommends.



XII.] ARE WE SURE OF THE TRUTH? 263

Who are we Westerns to censure Japan ? What
use have the great powers of Europe made of
political religion ? What attitude towards applied
science has the Church (from which, or from the
source of which, Nestorianism, Orthodoxy, and
Protestantism in its protean forms are derived)
itself adopted in the past ?

We in the West are accustomed to plume
ourselves upon our superior moral qualities, and
we like, when we are agreed upon their existence
(which is not always the case), to place them to the
credit of our religion. It is scarcely fair to blame
the Japanese if they do the same ; and the extra-
ordinarily noble qualities they are now exhibiting
to an astonished world may well give us pause,
and cause us to ask ourselves whether it is not
possible that we ourselves may be on the wrong
mental tack. The human mind in 999 cases out
of a thousand seems incapable of shaking itself
free of the mental associations which assisted
to create and develop it, just as it took a con-
siderable time for railway coaches and motor-cars
in turn to shake off the "incurable shape" of
a horse-carriage. The Japanese in translating
Western books are beginning, to the dismay of
our missionaries, to leave out all the Christianity
that is in them. But never mind the Japanese ;
take the following summary of the views of Pastor
Fischer as explained to the Protestant Union of
Germany and published in the London press : —

" The religious consciousness of former genera-



264 SHINTOISM [chap.

tions was based on divine revelation. It laid
emphasis on miracles and signs. Divinely given
interpretation was held to be the real and in-
dispensable object of a genuine faith, so that
often enough the revealed Book became itself
almost a God. This whole conception of revela-
tion has now disappeared from religious thought ;
it was a product of religious reasoning under the
form of an antique philosophy. No longer do
heaven and earth stand opposite each other as
two worlds. We do not now believe in a lower
world of hell. There can no longer be any claim
to a revelation in the old sense of the word, and
the idea is not in harmony with the certain results
of modern scientific research. It is beyond doubt
that the investigations of science and of history,
and the unprejudiced researches into the character
of original Christianity, which have been going
on for about seventy years without regard to
dogmas and doctrines, have made religion some-
thing entirely different from what it had tradition-
ally been supposed to be. It has been found, too,
that Christ is a historical person, and that his
activity and work can be plainly understood in
the light of his day and surroundings. The
historical Christ, without any signs and wonders,
and without the later Christology, is what the
religious consciousness of to-day must deal with.
The deification of Christ has not stood the
test of real historical investig-ation. Such o-reat
problems as those of creation, providence, prayer
and its hearing, and the personality of God wear
an entirely new aspect in the light of modern
science. The new truths must be recognised in
our pulpits, and become a part of the religious
instruction in the schools."

Or take on the other hand the views of the



XII.] RUSSIAN VIEW OF RELIGION 265

Procurator of the Holy Synod in his Reflections
of a Russian Statesman \—

" No considerations for the safety of the State,
for its prosperity and advantage, no moral principle
even, is itself sufficient to strengthen the bonds
between the people and its rulers ; for the moral
principle is never steadfast, and it loses its funda-
mental base when it is bereft of the sanction of
religion. This force of cohesion will, without
doubt be lost to that State which, in the name
of impartial relationship to every religious belief,
cuts itself loose from all. The Protestant
Church and the Protestant faith are cold and
inhospitable to Russians. For us to recognise
this faith would be as bitter as death. To the
present day Protestants and Catholics contend
over the dogmatic significance of works in relation
to faith. But in spite of the total contradiction
of their theological doctrines, both set works at
the head of their religion. In the Latin Church
works are the justification, the redemption, and
the witness of grrace. The Lutherans regard
works and, at the same time, religion itself, from
the practical point of view. . . . The Russians
find the essence, the end of their faith, not in the
practical life, but in the salvation of their souls.
As to the Church of England, for the most
part the preachers are the journeymen of the
Church, with extraordinary whining voices, infinite
affectation, and vigorous gestures, who turn from
side to side, repeating in varying tones conven-
tional phrases, etc., etc."

Of the historian Froude he says that, un-
shakable and fanatical, he holds to the principles
of Anglican orthodoxy, the base of which he



266 SHINTOISM [chap.

declares to be the recognition of social duty,
devotion to the political idea and to the law,
to the implacable chastisement of vice and
crime and idleness, and all that is designated by
the betrayal of duty. He approves the absence
of sermons in his own churches, for the whole
service of the Orthodox Church is the best of
sermons. Even education is a vain form, where
its roots have taken no hold among the people,
where it fails to meet the people's necessities,
and to accord with the economy of its life. The
example of foreign countries has taught Russia
that schools may do as much harm as good if
they serve to break up family life, and if the
scholars are taught unsuitable subjects, as when,
for instance, country children are taught in a way
which fits them only for a town life. Experience
proves that the most contemptible persons — retired
money-lenders, Jewish factors, news-vendors, and
bankrupt gamblers — may found newpapers, secure
the services of talented writers, and place their
editions on the market as organs of public opinion.
The healthy taste of the public is not to be relied
on. Democracy is the most complicated and the
most burdensome system of government recorded
in the history of humanity. For this reason it has
never appeared save as a transitory manifestation,
with few exceptions, giving place before long to
other systems.

Thus M. Pobyedon6schtschoff The Japanese



XII.] IAN MACLAREN'S VIEWS 267

and the Chinese do not require to be told what
Protestants in their two countries think of
Cathoh'cs, and what Catholics think of Protestants.
In the face of so much expressed doubt, we can
scarcely wonder — however complacently certain
we may any of us be in our own minds that we
are right — that the Japanese have been so puzzled
that they have deliberately elected to go back to
the beginning of things. They — the best-read of
them — are well acquainted with the Chinese
experiences, as imperfectly summarised in the
above twelve chapters ; and they have, in their
present struggle for freedom, an object lesson
before their immediate eyes.

In connection with the recent Wesleyan Foreign
Mission anniversary at Birmingham, the Rev. John
Watson, D.D. ("Ian Maclaren ") preached on
" Revivals in the Church " before a crowded
congregation. Being one of the most deservedly
popular, and at the same time intellectual of our
nonconformist divines, his remarks are peculiarly
applicable to the revival movement in Japan.
They are thus summarised by a northern news-
paper : —

"He said revivals had been characteristic of
religion from the time of Moses to that of John
the Baptist, and the same phenomena were present
in the work of Wesley and Moody. Nature
was excited and unrestrained in the spring-time,
literature had its periods of renascence, and there
were even revivals in trade. Why should not the
same principle apply to religion? It was not to



268 SHINTOISM [chap.

be expected that all the seed sown should bear
good fruit. Many of the blossoms that appeared
in the spring were blown away. Many of Christ's
followers deserted Him ; but His mission was not
in vain, and there remained for every great move-
ment a large number of men and women who,
through the action of God's Spirit, came home to
God, and afterwards lived godly lives. People
who complained of the emotionalism and excite-
ment of a religious revival should remember the
emotionalism of a Mafeking- niorht and the excite-
ment of a crisis on change. A corner in wheat
was a serious business to those who were concerned
in it ; and a religious revival was a serious business
for those who were concerned about their souls'
eternal welfare. In judging the Welsh revival,
Enoflishmen should remember that what was mere
emotionalism in the eyes of a prosaic person was
the highest form of common-sense to a Celt. He
had found it necessary to plead with his Celtic
friends that they should not judge the staid and
undemonstrative Englishman by their standard of
spiritual imagination and religious elevation, and
he now asked his hearers to make allowance for
the fact that the Celtic nature was emotional and
susceptible. Their young men saw visions, and
their old men dreamed dreams. Englishmen were
not in a position to judge as to what was seen by
Welshmen ; they were not standing on the same
relioious elevation. It was o-ood to see a man
deeply moved, and it was better to see him moved
by religion than by drink, avarice, political passion,
or sectarian bigotry. Some of the language used
by the W^elsh revivalists was not the language of
the study or the drawing-room, but he did not
know that religion profoundly affected the people
in the studies, and he wished that religion would


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 18 of 23)