William Elliot Griffis.

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is the exception, but in Japan it is the invariable rule whenever either
convenience or necessity requires it of the house. Indeed it is rare to
find a set of brothers bearing the same family name. Adoption and
concubinage keep the house unbroken.[21] It is the house, the name,
which must continue, although not necessarily by a blood line. The name,
a social trade-mark, lives on for ages. The line of Japanese emperors,
which, in the Constitution of 1889, by adding mythology to history is
said to rule "unbroken from ages eternal," is not one of fathers and
sons, but has been made continuous by concubinage and adoption. In this
view, it is possibly as old as the line of the popes.

It is very evident that our terms and usages do not have in such a home
the place or meaning which one not familiar with the real life of Old
Japan would suppose. The father is an absolute ruler. There is in Old
Japan hardly any such thing as "parents," for practically there is only
one parent, as the woman counts for little. The wife is honored if she
becomes a mother, but if childless she is very probably neglected. Our
idea of fatherhood implies that the child has rights and that he should
love as well as be loved. Our customs excite not only the merriment but
even the contempt of the old-school Japanese. The kiss and the embrace,
the linking of the child's arm around its father's neck, the address on
letters "My dear Wife" or "My beloved Mother" seem to them like
caricatures of propriety. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly true that
in reverence toward parents - or at least toward one of the parents - a
Japanese child is apt to excel the one born even in a Christian home.

This so-called filial "piety" becomes in practice, however, a horrible
outrage upon humanity and especially upon womanhood. During centuries
the despotic power of the father enabled him to put an end to the life
of his child, whether boy or girl.

Under this abominable despotism there is no protection for the daughter,
who is bound to sell her body, while youth or beauty last or perhaps for
life, to help pay her father's debts, to support an aged parent or even
to gratify his mere caprice. In hundreds of Japanese romances the
daughter, who for the sake of her parents has sold herself to shame, is
made the theme of the story and an object of praise. In the minds of the
people there may be indeed a feeling of pity that the girl has been
obliged to give up her home life for the brothel, but no one ever thinks
of questioning the right of the parent to make the sale of the girl's
body, any more than he would allow the daughter to rebel against it.
This idea still lingers and the institution remains,[22] although the
system has received stunning blows from the teaching of Christian
ethics, the preaching of a better gospel and the improvements in the law
of the land.

The Marital Relation.

The Third Relation is that of husband and wife. The meaning of these
words, however, is not the same with the Japanese as with us. In
Confucius there is not only male and female, but also superior and
inferior, master and servant.[23] Without any love-making or courtship
by those most interested, a marriage between two young people is
arranged by their parents through the medium of what is called a
"go-between." The bride leaves her father's house forever - that is, when
she is not to be subsequently divorced - and entering into that of her
husband must be subordinate not only to him but also to his parents, and
must obey them as her own father and mother. Having all her life under
her father's roof reverenced her superiors, she is expected to bring
reverence to her new domicile, but not love. She must always obey but
never be jealous. She must not be angry, no matter whom her husband may
introduce into his household. She must wait upon him at his meals and
must walk behind him, but not with him. When she dies her children go to
her funeral, but not her husband.

A foreigner, hearing the Japanese translate our word chastity by the
term _téiso_ or _misao_, may imagine that the latter represents mutual
obligation and personal purity for man and wife alike, but on looking
into the dictionary he will find that _téiso_ means "Womanly duties." A
circumlocution is needed to express the idea of a chaste man.

Jealousy is a horrible sin, but is always supposed to be a womanish
fault, and so an exhibition of folly and weakness. Therefore, to apply
such a term to God - to say "a jealous God" - outrages the good sense of a
Confucianist,[24] almost as much as the statement that God "cannot lie"
did that of the Pundit, who wondered how God could be Omnipotent if He
could not lie.

How great the need in Japanese social life of some purifying principle
higher than Confucianism can afford, is shown in the little book
entitled "The Japanese Bride,"[25] written by a native, and scarcely
less in the storm of native criticism it called forth. Under the system
which has ruled Japan for a millennium and a half, divorce has been
almost entirely in the hands of the husband, and the document of
separation, entitled in common parlance the "three lines and a half,"
was invariably written by the man. A woman might indeed nominally obtain
a divorce from her husband, but not actually; for the severance of the
marital tie would be the work of the house or relatives, rather than the
act of the wife, who was not "a person" in the case. Indeed, in the
olden time a woman was not a person in the eye of the law, but rather a
chattel. The case is somewhat different under the new codes,[26] but the
looseness of the marriage tie is still a scandal to thinking Japanese.
Since the breaking up of the feudal system and the disarrangement of the
old social and moral standards, the statistics made annually from the
official census show that the ratio of divorce to marriage is very
nearly as one to three.[27]

The Elder and the Younger Brother.

The Fourth Relation is that of Elder Brother and Younger Brother. As we
have said, foreigners in translating some of the Chinese and Japanese
terms used in the system of Confucius are often led into errors by
supposing that the Christian conception of family life prevails also in
Chinese Asia. By many writers this relation is translated "brother to
brother;" but really in the Japanese language there is no term meaning
simply "brother" or "sister,"[28] and a circumlocution is necessary to
express the ideas which we convey by these words. It is always "older
brother" or "younger brother," and "older sister" or "younger
sister" - the male or female "_kiyodai_" as the case may be. With
us - excepting in lands where the law of primogeniture still
prevails - all the brothers are practically equal, and it would be
considered a violation of Christian righteousness for a parent to show
more favor to one child than to another. In this respect the "wisdom
that cometh from above" is "without partiality." The Chinese ethical
system, however, disregards the principle of mutual rights and duties,
and builds up the family on the theory of the subordination of the
younger brother to the elder brother, the predominant idea being not
mutual love, but, far more than in the Christian household, that of rank
and order. The attitude of the heir of the family toward the other
children is one of condescension, and they, as well as the widowed
mother, regard the oldest son with reverence. It is as though the
commandment given on Sinai should read, "Honor thy father and thy elder

The mother is an instrument rather than a person in the life of the
house, and the older brother is the one on whom rests the responsibility
of continuing the family line. The younger brothers serve as subjects
for adoption into other families, especially those where there are
daughters to be married and family names to be continued. In a word, the
name belongs to the house and not to the individual. The habit of naming
children after relatives or friends of the parents, or illustrious men
and women, is unknown in Old Japan, though an approach to this common
custom among us is made by conferring or making use of part of a name,
usually by the transferrence of one ideograph forming the name-word.
Such a practice lays stress upon personality, and so has no place in the
country without pronouns, where the idea of continuing the personal
house or semi-personal family, is predominant. The customs prevalent in
life are strong even in death, and the elder brother or sister, in some
provinces, did not go to the funeral of the younger. This state of
affairs is reflected in Japanese literature, and produces in romance as
well as in history many situations and episodes which seem almost
incredible to the Western mind.

In the lands ruled by Confucius the grown-up children usually live under
the parental roof, and there are few independent homes as we understand
them. The so-called family is composed both of the living and of the
dead, and constitutes the unit of society.

Friendship and Humanity.

The Fifth Relation - Friends. Here, again, a mistake is often made by
those who import ideas of Christendom into the terms used in Chinese
Asia, and who strive to make exact equivalent in exchanging the coins of
speech. Occidental writers are prone to translate the term for the fifth
relation into the English phrase "man to man," which leads the Western
reader to suppose that Confucius taught that universal love for man, as
man, which was instilled and exemplified by Jesus Christ. In translating
Confucius they often make the same mistake that some have done who read
in Terence's "Self-Tormentor" the line, "I am a man, and nothing human
is foreign to me,"[29] and imagine that this is the sentiment of an
enlightened Christian, although the context shows that it is only the
boast of a busybody and parasite. What Confucius taught under the fifth
relation is not universality, and, as compared to the teachings of
Jesus, is moonlight, not sunlight. The doctrine of the sage is clearly
expressed in the Analects, and amounts only to courtesy and propriety.
He taught, indeed, that the stranger is to be treated as a friend; and
although in both Chinese and Japanese history there are illustrious
proofs that Confucius had interpreters nobler than himself, yet it is
probable that the doctrine of the stranger's receiving treatment as a
friend, does not extend to the foreigner. Confucius framed something
like the Golden Rule - though it were better called a Silver Rule, or
possibly a Gilded Rule, since it is in the negative instead of being
definitely placed in the positive and indicative form. One may search
his writings in vain for anything approaching the parable of the Good
Samaritan, or the words of Him who commended Elijah for replenishing the
cruse and barrel of the widow of Sarepta, and Elisha for healing Naaman
the Syrian leper, and Jonah for preaching the good news of God to the
Assyrians who had been aliens and oppressors. Lao Tsze, however, went so
far as to teach "return good for evil." When one of the pupils of
Confucius interrogated his Master concerning this, the sage answered;
"What then will you return for good? Recompense injury with justice, and
return good for good."

But if we do good only to those who do good to us, what thanks have we?
Do not the publicans the same? Behold how the Heavenly Father does good
alike unto all, sending rain upon the just and unjust!

How Old Japan treated the foreigner is seen in the repeated repulse,
with powder and ball, of the relief ships which, under the friendly
stars and stripes, attempted to bring back to her shores the shipwrecked
natives of Nippon.[30] Granted that this action may have been purely
political and the Government alone responsible for it - just as our
un-Christian anti-Chinese legislation is similarly explained - yet it is
certain that the sentiment of the only men in Japan who made public
opinion, - the Samurai of that day, - was in favor of this method of
meeting the alien.

In 1852 the American expedition was despatched to Japan for the purpose
of opening a lucrative trade and of extending American influence and
glory, but also unquestionably with the idea of restoring shipwrecked
Japanese as well as securing kind treatment for shipwrecked American
sailors, thereby promoting the cause of humanity and international
courtesy; in short, with motives that were manifestly mixed.[31] In the
treaty pavilion there ensued an interesting discussion between Commodore
Perry and Professor Hayashi upon this very subject.

Perry truthfully complained that the dictates of humanity had not been
followed by the Japanese, that unnecessary cruelty had been used against
shipwrecked men, and that Japan's attitude toward her neighbors and the
whole world was that of an enemy and not of a friend.

Hayashi, who was then probably the leading Confucianist in Japan, warmly
defended his countrymen and superiors against the charge of intentional
cruelty, and denounced the lawless character of many of the foreign
sailors. Like most Japanese of his school and age, he wound up with
panegyrics on the pre-eminence in virtue and humanity, above all
nations, of the Country Ruled by a Theocratic Dynasty, and on the glory
and goodness of the great Tokugawa family, which had given peace to the
land during two centuries or more.[32]

It is manifest, however, that so far as this hostility to foreigners,
and this blind bigotry of "patriotism" were based on Chinese codes of
morals, as officially taught in Yedo, they belonged as much to the old
Confucianism as to the new. Wherever the narrow philosophy of the sage
has dominated, it has made Asia Chinese and nations hermits. As a rule,
the only way in which foreigners could come peacefully into China or the
countries which she intellectually dominated was as vassals,
tribute-bearers, or "barbarians." The mental attitude of China, Korea,
Annam and Japan has for ages been that of the Jews in Herodian times,
who set up, between the Court of Israel and the Court of the Gentiles,
their graven stones of warning which read:[33]

"No foreigner to proceed within the partition wall and enclosure
around the sanctuary; whoever is caught in the same will on that
account be liable to incur death."


"After a thousand years the pine decays; the flower has its
glory in blooming for a day." - Hakkyoi, Chinese Poet of the Tang

"The morning-glory of an hour differs not in heart from the
pine-tree of a thousand years." - Matsunaga of Japan.

"The pine's heart is not of a thousand years, nor the
morning-glory's of an hour, but only that they may fulfil their

"Since Iyéyasú, his hair brushed by the wind, his body anointed
with rain, with lifelong labor caused confusion to cease and
order to prevail, for more than a hundred years there has been
no war. The waves of the four seas have been unruffled and no
one has failed of the blessing of peace. The common folk must
speak with reverence, yet it is the duty of scholars to
celebrate the virtue of the Government." - Ky[=u]so of Yedo.

"A ruler must have faithful ministers. He who sees the error of
his lord and remonstrates, not fearing his wrath, is braver than
he who bears the foremost spear in battle." - Iyéyasú.

"The choice of the Chinese philosophy and the rejection of
Buddhism was not because of any inherent quality in the Japanese
mind. It was not the rejection of supernaturalism or the
miraculous. The Chinese philosophy is as supernaturalistic as
some forms of Buddhism. The distinction is not between the
natural and the supernatural in either system, but between the
seen and the unseen."

"The Chinese philosophy is as religious as the original teaching
of Gautama. Neither Shushi nor Gautama believed in a Creator,
but both believed in gods and demons.... It has little place for
prayer, but has a vivid sense of the Infinite and the Unseen,
and fervently believes that right conduct is in accord with the
'eternal verities.'" - George William Knox.

"In him is the yea." - Paul.


Japan's Millennium of Simple Confucianism.

Having seen the practical working of the ethics of Confucianism,
especially in the old and simple system, let us now glance at the
developed and philosophical forms, which, by giving the educated man of
Japan a creed, made him break away from Buddhism and despise it, while
becoming often fanatically Confucian.

For a thousand years (from 600 to 1600 A.D.) the Buddhist religious
teachers assisted in promulgating the ethics of Confucius; for during
all this time there was harmony between the various Buddhisms imported
from India, Tibet, China and Korea, and the simple undeveloped system of
Chinese Confucianism. Slight modifications were made by individual
teachers, and emphasis was laid upon this or that feature, while out of
the soil of Japanese feudalism were growths of certain virtues as phases
of loyalty, phenomenal beyond those in China. Nevertheless, during all
this time, the Japanese teachers of the Chinese ethic were as students
who did but recite what they learned. They simply transmitted, without
attempting to expand or improve.

Though the apparatus of distribution was early known, block printing
having been borrowed from the Chinese after the ninth century, and
movable types learned from the Koreans and made use of in the sixteenth
century,[1] the Chinese classics were not printed as a body until after
the great peace of Genna (1615). Nor during this period were
translations made of the classics or commentaries, into the Japanese
vernacular. Indeed, between the tenth and sixteenth centuries there was
little direct intercourse, commercial, diplomatic or intellectual,
between Japan and China, as compared with the previous eras, or the
decades since 1870.

Suddenly in the seventeenth century the intellect of Japan, all ready
for new surprises in the profound peace inaugurated by Iyéyas[)u],
received, as it were, an electric thrill. The great warrior, becoming
first a unifier by arms and statecraft, determined also to become the
architect of the national culture. Gathering up, from all parts of the
country, books, manuscripts, and the appliances of intellectual
discipline, he encouraged scholars and stimulated education. Under his
supervision the Chinese classics were printed, and were soon widely
circulated. A college was established in Yedo, and immediately there
began a critical study of the texts and principal commentaries. The fall
of the Ming dynasty in China, and the accession of the Manchiu Tartars,
became the signal for a great exodus of learned Chinese, who fled to
Japan. These received a warm welcome, both at the capital and in Yedo,
as well as in some of the castle towns of the Daimi[=o]s, among whom
stand illustrious those of the province of Mito.[2]

These men from the west brought not only ethics but philosophy; and the
fertilizing influences of these scholars of the Dispersion, may be
likened to those of the exodus of the Greek learned men after the
capture of Constantinople by the Turks. Confucian schools were
established in most of the chief provincial cities. For over two hundred
years this discipline in the Chinese ethics, literature and history
constituted the education of the boys and men of Japan. Almost every
member of the Samurai classes was thoroughly drilled in this curriculum.
All Japanese social, official, intellectual and literary life was
permeated with the new spirit. Their "world" was that of the Chinese,
and all outside of it belonged to "barbarians." The matrices of thought
became so fixed and the Japanese language has been so moulded, that even
now, despite the intense and prolonged efforts of thirty years of acute
and laborious scholarship, it is impossible, as we have said, to find
English equivalents for terms which were used for a century or two past
in every-day Japanese speech. Those who know most about these facts, are
most modest in attempting with English words to do justice to Japanese
thought; while those who know the least seem to be most glib, fluent and
voluminous in showing to their own satisfaction, that there is little
difference between the ethics of Chinese Asia and those of Christendom.

Survey of the Intellectual History of China.

The Confucianism of the last quarter-millennium in Japan is not that of
her early centuries. While the Japanese for a thousand years only
repeated and recited - merely talking aloud in their intellectual sleep
but not reflecting - China was awake and thinking hard. Japan's continued
civil wars, which caused the almost total destruction of books and
manuscripts, secured also the triumph of Buddhism which meant the
atrophy of the national intellect. When, after the long feuds and
battles of the middle ages, Confucianism stepped the second time into
the Land of _Brave_ Scholars, it was no longer with the simple rules of
conduct and ceremonial of the ancient days, nor was it as the ally of
Buddhism. It came like an armed man in full panoply of harness and
weapons. It entered to drive Buddhism out, and to defend the intellect
of the educated against the wiles of priestcraft. It was a full-blown
system of pantheistic rationalism, with a scheme of philosophy that to
the far-Oriental mind seemed perfect as a rule both of faith and
practice. It came in a form that was received as religion, for it was
not only morality "touched" but infused with motion. Nor were the
emotions kindled, those of the partisan only, but rather also those of
the devotee and the martyr. Henceforth Buddhism, with its inventions,
its fables, and its endless dogmatism, was for the common people, for
women and children, but not for the Samurai. The new Confucianism came
to Japan as the system of Chu Hi. For three centuries this system had
already held sway over the intellect of China. For two centuries and a
half it has dominated the minds of the Samurai so that the majority of
them to-day, even with the new name Shizoku, are Confucianists so far as
they are anything.

To understand the origin of Buddhism we must know something of the
history and the previous religious and philosophical systems of India,
and so, if we are to appreciate modern "orthodox" Confucianism, we must
review the history of China, and see, in outline, at least, its
literature, politics and philosophy during the middle ages.

"Four great stages of literary and national development may be pointed
to as intervening (in the fifteen hundred years) between the great sage
and the age called that of the Sung-Ju,"[3] from the tenth to the
fourteenth century, in which the Confucian system received its modern
form. Each of them embraced the course of three or four centuries.

I. From the sixth to the third century before Christ the struggle was
for Confucian and orthodox doctrine, led by Mencius against various
speculators in morals and politics, with Taoist doctrine continually
increasing in acceptance.

II. The Han age (from B.C. 206 to A.D. 190) was rich in critical
expositors and commentators of the classics, but "the tone of
speculation was predominantly Taoist."

III. The period of the Six Dynasties (from A.D. 221 to A.D. 618) was the
golden age of Buddhism, when the science and philosophy of India
enriched the Chinese mind, and the wealth of the country was lavished on
Buddhist temples and monasteries. The faith of Shaka became nearly
universal and the Buddhists led in philosophy and literature, founding a
native school of Indian philosophy.

IV. The Tang period (from A.D. 618 to 905) marked by luxury and poetry,
was an age of mental inaction and enervating prosperity.

V. The fifth epoch, beginning with the Sung Dynasty (from A.D. 960 to
1333) and lasting to our own time, was ushered in by a period of intense
mental energy. Strange to say (and most interesting is the fact to
Americans of this generation), the immediate occasion of the recension
and expansion of the old Confucianism was a Populist movement.[4] During
the Tang era of national prosperity, Chinese socialists questioned the
foundations of society and of government, and there grew up a new school
of interpreters as well as of politicians. In the tenth century the
contest between the old Confucianism and the new notions, broke out with
a violence that threatened anarchy to the whole empire.

Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisThe Religions of Japan From the Dawn of History to the Era of Méiji → online text (page 10 of 31)