Japan: Early Days to Feudalism WHAP/Napp
“Japan’s earliest history, like Korea’s, comes from Chinese records. In the mid-600s the rulers based at Yamato, on the central plain of Honshu island, implemented the Taika reforms, giving the Yamato regime the key features of Tang government, which they knew of through embassies to Chang’an: a legal code, an official variety of Confucianism, and an official reverence for Buddhism. Within a century a centralized government with a complex system of law had emerged, as attested by a massive history in the Confucian style.
Japanese admiration of Chinese culture did not extend to everything, however. The Confucian Mandate of Heaven, which justified dynastic changes, played no role in legitimating Japanese government. The tenno – often called ‘emperor’ in English – belonged to a family believed to have ruled Japan since the beginning of known history. The dynasty never changed. The royal family endured because the emperors seldom wielded political power. A prime minister and the leaders of the native religion, in later times called Shinto, the ‘way of the gods,’ exercised real control.
In 794 the central government moved to Kyoto, usually called by its ancient name, Heian. Legally centralized government lasted there until 1185, though power became decentralized toward the end. Members of the Fujiwara family –an ancient family of priests, bureaucrats, and warriors – controlled power and protected the emperor. The Fujiwara nobles entrusted responsibility for local government, policing, and tax collection to their warriors. By the middle 1100s the nobility had lost control, and civil war between rival warrior clans engulfed the capital.
Like other East Asian states influenced by Confucianism, the elite families of Fujiwara Japan did not encourage education for women. However, this did not prevent the exceptional woman from having a strong cultural impact. The hero of the celebrated Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, written around the year 1000 by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, remarks: ‘Women should have a general knowledge of several subjects, but it gives a bad impression if they show themselves to be attached to a particular branch of learning.’ Fujiwara noblewomen lived in near-total isolation, generally spending their time on cultural pursuits and the study of Buddhism. Loneliness produced literature.
Military values acquired increasing importance during the period 1156–1185, when warfare between rival clans culminated in the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate.”
~ The Earth and Its Peoples1.The Shogunate era in Japan refers to:
(A) The period when the emperor personally assumed military responsibilities.
(B) The organization developed by the Japanese to repel the Mongol invasions.
(C) The period when all Japanese, including merchants, had military responsibilities.
(D) The time when real power was vested in a military dictator and the emperor was a figurehead. / 2. The Chinese capital ______was the model for Kumsong in Korea and both Nara and Heian in Japan.
Key Words/ Questions / I. Geography
- Consists of four main islands (archipelago) off coast of mainland Asia
- Mountainous but not separating cities rather less arable land
- Lack of natural resources but reliance on seas: fishing
A. Little is known of early cultures in Japan prior to 400 C.E
- First important ruling family emerged in fifth century; only dynasty
A. Means “the way of the gods” – earliest religion; a kind of Japanese animism where people worshipped kami, which refers to forces of nature
B. Yamato clan claimed emperor was a direct descendent of the sun goddess
IV. Influence of China
A. In 522, Buddhist missionaries went to Japan but did not replace Shinto
B. Prince Shotoku borrowed bureaucratic and legal reforms
1. Modeled on T’ang Dynasty in China (7th Century)
- Reforms enacted after his death as the Taika Reforms (645 C.E.)
- But largely rejected civil service examination and mandate of heaven
- Birth and social class were more important than merit
- In 794, capital moved to from Nara to Heian (Kyoto)
- Emperor remained a figurehead, but real power had shifted to Fujiwara
- Experienced a golden age: Lady Murasaki (Tale of Genji) – first novel
- By 12th century, fighting among noble families led to feudalism
A. In 1192, Yoritomo Minamoto given title of chief general, or shogun
- Residence in Kamakura (Kamakura Shogunate)
- Feudal hierarchy: shogun, daimyo (landlords), samurai, peasants
- Merchants were seen as an unpleasant – a disreputable sector
- Ronin were samurai without masters: considered a dishonor
- Hard to control, defiance weakened bakufu (military government)
- Samurai followed a code of conduct known as Bushido which was similar to chivalry in Medieval Europe (loyalty, honor, and courage)
- Failure to meet obligations: expected to commit suicide
- Held in low esteem/few rights unlike Europe where adored for beauty
- The Kamakura shoguns jolted by General Ashikaga who overran Kamakura: shoguns moved back to Heian-Kyo but let rest of the country go its own way
- In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu established Tokugawa Shogunate
- Strict and rigid government that ruled Japan until 1868
- By 1635, a National Seclusion Act prohibited Japanese from traveling abroad, and prohibited most foreigners from visiting Japan
1. When the emperor moved his government from Nara to Heian (Eighth Century C.E.),
(A) Shintoism was formally suppressed.
(B) Buddhism ceased to play a major role in Japanese society.
(C) The scholar-gentry was able to assert itself through the examination system.
(D) Buddhism was formally suppressed.
(E) The aristocracy took over most of the positions of the central government.
3. During Japan’s feudal period
(A) the emperor was the symbolic head of the country
(B) the shogun held effective power
(C) the samurai class was transformed into a new aristocracy
(D) all of the above
3. Which contemporary society most closely mirrored feudal Japanese patterns of decentralized rule, an economy based on agricultural peasant labor, and emergence of the warrior elite following a distinct code of honor?
(B) Western European
4. Where in the world did the literary form of the novel emerge?
(A) United States
5. The military warrior class known as ______was celebrated in Japanese culture.
(D) knights / 6. Despite extensive modeling of the Chinese imperial system, how did Japanese civilization hew [adhere] to established tradition in the postclassical era?
(A) Aristocrats doubled as military officers.
(B) Strict codes of behavior governed noble classes in court life.
(C) Examination systems were not a part of the selection process for imperial elite.
(D) Poetry was a highly valued art form among the elite.
(E) A capital city served as the nerve center of the empire.
7. Under the shogunates of Japan
(A) Real power still rested with the emperor
(B) Power rested with Buddhist monks
(C) The emperor’s power was largely symbolic
(D) The shoguns were the religious priests
(E) None of the above
8. Why does Japan lack fertile farmland?
(A) The climate is too hot.
(B) Much of the country is covered by mountains.
(C) There is not enough precipitation.
(D) Much of the rain forest is covered by forests.
9. The early Japanese beliefs developed into
(A) Islam (C) Confucianism
(B) Shinto (D) Buddhism
10. Why were daimyo able to take control of parts of Japan?
(A) The Ashikaga shoguns were weak.
(B) The shogun and emperor had mistreated the samurai.
(C) Fewer men wanted to be samurai.
(D) Both A and B.
Comparative Essay Practice:
Analyze methods of political rule in feudal Japan and feudal Europe.
In Depth: Comparing Feudalisms
“Fully developed feudal systems developed during the postclassical age in Japan and western Europe. They did so when it was not possible to sustain more centralized political forms. Many other societies had similar problems, but they did not develop feudalism. The Japanese and western European feudal systems were set in political values that joined together most of the system’s participants. They included the concept of mutual ties and obligations and embraced elite militaristic values. There were differences between the two approaches to feudalism. Western Europe stressed contractual ideas, while the Japanese relied on group and individual bonds. The shared feudal past may have assisted their successful industrial development and shaped their capacity for running capitalist economies. It may also have contributed to their tendencies for imperialist expansion, frequent resort to war, and the rise of militarist regimes.” ~ World Civilizations
The following terms, people, and events are important to your understanding of the lesson.
Bakufu Shoguns Minamoto
Fujiwara Ashikaga Shogunate Kamakura Shogunate
Daimyo kami Tribute system
Samurai seppuku Taika reforms
Heian Nara Tale of Genji
Bushido Zen monasteries Tokugawa Shogunate
The Tokugawa government suppressed Christianity in Japan because
(A) Christian insistence on observing the Sabbath undermined the economy.
(B) Government officials feared that Christianity would lead to Chinese dominance.
(C) Christian missionaries were converting to Buddhism in large numbers.
(D) Shoguns feared that Christian daimyo would forge alliances with Europeans that could threaten the bakufu.
(E) All these answers are correct.