Feudalism in Japan

Feudalism in Japan

FEUDALISM IN JAPAN The Way of The Samurai DO NOW: SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Off the top of your head, what are concepts that you think are true about Samurai, Japan, and how are they related to the concept of Feudalism? DO NOW: WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT

JAPAN, THE SAMURAI, AND FEUDALISM? Japan is a country rich in history. With minor influences from Korea and China during their early ancient ages, Japan evolved into forming a culture and relic of their own. Although Japan and Europe did not have any direct contact with one another during the medieval and early modern periods, they independently developed very similar socio-political systems. Often, these systems are labeled as feudal. In both feudal Japan and Europe, constant warfare made warriors the most important class. Called "knights" in Europe and "samurai" in

Japan, the warriors served local lords. In both cases, the warriors were bound by a code of ethics. Knights were supposed to hew to the concept of chivalry, while samurai were bound by the precepts of bushido, or "the Way of the Warrior." OVERVIEW The objective of this lesson is to determine similarities and differences between Japanese and Western European Systems of Feudalism. While they share

common denominators, each system contributed differently and independently to the cultures of their land. OBJECTIVE Japan began to form systems of government and religion during the Kofun period, where the nation was unified under a single kingdom. Whereas, in Western European government systems, kingdom

unification did not begin until the 800s C.E., Japan established this single kingdom as early as the 250 CE. Following influences largely from Buddhist Korea in the Asuka period, Japan began building their kingdom based on Shintoism and followed government policy structures similar to the Tang Dynasty of China. The continued seasons brought about change until the Kamakura period of 1185, which began the Feudal Systems in Japan. EARLY POLITICAL HISTORY

The Kamakura period, beginning along the time of the Bubonic plague in the West, marked the beginning of Japans adaptation of the Feudal system. During this time, Emperor Yoritomo chose to jointly rule with the imperial court in Kyoto. Even though he set up his own government in Kamakura, power was legally authorized by the imperial court in several occasions. In 1192, the Emperor declared seii tai-shogun (Eastern Barbarian Subduing Great General) or shogun, marking the beginning of military ruling in Japan under the Samurai. THE KAMAKURA PERIOD

THE SAMURAI AND FEUDAL JAPAN The Kamakura period, beginning along the time of the Bubonic plague in the West, marked the beginning of Japans adaptation of the Feudal system. During this time, Emperor Yoritomo chose to jointly rule with the imperial court in Kyoto. Even though he set up his own government in Kamakura, power was legally authorized by the imperial court in several occasions. In 1192, the Emperor declared seii tai-shogun (Eastern Barbarian Subduing Great General) or shogun, marking the beginning of military ruling in Japan under the

Samurai. THE SAMURAI AND FEUDAL JAPAN As the power of the samurai grew, provincial regions chose distant relatives of the Emperor as chiefs and a lesser member of the three major clans as minor leaders. Similar to the Western Feudal system where governance is disbursed into smaller governing bodies ruled by knighthoods that centralize into a unified

kingship, the samurai were considered the key rulers of smaller provinces that in turn reported to a central imperial court in Kyoto. THE SAMURAI AND FEUDAL JAPAN As the decentralization of power expanded further into the regions, the Samurai clans began to struggle for majority leadership. Zen Buddhism in the 13th century adapted from the Chinese began to

influence the samurai and helped shape their standards of conduct, particularly overcoming the fear of death and killing. This philosophy became a key idea in the Samurai Code, or Bushido, where the central ideology of the samurais violent existence (from Shintoism) is tempered by wisdom and serenity (from Zen Buddhism). With this, the Samurai continued to struggle within themselves for majority leadership, all the while battling the Mongols from the Yuan dynasty in China. THE SAMURAI AND FEUDAL JAPAN Because of the calamitous events that

plagued Japan from 1241 to 1287, the Mongols lost interest in their pursuit to invade the country. However, the power struggle of the clans continued, resulting in Taira No Kiyomori claiming victory and giving the Taira clan opportunity to seize the entire central government. Even with this victory, clan struggles continued well into the 1400s marking the Sengoku Jidai, or warring states period, that began the loosening of samurai culture.

THE SAMURAI AND FEUDAL JAPAN The code of Bushido, or the way of the Samurai, is the main ideology within the Samurai lifestyle. This philosophy is heavily influenced by teachings from Shintoism and Zen Buddhism, which the Japanese adapted from China and Korea. The culture of Zen Buddhism promoted overcoming the fear of death and killing, which resulted in the Samurai

to take was as their natural element and highlighting virtues as reckless bravery, fierce family pride, selflessness, and at times senseless devotion of master and man. CULTURAL ADAPTATIONS The virtues of Bushido served as the guiding force in the rule of law during Japanese Feudalism. Integrity, Respect, Heroic Courage, Honor, Compassion, Honesty and Sincerity, as Duty and Loyalty were upheld to the highest

standard. These virtues were adapted from Shinto and Zen Buddhist beliefs. Though they were not exactly religious beliefs more so than they were spiritual, the virtues of Bushido promoted a paradox of war and peace being the highest form of dedication to the emperor and the land. RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE Feudal Japan highlighted a structure that gave importance to military ruling. The emperor acted more of a figurehead than an actual leader, and his source of power

dispersed into divided groups under the imperial court. Very much like the structure of Feudalism in Western Europe, the rule of law was governed by lords. The main difference between them, though, is where Western European feudalism favored the ruling of diplomatic and mercantile leadership, Japanese Feudalism favored leadership under military code, with Shoguns (highest ranking Samurai) at the top of the hierarchy.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE Because military rule was the vast majority during Feudal Japan, a shift of focus into arts and craftsmanship related to the martial arts, weapon crafting, and poetry and literature influenced by Zen Monks. The cultural life of the Kamakura period blended courtly, warrior, and popular elements. It was marked by the continued cultural predominance of the court and by the creation of a distinct warrior cultural style that expressed warrior values of dri or musha no narai, the customs of the warriors, while drawing heavily on the learning and culture of the court nobility. Buddhist monks and monasteries, especially Zen monasteries,

were active contributors to the culture and, from the Kamakura period, there was popular participation in religion and culture. The age witnessed a popular upsurge of Buddhist devotion, and such popular musical and dancing entertainments as dengaku, sarugaku, and taue uta flourished in the countryside. In addition to its leadership in literary and scholarly activities, the court continued to set styles in art, music, architecture, dress, and manners. CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS Kendo, a Japanese martial art specializing in sword fighting.

CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS Jujutsu, a Japanese martial art specializing in the gentle art of submission by use of force and momentum. Interestingly, this art is widely accepted as the root and influence of the modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS

Japanese artwork depicting calamities of the four seasons as Samurai lords CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS Japanese painting illustrating two Samurai in a clash, which can also be interpreted as the depiction of two Samurai clans in battle. CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS

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