Those who trace racial and civilizational nature to brain development cannot gain much consolation from a comparative statistical study of race brains. De Quatrefages's conclusion is repeatedly forced home: "We must confess that there can be no real relation between the dimension of the cranial capacity and social development."[Z] "The development of the intellectual faculties of man is, to a great extent, independent of the capacity of the cranium and the volume of the brain."[AA]
We may conclude at once, then, that Japanese intellectual peculiarities are in no way due to the size of their brains, but depend rather on their social evolution. Yet it will not be amiss to study in detail the various mental peculiarities of the race, real and supposed, and to note their relation to the social order.
In becoming acquainted with the Japanese and Chinese peoples, an Occidental is much impressed with their powers of memory, and this especially in connection with the written language, the far-famed "Chinese Character," or ideograph. My Chinese dictionary contains over 50,000 different characters. The task of learning them is appalling. How the Japanese or Chinese do it is to us a constant wonder. We assume at once their possession of astonishing memories. We argue that, for hundreds of years, each generation has been developing powers of memory through efforts to conquer this cumbersome contrivance for writing, and that, as a consequence for the nations using this system, there is now prodigious ability to remember.
It is my impression, however, that we greatly overrate these powers. In the first place, few Japanese claim any acquaintance with the entire 50,000 characters; only the educated make any pretense of knowing more than a few hundred, and a vast majority even of learned men do not know more than 10,000 characters. Some Japanese newspapers have undertaken to limit themselves in the use of the ideograph. It is said that between four and five thousand characters suffice for all the ordinary purposes of communication. These are, without doubt, fairly well known to the educated classes. But for the masses, there is need that the pronunciation be placed beside each printed character, before it can be read. Furthermore, we must remember that a Japanese youth gives the best years of his life to the bare memorizing of these symbols.[AB]
Were European or American youth to devote to the study of Chinese the same number of hours each day for the same number of years, I doubt if there would be any conspicuous difference in the results. We should not forget also that some Occidentals manifest astonishing facility in memorizing Chinese characters.
In this connection is the important fact that the social order serves to sift out individuals of marked mnemonic powers and bring them into prominence, while those who are relatively deficient are relegated to the background. The educated class is necessarily composed of those who have good powers of memory. All others fail and are rejected. We see and admire those who succeed; of those who fail we know nothing and we even forget that there are such.
In response to my questions Japanese friends have uniformly assured me that they are not accustomed to think of the Japanese as possessed of better memories than the people of the West. They appear surprised that the question should be raised, and are specially surprised at our high estimate of Japanese ability in this direction.
If, however, we inquire about their powers of memory in connection with daily duties and the ordinary acquisition of knowledge and its retention, my own experience of twelve years, chiefly with the middle and lower classes of society, has left the impression that, while some learn easily and remember well, a large number are exceedingly slow. On the whole, I am inclined to believe that, although the Japanese may be said to have good memories, yet it can hardly be maintained that they conspicuously exceed Occidentals in this respect.
In comparing the Occidental with the Oriental, it is to be remembered that there is not among Occidental nations that attention to bare memorizing which is so conspicuous among the less civilized nations. The astonishing feats performed by the transmitters of ancient poems and religious teachings seem to us incredible. Professor Max Mueller says that the voluminous Vedas have been handed down for centuries, unchanged, simply from mouth to mouth by the priesthood. Every progressive race, until it has attained a high development of the art of writing, has manifested similar power of memory. Such power is not, however, inherent; that is to say, it is not due to the innate peculiarity of brain structure, but rather to the nature of the social order which demands such expenditure of time and strength for the maintenance of its own higher life. Through the art of writing Occidental peoples have found a cheaper way of retaining their history and of preserving the products of their poets and religious teachers. Even for the transactions of daily life we have resorted to the constant use of pen and notebook and typewriter, by these devices saving time and strength for other things. As a result, our memories are developed in directions different from those of semi-civilized or primitive man. The differences of memory characterizing different races, then, are for the most part due to differences in the social order and to the nature of the civilization, rather than to the intrinsic and inherited structure of the brain itself.
Since memory is the foundation of all mental operations, we have given to it the first place in the present discussion. And that the Japanese have a fair degree of memory argues well for the prospect of high attainment in other directions. With this in mind, we naturally ask whether they show any unusual proficiency or deficiency in the acquisition of foreign languages? In view of her protracted separation from the languages of other peoples, should we not expect marked deficiency in this respect? On the contrary, however, we find that tens of thousands of Japanese students have acquired a fairly good reading knowledge of English, French, and German. Those few who have had good and sufficient teaching, or who have been abroad and lived in Occidental lands, have in addition secured ready conversational use of the various languages. Indeed, some have contended that since the Japanese learn foreign languages more easily than foreigners learn Japanese, they have greater linguistic powers than the foreigner. It should be borne in mind, however, that in such a comparison, not only are the time required and the proficiency; attained to be considered, but also the inherent difficulty of the language studied and the linguistic helps provided the student.
I have come gradually to the conclusion that the Japanese are neither particularly gifted nor particularly deficient in powers of language acquisition. They rank with Occidental peoples in this respect.
To my mind language affords one of the best possible proofs of the general contention of this volume that the characteristics which distinguish the races are social rather than biological. The reason why the languages of the different races differ is not because the brain-types of the races are different, but only because of the isolated social evolution which the races have experienced. Had it been possible for Japan to maintain throughout the ages perfect and continuous social intercourse with the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxon race, while still maintaining biological isolation, i.e., perfect freedom from intermarriage, there is no reason to think that two distinct languages so different as English and Japanese would have arisen. The fact that Japanese children can accurately acquire English, and that English or American children can accurately acquire Japanese, proves conclusively that diversities of language do not rest on brain differences and brain heredity, but exclusively on social differences and social heredity.
If this is true, then the argument can easily be extended to all the features that differentiate the civilizations of different races; for the language of any race is, in a sense, the epitome of the civilization of that race. All its ideas, customs, theologies, philosophies, sciences, mythologies; all its characteristic thoughts, conceptions, ideals; all its distinguishing social features, are represented in its language. Indeed, they enter into it as determining factors, and by means of it are transmitted from age to age. This argument is capable of much extension and illustration.
The charge that the Japanese are a nation of imitators has been repeated so often as to become trite, and the words are usually spoken with disdain. Yet, if the truth were fully told, it would be found that, from many points of view, this quality gives reason rather for congratulation. Surely that nation which can best discriminate and imitate has advantage over nations that are so fixed in their self-sufficiency as to be able neither to see that which is advantageous nor to imitate it. In referring to the imitative powers of the Japanese, then, I do not speak in terms of reproach, but rather in those of commendation. "Monkeyism" is not the sort of imitation that has transformed primitive Japan into the Japan of the early or later feudal ages, nor into the Japan of the twentieth century. Bare imitation, without thought, has been relatively slight in Japan. If it has been known at times, those times have been of short duration.
In his introduction to "The Classic Poetry of the Japanese" Professor Chamberlain has so stated the case for the imitative quality of the people that I quote the following:
"The current impression that the Japanese are a nation of imitators is in the main correct. As they copy us to-day, so did they copy the Chinese and Koreans a millennium and a half ago. Religion, philosophy, laws, administration, written characters, all arts but the very simplest, all science, or at least what then went by that name, everything was imported from the neighboring continent; so much so that of all that we are accustomed to term 'Old Japan' scarce one trait in a hundred is really and properly Japanese. Not only are their silk and lacquer not theirs by right of invention, nor their painting (albeit so often praised by European critics for its originality), nor their porcelain, nor their music, but even the larger part of their language consists of mispronounced Chinese; and from the Chinese they have drawn new names for already existing places, and new titles for their ancient Gods."
While the above cannot be disputed in its direct statements, yet I can but feel that it makes, on the whole, a false impression. Were these same tests applied to any European people, what would be the result? Of what European nation may it be said that its art, or method of writing, or architecture, or science, or language even, is "its own by right of invention"? And when we stop to examine the details of the ancient Japanese civilization which is supposed to have been so, slavishly copied from China and India, we shall find that, though the beginnings were indeed imitated, there were also later developments of purely Japanese creation. In some instances the changes were vital.
In examining the practical arts, while we acknowledge that the beginnings of nearly all came from Korea or China, we must also acknowledge that in many important respects. Japan has developed along her own lines. The art of sword-making, for instance, was undoubtedly imported; but who does not know of the superior quality and beauty of Japanese swords, the Damascus blades of the East? So distinct is this Japanese production that it cannot be mistaken for that of any other nation. It has received the impress of the Japanese social order. Its very shape is due to the habit of carrying the sheath in the "obi" or belt.
If we study the home of the laborer, or the instruments in common use, we shall find proof that much more than imitation has been involved.
Were the Japanese mere imitators, how could we explain their architecture, so different from that of China and Korea? How explain the multiplied original ways in which bamboo and straw are used?
For a still closer view of the matter, let us consider the imported ethical and religious codes of the country. In China the emphasis of Confucianism is laid on the duty of filial piety. In Japan the primary emphasis is on loyalty. This single change transformed the entire system and made the so-called Confucianism of Japan distinct from that of China. In Buddhism, imported from India, we find greater changes than Occidental nations have imposed on their religion imported from Palestine. Indeed, so distinct has Japanese Buddhism become that it is sometimes difficult to trace its connections in China and India. And the Buddhistic sects that have sprung up in Japan are more radically diverse and antagonistic to each other and to primitive Buddhism than the denominations of Christianity are to each other and to primitive Christianity.
In illustration is the most popular of all the Buddhist sects to-day, Shinshu. This has sometimes been called by foreigners "Reformed" Buddhism; and so similar are many of its doctrines to those of Christianity that some have supposed them to have been derived from it, but without the slightest evidence. All its main doctrines and practices were clearly formulated by its founder, Shinrah, six hundred years ago. The regular doctrines of Buddhism that salvation comes only through self-effort and self-victory are rejected, and salvation through the merits of another is taught. "Ta-riki," "another's power," not "Ji-riki," "self-power," is with them the orthodox doctrine. Priests may marry and eat meat, practices utterly abhorrent to the older and more primitive Buddhism. The sacred books are printed in the vernacular, in marked contrast to the customs of the other sects. Women, too, are given a very different place in the social and religious scale and are allowed hopes of attaining salvation that are denied by all the older sects. "Penance, fasting, prescribed diet, pilgrimages, isolation from society, whether as hermits or in the cloister, and generally amulets and charms, are all tabooed by this sect. Monasteries imposing life vows are unknown within its pale. Family life takes the place of monkish seclusion. Devout prayer, purity, earnestness of life, and trust in Buddha himself as the only worker of perfect righteousness, are insisted on. Morality is taught as more important than orthodoxy."[AC] It is amazing how far the Shin sect has broken away from regular Buddhistic doctrine and practice. Who can say that no originality was required to develop such a system, so opposed at vital points to the prevalent Buddhism of the day?
Another sect of purely Japanese origin deserving notice is the "Hokke" or "Nicheren." Its founder, known by the name of Nichiren, was a man of extraordinary independence and religious fervor. Wholly by his original questions and doubts as to the prevailing doctrines and customs of the then dominant sects, he was led to make independent examination into the history and meaning of Buddhistic literature and to arrive at conclusions quite different from those of his contemporaries. Of the truth and importance of his views he was so persuaded that he braved not only fierce denunciations, but prolonged opposition and persecution. He was rejected and cast out by his own people and sect; he was twice banished by the ruling military powers. But he persevered to the end, finally winning thousands of converts to his views. The virulence of the attacks made upon him was due to the virulence with which he attacked what seemed to him the errors and corruption of the prevailing sects. Surely his was no case of servile imitation. His early followers had also to endure opposition and severe persecution.
Glancing at the philosophical ideas brought from China, we find here too a suggestion of the same tendency toward originality. It is true that Dr. Geo. Wm. Knox, in his valuable monograph on "A Japanese Philosopher," makes the statement that, "In acceptance and rejection alike no native originality emerges, nothing beyond a vigorous power of adoption and assimilation. No improvements of the new philosophy were even attempted. Wherein it was defective and indistinct, defective and indistinct it remained. The system was not thought out to its end and independently adopted. Polemics, ontology, ethics, theology, marvels, heroes—all were enthusiastically adopted on faith. It is to be added that the new system was superior to the old, and so much of discrimination was shown."[AD] And somewhat earlier he likewise asserts that "There is not an original and valuable commentary by a Japanese writer. They have been content to brood over the imported works and to accept unquestioningly politics, ethics, and metaphysics." After some examination of these native philosophers, I feel that, although not without some truth, these assertions cannot be strictly maintained. It is doubtless true that no powerful thinker and writer has appeared in Japan that may be compared to the two great philosophers of China, Shushi and Oyomei. The works and the system of the former dominated Japan, for the simple reason that governmental authority forbade the public teaching or advocacy of the other. Nevertheless, not a few Japanese thinkers rejected the teachings and philosophy of Shushi, regardless of consequences. Notable among those rejecters was Kaibara Yekken, whose book "The Great Doubt" was not published until after his death. In it he rejects in emphatic terms the philosophical and metaphysical ideas of Shushi. An article[AE] by Dr. Tetsujiro Inouye, Professor of Philosophy in the Imperial University in Tokyo, on the "Development of Philosophical Ideas in Japan," concludes with these words:
"From this short sketch the reader can clearly see that philosophical considerations began in our country with the study of Shushi and Oyomei. But many of our thinkers did not long remain faithful to that tradition; they soon formed for themselves new conceptions of life and of the world, which, as a rule, are not only more practical, but also more advanced than those of the Chinese."
An important reason for our Western thought, that the Japanese have had no independence in philosophy, is our ignorance of the larger part of Japanese and Chinese literature. Oriental speculation was moving in a direction so diverse from that of the West that we are impressed more with the general similarity that prevails throughout it than with the evidences of individual differences. Greater knowledge would reveal these differences. In our generalized knowledge, we see the uniformity so strongly that we fail to discover the originality.
As a traveler from the West, on reaching some Eastern land, finds it difficult at first to distinguish between the faces of different individuals, his mind being focused on the likeness pervading them all, so the Occidental student of Oriental thought is impressed with the remarkable similarity that pervades the entire Oriental civilization, modes of thought, and philosophy, finding it difficult to discover the differences which distinguish the various Oriental races. In like manner, a beginner in the study of Japanese philosophy hardly gives the Japanese credit for the modifications of Chinese philosophy which they have originated.
In this connection it is well to remember that, more than any Westerner can realize, the Japanese people have been dependent on governmental initiative from time immemorial. They have never had any thought but that of implicit obedience, and this characteristic of the social order has produced its necessary consequences in the present characteristics of the people. Individual initiative and independence have been frowned upon, if not always forcibly repressed, and thus the habit of imitation has been stimulated. The people have been deliberately trained to imitation by their social system. The foreigner is amazed at the sudden transformations that have swept the nation. When the early contact with China opened the eyes of the ruling classes to the fact that China had a system of government that was in many respects better than their own, it was an easy thing to adopt it and make it the basis for their own government. This constituted the epoch-making period in Japanese history known as the Taikwa Reform. It occurred in the seventh century, and consisted of a centralizing policy; under which, probably for the first time in Japanese history, the country was really unified. Critics ascribe it to an imitation of the Chinese system. Imitation it doubtless was; but its significant feature was its imposition by the few rulers on the people; hence its wide prevalence and general acceptance.
Similarly, in our own times, the Occidentalized order now dominant in Japan was adopted, not by the people, but by the rulers, and imposed by them on the people; these had no idea of resisting the new order, but accepted it loyally as the decision of their Emperor, and this spirit of unquestioning obedience to the powers that be is, I am persuaded, one of the causes of the prevalent opinion respecting Japanese imitativeness as well as of the fact itself.
The reputation for imitativeness, together with the quality itself, is due in no small degree, therefore, to the long-continued dominance of the feudal order of society. In a land where the dependence of the inferior on the superior is absolute, the wife on the husband, the children on the parents, the followers on their lord, the will of the superior being ever supreme, individual initiative must be rare, and the quality of imitation must be powerfully stimulated.
Originality is the obverse side of imitation. In combating the notion that Japan is a nation of unreflective imitators, I have given numerous examples of originality. Further extensive illustration of this characteristic is, accordingly, unnecessary. One other may be cited, however.
The excellence of Japanese art is admitted by all. Japanese temples and palaces are adorned with mural paintings and pieces of sculpture that command the admiration of Occidental experts. The only question is as to their authors. Are these, properly speaking, Japanese works of art—or Korean or Chinese? That Japan received her artistic stimulus, and much of her artistic ideas and technique, from China is beyond dispute. But did she develop nothing new and independent? This is a question of fact. Japanese art, though Oriental, has a distinctive quality. A magnificent work entitled "Solicited Relics of Japanese Art" is issuing from the press, in which there is a large number of chromo-xylographic and collotype reproductions of the best specimens of ancient Japanese art. Reviewing this work, the Japan Mail remarks:
"But why should the only great sculptors that China or Korea ever produced have come to Japan and bequeathed to this country the unique results of their genius? That is the question we have to answer before we accept the doctrine that the noblest masterpieces of ancient Japan were from foreign lands. When anything comparable is found in China or Korea, there will be less difficulty in applying this doctrine of over-sea-influence to the genius that enriched the temples of antique Japan."[AF]
Under the early influence of Buddhism (900-1200 A.D.) Japan fairly bloomed. Those were the days of her glory in architecture, literature, and art. But a blight fell upon her from which she is only now recovering. The causes of this blight will receive attention in a subsequent chapter. Let us note here only one aspect of it, namely, official repression of originality.
Townsend Harris, in his journal, remarks on the way in which the Japanese government has interfered with the originality of the people. "The genius of their government seems to forbid any exercise of ingenuity in producing articles for the gratification of wealth and luxury. Sumptuary laws rigidly enforce the forms, colors, material, and time of changing the dress of all. As to luxury of furniture, the thing is unknown in Japan.... It would be an endless task to attempt to put down all the acts of a Japanese that are regulated by authority."
The Tokugawa rule forbade the building of large ships; so that, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the art of ship-building was far behind what it had been two centuries earlier. Government authority exterminated Christianity in the early part of the seventeenth century and freedom of religious belief was forbidden. The same power that put the ban on Christianity forbade the spread of certain condemned systems of Confucianism. Even in the study of Chinese literature and philosophy, therefore, such originality as the classic models stimulated was discouraged by the all-powerful Tokugawa government. The avowed aim and end of the ruling powers of Japan was to keep the nation in its status quo. Originality was heresy and treason; progress was impiety. The teaching of Confucius likewise lent its support to this policy. To do exactly as the fathers did is to honor them; to do, or even to think, otherwise is to dishonor them. There have not been wanting men of originality and independence in both China and Japan; but they were not great enough to break over, or break down, the incrusted system in which they lived—the system of blind devotion to the past. This system, that deliberately opposed all invention and originality, has been the great incubus to national progress, in that it has rejected and repressed every tendency to variation. What results might not the country have secured, had Christianity been allowed to do its work in stimulating individual development and in creating the sense of personal responsibility towards God and man!
A curious anomaly still remains in Japan on the subject of liberty in study and belief. Though perfect liberty is the rule, one topic is even yet under official embargo. No one may express public dissent from the authorized version of primitive Japanese history. A few years ago a professor in the Imperial University made an attempt to interpret ancient Japanese myths. His constructions were supposed to threaten the divine descent of the Imperial line, and he was summarily dismissed.
Dr. E. Inouye, Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in the Imperial University, addressing a Teachers' Association of Sendai, delivered a conservative, indirectly anti-foreign speech. He insisted, as reported by a local English correspondent, that the Japanese people "were descended from the gods. In all other countries the sovereign or Emperor was derived from the people, but here the people had the honor of being derived from the Emperor. Other countries had filial piety and loyalty, but no such filial piety and loyalty as exist in Japan. The moral attainments of the people were altogether unique. He informed his audience that though they might adopt foreign ways of doing things, their minds needed no renovating; they were good enough as they were."[AG]
As a result of this position, scholarship and credulity are curiously combined in modern historical production. Implicit confidence seems to be placed in the myths of the primitive era. Tales of the gods are cited as historical events whose date, even, can be fixed with some degree of accuracy. Although writing was unknown in Japan until early in the Christian era, the chronology of the previous six or eight hundred years is accepted on the authority of a single statement in the Kojiki, written 712 years A.D. This statement was reproduced from the memory of a single man, who remembered miraculously the contents of a book written shortly before, but accidentally destroyed by fire. In the authoritative history of Japan, prepared and translated into English at the command of the government for the Columbian Exposition, we find such statements as these:
"From the time that Amaterasu-Omikami made Ninigi-no-mikoto to descend from the heavens and subject to his administrative sway Okini-nushi-no-mikoto and other offspring of the deities in the land, descendants of the divine beings have sat upon the throne, generation after generation in succession."[AH] "Descended in a direct line from the heavenly deities, the Emperor has stood unshaken in his high place through all generations, his prestige and dignity immutable from time immemorial and independent of all the vicissitudes of the world about him."[AI] "Never has there been found a single subject of the realm who sought to impair the Imperial prestige."[AJ] It is true that in a single passage the traditions of the "age of the Deities" are described as "strange and incredible legends," but it is added that, however singular they are, in order to understand the history of the Empire's beginnings, they must be studied. Then follows, without a word of criticism or dissent, the account of the doings of the heavenly deities, in creating Japan and its people, as well as the myriads of gods. There is no break between the age of the gods and the history of men. The first inventions and discoveries, such as those of fire, of mining, and of weaving are ascribed to Amate rasu-Omikami (the Sun Goddess). According to these traditions and the modern histories built upon them, the Japanese race came into existence wholly independently of all other races of men. Such is the authoritative teaching in the schools to-day.
Occidental scholars do not accept these statements or dates. That the Japanese will evince historical and critical ability in the study of their own early history, as soon as the social order will allow it, can hardly be doubted. Those few who even now entertain advanced ideas do not dare to avow them. And this fact throws an interesting light on the way in which the social order, or a despotic government, may thwart for a time the natural course of development. The present apparent credulity of Japanese historical scholarship is due neither to race character nor to superstitions lodged in the inherited race brain, but simply to the social system, which, as yet, demands the inviolability of the Imperial line.
Now that the Japanese have been so largely relieved from the incubus of the older social order, the question rises whether they are showing powers of originality. The answer is not doubtful, for they have already made several important discoveries and inventions. The Murata rifle, with which the army is equipped, is the invention of a Japanese. In 1897 Colonel Arisaka invented several improvements in this same rifle, increasing the velocity and accuracy, and lessening the weight. Still more recently he has invented a rapid-fire field-piece to superintend whose manufacture he has been sent to Europe. Mr. Shimose has invented a smokeless powder, which the government is manufacturing for its own use. Not infrequently there appear in the papers notices of new inventions. I have recently noted the invention of important improvements in the hand loom universally used in Japan, also a "smoke-consumer" which not only abolishes the smoke, but reduces the amount of coal used and consequently the expense. These are but a few of the ever-increasing number of Japanese inventions.
In the, field of original scientific research is the famous bacteriologist, Dr. Kitazato. Less widely known perhaps, but none the less truly original explorers in the field of science, are Messrs. Hirase and Ikeno, whose discoveries of spermatozoids in Ginko and Cycas have no little value for botanists, especially in the development of the theory of certain forms of fertilization. These instances show that the faculty of original thought is not entirely lacking among the Japanese. Under favorable conditions, such as now prevail, there is good reason for holding that the Japanese will take their place among the peoples of the world, not only as skillful imitators and adapters, but also as original contributors to the progress of civilization and of science.
Originality may be shown in imitation as well as in production, and this type of originality the Japanese have displayed in a marked way. They have copied the institutions of no single country. It might even be difficult to say which Western land has had the greatest influence in molding the new social order of Japan. In view of the fact that it is the English language which has been most in favor during the past thirty years, it might be assumed that England and America are the favored models. But no such hasty conclusion can be drawn. The Japanese have certainly taken ideas and teachers from many different sources; and they have changed them frequently, but not thoughtlessly. A writer in The Far East brings this points out clearly:
"While Japan remained secluded from other countries, she had no necessity for and scarcely any war vessels, but after the country was opened to the free intercourse of foreign powers—immediately she felt the urgent necessity of naval defense and employed a Dutch officer to construct her navy. In 1871 the Japanese government employed a number of English officers, and almost wholly reconstructed her navy according to the English system. But in the matter of naval education our rulers found the English system altogether unsatisfactory, and adopted the American system for the model of our naval academy. So, in discipline, our naval officers found the German principle much superior to the English, and adopted that in point of discipline. Thus the Japanese navy is not wholly after the English system, or the American, or the French, or the German system. But it has been so constructed as to include the best portions of all the different systems. In the case of the army, we had a system of our own before we began to utilize gunpowder and foreign methods of discipline. Shortly before the present era we reorganized our army by adopting the Dutch system, then the English, then the French, and after the Franco-Prussian war, made an improvement by adopting the German system. But on every occasion of reorganization we retained the most advantageous parts of the old systems and harmonized them with the new one. The result has been the creation of an entirely new system, different from any of those models we have adopted. So in the case of our civil code, we consulted most carefully the laws of many civilized nations, and gathered the cream of all the different codes before we formulated our own suited to the customs of our people. In the revision of our monetary system, our government appointed a number of prominent economists to investigate the characteristics of foreign systems, as to their merits and faults, and also the different circumstances under which various systems present their strength and weakness. The investigation lasted more than two years, which finally culminated in our adoption of the gold in the place of the old silver standard."
This quotation gives an idea of the selective method that has been followed. There has been no slavish or unconscious imitation. On the contrary, there has been a constant conscious effort to follow the best model that the civilized world afforded. Of course, it may be doubted whether in fact they have always chosen the best; but that is a different matter. The Japanese think they have; and what foreigner can say that, under the circumstances and in view of the conditions of the people, they have not? One point is clear, that on the whole the nation has made great progress in recent decades, and that the conduct of the government cannot fail to command the admiration of every impartial student of Oriental lands. This is far from saying that all is perfection. Even the Japanese make no such claim. Nor is this equivalent to an assertion of Japan's equality with the leading lands of the West, although many Japanese are ready to assert this. But I merely say that the leaders of New Japan have revealed a high order of judicious originality in their imitation of foreign nations.
The Japanese have two words in frequent use which aptly describe certain striking aspects of their civilization. They are "tomawashi ni," "yumei-mujitsu," the first translated literally signifying "roundabout" or "indirect," the second meaning "having the name, but not the reality." Both these aspects of Japanese character are forced on the attention of any who live long in Japan.
Some years ago I had a cow that I wished to sell. Being an American, my natural impulse was to ask a dairyman directly if he did not wish to buy; but that would not be the most Japanese method. I accordingly resorted to the help of a "go-between." This individual, who has a regular name in Japanese, "nakadachi," is indispensable for many purposes. When land was being bought for missionary residences in Kumamoto, there were at times three or even four agents acting between the purchaser and the seller and each received his "orei," "honorable politeness," or, in plain English, commission. In the purchase of two or three acres of land, dealings were carried on with some fifteen or more separate landowners. Three different go-betweens dealt directly with the purchaser, and each of these had his go-between, and in some cases these latter had theirs, before the landowner was reached. A domestic desiring to leave my employ conferred with a go-between, who conferred with his go-between, who conferred with me! In every important consultation a go-between seems essential in Japan. That vexatious delays and misunderstandings are frequent may be assumed.
The system, however, has its advantages. In case of disagreeable matters the go-between can say the disagreeable things in the third person, reducing the unpleasant utterances to a minimum.
I recall the case of two evangelists in the employ of the Kumamoto station. Each secured the other to act as go-between in presenting his own difficulties to me. To an American the natural course would have been for each man to state his own grievances and desires, and secure an immediate settlement.
The characteristic of "roundaboutness" is not, however, confined to Japanese methods of action, but also characterizes their methods of speech. In later chapters on the alleged Japanese impersonality we shall consider the remarkable deficiency of personal pronouns in the language, and the wide use of "honorifics." This substitution of the personal pronouns by honorifics makes possible an indefiniteness of speech that is exceedingly difficult for an Anglo-Saxon to appreciate. Fancy the amount of implication in the statement, "Ikenai koto-we shimashita" which, strictly translated, means "Can't go thing have done." Who has done? you? or he? or I? This can only be inferred, for it is not stated. If a speaker wishes to make his personal allusion blind, he can always do so with the greatest ease and without the slightest degree of grammatical incorrectness. "Caught cold," "better ask," "honorably sorry," "feel hungry," and all the common sentences of daily life are entirely free from that personal definiteness which an Occidental language necessitates. We shall see later that the absence of the personal element from the wording of the sentence does not imply, or prove, its absence from the thought of either the speaker or hearer. The Japanese language abounds in roundabout methods of expression. This is specially true in phrases of courtesy. Instead of saying, "I am glad to see you," the Japanese say, "Well, honorably have come"; instead of, "I am sorry to have troubled you," they say, "Honorable hindrance have done"; instead of "Thank you," the correct expression is, "It is difficult."
In a conversation once with a leading educator, I was maintaining that a wide study of English was not needful for the Japanese youth; that the majority of the boys would never learn enough English to make it of practical use to them in after-life, and that it would be wiser for them to spend the same amount of time on more immediately practical subjects. The reply was that the boys needed to have the drill in English in order to gain clear methods of thought: that the sharp distinctness of the English sentence, with its personal pronouns and tense and number, affords a mental drill which the Japanese can get in no other way; and that even if the boys should never make the slightest after-use of English in reading or conversation, the advantage gained was well worth the time expended. I have since noticed that those men who have spent some time in the study of a foreign language speak very much more clearly in Japanese than those who have not had this training. In the former case, the enunciation is apt to be more distinct, and the sentences rounded into more definite periods. The conversation of the average Japanese tends to ramble on in a never-ending sentence. But a marked change has come over vast numbers of the people during the last three decades. The roundaboutness of to-day is as nothing to that which existed under the old order of society. For the new order rests on radically different ideas; directness of speech and not its opposite is being cultivated, and in absolute contrast to the methods of the feudal era, directness of governmental procedure is well-nigh universal to-day. In trade, too, there has come a straightforwardness that is promising, though not yet triumphant. It is safe to assume that in all respectable stores the normal price is charged; for the custom of fixed prices has been widely adopted. If individuals are known to have the "beating down" habit, special prices are added for their sakes.
A personal experience illustrates the point. My wife and I had priced several lamps, had made note of the most satisfactory, and had gone home without buying. The next day a domestic was sent to secure the one which pleased us best. He was charged more than we had been, and in surprise mentioned the sum which we had authorized him to pay. The shopkeeper explained by saying that he always told us the true price in the beginning, because we never tried to beat him down. In truth, modern industrial conditions have pretty well banished the old-time custom of haggling. A premium is set on straightforwardness in business unknown to the old social order.
Roundaboutness is, however, closely connected with "yumei-mujitsu," the other characteristic mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. This, for the sake of simplicity, I venture to call "nominality." Japanese history is a prolonged illustration of this characteristic. For over a thousand years "yumei-mujitsu" has been a leading feature in governmental life. Although the Emperor has ostensibly been seated on the throne, clothed with absolute power, still he has often reigned only in name.[AK] Even so early as 130 A.D., the two families of Oomi and Omuraji began to exercise despotic authority in the central government, and the feudal system, as thus early established, continued with but few breaks to the middle of the present century. There were also the great families which could alone furnish wives to the Imperial line. These early took possession of the person of the Emperor, and the fathers of the wives often exercised Imperial power. The country was frequently and long disturbed by intense civil wars between these rival families. In turn the Fujiwaras, the Minamotos, and the Tairas held the leading place in the control of the Emperor; they determined the succession and secured frequent abdication in favor of their infant sons, but within these families, in turn, there appeared the influence of the "yumei-mujitsu" characteristic. Lesser men, the retainers of these families, manipulated the family leaders, who were often merely figureheads of the contending families and clans. Emperors were made and unmade at the will of these men behind the scenes, most of whom are quite unknown to fame. The creation of infant Emperors, allowed to bear the Imperial name in their infancy and youth, but compelled to abdicate on reaching manhood, was a common device for maintaining nominal Imperialism with actual impotence.
When military clans began to monopolize Imperial power, the people distinctly recognized the nature of their methods and gave it the name of "Bakufu" or "curtain government," a roundabout expression for military government. There has been a succession of these "curtain governments," the last and most successful being that of the Tokugawa, whose fall in 1867-68 brought the entire system to an end and placed the true Emperor on the throne.
But this "yumei-mujitsu" characteristic of Japanese life has been by no means limited to the national government. Every daimyate was more or less blighted by it; the daimyo, or "Great Name," was in too many cases but a puppet in the hands of his "kerai," or family retainers. These men, who were entirely out of sight, were, in very many cases, the real holders of the power which was supposed to be exercised by the daimyo. The lord was often a "great name" and nothing more. That this state of affairs was always attended with evil results is by no means the contention of these pages. Not infrequently the people were saved by it from the incompetence and ignorance and selfishness of hereditary rulers. Indeed, this system of "yumei-mujitsu" government was one of the devices whereby the inherent evils of hereditary rulers were more or less obviated. It may be questioned, however, whether the device did not in the long run cost more than it gained. Did it not serve to maintain, if not actually to produce, a system of dissimulation and deception which could but injure the national character? It certainly could not stimulate the straightforward frankness and outspoken directness and honesty so essential to the well-being of the human race.
Although "yumei-mujitsu" government is now practically extinct in Japan, yet in the social structure it still survives.
The Japanese family is a maze of "nominality." Full-grown young men and women are adopted as sons and daughters, in order to maintain the family line and name.
A son is not a legal son unless he is so registered, while an illegitimate child is recognized as a true son if so registered. A man may be the legal son of his grandmother, or of his sister, if so registered. Although a family may have no children, it does not die out unless there has been a failure to adopt a son or daughter, and an extinct family may be revived by the legal appointment of someone to take the family name and worship at the family shrine. The family pedigree, therefore, does not describe the actual ancestry, but only the nominal, the fictitious. There is no deception in this. It is a well-recognized custom of Old Japan. Its origin, moreover, is not difficult to explain. Nor is this kind of family peculiar to Japan. It is none the less a capital illustration of the "yumei-mujitsu" characteristic permeating the feudal civilization, and still exerting a powerful influence. Even Christians are not free from "nominalism," as we have frequently found in our missionary work.
A case in mind is of an evangelist employed by our mission station. He was to receive a definite proportion of his salary from the church for which he worked and the rest from the station. On inquiry I learned that he was receiving only that provided by the station, and on questioning him further he said that probably the sum promised by the church was being kept as his monthly contribution to the expenses of the church! Instances of this kind are not infrequent. While in Kyushu I more than once discovered that a body of Christians, whose evangelists we were helping to support proportionately, were actually raising not a cent of their proportion. On inquiry, I would be told that the evangelists themselves contributed out of their salary the sums needed, and that, therefore, the Christians did not need to raise it.
The mission, at one time, adopted the plan of throwing upon the local churches the responsibility of deciding as to the fitness of young men for mission aid in securing a theological education. It was agreed by representatives of the churches and the mission that each candidate should secure the approval of the deacons of the church of which he was a member, and that the church should pay a certain proportion of the candidate's school expenses. It was thought that by this method the leading Christians of the young man's acquaintance would become his sponsors, and that they would be unwilling to take this responsibility except for men in whom they had personal confidence, and for whom they would be willing to make personal contributions. In course of time the mission discovered that the plan was not working as expected. The young men could secure the approval of the deacons of their church without any difficulty; and as for the financial aid from the church, that could be very easily arranged for by the student's making a monthly contribution to the church of the sum which the church should contribute toward his expenses. Although this method seems to the average Occidental decidedly deceptive, it seemed to the Japanese perfectly proper. The arrangement, it is needless to state, was not long continued. I am persuaded that the correct explanation of these cases is "yumei-mujitsu."
Not long since express trains were put on between Kobe and Tokyo. One morning at Osaka I planned to take the early express to Kyoto, distant about thirty miles. These are the second and third cities of Japan, and the travel between them is heavy. On applying for a ticket I was refused and told there was no train for Kyoto. But as multitudes were buying tickets, and going out upon the platform, I asked an official what the trouble was, and received the explanation that for this express train no tickets could be sold for less than forty miles; but if I would buy a ticket for the next station beyond Kyoto, it would be all right; I could get off at Kyoto. I was assured that I would be allowed to land and leave the station at Kyoto. This I did then, and have repeatedly done since. The same absurd rule is applied, I am told, between Yokohama and Tokyo.
But our interest in these illustrations is the light they shed on Japanese character. They indicate the intellectual angle from which the people have looked out on life. What is the origin of the characteristic? Is it due to deep-lying race nature, to the quality of the race brain? Even more clearly than in the case of "roundaboutness," it seems to me that "nominality" is due to the nature of the old social order. Feudalism has always exhibited more or less of these same features. To Anglo-Saxons, reared in a land blessed by direct government of the people, by the people, and for the people, such methods were not only needless but obnoxious. Nominal responsibility without real power has been seen to breed numberless evils. We have learned to hate all nominalism, all fiction in government, in business and, above all, in personal character. But this is due to the Anglo-Saxon social order, the product in large measure of centuries of Christian instruction.
Through contact with Westerners and the ideas they stand for, directness and reality are being assimilated and developed by the Japanese. This would be impossible were the characteristic in question due to inherent race nature necessarily bequeathed from generation to generation by intrinsic heredity.
Some writers hold that the Japanese are inherently deficient in the higher mental faculties. They consider mediocre mentality to be an inborn characteristic of Japan and assert that it lies at the root of the civilizational differences distinguishing the East from the West. The puerility of Oriental science in all its departments, the prevalence of superstition even among the cultivated, the lack of historical insight and interpretation of history are adduced as conclusive evidences of this view.
Foreign teachers in Japanese employ have told me that Japanese students, as compared with those of the West, manifest deficient powers of analysis and of generalization. Some even assert that the Japanese have no generalizing ability whatever, their progress in civilization being entirely due to their remarkable power of clever imitation. Mr. W.G. Aston, in ascribing the characteristic features of Japanese literature to the fundamental nature of the race, says they are "hardly capable of high intellectual achievement."[AL]
While we may admit that the Japanese do not seem to have at present the same power of scientific generalization as Occidentals, we naturally ask ourselves whether the difference is due to natal deficiency, or whether it may not be due to difference in early training. We must not forget that the youth who come under the observation of foreign teachers in Japanese schools are already products of the Japanese system of education, home and school, and necessarily are as defective as it is.
In a previous chapter a few instances of recent invention and important scientific discovery were given.
These could not have been made without genuine powers of analysis and generalization. We need not linger to elaborate this point.
Another set of facts throwing light on our problem is the success of so many Japanese students, at home and in foreign lands, in mastering modern thought. Great numbers have come back from Europe and America with diplomas and titles; not a few have taken high rank in their classes. The Japanese student abroad is usually a hard worker, like his brother at home. I doubt if any students in the new or the old world study more hours in a year than do these of Japan. It has often amazed me to learn how much they are required to do. This is one fair sign of intellectuality. The ease too with which young Japan, educated in Occidental schools and introduced to Occidental systems of thought, acquires abstruse speculations, searching analyses, and generalized abstractions proves conclusively Japanese possession of the higher mental faculties, in spite of the long survival in their civilization of primitive puerility and superstitions and the lack of science, properly so called.
Japanese youths, furthermore, have a fluency in public speech decidedly above anything I have met with in the United States. Young men of eighteen or twenty years of age deliver long discourses on religion or history or politics, with an apparent ease that their uncouth appearance would not lead one to expect. In the little school of less than 150 boys in Kumamoto there were more individuals who could talk intelligibly and forcefully on important themes of national policy, the relation of religion and politics, the relation of Japan to the Occident and the Orient, than could be found in either of the two colleges in the United States with which I was connected. I do not say that they could bring forth original ideas on these topics. But they could at least remember what they had heard and read and could reproduce the ideas with amazing fluency.
A recent public meeting in Tokyo in which Christian students of the University spoke to fellow-students on the great problems of religion, revealed a power of no mean order in handling the peculiar difficulties encountered by educated young men. A competent listener, recently graduated from an American university and widely acquainted with American students, declared that those Japanese speakers revealed greater powers of mind and speech than would be found under similar circumstances in the United States.
The fluency with which timid girls pray in public has often surprised me. Once started, they never seem to hesitate for ideas or words. The same girls would hardly be able to utter an intelligible sentence in reply to questions put to them by the pastor or the missionary, so faint would be their voices and so hesitating their manner.
The question as to whether the Japanese have powers of generalization receives some light from a study of the language of the people. An examination of primitive Japanese proves that the race, prior to receiving even the slightest influence from China, had developed highly generalized terms. It is worth while to call attention here to a simple fact which most writers seem to ignore, namely, that all language denotes and indeed rests on generalization. Consider the word "uma," "horse"; this is a name for a whole class of objects, and is therefore the product of a mind that can generalize and express its generalization in a concept which no act of the imagination can picture; the imagination can represent only individuals; the mind that has concepts of classes of things, as, for instance, of horses, houses, men, women, trees, has already a genuine power of generalization. Let me also call attention to such words as "wake," "reason"; "mono," "thing"; "koto," "fact"; "aru," "is"; "oro," "lives"; "aru koto," "is fact," or "existence"; "ugoku koto," "movement"; "omoi," "thought"; this list might be indefinitely extended. Let the reader consider whether these words are not highly generalized; yet these are all pure Japanese words, and reveal the development of the Japanese mind before it was in the least influenced by Chinese thought. Evidently it will not do to assert the entire lack of the power of generalization to the Japanese mind.
Still further evidence proving Japanese possession of the higher mental faculties may be found in the wide prevalence and use of the most highly generalized philosophical terms. Consider for instance, "Ri" and "Ki," "In" and "Yo." No complete translation can be found for them in English; "Ri" and "Ki" may be best translated as the rational and the formative principles in the universe, while "In" and "Yo" signify the active and the passive, the male and the female, the light and the darkness; in a word, the poles of a positive and negative. It is true that these terms are of Chinese origin as well as the thoughts themselves, but they are to-day in universal use in Japan. Similar abstract terms of Buddhistic origin are the possession of the common people.
Of course the possession of these Chinese terms is not offered as evidence of independent generalizing ability. But wide use proves conclusively the possession of the higher mental faculties, for, without such faculties, the above terms would be incomprehensible to the people and would find no place in common speech. We must be careful not to give too much weight to the foreign origin of these terms. Chinese is to Japanese what Latin and Greek are to modern European languages. The fact that a term is of Chinese origin proves nothing as to the nature of the modern Japanese mind. The developing Japanese civilization demanded new terms for her new instruments and increasing concepts. These for over fifteen centuries have been borrowed from, or constructed out of, Chinese in the same way that all our modern scientific terms are constructed out of Latin and Greek. It is doubtful if any of the Chinese terms, even those borrowed bodily, have in Japan the same significance as in China. If this is true, then the originating feature of Japanese power of generalization becomes manifest.
Indeed from this standpoint, the fact that the Japanese have made such extensive use of the Chinese language shows the degree to which the Japanese mind has outgrown its primitive development, demanding new terms for the expression of its expanding life. But mental growth implies energy of acquisition. The adoption of Chinese terms is not a passive but an active process.
Acquisition of generalized terms can only take place with the development of a generalizing mind. Foreign terms may help, but they do not cause that development.
In a study of the question whether or not the Japanese possess independent powers of analysis and generalization, we must ever remember the unique character of the social environment to which they have been subjected. Always more or less of an isolated nation, they have been twice or thrice suddenly confronted with a civilization much superior to that which they in their isolation had developed. Under such circumstances, adoption and modification of ideas and language as well as of methods and machinery were the most rational and natural courses.
The explanation usually given for the puerilities of Oriental science, history, and religion has been short and simple, namely, the inherent nature of the Oriental races, as if this were the final fact, needing and admitting no further explanation. That the Orient has not developed history or science is doubtless true, but the correct explanation of this fact is, in my opinion, that the educational method of the entire Orient has rested on mechanical memorization; during the formative period of the mind the exclusive effort of education has been to develop a memory which acts by arbitrary or fanciful connections and relations. A Japanese boy of Old Japan, for instance, began his education at from seven to eight years of age and spent three or four years in memorizing the thousands of Chinese hieroglyphic characters contained in the Shisho and Gokyo, nine of the Chinese classics. This completed, his teacher would begin to explain to him the meaning of the characters and sentences. The entire educational effort was to develop the powers of observing and memorizing accidental, superficial, or even purely artificial relations. This double faculty of observing trifling and irrelevant details, and of remembering them, became phenomenally and abnormally developed.
Recent works on the psychology of education, however, have made plain how an excessive development of a child's lower mental faculties may arrest its later growth in all the higher departments of its intellectual nature; the development of a mechanical memory is well known as a serious obstacle to the higher activities of reason. Now Japanese education for centuries, like Chinese, has developed such memory. It trained the lower and ignored the higher. Much of the Japanese education of to-day, although it includes mathematics, science, and history, is based on the mechanical memory method. The Orient is thus a mammoth illustration of the effects of over-development of the mechanical memory, and the consequent arrest of the development of the remaining powers of the mind.
Encumbered by this educational ideal and system, how could the ancient Chinese and Japanese men of education make a critical study of history, or develop any science worthy of the name? The childish physics and astronomy, the brutal therapeutics and the magical and superstitious religions of the Orient, are a necessary consequence of its educational system, not of its inherent lack of the higher mental powers.
If Japanese children brought up from infancy in American homes, and sent to American schools from kindergarten days onward, should still manifest marked deficiencies in powers of analysis and generalization, as compared with American children, we should then be compelled to conclude that this difference is due to diverse natal psychic endowment. Generalizations as to the inherent intellectual deficiencies of the Oriental are based on observations of individuals already developed in the Oriental civilization, whose psychic defects they accordingly necessarily inherit through the laws of social heredity. Such observations have no relevancy to our main problem. We freely admit that Oriental civilization manifests striking deficiencies of development of the higher mental faculties, although it is not nearly so great as many assert; but we contend that these deficiencies are due to something else than the inherent psychic nature of the Oriental individual. Innumerable causes have combined to produce the Oriental social order and to determine its slow development. These cannot be stated in a sentence, nor in a paragraph.
In the final analysis, however, the causes which produce the characteristic features of Japanese social order are the real sources of the differentiating intellectual traits now characterizing the Japanese. Introduce a new social heredity,—a new system of education,—one which relegates a mechanical memory to the background,—one which exalts powers of rational observation of the profound causal relations of the phenomena of nature, and which sets a premium on such observation, analysis, and generalization, and the results will show the inherent psychic nature of the Oriental to be not different from that of the Occidental.
We are now prepared to consider whether or not the Japanese have philosophical ability. The average educated Japanese believe such to be the case. The rapidity and ease with which the upper classes have abandoned their superstitious faiths is commonly attributed by themselves to the philosophical nature of their minds. Similarly the rapid spread of so-called rationalism and Unitarian thought and Higher Criticism among once earnest Christians, during the past decade, they themselves ascribe to their interest in philosophical questions, and to their ability in handling philosophical problems.
Foreigners, on the other hand, usually deny them the possession of philosophical ability.
Dr. Peery, in his volume entitled "The Gist of Japan," says: "By nature, I think, they are more inclined to be practical than speculative. Abstract theological ideas have little charm for them. There is a large element in Japan that simulates a taste for philosophical study. Philosophy and metaphysics are regarded by them as the profoundest of all branches of learning, and in order to be thought learned they profess great interest in these studies. Not only are the highly metaphysical philosophies of the East studied, but the various systems of the West are looked into likewise. Many of the people are capable of appreciating these philosophies, too; but they do it for a purpose." Other writers make the same general charge of philosophical incompetence. One or two quotations from Dr. Knox's writings were given on this subject, under the head of Imitation.[AM]
What, then, are the facts? Do the Japanese excel in philosophy, or are they conspicuously deficient? In either case, is the characteristic due to essential race nature or to some other cause?
We must first distinguish between interest in philosophical problems and ability in constructing original philosophical systems. In this distinction is to be found the reconciliation of many conflicting views. Many who argue for Japanese philosophical ability are impressed with the interest they show in metaphysical problems, while those who deny them this ability are impressed with the dependence of Japanese on Chinese philosophy.
The discussions of the previous chapter as to the nature of Japanese education and its tendency to develop the lower at the expense of the higher mental faculties, have prepared us not to expect any particularly brilliant history of Japanese philosophy. Such is indeed the case. Primitive Japanese cosmology does not differ in any important respect from the primitive cosmology of other races. The number of those in Old Japan who took a living interest in distinctly metaphysical problems is indisputably small. While we admit them to have manifested some independence and even originality, as Professor Inouye urges,[AN] yet it can hardly be maintained that they struck out any conspicuously original philosophical systems. There is no distinctively Japanese philosophy.
These facts, however, should not blind us to the distinction between latent ability in philosophical thought and the manifestation of that ability. The old social order, with its defective education, its habit of servile intellectual dependence on ancestors, and its social and legal condemnation of independent originality, particularly in the realm of thought, was a mighty incubus on speculative philosophy. Furthermore, crude science and distorted history could not provide the requisite material from which to construct a philosophical interpretation of the universe that would appeal to the modern Occidental.
In spite, however, of social and educational hindrances, the Japanese have given ample evidence of interest in metaphysical problems and of more or less ability in their solution. Religious constructions of the future life, conceptions as to the relations of gods and men and the universe, are in fact results of the metaphysical operations of the mind. Primitive Japan was not without these. As she developed in civilization and came in contact with Chinese and Hindu metaphysical thought, she acquired their characteristic systems. Buddhist first, and later Confucian, metaphysics dominated the thought of her educated men. In view of the highly metaphysical character of Buddhist doctrines and the interest they have produced at least among the better trained priests, the assertion that the Japanese have no ability in metaphysics cannot be maintained.
At one period in the history of Buddhism in Japan, prolonged public discussions were all the fashion. Priests traveled from temple to temple to engage in public debate. The ablest debater was the abbot, and he had to be ready to face any opponent who might appear. If a stranger won, the abbot yielded his place and his living to the victor. Many an interesting story is told of those times, and of the crowds that would gather to hear the debates. But our point is that this incident in the national life shows the appreciation of the people for philosophical questions. And although that particular fashion has long since passed away, the national interest in discussions and arguments still exists. No monks of the West ever enjoyed hair-splitting arguments more than do many of the Japanese. They are as adept at mental refinements and logical juggling as any people of the West, though possibly the Hindus excel them.
If it be said that Confucianism was not only non-metaphysical, but uniquely practical, and for this reason found wide acceptance in Japan, the reply must be first that, professing to be non-metaphysical, it nevertheless had a real metaphysical system of thought in the background to which it ever appealed for authority, a system, be it noted, more in accord with modern science and philosophy than Buddhist metaphysics; and secondly, although Confucianism became the bulwark of the state and the accepted faith of the samurai, it was limited to them. The vast majority of the nation clung to their primitive Buddhistic cosmology. That Confucianism rested on a clearly implied and more or less clearly expressed metaphysical foundation may be seen in the quotations from the writings of Muro Kyuso which are given in chapter xxiv. We should note that the revolt of the educated classes of Japan from Buddhism three hundred years ago, and their general adoption of Confucian doctrine, was partly in the interests of religion and partly in the interests of metaphysics. In both respects the progressive part of the nation had become dissatisfied with Buddhism. The revolt proves not lack of religious or metaphysical interest and insight, but rather the reverse.
Not a little of the teaching of Shushi (1130-1200 A.D.) and of Oyomei (1472-1528 A.D.), Chinese philosophical expounders of Confucianism, is metaphysical. The doctrine of the former was widely studied and was the orthodox doctrine in Japan for more than two centuries, all other doctrine and philosophy being forbidden by the state. It is true that the central interest in this philosophical instruction was the ethical. It was felt that the entire ethical system rested on the acceptance of a particular metaphysical system. But so far from detracting from our argument this statement rather adds. For in what land has not the prime interest in metaphysics been ethical? A study of the history of philosophy shows clearly that philosophy and metaphysics arose out of religious and ethical problems, and have ever maintained their hold on thinking men, because of their mutually vital relations. In Japan it has not been otherwise. If anyone doubts this he should read the Japanese philosophers—in the original, if possible; if not, then in such translations and extracts as Dr. Knox has given us in his "A Japanese Philosopher," and Mr. Aston in his "Japanese Literature." The ethical interest is primary, and the metaphysical interest is secondary,[AO] to be sure, but not to be denied.
Occidental philosophy has found many earnest and capable Japanese students. The Imperial University has a strong corps of philosophical instructors. Occidental metaphysical thought, both materialistic and idealistic, has found many congenial minds. Indeed, it is not rash to say that in the thought of New Japan the distinguishing Oriental metaphysical conceptions of the universe have been entirely displaced by those of the West. Christians, in particular, have entirely abandoned the old polytheistic, pantheistic, and fatalistic metaphysics and have adopted thoroughgoing monotheism.
Ability to understand and sufficient interest to study through philosophical and metaphysical systems of foreign lands indicate a mental development of no slight order, whatever may be the ability, or lack of it, in making original contributions to the subject. That educated Japanese have shown real ability in the former sense can hardly be doubted by those who have read the writings of such men as Goro Takahashi, ex-president Hiroyuki Kato, Prof. Yujiro Motora, Prof. Rikizo Nakashima, or Dr. Tetsujiro Inouye. The philosophical brightness of many of Japan's foreign as well as home-trained scholars argues well for the philosophical ability of the nation.
A recent conversation with a young Japanese gives point to what has just been said. The young man suddenly appeared at my study door, and, with unusually brief salutations, said that he wished me to talk to him about religion. In answer to questions he explained that he had been one of my pupils ten years ago in the Kumamoto Boys' School; that he had been baptized as a Christian at that time, but had become cold and filled with doubts; that he had been studying ever since, having at one time given considerable attention to the Zen sect of Buddhism; but that he had found no satisfaction there. He accordingly wished to study Christianity more carefully. For three hours we talked, he asking questions about the Christian conception of God, of the universe, of man, of sin, of evolution, of Christ, of salvation, of the object of life, of God's purpose in creation, of the origin and nature of the Bible. Toward the latter part of our conversation, referring to one idea expressed, he said, "That is about what Hegel held, is it not?" As he spoke he opened his knapsack, which I then saw to be full of books, and drew out an English translation of Hegel's "Philosophy of History"; he had evidently read it carefully, making his notes in Japanese on the margin. I asked him if he had read it through. "Yes," he replied, "three times." He also incidentally informed me that he had thought of entering our mission theological training class during the previous winter, but that he was then in the midst of the study of the philosophy of Kant, and had accordingly decided to defer entering until the autumn. How thoroughly he had mastered these, the most profound and abstruse metaphysicians that the West can boast, I cannot state. But this at least is clear; his interest in them was real and lasting. And in his conversation he showed keen appreciation of philosophical problems. It is to be noted also that he was a self-taught philosopher—for he had attended no school since he studied elementary English, ten years before, while a lad of less than twenty.
As a sample of the kind of men I not infrequently meet, let me cite the case of a young business man who once called on me in the hotel at Imabari, popularly called "the little philosopher." He wished to talk about the problem of the future life and to ask my personal belief in the matter. He said that he believed in God and in Jesus as His unique son and revealer, but that he found great difficulty in believing in the continued life of the soul after death. His difficulty arose from the problems of the nature of future thinking; shall we continue to think in terms of sense perception, such as time, space, form, color, pleasure, and pain? If not, how can we think at all? And can we then remember our present life? If we do, then the future life will not be essentially different from this, i.e., we must still have physical senses, and continue to live in an essentially physical world. Here was a set of objections to the doctrine of the future life that I have never heard as much as mentioned by any Occidental youth. Though without doubt not original with him, yet he must have had in some degree both philosophical ability and interest in order to appreciate their force and to seek their solution.
In conversation not long since with a Buddhist priest of the Tendai sect, after responding to his request for a criticism of Buddhism, I asked him for a similarly frank criticism of Christianity. To my surprise, he said that while Christianity was far ahead of Buddhism in its practical parts and in its power to mold character, it was deficient in philosophical insight and interest. This led to a prolonged conversation on Buddhistic philosophy, in which he explained the doctrines of the "Ku-ge-chu," and the "Usa and Musa." Without attempting to explain them here, I may say that the first is amazingly like Hegel's "absolute nothing," with its thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and the second a psychological distinction between volitional and spontaneous emotions.
In discussing Japanese philosophical ability, a point often forgotten is the rarity of philosophical ability or even interest in the West. But a small proportion of college students have the slightest interest in philosophical or metaphysical problems. The majority do not understand what the distinctive metaphysical problems are. In my experience it is easier to enter into a conversation with an educated man in Japan on a philosophical question than with an American. If interest in philosophical and metaphysical questions in the West is rare, original ability in their investigation is still rarer.
We conclude, then, that in regard to philosophical ability the Japanese have no marked racial characteristic differentiating them from other races. Although they have not developed a distinctive national philosophy, this is not due to inherent philosophical incompetence. Nor, on the other hand, is the relatively wide interest now manifest in philosophical problems attributable to the inherent philosophical ability of the race. So far as Japan is either behind or in advance of other races, in this respect, it is due to her social order and social inheritance, and particularly to the nature, methods, and aims of the educational system, but not to her intrinsic psychic inheritance.
In no respect, perhaps, have the Japanese been more sweepingly criticised by foreigners than in regard to their powers of imagination and idealism. Unqualified generalizations not only assert the entire lack of these powers, but they consider this lack to be the distinguishing inherent mental characteristic of the race. The Japanese are called "prosaic," "matter-of-fact," "practical," "unimaginative."
Mr. Walter Dening, describing Japanese mental characteristics, says:
"Neither their past history nor their prevailing tastes show any tendency to idealism. They are lovers of the practical and the real; neither the fancies of Goethe nor the reveries of Hegel are to their liking. Our poetry and our philosophy and the mind that appreciates them are alike the results of a network of subtle influences to which the Japanese are comparative strangers. It is maintained by some, and we think justly, that the lack of idealism in the Japanese mind renders the life of even the most cultivated a mechanical, humdrum affair when compared with that of Westerners. The Japanese cannot understand why our controversialists should wax so fervent over psychological, ethical, religious, and philosophical questions, failing to perceive that this fervency is the result of the intense interest taken in such subjects. The charms that the cultured Western mind finds in the world of fancy and romance, in questions themselves, irrespective of their practical bearings, is for the most part unintelligible to the Japanese."[AP]
Mr. Percival Lowell expends an entire chapter in his "Soul of the Far East," in showing how important imagination is as a factor in art, religion, science, and civilization generally, and how strikingly deficient Japanese are in this faculty. "The Far Orientals," he argues, "ought to be a particularly unimaginative set of people. Such is precisely what they are. Their lack of imagination is a well-recognized fact."[AQ]
Mr. Aston, characterizing Japanese literature, says:
"A feature which strikingly distinguishes the Japanese poetic muse from that of Western nations is a certain lack of imaginative power. The Japanese are slow to endow inanimate objects with life. Shelley's 'Cloud,' for example, contains enough matter of this kind for many volumes of Japanese verse. Such lines as:
'From my wings are shaken The dews that waken The sweet buds every one, When rocked to rest On their mother's breast As she dances about the sun,'
would appear to them ridiculously overcharged with metaphor, if not absolutely unintelligible."[AR]
On the other hand, some writers have called attention to the contrary element of Japanese mental nature. Prof. Ladd, for instance, maintains that the characteristic mental trait of the Japanese is their sentimentality. He has shown how their lives are permeated with and regulated by sentiment. Ancestral worship, patriotism, Imperial apotheosis, friendship, are fashioned by idealizing sentiment. In our chapters on the emotional elements of Japanese character we have considered how widespread and powerful these ideals and sentiments have been and still are.
Writers who compare the Chinese with the Japanese remark the practical business nature of the former and the impractical, visionary nature of the latter.
For a proper estimate of our problem we should clearly distinguish between the various forms of imagination. It reveals itself not merely in art and literature, in fantastic conception, in personification and metaphor, but in every important department of human life. It is the tap-root of progress, as Mr. Lowell well points out. It pictures an ideal life in advance of the actual, which ideal becomes the object of effort. The forms of imagination may, therefore, be classified according to the sphere of life in which it appears. In addition to the poetic fancy and the idealism of art and literature generally, we must distinguish the work of imagination in the aesthetic, in the moral, in the religious, in the scientific, and in the political life. The manifestation of the imaginative faculty in art and in literature is only one part of the aesthetic imagination.
In studying Japanese aesthetic characteristics, we noted how unbalanced was the development of their aesthetic sense. This proposition of unbalanced development applies with equal force to the imaginative faculty as a whole. Conspicuously lacking in certain directions, it is as conspicuously prominent in others. Rules of etiquette are the products of the aesthetic imagination, and in what land has etiquette been more developed than in feudal Japan? Japanese imagination has been particularly active in the political world. The passionate loyalty of retainers to their lord, of samurai to their daimyo, of all to their "kuni," or clan, in ancient times, and now, of the people to their Emperor, are the results of a vivid political idealizing imagination. Imperial apotheosis is a combination of the political and religious imagination. And in what land has the apotheosizing imagination been more active than in Japan? Ambition and self-conceit are likewise dependent on an active imaginative faculty.
There can be no doubt the writers quoted above have drawn attention to some salient features of Japanese art. In the literature of the past, the people have not manifested that high literary imagination that we discover in the best literature of many other nations.
This fact, however, will not justify the sweeping generalizations based upon it. Judging from the pre-Elizabethan literature, who would have expected the brilliancy of the Elizabethan period? Similarly in regard to the Victorian period of English literature. Because the Japanese have failed in the past to produce literature equal to the best of Western lands, we are not justified in asserting that she never will and that she is inherently deficient in literary imagination. In regard to certain forms of light fancy, all admit that Japanese poems are unsurpassed by those of other lands. Japanese amative poetry is noted for its delicate fancies and plays on words exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, of translation, or even of expression, to one unacquainted with the language.
The deficiencies of Japanese literature, therefore, are not such as to warrant the conclusion that they both mark and make a fundamental difference in the race mind. For such differences as exist are capable of a sociological explanation.
The prosaic matter-of-factness of the Japanese mind has been so widely emphasized that we need not dwell upon it here. There is, however, serious danger of over-emphasis, a danger into which all writers fall who make it the ground for sweeping condemnatory criticism.
They are right in ascribing to the average Japanese a large amount of unimaginative matter-of-factness, but they are equally wrong in unqualified dogmatic generalizations. They base their inductions on insufficient facts, a habit to which foreigners are peculiarly liable, through ignorance of the language and also of the inner thoughts and life of the people.
The prosaic nature of the Japanese has not impressed me so much as the visionary tendency of the people, and their idealism. The Japanese themselves count this idealism a national characteristic. They say that they are theorizers, and numberless experiences confirm this view.
They project great undertakings; they scheme; they discuss contingencies; they make enormous plans; all with an air of seriousness and yet with a nonchalance which shows a semi-conscious sense of the unreality of their proposals. In regard to Korea and China and Formosa, they have hatched political and business schemes innumerable. The kaleidoscopic character of Japanese politics is in part due to the rapid succession of visionary schemes. One idea reigns for a season, only to be displaced by another, causing constant readjustment of political parties. Frequent attacks on government foreign policy depend for their force on lordly ideas as to the part Japan should play in international relations. Writing about the recent discussions in the public press over the question of introducing foreign capital into Japan, one contributor to the Far East remarks that "It has been treated more from a theoretical than from a practical standpoint.... This seems to me to arise from a peculiar trait of Japanese mind which is prone to dwell solely on the theoretical side until the march of events compels a sudden leap toward the practical." This visionary faculty of the Japanese is especially conspicuous in the daily press. Editorials on foreign affairs and on the relations of Japan to the world are full of it.
I venture to jot down a few illustrations of impractical idealism out of my personal knowledge. An evangelist in the employ of the Kumamoto station exemplified this visionary trait in a marked degree. Nervous in the extreme, he was constantly having new ideas. For some reason his attention was turned to the subject of opium and the evils China was suffering from the drug, forced on her by England. Forthwith he came to me for books on the subject; he wished to become fully informed, and then he proposed to go to China and preach on the subject. For a few weeks he was full of his enterprise. It seemed to him that if he were only allowed the opportunity he could convince the Chinese of their error, and the English of their crime. One of his plans was to go to England and expostulate with them on their un-Christian dealings with China. A few weeks later his attention was turned to the wrongs inflicted on the poor on account of their ignorance about law and their inability to get legal assistance. This idea held him longer than the previous.
He desired to study law and become a public pleader in order to defend the poor against unjust men of wealth. In his theological ideas he was likewise extreme and changeable; swinging from positive and most emphatic belief to extreme doubt, and later back again. In his periods of triumphant faith it seemed to him that he could teach the world; and his expositions of truth were extremely interesting. He proposed to formulate a new theology that would dissolve forever the difficulties of the old theology. In his doubts, too, he was no less interesting and assertive. His hold on practical matters was exceedingly slender. His salary, though considerably larger than that of most of the evangelists, was never sufficient. He would spend lavishly at the beginning of the month so long as he had the money, and then would pinch himself or else fall into debt.
Mr. ——, the head of the Kumamoto Boys' School during the period of its fierce struggles and final collapse, whom I have already referred to as the Hero-Principal,[AS] is another example of this impractical high-strung visionariness. No sooner had he reached Kumamoto, than there opened before our enchanted eyes the vision of this little insignificant school blooming out into a great university. True, there had been some of this bombast before his arrival; but it took on new and gorgeous form under his master hand. The airs that he put on, displaying his (fraudulent) Ph.D., and talking about his schemes, are simply amusing to contemplate from this distance. His studies in the philosophy of religion had so clarified his mind that he was going to reform both Christianity and Buddhism. His sermons of florid eloquence and vociferous power, never less than an hour in length, were as marked in ambitious thoughts as in pulpit mannerisms. He threw a spell over all who came in contact with him. He overawed them by his vehemence and tremendous earnestness and insistence on perfect obedience to his masterful will. In one of his climactic sermons, after charging missionaries with teaching dangerous errors, he said that while some were urging that the need of the times was to "his back to Luther," and others were saying, that we must "his back to Christ" (these English words being brought into his Japanese sermon), they were both wrong; we must "hie back to God"; and he prophesied a reformation in religion, beginning there in Kumamoto, in that school, which would be far and away more important in the history of the world than was the Lutheran Reformation.
The recent history of Christianity in Japan supplies many striking instances of visionary plans and visionary enthusiasts. The confident expectation entertained during the eighties of Christianizing the nation before the close of the century was such a vision. Another, arising a few years later, was the importance of returning all foreign missionaries to their native lands and of intrusting the entire evangelistic work to native Christians, and committing to them the administration of the immense sums thus set free. For it was assumed by these brilliant Utopians that the amount of money expended in supporting missionaries would be available for aggressive work should the missionaries be withdrawn, and that the Christians in foreign lands would continue to pour in their contributions for the evangelization of Japan.
Still another instance of utopian idealism is the vision that Japan will give birth to that perfect religion, meeting the demands of both heart and head, for which the world waits. In January, 1900, Prof. T. Inouye, of the Imperial University, after showing quite at length, and to his own satisfaction, the inadequacy of all existing religions to meet the ethical and religious situation in Japan, maintained this ambitious view.