Some Japanese Christians are declaring the need of Japonicized Christianity. "Did not the Greeks transform Christianity before they accepted it? And did not the Romans, and finally the Germans, do the same? Before Japan will or can accept the religion of Christ, it must be Japonicized." So they argue; "and who so fit to do it as we?" lies in the background of their thought.
Many a Christian pastor and evangelist, although not sharing the ambition of Prof. Inouye, nevertheless glows with the confident expectation that Japonicized Christianity will be its most perfect type. "No one need wonder if Japan should be destined to present to the world the best type of Christianity that has yet appeared in history," writes an exponent of this view, at one time a Christian pastor. In this connection the reader may recall what was said in chapter xiv. on Japanese Ambition and Conceit, qualities depending on the power of seeing visions. We note, in passing, the optimistic spirit of New Japan. This is in part due, no doubt, to ignorance of the problems that lie athwart their future progress, but it is also due to the vivid imaginative faculty which pictures for them the glories of the coming decades when they shall lead not only the Orient, but also the Occident, in every line of civilization, material and spiritual, moral and religious. A dull, unimaginative, prosaic nature cannot be exuberantly optimistic. It is evident that writers who proclaim the unimaginative matter-of-factness of the Japanese as universal and absolute, have failed to see a large side of Japanese inner life.
Mr. Percival Lowell states that the root of all the peculiarities of Oriental peoples is their marked lack of imagination. This is the faculty that "may in a certain sense be said to be the creator of the world." The lack of this faculty, according to Mr. Lowell, is the root of the Japanese lack of originality and invention; it gives the whole Oriental civilization its characteristic features. He cites a few words to prove the essentially prosaic character of the Japanese mind, such as "up-down" for "pass" (which word, by the way, is his own invention, and reveals his ignorance of the language), "the being (so) is difficult," in place of "thank you." "A lack of any fanciful ideas," he says, "is one of the most salient traits of all Far Eastern peoples, if indeed a sad dearth can properly be called salient. Indirectly, their want of imagination betrays itself in their everyday sayings and doings, and more directly in every branch of thought." I note, in passing, that Mr. Lowell does not distinguish between fancy and imagination. Though allied faculties, they are distinct. Mr. Lowell's extreme estimate of the prosaic nature of the Japanese mind I cannot share. Many letters received from Japanese friends refute this view by their fanciful expressions. The Japanese language, too, has many fanciful terms. Why "pass" is any more imaginative than "up-down," to accept Mr. Lowell's etymology, or "the being (so) is difficult" than "thank you," I do not see. To me the reverse proposition would seem the truer. And are not "breaking-horns" for "on purpose," and "breaking-bones" for "with great difficulty," distinctly imaginative terms, more imaginative than the English? In the place of our English term "sun," the Japanese have several alternative terms in common use, such as "hi," "day," "Nichirin," "day-ball," "Ten-to Sama," "the god of heaven's light;" and for "moon," it has "tsuki," "month," "getsu-rin," "month ball." The names given to her men-of-war also indicate a fanciful nature. The torpedo destroyers are named "Dragon-fly," "Full Moon," "The Moon in the Cloud," "Seabeach," "Dawn of Day," "Clustering Clouds," "Break of Day," "Ripples," "Evening Mist," "Dragon's Lamp," "Falcon," "Magpie," "White-naped Crane," and "White Hawk." Surely, it cannot be maintained that the Japanese are utterly lacking in fancy.
Distinguishing between fancy as "the power of forming pleasing, graceful, whimsical, or odd mental images, or of combining them with little regard to rational processes of construction," and imagination, in its more philosophical use, as "the act of constructive intellect in grouping the materials of knowledge or thought into new, original, and rational systems," we assert without fear of successful contradiction, that the Japanese race is not without either of these important mental faculties.
In addition to the preceding illustrations of visionary and fanciful traits, let the reader reflect on the significance of the comic and of caricature in art. Japanese Netsuke (tiny carvings of exquisite skill representing comical men, women, and children) are famous the world over. Surely, the fancy is the most conspicuous mental characteristic revealed in this branch of Japanese art. In Japanese poetry "a vast number of conceits, more or less pretty," are to be found, likewise manifesting the fancy of both the authors who wrote and the people who were pleased with and preserved their writings.[AT] The so-called "impersonal habit of the Japanese mind," with a corresponding "lack of personification of abstract qualities," doubtless prevents Japanese literature from rising to the poetic heights attained by Western nations. But this lack does not prove the Japanese mind incapable of such flights. As describing the actual characteristics of the literature of the past the assertion of "a lack of imaginative power" is doubtless fairly correct. But the inherent nature of the Japanese mind cannot be inferred from the deficiencies of its past literature, without first examining the relation between its characteristic features and the nature of the social order and the social inheritance.
Are the Japanese conspicuously deficient in imagination, in the sense of the definition given above? The constructive imagination is the creator of civilization. Not only art and literature, but, as already noted, science, philosophy, politics, and even the practical arts and prosaic farming are impossible without it. It is the tap-root of invention, of discovery, of originality.
It is needless to repeat what has been said in previous chapters[AU] on Japanese imitation, invention, discovery, and originality. Yet, in consideration of the facts there given, are we justified in counting the Japanese so conspicuously deficient in constructive, imagination as to warrant the assertion that such a lack is the fundamental characteristic of the race psychic nature?
As an extreme case, look for a moment at their imitativeness. Although imitation is considered a proof of deficient originality, and thus of imagination, yet reflection shows that this depends on the nature of the imitation. Japanese imitation has not been, except possibly for short periods, of that slavish nature which excludes the work of the imagination. Indeed, the impulse to imitation rests on the imagination. But for this faculty picturing the state of bliss or power secured in consequence of adopting this or that feature of an alien civilization, the desire to imitate could not arise. In view, moreover, of the selective nature of Japanese imitation, we are further warranted in ascribing to the people no insignificant development of the imagination.
In illustration, consider Japan's educational system. Established no doubt on Occidental models, it is nevertheless a distinctly Japanese institution. Its buildings are as characteristically Japonicized Occidental school buildings as are its methods of instruction. Japanese railroads and steamers, likewise constructed in Japan, are similarly Japonicized—adapted to the needs and conditions of the people. To our eyes this of course signifies no improvement, but assuredly, without such modification, our Western railroads and steamers would be white elephants on their hands, expensive and difficult of operation.
What now is the sociological interpretation of the foregoing facts? How are the fanciful, visionary, and idealistic characteristics, on the one hand, and, on the other, the prosaic, matter-of-fact, and relatively unimaginative characteristics, related to the social order?
It is not difficult to account for the presence of accentuated visionariness in Japan. Indeed, this quality is conspicuous among the descendants of the military and literary classes; and this fact furnishes us the clew. "From time immemorial," to use a phrase common on the lips of Japanese historians, up to the present era, the samurai as a class were quite separated from the practical world; they were comfortably supported by their liege lords; entirely relieved from the necessity of toiling for their daily bread, they busied themselves not only with war and physical training, but with literary accomplishments, that required no less strenuous mental exertions.
Furthermore, in a class thus freed from daily toil, there was sure to arise a refined system of etiquette and of rank distinctions. Even a few centuries of life would, under such conditions, develop highly nervous individuals in large numbers, hypersensitive in many directions. These men, by the very development of their nervous constitutions, would become the social if not the practical leaders of their class; high-spirited, and with domineering ideas and scheming ambitions, they would set the fashion to all their less nervously developed fellows. Freed from the exacting conditions of a practical life, they would inevitably fly off on tangents more or less impractical, visionary.
If, therefore, this trait is more marked in Japanese character than in that of many other nations, it may be easily traced to the social order that has ruled this land "from time immemorial." More than any other of her mental characteristics, impractical visionariness may be traced to the development of the nervous organization at the expense of the muscular. This characteristic accordingly may be said to be more inherently a race characteristic than many others that have been mentioned. Yet we should remember that the samurai constitute but a small proportion of the people. According to recent statistics (1895) the entire class to-day numbers but 2,050,000, while the common people number over 40,000,000. It is, furthermore, to be remembered that not all the descendants of the samurai are thus nervously organized. Large numbers have a splendid physical endowment, with no trace of abnormal nervous development. While the old feudal order, with its constant carrying of swords, and the giving of honor to the most impetuous, naturally tended to push the most high-strung individuals into the forefront and to set them up as models for the imitation of the young, the social order now regnant in Japan faces in the other direction. Such visionary men are increasingly relegated to the rear. Their approach to insanity is recognized and condemned. Even this trait of character, therefore, which seems to be rooted in brain and nerve structure is, nevertheless, more subject to the prevailing social order than would at first seem possible.
Its rise we have seen was due to that order, and the setting aside of these characteristics as ideals at least, and thus the bringing into prominence of more normal and healthy ideals, is due to the coming in of a new order.
Japanese prosaic matter-of-factness may similarly be shown to have intimate relations to the nature of the social order. Oppressive military feudalism, keeping the vast majority of the people in practical bondage, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, would necessarily render their lives and thoughts narrow in range and spiritless in nature. Such a system crushes out hope. From sunrise to sunset, "nembyaku nenju," "for a hundred years and through all the year," the humdrum duties of daily life were the only psychic stimuli of the absolutely uneducated masses. Without ambition, without self-respect, without education or any stimulus for the higher mental life, what possible manifestation of the higher powers of the mind could be expected? Should some "sport" appear by chance, it could not long escape the sword of domineering samurai. Even though originally possessing some degree of imagination, cringing fear of military masters, with the continuous elimination by ruthless slaughter of the more idealizing, less submissive, and more self-assertive individuals of the non-military classes, would finally produce a dull, imitative, unimaginative, and matter-of-fact class such as we find in the hereditary laboring and merchant classes.
Furthermore, Japanese civilization, like that of the entire Orient, with its highly communalized social order, is an expression of passive submission to superior authority. Although an incomplete characterization, there is still much truth in saying that the Orient is an expression of Fate, the Occident of Freedom. We have seen that a better contrasted characterization is found in the terms communal and individual. The Orient has known nothing of individualism. It has not valued the individual nor sought his elevation and freedom. In every way, on the contrary, it has repressed and opposed him. The high development of the individual culminating in powerful personality has been an exceptional occurrence, due to special circumstances. A communal social order, often repressing and invariably failing to evoke the higher human faculties, must express its real nature in the language, literature, and customs of the people. Thus in our chapter on the AEsthetic Characteristics of the Japanese[AV] we saw how the higher forms of literature were dependent on the development of manhood and on a realization of his nature. A communal social order despising, or at least ignoring the individual, cannot produce the highest forms of literature or art, because it does not possess the highest forms of psychic development. Take from Western life all that rests on or springs from the principles of individual worth, freedom, and immortality, and how much of value or sublimity will remain? The absence from Japanese literature and language of the higher forms of fancy, metaphor, and personification on the one hand, and, on the other, the presence of widespread prosaic matter-of-factness, are thus intimately related to the communal nature of Japan's long dominant social order.
Similarly, in regard to the constructive imagination, whose conspicuous lack in Japan is universally asserted by foreign critics, we reply first that the assertion is an exaggeration, and secondly, that so far as it is fact, it is intimately related to the social order. In our discussions concerning Japanese Intellectuality and Philosophical Ability,[AW] we saw how intimate a relation exists between the social order, particularly as expressed in its educational system, and the development of the higher mental faculties. Now a moment's reflection will show how the constructive imagination, belonging as it does to the higher faculties, was suppressed by the system of mechanical and superficial education required by the social order. Religion apotheosized ancestral knowledge and customs, thus effectively condemning all conscious use of this faculty. So far as it was used, it was under the guise of reviving old knowledge or of expounding it more completely.
This, however, has been the experience of every race in certain stages of its development. Such periods have been conspicuously deficient in powerful literature, progressive science, penetrating philosophy, or developing political life. When a nation has once entered such a social order it becomes stagnant, its further development is arrested. The activity of the higher faculties of the mind are in abeyance, but not destroyed. It needs the electric shock of contact and conflict with foreign races to startle the race out of its fatal repose and start it on new lines of progress by demanding, on pain of death, or at least of racial subordination, the introduction of new elements into its social order by a renewed exercise of the constructive imagination. For without such action of the constructive imagination a radical and voluntary modification of the dominant social order is impossible.
Old Japan experienced this electric shock and New Japan is the result. She is thus a living witness to the inaccuracy of those sweeping generalizations as to her inherent deficiency of constructive imagination.
It is by no means our contention that Japanese imagination is now as widely and profoundly exercised as that of the leading Western nations. We merely contend that the exercise of this mental faculty is intimately related to the nature of the whole social order; that under certain circumstances this important faculty may be so suppressed as to give the impression to superficial observers of entire absence, and that with a new environment necessitating a new social order, this faculty may again be brought into activity.
The inevitable conclusion of the above line of thought is that the activity and the manifestation of the higher faculties is so intimately related to the nature of the social order as to prevent our attributing any particular mental characteristics to a race as its inherent and unchangeable nature. The psychic characteristics of a race at any given time are the product of the inherited social order. To transform those characteristics changes in the social order, introduced either from without, or through individuals within the race, are alone needful. This completes our specific study of the intellectual characteristics of the Japanese. It may seem, as it undoubtedly is, quite fragmentary. But we have purposely omitted all reference to those characteristics which the Japanese admittedly have in common with other races. We have attempted the consideration of only the more outstanding characteristics by which they seem to be differentiated from other races. We have attempted to show that in so far as they are different, the difference is due not to inherent psychic nature transmitted by organic heredity, but to the nature of the social order, transmitted by social heredity.
Even a slight study of Japanese history suffices to show that the faculty of moral discrimination was highly developed in certain directions. In what land have the ideal and practice of loyalty been higher? The heroes most lauded by the Japanese to-day are those who have proved their loyalty by the sacrifice of their lives. When Masashige Kusunoki waged a hopeless war on behalf of one branch of the then divided dynasty, and finally preferred to die by his own hand rather than endure the sight of a victorious rebel, he is considered to have exhibited the highest possible evidence of devoted loyalty. One often hears his name in the sermons of Christian preachers as a model worthy of all honor. The patriots of the period immediately preceding the Meiji era, known as the "Kinnoka," some of whom lost their lives because of their devotion to the cause of their then impotent Emperor, are accorded the highest honor the nation can give.
The teachings of the Japanese concerning the relations that should exist between parents, and children, and, in multitudes of instances, their actual conduct also, can hardly be excelled. We can assert that they have a keen moral faculty, however further study may compel us to pronounce its development and manifestations to be unbalanced.
Better, however, than generalizations as to the ethical ideals of Japan, past and present, are actual quotations from her moral teachers. The following passages are taken from "A Japanese Philosopher," by Dr. Geo. W. Knox, the larger part of the volume consisting of a translation of one of the works of Muro Kyuso—who lived from 1658 to 1734. It was during his life that the famous forty-seven ronin performed their exploit, and Kyu-so gave them the name by which they are still remembered, Gi-shi, the "Righteous Samurai." The purpose of the work is the defense of the Confucian faith and practice, as interpreted by Tei-shu, the philosopher of China whom Japan delighted to honor. It discusses among other things the fundamental principles of ethics, politics, and religion. Dr. Knox has done all earnest Western students of Japanese ethical and religious ideas an inestimable service in the production of this work in English.
"The 'Way' of Heaven and Earth is the 'Way' of Gyo and Shun [semi-mythical rulers of ancient China idealized by Confucius]; the 'Way' of Gyo and Shun is the 'Way' of Confucius and Mencius, and the 'Way' of Confucius and Mencius is the 'Way' of Tei-Shu. Forsaking Tei-Shu, we cannot find Confucius and Mencius; forsaking Confucius and Mencius, we cannot find Gyo and Shun; and forsaking Gyo and Shun, we cannot find the 'Way' of Heaven and Earth. Do not trust implicitly an aged scholar; but this I know, and therefore I speak. If I say that which is false, may I be instantly punished by Heaven and Earth."[AX]
"Recently I was astounded at the words of a philosopher: 'The "Way" comes not from Heaven,' he said, 'it was invented by the sages. Nor is it in accord with nature; it is a mere matter of aesthetics and ornament. Of the five relations, only the conjugal is natural, while loyalty, filial obedience, and the rest were invented by the sages, and have been maintained by their authority ever since.' Surely, among all heresies from ancient days until now, none has been so monstrous as this."[AY]
"Kujuro, a lad of fifteen years, quarreled with a neighbor's son over a game of go, lost his self-control, and before he could be seized, drew his sword and cut the boy down. While the wounded boy was under the surgeon's care, Kujuro was in custody, but he showed no fear, and his words and acts were calm beyond his years. After some days the boy died, and Kujuro was condemned to hara-kiri. The officers in charge gave him a farewell feast the night before he died. He calmly wrote to his mother, took ceremonious farewell of his keeper and all in the house, and then said to the guests: 'I regret to leave you all, and should like to stay and talk till daybreak; but I must not be sleepy when I commit hara-kiri to-morrow, so I'll go to bed at once. Do you stay at your ease and drink the wine.' So he went to his room and fell asleep, all being filled with admiration as they heard him snore. On the morrow he rose early, bathed and dressed himself with care, made all his preparations with perfect calmness, and then, quiet and composed, killed himself. No old, trained, self-possessed samurai could have excelled him. No one who saw it could speak of it for years without tears.... I have told you this that Kujuro may be remembered. It would be shameful were it to be forgotten that so young a boy performed such a deed."[AZ]
"We are not to cease obeying for the sake of study, nor must we establish the laws before we begin to obey. In obedience we are to establish its Tightness and wrongness."[BA]
"We learn loyalty and obedience as we are loyal and obedient. To-day I know yesterday's short-comings, and to-morrow I shall know to-day's.... In our occupations we learn whether conduct conforms to right and so advance in the truth by practice."[BB]
"Besides a few works on history, like the Sankyo Ega Monogatari, which record facts, there are no books worth reading in our literature. For the most part they are sweet stories of the Buddhas, of which one soon wearies. But the evil is traditional, long-continued, and beyond remedy. And other books are full of lust, not even to be mentioned, like the Genji Monogatari, which should never be shown to a woman or a young man. Such books lead to vice. Our nobles call the Genji Monogatari a national treasure, why, I do not know, unless it is that they are intoxicated with its style. That is like plucking the spring blossom unmindful of the autumn's fruit. The book is full of adulteries from beginning to end. Seeing the right, ourselves should become good, seeing the wrong, we should reprove ourselves. The Genji Monogatari, Chokonka, and Seishoki are of a class, vile, mean, comparable to the books of the sages as charcoal to ice, as the stench of decay to the perfume of flowers."[BC]
"To the samurai, first of all is righteousness; next life, then silver and gold. These last are of value, but some put them in the place of righteousness. But to the samurai even life is as dirt compared to righteousness. Until the middle part of the middle ages customs were comparatively pure, though not really righteous. Corruption has come only during this period of government by the samurai. A maid servant in China was made ill with astonishment when she saw her mistress, soroban (abacus) in hand, arguing prices and values. So was it once with the samurai. They knew nothing of trade, were economical and content."[BD]
"Even in the days of my youth, young folks never mentioned the price of anything; and their faces reddened if the talk was of women. Their joy was in talk of battles and plans for war. And they studied how parents and lords should be obeyed, and the duty of samurai. But nowadays the young men talk of loss and gain, of dancing girls and harlots and gross pleasures. It is a complete change from fifty or sixty years ago.... Said Aochi to his son: 'There is such a thing as trade. See that you know nothing of it. In trade the profit should always go to the other side.... To be proud of buying high-priced articles cheap is the good fortune of merchants, but should be unknown to samurai. Let it not be even so much as mentioned.... Samurai must have a care of their words, and are not to speak of avarice, cowardice, or lust.'"[BE]
A point of considerable interest to the student of Japanese ethical ideals is the fact that the laws of Old Japan combined legal and moral maxims. Loyalty and morality were conceived as inseparable. Ieyasu (abdicated in 1605, and died in 1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, left a body of laws to his successors as his last will, in accordance with which they should rule the land. These laws were not made public, but were kept strictly for the guidance of the rulers. They are known as the Testament or "Honorable Will" of Ieyasu, and consist of one hundred rules. It will serve our purpose here to quote some of those that refer to the moral ideal.
"No one is to act simply for the gratification of his own desires, but he is to strive to do what may be opposed to his desires, i.e., to exercise self-control, in order that everyone may be ready for whatever he may be called upon by his superiors to do."
"The aged, whether widowers or widows, and orphans, and persons without relations, every one should assist with kindness and liberality; for justice to these four is the root of good government."
"Respect the gods [or God], keep the heart pure, and be diligent in business during the whole life."
"When I was young I determined to fight and punish all my own and my ancestors' enemies, and I did punish them; but afterwards, by deep consideration, I found that the way of heaven was to help the people, and not to punish them. Let my successors follow out this policy, or they are not of my line. In this lies the strength of the nation."
"To insure the Empire peace, the foundation must be laid in the ways of holiness and religion, and if men think they can be educated, and will not remember this, it is as if a man were to go to a forest to catch fish, or thought he could draw water out of fire. They must follow the ways of holiness."
"Japan is the country of the gods [or God—'Shinkoku']. Therefore, we have among us Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shintoism, and other sects. If we leave our gods [or God] it is like refusing the wages of our master and taking them from another."
"In regard to dancing women, prostitutes, brothels, night work, and all other improper employments, all these are like caterpillars or locusts in the country. Good men and writers in all times have written against them."
"It is said that the Mikado, looking down on his people, loves them as a mother does her children. The same may be said of me and my government. This benevolence of mind is called Jin. This Jin may be said to consist of five parts; these are humanity, integrity, courtesy, wisdom, and truth. My mode of government is according to the way of heaven. This I have done to show that I am impartial, and am not assisting my own relatives and friends only."[BF]
These quotations are perhaps sufficient, though one more from a recent writer has a peculiar interest of its own, from the fact that the purpose of the book from which the quotation is taken was the destruction of the tendencies toward approval of Western thought. It was published in 1857. The writer, Junzo Ohashi, felt himself to be a witness for truth and righteousness, and, in the spirit of the doctrine he professed, sealed his faith with a martyr's suffering and death, dying (in August, 1868) from the effect of repeated examination by torture for a supposed crime, innocence of which he maintained to the end. It is interesting to note that two of his granddaughters, "with the physics and astronomy of the West, have accepted its religion."
"The West knows not the 'Ri'[BG] of the virtues of the heart which are in all men unchangeably the same. Nor does it know that the body is the organ of the virtues, however careful its analysis of the body may be. The adherents of the Western Philosophy indeed study carefully the outward appearances, but they have no right to steal the honored name of natural philosophy. As when 'Ki' is destroyed, 'Ri' too disappears, so, with their analysis of 'Ki,' they destroy 'Ri,' and thus this learning brings benevolence and righteousness and loyalty and truth to naught. Among the Westerners who from of old have studied details minutely, I have not heard of one who was zealous for the Great Way, for benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, and truth, and who opposed the absurdities of the Lord of Heaven [God].'[BH] 'Let then the child make its parent, Heaven; the retainer, his lord; the wife, her husband; and let each give up life for righteousness. Thus will each serve Heaven. But if we exalt Heaven above parent or lord, we shall come to think that we can serve it though they be disobeyed, and like wolf or tiger shall rejoice to kill them. To such fearful end does the Western learning lead."[BI]
The foregoing quotations reveal the exalted nature of the ideals held by at least some of the leaders of ethical thought in Japan. Taken as a whole, the moral ideals characterizing the Japanese during their entire historical period have been conspicuously communal. The feudal structure of society has determined the peculiar character of the moral ideal. Loyalty took first rank in the moral scale; the subordination of the inferior to the superior has come next, including unquestioning obedience of children to parents, and of wife to husband. The virtues of a military people have been praised and often gloriously exemplified. The possession of these various ideals and their attainment in such high degree have given the nation its cohesiveness. They make the people a unit. The feudal training under local daimyos was fitting the people for the larger life among the nations of the world on which they are now entering. Especially is their sense of loyalty, as exhibited toward the Emperor, serving them well in this period of transition from Oriental to Occidental social ideals.
Let us now examine some defective moral standards and observe their origin in the social order. Take, for instance, the ideal of truthfulness. Every Occidental remarks on the untruthfulness of the Japanese. Lies are told without the slightest apparent compunction; and when confronted with the charge of lying, the culprit often seems to feel little sense of guilt. This trait of character was noted repeatedly by the early negotiators with Japan. Townsend Harris and Sir Rutherford Alcock made frequent mention of it. When we inquire as to the moral ideal and actual instruction concerning truthfulness, we are amazed to find how inadequate it was. The inadequacy of the teaching, however, was not the primal cause of the characteristic. There is a far deeper explanation, yet very simple, namely, the nature of the social order. The old social order was feudal, and not industrial or commercial. History shows that industrial and commercial nations develop the virtue of truthfulness far in advance of military nations. For these virtues are essential to them; without them they could not long continue to prosper.
So in regard to all the aspects of business morality, it must be admitted that, from the Occidental standpoint, Old Japan was very deficient. But it must also be stated that new ideals are rapidly forming. Buying and selling with a view to making profit, though not unknown in Old Japan, was carried on by a despised section of the community. Compared with the present, the commercial community of feudal times was mean and small. Let us note somewhat in detail the attitude of the samurai toward the trader in olden times, and the ideals they reveal.
The pursuit of business was considered necessarily degrading, for he who handled money was supposed to be covetous. The taking of profit was thought to be ignoble, if not deceitful. They who condescended to such an occupation were accordingly despised and condemned to the lowest place in the social scale. These ideas doubtless helped to make business degrading; traders were doubtless sordid and covetous and deceitful. In the presence of the samurai they were required to take the most abject postures. In addressing him, they must never stand, but must touch the ground with their foreheads; while talking with him they must remain with their hands on the ground. Even the children of samurai always assumed the lordly attitude toward tradesmen. The sons of tradesmen might not venture into a quarrel with the sons of samurai, for the armed children of the samurai were at liberty to cut down and kill the children of the despicable merchant, should they insult or even oppose them.
All this, however, has passed away. Commerce is now honored; trade and manufacture are recognized not only as laudable, but as the only hope of Japan for the future. The new social order is industrial and commercial. The entire body of the former samurai, now no longer maintaining their distinctive name, are engaged in some form of business. Japan is to-day a nation of traders and farmers. Accompanying the changes in the social order, new standards as to honesty and business integrity are being formulated and enforced.[BJ]
An Occidental is invariably filled with astonishment on learning that a human being, as such, had no value in Old Japan. The explanation lies chiefly in the fact that the social order did not rest on the inherent worth of the individual. As in all primitive lands and times, the individual was as nothing compared to the family and the tribe. As time went on, this principle took the form of the supreme worth of the higher classes in society. Hence arose the liberty allowed the samurai of cutting down, in cold blood, a beggar, a merchant, or a farmer on the slightest provocation, or simply for the purpose of testing his sword.
Japanese social and religious philosophy had not yet discovered that the individual is of infinite worth in himself, apart from all considerations of his rank in society. As we have seen, the absence of this idea from Japanese civilization resulted in various momentous consequences, of which the frequency of murder and suicide is but one.
Another, and this constitutes one of the most striking differences between the moral ideals of the East and the West, is the low estimate put upon the inherent nature and value of woman, by which was determined her social position and the moral relations of the sexes. Japan seems to have suffered somewhat in this respect from her acceptance of Hindu philosophy. For there seems to be considerable unanimity among historians that in primitive times in Japan there prevailed a much larger liberty, and consequently a much higher regard, for woman than in later ages after Buddhism became powerful. With regard, however, to that earlier period of over a thousand years ago, it is of little use to speculate. I cannot escape the feeling, however, that the condition of woman then has been unconsciously idealized, in order to make a better showing in comparison with the customs of Western lands. Be that as it may, the notions and ideals presented by Buddhism in regard to woman are clear, and clearly degrading. She is the source of temptation and sin; she is essentially inferior to man in every respect. Before she may hope to enter Nirvana she must be born again as man. How widely these extreme views of woman have found acceptance in Japan, I am not in a position to state. It is my impression, however, that they never received as full acceptance here as in India. Nevertheless, as has already been shown,[BK] the ideals of what a woman should do and be make it clear that her social position for centuries has been relatively low; as wife she is a domestic rather than a helpmeet. The "three obediences," to parents, to husband, to son, set forth the ideal, although, without doubt, the strict application of the third, obedience to one's son after he becomes the head of the household, is relatively rare.
What especially strikes the notice of the Occidental is the slight amount of social intercourse that prevails to-day between men and women. Whenever women enter into the social pleasures of men, they do so as professional singers and dancers, they being mere girls and unmarried young women; this social intercourse is all but invariably accompanied with wine-drinking, even if it does not proceed to further licentiousness. The statement that woman is man's plaything has been often heard in Japan. Confucian no less than Buddhistic ethics must bear the responsibility for putting and keeping woman on so low a level. Concubinage, possibly introduced from China, was certainly sanctioned by the Chinese classics.
The Lei-ki allows an Emperor to have in addition to the Empress three consorts, nine maids of high rank, and twenty-seven maids of lower rank, all of whom rank as wives, and, beside these, eighty-one other females called concubines. Concubinage and polygamy, being thus sanctioned by the classics, became an established custom in Japan.
The explanation for this ideal and practice is not far to seek. It rests in the communal character of the social order. The family was the social unit of Japan. No individual member was of worth except the legal head and representative, the father. A striking proof of the correctness of this explanation is the fact that even the son is obeyed by the father in case he has become "in kio,"[BL] that is, has abdicated; the son then becomes the authoritative head. The ideals regarding woman then were not unique; they were part of the social order, and were determined by the principle of "communalism" unregulated by the principle of "individualism." Ideals respecting man and woman were equally affected. So long as man is not valued as a human being, but solely according to his accidental position in society, woman must be regarded in the same way. She is valued first as a begetter of offspring, second as a domestic. And when such conceptions prevail as to her nature and function in society, defective ideals as to morality in the narrower sense of this term, leading to and justifying concubinage, easy divorce, and general loose morality are necessary consequences.
But this moral or immoral ideal is by no means peculiar to Japan. The peculiarity of Japan and the entire Orient is that the social order that fostered it lasted so long, before forces arose to modify it. But, as will be shown later,[BM] the great problem of human evolution, after securing the advantages of "communalism," and the solidification of the nation, is that of introducing the principle of individualism into the social order. In the Orient the principle of communalism gained such headway as effectually to prevent the introduction of this new principle. There is, in my opinion, no probability that Japan, while maintaining her isolation, would ever have succeeded in making any radical change in her social order; her communalism was too absolute. She needed the introduction of a new stimulus from without. It was providential that this stimulus came from the Anglo-Saxon race, with its pronounced principle of "individualism" wrought out so completely in social order, in literature, and in government. Had Russia or Turkey been the leading influences in starting Japan on her new career, it is more than doubtful whether she would have secured the principles needful for her healthful moral development.
Justice to the actual ideals and life of Old Japan forbids me to leave, without further remark, what was said above regarding the ideals of morality in the narrower significance of this word. Injunctions that women should be absolutely chaste were frequent and stringent. Nothing more could be asked in the line of explicit teaching on this theme. And, furthermore, I am persuaded, after considerable inquiry, that in Old Japan in the interior towns and villages, away from the center of luxury and out of the beaten courses of travel, there was purity of moral life that has hardly been excelled anywhere. I have repeatedly been assured that if a youth of either sex were known to have transgressed the law of chastity, he or she would at once be ostracised; and that such transgressions were, consequently, exceedingly rare. It is certainly a fact that in the vast majority of the interior towns there have never, until recent times, been licensed houses of prostitution. Of late there has been a marked increase of dancing and singing girls, of whom it is commonly said that they are but "secret prostitutes." These may to-day be found in almost every town and village, wherever indeed there is a hotel. Public as well as secret prostitution has enormously increased during the last thirty or forty years.[BN]
Thanks to Mr. Murphy's consecrated energy, the appalling legalized and hopeless slavery under which these two classes of girls exist is at last coming to light. He has shown, by several test cases, that although the national laws are good to look at they are powerless because set aside by local police regulations over which the courts are powerless! In September, 1900, however, in large part due no doubt to the facts made public by him, and backed up by the public press, and such leaders of Japan's progressive elements as Shimada Sabur, the police regulations were modified, and with amazing results. Whereas, previous to that date, the average monthly suicides throughout the land among the public prostitutes were between forty and fifty, during the two months of September and October there were none! In that same period, out of about five thousand prostitutes in the city of Tokyo, 492 had fled from their brothels and declared their intentions of abandoning the "shameful business," as the Japanese laws call it, and in consequence a prominent brothel had been compelled to stop the business! We are only in the first flush of this new reform as these lines are written, so cannot tell what end the whole movement will reach. But the conscience of the nation is beginning to waken on this matter and we are confident it will never tolerate the old slavery of the past, enforced as it was by local laws, local courts, so that girls were always kept in debt, and when they fled were seized and forced back to the brothels in order to pay their debts!
But in contrast to the undoubted ideal of Old Japan in regard to the chastity of women, must be set the equally undoubted fact that the sages have very little to say on the subject of chastity for men. Indeed there is no word in the Japanese language corresponding to our term "chastity" which may be applied equally to men and women. In his volume entitled "Kokoro," Mr. Hearn charges the missionaries with the assertion that there is no word for chastity in Japanese. "This," he says, "is true in the same sense only that we might say that there is no word for chastity in the English language, because such words as honor, virtue, purity, chastity have been adopted into English from other languages."[BO] I doubt if any missionary has made such a statement. His further assertion, that "the word most commonly used applies to both sexes," would have more force, if Mr. Hearn had stated what the word is. His English definition of the term has not enabled me to find the Japanese equivalent, although I have discussed this question with several Japanese. It is their uniform confession that the Japanese language is defective in its terminology on this topic, the word with which one may exhort a woman to be chaste being inapplicable to a man. The assertion of the missionaries has nothing whatever to do with the question as to whether the terms used are pure Japanese or imported Chino-Japanese; nor has it any reference to the fact that the actual language is deficient in abstract terms. It is simply that the term applicable to a woman is not applicable to a man. And this in turn proves sharp contrasts between the ideals regarding the moral duties of men and of women.
An interesting point in the Japanese moral ideal is the fact that the principle of filial obedience was carried to such extremes that even prostitution of virtue at the command of the parents, or for the support of the parents, was not only permitted but, under special conditions, was highly praised. Modern prostitution is rendered possible chiefly through the action of this perverted principle. Although the sale of daughters for immoral purposes is theoretically illegal, yet, in fact, it is of frequent occurrence.
Although concubinage was not directly taught by Confucius, yet it was never forbidden by him, and the leaders and rulers of the land have lent the custom the authority and justification of their example. As we have already seen, the now ruling Emperor has several concubines, and all of his children are the offspring of these concubines. In Old Japan, therefore, there were two separate ideals of morality for the two sexes.
The question may be raised how a social order which required such fidelity on the part of the woman could permit such looseness on the part of the man, whether married or not. How could the same social order produce two moral ideals? The answer is to be found in several facts. First, there is the inherent desire of each husband to be the sole possessor of his wife's affections. As the stronger of the two, he would bring destruction on an unfaithful wife and also on any who dared invade his home. Although the woman doubtless has the same desire to be the sole possessor of her husband's affection, she has not the same power, either to injure a rival or to punish her faithless husband. Furthermore, licentiousness in women has a much more visibly disastrous effect on her procreative functions than equal licentiousness in man. This, too, would serve to beget and maintain different ethical standards for the two sexes. Finally, and perhaps no less effective than the two preceding, is the fact that the general social consciousness held different conceptions in regard to the social positions of man and woman. The one was the owner of the family, the lord and master; to him belonged the freedom to do as he chose. The other was a variety of property, not free in any sense to please herself, but to do only as her lord and master required.
An illustration of the first reason given above came to my knowledge not long since. Rev. John T. Gulick saw in Kanagawa, in 1862, a man going through the streets carrying the bloody heads of a man and a woman which he declared to be those of his wife and her seducer, whom he had caught and killed in the act of adultery. This act of the husband's was in perfect accord with the practices and ideals of the time, and not seldom figures in the romances of Old Japan.
The new Civil Code adopted in 1898 furnishes an authoritative statement of many of the moral ideals of New Japan. For the following summary I am indebted to the Japan Mail.[BP] In regard to marriage it is noteworthy that the "prohibited degrees of relationship are the same as those in England"—including the deceased wife's sister. "The minimum age for legal marriage is seventeen in the case of a man and fifteen in the case of a woman, and marriage takes effect on notification to the registrar, being thus a purely civil contract. As to divorce, it is provided that the husband and wife may effect it by mutual consent, and its legal recognition takes the form of an entry by the registrar, no reference being necessary to the judicial authorities. Where mutual consent is not obtained, however, an action for divorce must be brought, and here it appears that the rights of the woman do not receive the same recognition as those of the man. Thus, although adultery committed by the wife constitutes a valid ground of divorce, we do not find that adultery on the husband's part furnishes a plea to the wife. Ill-treatment or gross insult, such as renders living together impracticable, or desertion, constitutes a reason for divorce from the wife's point of view." The English reviewer here adds that "since no treatment can be worse nor any insult grosser than open inconstancy on the part of a husband, it is conceivable that a judge might consider that such conduct renders living together impracticable. But in the presence of an explicit provision with regard to the wife's adultery and in the absence of any such provision with regard to the husband's, we doubt whether any court of law would exercise discretion in favor of the woman." The gross "insult of inconstancy" on the part of the husband is a plea that has never yet been recognized by Japanese society. The reviewer goes on to say: "One cannot help wishing that the peculiar code of morality observed by husbands in this country had received some condemnation at the hands of the framers of the new Code. It is further laid down that a 'person who is judicially divorced or punished because of adultery cannot contract a marriage with the other party to the adultery.' If that extended to the husband it would be an excellent provision, well calculated to correct one of the worst social abuses of this country. Unfortunately, as we have seen, it applies apparently to the case of the wife only." The provision for divorce by "mutual consent" is striking and ominous. It makes divorce a matter of entirely private arrangement, unless one of the parties objects. In a land where women are so docile, is it likely that the wife would refuse to consent to divorce when her lord and master requests or commands her to leave his home? "There are not many women in Japan who could refuse to become a party to the 'mutual consent' arrangement if they were convinced that they had lost their husband's affection and that he could not live comfortably with them." It would appear that nothing whatever is said by the Code with reference to concubinage, either allowing or forbidding it. Presumably a man may have but one legitimate wife, and children by concubines must be registered as illegitimate. Nothing, however, on this point seems to be stated, although provision is made for the public acknowledgment of illegitimate children. "Thus, a father can acknowledge a natural child, making what is called a 'shoshi,' and if, subsequent to acknowledgment, the father and mother marry, the 'shoshi,' acquires the status of a legitimate child, such status reckoning back, apparently to the time of birth." Evidently, this provision rests on the implication that the mother is an unmarried woman—presumably a concubine.
Recent statistics throw a rather lurid light on these provisions of the Code. The Imperial Cabinet for some years past has published in French and Japanese a resume of national statistics. Those bearing on marriage and divorce, in the volume published in 1897, may well be given at this point.
MARRIAGES DIVORCES LEGITIMATE BIRTHS ILLEGITIMATE 1890 325,141 109,088 1,079,121 66,253 1891 325,651 112,411 1,033,653 64,122 1892 349,489 133,498 1,134,665 72,369 1893 358,398 116,775 1,105,119 73,677 1894 361,319 114,436 1,132,897 76,407 1895 365,633 110,838 1,166,254 80,168 1897 395,207 124,075 1,335,125 89,996[BQ]
These authoritative statistics show how divorce is a regular part of the Japanese family system, one out of three marriages proving abortive.
Morally Japan's weak spot is the relation of the sexes, both before and after marriage. Strict monogamy, with the equality of duties of husband and wife, is the remedy for the disease.
This slight sketch of the provision of the new Code as it bears on the purity of the home, and on the development of noble manhood and womanhood, shows that the Code is very defective. It practically recognizes and legalizes the present corrupt practices of society, and makes no effort to establish higher ideals. Whether anything more should be expected of a Code drawn up under the present circumstances is, of course, an open question. But the Code reveals the astonishingly low condition of the moral standards for the home, one of the vital weaknesses of New Japan. The defectiveness of the new Code in regard to the matters just considered must be argued, however, not from the failure to embody Occidental moral standards, but rather from the failure to recognize the actual nature of the social order of New Japan. While the Code recognizes the principle of individualism and individual rights and worth in all other matters, in regard to the home, the most important social unit in the body politic, the Code legalizes and perpetuates the old pre-Meiji standards. Individualism in the general social order demands its consistent recognition in every part.
We cannot conclude our discussion of Japanese ideas as to woman, and the consequent results to morality, without referring to the great changes which are to-day taking place. Although the new Civil Code has not done all that we could ask, we would not ignore what it has secured. Says Prof. Gubbins in the excellent introduction to his translation of the Codes:
"In no respect has modern progress in Japan made greater strides than in the improvement of the position of woman. Though she still labors under certain disabilities, a woman can now become a head of a family, and exercise authority as such; she can inherit and own property and manage it herself; she can exercise parental authority; if single, or a widow, she can adopt; she is one of the parties to adoption effected by her husband, and her consent, in addition to that of her husband, is necessary to the adoption of her child by another person; she can act as guardian, or curator, and she has a voice in family councils." In all these points the Code marks a great advance, and reveals by contrast the legally helpless condition of woman prior to 1898. But in certain respects practice is preceding theory. We would call special attention to the exalted position and honor publicly accorded to the Empress. On more than one historic occasion she has appeared at the Emperor's side, a thing unknown in Old Japan. The Imperial Silver Wedding (1892) was a great event, unprecedented in the annals of the Orient. Commemorative postage stamps were struck off which were first used on the auspicious day.
The wedding of the Prince Imperial (in May, 1900) was also an event of unique importance in Japanese social and moral history. Never before, in the 2600 years claimed by her historians, has an heir to the throne been honored by a public wedding. The ceremony was prepared de novo for the occasion and the pledges were mutual. In the reception that followed, the Imperial bride stood beside her Imperial husband. On this occasion, too, commemorative postage stamps were issued and first used on the auspicious day; the entire land was brilliantly decorated with flags and lanterns. Countless congratulatory meetings were held throughout the country and thousands of gifts, letters, and telegraphic messages expressed the joy and good will of the people.
But the chief significance of these events is the new and exalted position accorded to woman and to marriage by the highest personages of the land. It is said by some that the ruling Emperor will be the last to have concubines. However that may be, woman has already attained a rank and marriage an honor unknown in any former age in Japan, and still quite unknown in any Oriental land save Japan.
A serious study of Japanese morality should not fail to notice the respective parts taken by Buddhism and Confucianism. The contrast is so marked. While Confucianism devoted its energies to the inculcation of proper conduct, to morality as contrasted to religion, Buddhism devoted its energies to the development of a cultus, paying little attention to morality. A recent Japanese critic of Buddhism remarks that "though Buddhism has a name in the world for the excellence of its ethical system, yet there exists no treatise in Japanese which sets forth the distinctive features of Buddhist ethics." Buddhist literature is chiefly occupied with mythology, metaphysics, and eschatology, ethical precepts being interwoven incidentally. The critic just quoted states that the pressing need of the times is that Buddhist ethics should be disentangled from Buddhist mythology. The great moralists of Japan have been Confucianists. Distinctively Japanese morality has derived its impulse from Confucian classics. A new spirit, however, is abroad among the Buddhist priesthood. Their preaching is increasingly ethical. The common people are saying that the sermons heard in certain temples are identical with those of Christians. How widely this imitation of Christian preaching has spread I cannot say; but that Christianity has in any degree been imitated is significant, both ethically and sociologically.
Buddhism is not alone, however, in imitating Christianity. A few years ago Dr. D.C. Greene attended the preaching services of a modern Shinto sect, the "Ten-Ri-Kyo," the Heaven-Reason-Teaching, and was surprised to hear almost literal quotations from the "Sermon on the Mount"; the source of the sentiment and doctrine was not stated and very likely was not known to the speaker. Dr. Greene, who has given this sect considerable study, is satisfied that the insistence of its teachers on moral conduct is general and genuine. When I visited their headquarters, not far from Nara, in 1895, and inquired of one of the priests as to the chief points of importance in their teaching, I was told that the necessity of leading an honorable and correct life was most emphasized. There are reasons for thinking that the Kurozumi sect of Shintoism, with its emphasis on morality, is considerably indebted to Christianity both for its origin and its doctrine.
It is evident that Christianity is having an influence in Japan, far beyond the ranks of its professed believers. It is proving a stimulus to the older faiths, stirring them up to an earnestness in moral teaching that they never knew in the olden times. It is interesting to note that this widespread emphasis on ethical truth comes at a time when morality is suffering a wide collapse.
An important point for the sociological student of Japanese moral ideals is the fact that her moralists have directed their attention chiefly to the conduct of the rulers. The ideal of conduct as stated by them is for a samurai. If any action is praised, it is said that it becomes a samurai; if condemned, it is on the ground that it is not becoming to a samurai. Anything wrong or vulgar is said to be what you might expect of the common man. All the terms of the higher morality, such as righteousness, duty, benevolence, are expounded from the standpoint of a samurai, that is, from the standpoint of loyalty. The forty-seven ronin were pronounced "righteous samurai" because they avenged the death of their lord, even though in doing so they committed deeds that, by themselves, would have been condemned. Japanese history and literature proclaim the same ideal. They are exclusively concerned with the deeds of the higher class, the court and the samurai. The actual condition of the common people in ancient times is a matter not easily determined. The morality of the common people was more a matter of unreasoning custom than of theory and instruction. But these facts are susceptible of interpretation if we remember that the interest of the historian and the moralist was not in humanity, as such, but in the external features of the social order. Their gaze was on the favored few, on the nobility, the court, and the samurai.
In closing our discussion of Japanese moral ideals it may not be amiss to append the Imperial Edict concerning the moral education of the youth of Japan, issued by the Emperor November 31, 1890. This is supposed to be the distilled essence of Shinto and Confucian teaching. It is to-day the only authoritative teaching on morality given in the public schools. It is read with more reverence than is accorded to the Bible in England or America. It is considered both holy and inspired.
IMPERIAL EDICT ON MORAL EDUCATION
"We consider that the Founder of Our Empire and the ancestors of Our Imperial House placed the foundation of the country on a grand and permanent basis, and established their authority on the principles of profound humanity and benevolence.
"That Our subjects have throughout ages deserved well of the state by their loyalty and piety, and by their harmonious co-operation, is in accordance with the essential character of Our nation; and on these very same principles Our education has been founded.
"You, Our subjects, be therefore filial to your parents; be affectionate to your brothers; be harmonious as husbands and wives; and be faithful to your friends; conduct yourselves with propriety and carefulness; extend generosity and benevolence toward your neighbors; attend to your studies and follow your pursuits; cultivate your intellects and elevate your morals; advance public benefits and promote social interests; be always found in the good observance of the laws and constitution of the land; display your personal courage and public spirit for the sake of the country whenever required; and thus support the Imperial prerogative, which is coexistent with the Heavens and the Earth.
"Such conduct on your part will not only strengthen the character of Our good and loyal subjects, but conduce also to the maintenance of the fame of your worthy forefathers.
"This is the instruction bequeathed by Our ancestors and to be followed by Our subjects; for it is the truth which has guided and guides them in their own affairs and their dealings toward aliens.
"We hope, therefore, that We and Our subjects will regard these sacred precepts with one and the same heart in order to attain the same ends."
One noticeable characteristic of the Japanese is the publicity of the life of the individual. He seems to feel no need for privacy. Houses are so constructed that privacy is practically impossible. The slight paper shoji and fusuma between the small rooms serve only partially to shut out peering eyes; they afford no protection from listening ears. Moreover, these homes of the middle and lower classes open upon public streets, and a passer-by may see much of what is done within. Even the desire for privacy seems lacking. The publicity of the private (?) baths and sanitary conveniences which the Occidental puts entirely out of sight has already been noted.
I once passed through a village and was not a little amazed to see two or three bathtubs on the public road, each occupied by one or more persons; nor were the occupants children alone, but men and women also. Calling at the home of a gentleman in Kyushu with whom I had some business, and gaining no notice at the front entrance, I went around to the side of the house only to discover the lady of the place taking her bath with her children, in a tub quite out of doors, while a manservant chopped wood but a few paces distant.
The natural indifference of the Japanese to the exposure of the unclothed body is an interesting fact. In the West such indifference is rightly considered immodest. In Japan, however, immodesty consists entirely in the intention of the heart and does not arise from the accident of the moment or the need of the occasion. With a fellow missionary, I went some years since to some famous hot springs at the foot of Mount Ase, the smoking crater of Kyushu. The spot itself is most charming, situated in the center of an old crater, said to be the largest in the world. Wearied with a long walk, we were glad to find that one of the public bath tubs or tanks, some fifteen by thirty feet in size, in a bath house separate from other houses, was quite unoccupied; and on inquiry we were told that bathers were few at that hour of the day, so that we might go in without fear of disturbance. It seems that in such places the tiers of boxes for the clothing on either side of the door, are reserved for men and women respectively. Ignorant of this custom, we deposited our clothing in the boxes on the left hand, and as quickly as we could accommodate ourselves to the heat of the water, we got into the great tank. We were scarcely in, when a company of six or eight men and women entered the bath house; they at once perceived our blunder, but without the slightest hesitation, the women as well as the men went over to the men's side and proceeded to undress and get into the tank with us, betraying no consciousness that aught was amiss. So far as I could see there was not the slightest self-consciousness in the entire proceeding. In the tank, too, though it is customary for women to occupy the left side, on this occasion they mingled freely with the men. I suppose it is impossible in England or America to conceive of such a state of unconsciousness. Yet it seems to be universal in Japan. It is doubtless explained by the custom, practiced from infancy, not only of public bathing, but also of living together so unreservedly. The heat of the summer and the nature of Japanese clothing, so easily thrown off, has accustomed them to the greater or less exposure of the person. All these customs have prevented the development of a sense of modesty corresponding to that which has developed in the West. Whether this familiarity of the sexes is conducive to purity of life or not, is a totally different question, on which I do not here enter.
In this connection I can do no better than quote from a popular, and in many respects deservedly popular, writer on Japan. Says Mr. Hearn, "There is little privacy of any sort in Japan. Among the people, indeed, what we term privacy in the Occident does not exist. There are only walls of paper dividing the lives of men; there are only sliding screens instead of doors; there are neither locks nor bolts to be used by day; and whenever the weather permits, the fronts and perhaps even the sides of the houses are literally removed, and its interior widely opened to the air, the light, and the public gaze. Within a hotel or even a common dwelling house, nobody knocks before entering your room; there is nothing to knock at except a shoji or a fusuma, which cannot be knocked at without being broken. And in this world of paper walls and sunshine, nobody is afraid or ashamed of fellow-man or fellow-woman. Whatever is done is done after a fashion in public. Your personal habits, your idiosyncrasies (if you have any), your foibles, your likes and dislikes, your loves and your hates must be known to everybody. Neither vices nor virtues can be hidden; there is absolutely nowhere to hide them.... There has never been, for the common millions at least, even the idea of living unobserved." The Japanese language has no term for "privacy," nor is it easy to convey the idea to one who does not know the English word. They lack the term and the clear idea because they lack the practice.
These facts prove conclusively that the Japanese individual is still a gregarious being, and this fact throws light on the moral life of the people. It follows of necessity that the individual will conform somewhat more closely to the moral standards of the community, than a man living in a strong segregarious community.
The converse of this principle is that in a community whose individuals are largely segregarious, enjoying privacy, and thus liberty of action, variations from the moral standards will be frequent and positive transgressions not uncommon. In the one case, where "communalism" reigns, moral action is, so to speak, automatic; it requires no particular assertion of the individual will to do right; conformity to the standard is spontaneous. In the latter case, however, where "individualism" is the leading characteristic of the community, the acceptance of the moral standards usually requires a definite act of the individual will.
The history of Japan is a capital illustration of this principle. The recent increase of immorality and crime is universally admitted. The usual explanation is that in olden times every slight offense was punished with death; the criminal class was thus continuously exterminated. Nowadays a robber can ply his trade continuously, though interrupted by frequent intervals of imprisonment. In former times, once caught, he never could steal again, except in the land of the shades. While this explanation has some force, it does not cover the ground. A better explanation for the modern increase of lawlessness is the change in the social order itself. The new order gives each man wider liberty of individual action. He is free to choose his trade and his home. Formerly these were determined for him by the accident of his birth. His freedom is greater and so, too, are his temptations.
Furthermore, the standards of conduct themselves have been changing. Certain acts which would have brought praise and honor if committed fifty years ago, such, for instance, as "kataki uchi," revenge, would to-day soon land one behind prison doors. In a word, "individualism" is beginning to work powerfully on conduct; it has not yet gained the ascendancy attained in the West; it is nevertheless abroad in the land. The young are especially influenced by it. Taking advantage of the liberty it grants, many forms of immorality seem to be on the increase. So far as I can gather by inquiry, there has been a great collapse not only in honesty, but also in the matter of sexual morality. It will hardly do to say dogmatically that the national standards of morality have been lowered, but it is beyond question that the power of the community to enforce those standards has suddenly come to naught by reason of the changing social order. Western thought and practice as to the structure of society and the freedom of the individual have been emphasized; Spencer and Mill and Huxley have been widely read by the educated classes.[BR]
Furthermore, freedom and ease of travel, and liberty to change one's residence at will, and thus the ability to escape unpleasant restraints, have not a little to do with this collapse in morality. Tens of thousands of students in the higher schools are away from their homes and are entirely without the steadying support that home gives. Then, too, there is a wealth among the common people that was, never known in earlier times. Formerly the possession of means was limited to a relatively small number of families. To-day we see general prosperity, and a consequent tendency to luxury that was unknown in any former period.
To be specific, let us note that in feudal times there were some 270 daimyo living in the utmost luxury. About 1,500,000 samurai were dependent on them as retainers, while 30,000,000 people supported these sons of luxury. In 1863 the farmers of Japan raised 30,000,000 koku of rice, and paid 22,000,000 of it to the government as taxes. Taxed at the same rate to-day the farmers would have to pay 280,000,000 yen, whereas the actual payment made by them is only 38,000,000 yen. "The farmer's manner of life has radically changed. He is now prosperous and comfortable, wearing silk where formerly he could scarcely afford cotton, and eating rice almost daily, whereas formerly he scarcely knew its taste."[BS]
It is stated by the Japan Mail that whereas but "one person out of ten was able thirty years ago to afford rice, the nine being content to live from year's end to year's end on barley alone or barley mixed with a modicum of rice, six persons to-day out of ten count it a hardship if they cannot sit down to a square meal of rice daily.... Rice is no longer a luxury to the mass of the people, but has become a necessity."
Financially, then, the farming and middle classes are incomparably better off to-day than in olden times. The amount of ready money which a man can earn has not a little to do with his morality. If his uprightness depends entirely or chiefly on his lack of opportunity to do wrong, he will be a moral man so long as he is desperately poor or under strict control. But give him the chance to earn ready cash, together with the freedom to live where he chooses, and to spend his income as he pleases, and he is sure to develop various forms of immorality.
I have made a large number of inquiries in regard to the increase or decrease of concubinage during the present era. Statistics on this subject are not to be had, for concubines are not registered as such nor yet as wives. If a concubine lives in the home of the man, she is registered as a domestic, and her children should be registered as hers, although I am told that they are very often illegally registered as his. If she lives in her own home, the concubine still retains the name and registry of her own parents. The government takes no notice of concubinage, and publishes no statistics in regard to it. The children of concubines who live with their own parents are, I am told, usually registered as the children of the mother's father; otherwise they are registered as illegitimate; statistics, therefore, furnish no clew as to the increase or decrease or amount of concubinage and illegitimacy, most important questions in Japanese sociology. But my informants are unanimous in the assertion that there has been a marked increase of concubinage during recent years. The simple and uniform explanation given is that multitudes of merchants and officials, and even of farmers, can afford to maintain them to-day who formerly were unable to do so. The older ideals on this subject were such as to allow of concubinage to the extent of one's financial ability.
During the year 1898 the newspapers and leading writers of Japan carried on a vigorous discussion concerning concubinage. The Yorozu Choho published an inventory of 493 men maintaining separate establishments for their concubines, giving not only the names and the business of the men, but also the character of the women chosen to be concubines. Of these 493 men, 9 are ministers of state and ex-ministers; 15 are peers or members of House of Peers; 7 are barristers; 3 are learned doctors; the rest are nearly all business men. The women were, previous to concubinage, Dancing girls, 183; Servants, 69; Prostitutes, 17; "Ordinary young girls," 91; Adopted daughters, 15; Widows, 7; Performers, 7; Miscellaneous, 104. In this discussion it has been generally admitted that concubinage has increased in modern times, and the cause attributed is "general looseness of morals." Some of the leading writers maintain that the concubinage of former times was largely confined to those who took concubines to insure the maintenance of the family line; and also that the taking of dancing girls was unknown in olden times.
It is interesting to note in this connection that some of those who defend the practice of concubinage appeal to the example of the Old Testament, saying that what was good enough for the race that gave to Christians the greater part of their Bible is good enough for the Japanese. Another point in the discussion interesting to the Occidental is the repeated assertion that there is no real difference between the East and the West in point of practice; the only difference is that whereas in the East all is open and above board, in the West extra-marital relations are condemned by popular opinion, and are therefore concealed.[BT] A few writers publicly defend concubinage; most, however, condemn it vigorously, even though making no profession of Christian faith. Of the latter class is Mr. Fukuzawa, one of Japan's leaders of public opinion. In his most trenchant attack, he asserts that if Japan is to progress in civilization she must abandon her system of concubinage. That new standards in regard to marital relations are arising in Japan is clear; but they have as yet little force; there is no consensus of opinion to give them force. He who transgresses them is still recognized as in good standing in the community.
Similarly, with respect to business honesty, it is the opinion of all with whom I have conversed on the subject that there has been a great decline in the honesty of the common people. In feudal days thefts and petty dishonesty were practically unknown. To-day these are exceedingly common. Foreign merchants complain that it is impossible to trust Japanese to carry out verbal or written promises, when the conditions of the market change to their disadvantage. It is accordingly charged that the Japanese have no sense of honor in business matters.
The Kokumin Shinbun (People's News) has recently discussed the question of Japanese commercial morality, with the following results: It says, first, that goods delivered are not up to sample; secondly, that engagements as to time are not kept; thirdly, that business men have no adequate appreciation of the permanent interests of business; fourthly, that they are without ability to work in common; and fifthly, that they do not get to know either their customers or themselves.[BU]
"The Japanese consul at Tientsin recently reported to the Government that the Chinese have begun to regard Japanese manufactures with serious distrust. Merchandise received from Japan, they allege, does not correspond with samples, and packing is, in almost all cases, miserably unsubstantial. The consul expresses the deepest regret that Japanese merchants are disposed to break their faith without regard to honor."[BV]
In this connection it may not be amiss to revert to illustrations that have come within my own experience. I have already cited instances of the apparent duplicity to which deacons and candidates for the ministry stoop. I do not believe that either the deacons or the candidates had the slightest thought that they were doing anything dishonorable. Nor do I for a moment suppose that the President and the Trustees of the Doshisha at all realized the gravity of the moral aspect of the course they took in diverting the Doshisha from its original purposes. They seemed to think that money, once given to the Doshisha, might be used without regard to the wishes of the donors. I cannot help wondering how much of their thought on this subject is due to the custom prevalent in Japan ever since the establishment of Buddhist temples and monasteries, of considering property once given as irrevocable, so that the individuals who gave it or their heirs, have no further interest or right in the property. Large donations in Japan have, from time immemorial, been given thus absolutely; the giver assumed that the receiver would use it aright; specific directions were not added as to the purposes of the gift. American benefactors of the Doshisha have given under the standards prevailing in the West. The receivers in Japan have accepted these gifts under the standards prevailing in the East. Is not this in part the cause of the friction that has arisen in recent years over the administration of funds and lands and houses held by Japanese for mission purposes?
In this connection, however, I should not fail to refer to the fact that the Christians of the Kumiai churches,[BW] in their annual meeting (1898), took strong grounds as to the mismanagement of the Doshisha by the trustees. The action of the latter in repealing the clause of the constitution which declared the six articles of the constitution forever unchangeable, and then of striking out the word "Christian" in regard to the nature of the moral education to be given in all departments of the institution, was characterized as "fu-ho," that is to say, unlawful, unrighteous, or immoral. Resolutions were also passed demanding that the trustees should either restore the expunged words or else resign and give place to men who would restore them and carry out the will of the donors. This act on the part of a large majority of the delegates of the churches shows that a standard of business morality is arising in Japan that promises well for the future.
Before leaving this question, it is important for us to consider how widely in lands which have long been both Christian and commercial, the standards of truthfulness and business morality are transgressed. I for one do not feel disposed to condemn Japanese failure very severely, when I think of the failure in Western lands. Then, again, when we stop to think of it, is it not a pretty fine line that we draw between legitimate and illegitimate profits? What a relative distinction this is! Even the Westerner finds difficulty in discovering and observing it, especially so when the man with whom he is dealing happens to be ignorant of the real value of the goods in question. Let us not be too severe, then, in condemning the Japanese, even though we must judge them to be deficient in ideals and conduct. The explanation for the present state of Japan in regard to business morality is neither far to seek nor hard to find. It has nothing whatever to do with brain structure or inherent race character, but is wholly a matter of changing social order. Feudal communalism has given way to individualistic commercialism. The results are inevitable. Japan has suddenly entered upon that social order where the individuals of the nation are thrown upon their own choice for character and life as they have been at no previous time. Old men, as well as young, are thrown off their feet by the new temptations into which they fall.
One of the strongest arguments in my mind for the necessity of a rapid introduction into Japan of the Gospel of Christ, is to be built on this fact. An individualistic social order demands an individualizing religion. So far as I know, the older religions, with the lofty moral teachings which one may freely admit them to have, make no determined or even distinct effort to secure the activity of the individual will in the adoption of moral ideals. The place both of "conversion" and of the public avowal of one's "faith" in the establishment of individual character, and the peculiar fitness of a religion having such characteristics to a social order in which "individualism" is the dominant principle, have not yet been widely recognized by writers on sociology. These practices of the Protestant churches are, nevertheless, of inestimable value in the upbuilding both of the individual and of society. And Japan needs these elements at the earliest possible date in order to supplement the new order of society which is being established. Without them it is a question whether in the long run this new order may not prove a step downward rather than upward.
This completes our detailed study of Japanese moral characteristics as revealed alike in their ideals and their practices. Let us now seek for some general statement of the facts and conclusions thus far reached. It has become clear that Japanese moralists have placed the emphasis of their ethical thinking on loyalty; subordinated to this has been filial piety. These two principles have been the pivotal points of Japanese ethics. All other virtues flowed out of them, and were intimately dependent upon them. These virtues are especially fitted to upbuild and to maintain the feudal order of society. They are essentially communal virtues. The first group, depending on and growing out of loyalty, was concerned with the maintenance of the larger communal unity, formerly the tribe, and now the nation. The virtues connected with the second principle—filial piety—were concerned with the maintenance of the smaller unit of society—- the family. Righteousness and duty, of which much was made by Japanese moralists, consisted in the observance of these two ideals.
The morality of individualism was largely wanting. From this lack sprang the main defects of the moral ideal and of the actual practice. The chief sins of Old Japan—and, as a matter of fact, of all the heathen world, as graphically depicted by Mr. Dennis in his great work on "Christian Missions and Social Progress"—were sins of omission and commission against the individual. The rights of inferiors practically received no consideration at the hands of the moralists. In the Japanese conception of righteousness and duty, the rights and value of the individual, as such, whatever his social standing or sex, were not included.
One class of defects in the Japanese moral ideal arose out of the feudal order itself, namely, its scorn of trade. Trade had no vital relation to the communal unity; hence it found and developed no moral sanctions for its guidance. The West conceives of business deceit as concerned not only with the integrity of the community, but also with the rights of the individual. The moral ideals and sanctions for business honesty are therefore doubly strong with us. The old order of Japan was in no way dependent for its integrity on business honor and honesty, and, as we have seen, individuals, as such, were not thought to have inherent rights. Under such conditions, it is difficult to conceive how universal moral ideals and sanctions for business relations could be developed and maintained.
One further point demands attention. We naturally ask what the grounds were on which the ethical ideals were commonly supposed to have authority. So far as my knowledge goes, this question received almost no consideration by the ordinary person, and but little from the moralist. Old Japan was not accustomed to ask "Why?" It accepted everything on the authority of the teacher, as children do, and as all primitive peoples do. There was little or no thought as to the source of the moral ideals or as to the nature or the function of the social sanctions. If, as in a few instances, the questions were raised as to their authority, the reply ordinarily would be that they had derived their teachings from ancient times. And, if the matter were pressed, it would be argued that the most ancient times were nearer the beginning of men, and, therefore, nearer to Heaven, which decreed that all the duties and customs of men; in the final resort, therefore, authority would be attributed to Heaven. But such a questioner was rare. Moral law was unhesitatingly accepted on the authority of the teacher, and no uncomfortable questions were asked. It is easy to see that both of the pivotal moral ideals, i.e., loyalty and filial piety, would support this unquestioning habit of mind, for to ask questions as to authority is the beginning both of disloyalty to the master and of irreverence to the parents and ancestors.
The whole social order, being one of authority, unquestioned and absolute, moral standards were accepted on the ipse dixit of great teachers.
In closing, we revert to our ever-recurring question: Are the moral characteristics wherein the Japanese differ from other races inherent and necessary, as are their physiological characteristics, or are they incidental and transient, liable to transformation? Light has been thrown on this problem by every illustration adduced. We have seen in detail that every characteristically Japanese moral trait is due to the nature of her past social order, and is changing With that order. Racial moral traits, therefore, are not due to inherent nature, to essential character, to brain structure, nor are they transmitted from father to son by the mere fact of physical generation. On the contrary, the distinguishing ethical characteristics of races, as seen in their ethical ideals and their moral conduct, are determined by the dominant social order, and vary with it. Ethical characteristics are transmitted by association, transmission is therefore not limited to the relation of parents and children. The bearing of this fact on the problem of the moral transformation of races could be easily shown.
ARE THE JAPANESE RELIGIOUS?
Said Prof. Pfleiderer to the writer in the winter of 1897: "I am sorry to know that the Japanese are deficient in religious nature." In an elaborate article entitled, "Wanted, a Religion," a missionary describes the three so-called religions of Japan, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, and shows to his satisfaction that none of these has the essential characteristics of religion.
Mr. Percival Lowell has said that "Sense may not be vital to religion, but incense is."[BX] In my judgment, this is the essence of nonsense, and is fitted to incense a man's sense.
The impression that the Japanese people are not religious is due to various facts. The first is that for about three hundred years the intelligence of the nation has been dominated by Confucian thought, which rejects active belief in supra-human beings. When asked by his pupils as to the gods, Confucius is reported to have said that men should respect them, but should have nothing to do with them. The tendency of Confucian ethics, accordingly, is to leave the gods severely alone, although their existence is not absolutely denied. When Confucianism became popular in Japan, the educated part of the nation broke away from Buddhism, which, for nearly a thousand years, had been universally dominant. To them Buddhism seemed superstitious in the extreme. It was not uncommon for them to criticise it severely. Muro Kyu-so,[BY] speaking of the immorality that was so common in the native literature, says: "Long has Buddhism made Japan to think of nothing as important except the worship of Buddha.
So it is that evil customs prevail, and there is no one who does not find pleasure in lust.... Take out the lust and Buddhism from that book, and the scenery and emotions are well described.... Had he learned in the 'Way' of the sages, he had not fallen into Buddhism."[BZ] The tendency of all persons trained in Confucian classics was toward thoroughgoing skepticism as to divine beings and their relation to this world. For this reason, beyond doubt, has Western agnosticism found so easy an entrance into Japan. This ready acceptance of Western agnosticism is a second fact that has tended to give the West the impression referred to above. Complete indifference to religion is characteristic of the educated classes of to-day. Japanese and foreigners, Christians and non-Christians, alike, unite in this opinion. The impression usually conveyed by this statement, however, is that agnosticism is a new thing in Japan. In point of fact, the old agnosticism is merely re-enforced by the support it receives from the agnosticism of the West.
The Occidental impression of Japanese irreligious race nature is further strengthened by the frequent assertion of it by writers, some of whom at least are neither partial nor ignorant. Prof. Basil H. Chamberlain, for instance, repeatedly makes the assertion or necessitates the inference. Speaking of pilgrimages, he remarks that the Japanese "take their religion lightly." Discussing the general question of religion, he speaks of the Japanese as "essentially undevotional," but he guards against the inference that they are therefore specially immoral. Yet, in the same paragraph, he adds, "Though they pray little and make light of supernatural dogma, the religion of the family binds them down in truly social bonds." Percival Lowell also, as we have seen, makes light of Japanese religion.
This conclusion of foreigner observers is rendered the more convincing to the average reader when he learns that such an influential man as Mr. Fukuzawa declares that "religion is like tea," it serves a social end, and nothing more; and that Mr. Hiroyuki Kato, until recently president of the Imperial University, and later Minister of Education, states that "Religion depends on fear." Marquis Ito, Japan's most illustrious statesman, is reported to have said: "I regard religion itself as quite unnecessary for a nation's life; science is far above superstition, and what is religion—Buddhism or Christianity—but superstition, and therefore a possible source of weakness to a nation? I do not regret the tendency to free thought and atheism, which is almost universal in Japan, because I do not regard it as a source of danger to the community."[CA]
If leaders of national thought have such conceptions as to the nature and origin of religion, is it strange that the rank and file of educated people should have little regard for it, or that foreigners generally should believe the Japanese race to be essentially non-religious?
But before we accept this conclusion, various considerations demand our notice. Although the conception of religion held by the eminent Japanese gentlemen just quoted is not accepted by the writer as correct, yet, even on their own definitions, a study of Japanese superstitions and religious ceremonies would easily prove the people as a whole to be exceedingly religious. Never had a nation so many gods. It has been indeed "the country of the gods." Their temples and shrines have been innumerable. Priests have abounded and worshipers swarmed. For worship, however indiscriminate and thoughtless, is evidence of religious nature.
Furthermore, utterances like those quoted above in regard to the nature and function of religion, are frequently on the lips of Westerners also, multitudes of whom have exceedingly shallow conceptions of the real nature of religion or the part it plays in the development of society and of the individual. But we do not pronounce the West irreligious because of such utterances. We must not judge the religious many by the irreligious few.
Again, are they competent judges who say the Japanese are non-religious? Can a man who scorns religion himself, who at least reveals no appreciation of its real nature by his own heart experience, judge fairly of the religious nature of the people? Still further, the religious phenomena of a people may change from age to age. In asking, then, whether a people is religious by nature, we must study its entire religious history, and not merely a single period of it. The life of modern Japan has been rudely shocked by the sudden accession of much new intellectual light. The contents of religion depends on the intellect; sudden and widespread accession of knowledge always discredits the older forms of religious expression. An undeveloped religion, still bound up with polytheistic symbolism, with its charms and mementoes, inevitably suffers severely at the hands of exact modern science. For the educated minority, especially, the inevitable reaction is to complete skepticism, to apparent irreligion. For the time being, religion itself may appear to have been discredited. In an advancing age, prophets of religious dissolution are abundant. Such prophecies, with reference to Christianity, have been frequent, and are not unheard even now. Particular beliefs and practices of religion have indeed changed and passed away, even in Christianity. But the essentially religious nature of man has re-asserted itself in every case, and the outward expressions of that nature have thereby only become freer from elements of error and superstition. Exactly this is taking place in Japan to-day. The apparent irreligion of to-day is the groundwork of the purer religion of to-morrow.
If the Japanese are emotional and sentimental, we should expect them to be, perhaps more than most peoples, religious. This expectation is not disappointed by a study of their history. However imperfect as a religion we must pronounce original Shinto to have been, consisting of little more than a cultus and a theogony, yet even with this alone the Japanese should be pronounced a religious people. The universality of the respect and adoration, not to say love, bestowed throughout the ages of history on the "Kami" (the multitudinous Gods of Shintoism), is a standing witness to the depth of the religious feeling in the Japanese heart. True, it is associated with the sentiments of love of ancestors and country, with filial piety and loyalty; but these, so far from lowering the religion, make it more truly religious?