The Religions of Japan - From the Dawn of History to the Era of Meiji
by William Elliot Griffis
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Confucius is a clear and distinct historic person. His parentage, place of birth, public life, offices, work and teaching, are well known and properly authenticated. He used the pen freely, and not only compiled, edited and transmitted the writings of his predecessors, but composed an historical and interpretative book. He originated nothing, however, but on the contrary disowned any purpose of introducing new ideas, or of expressing thoughts of his own not based upon or in perfect harmony with the teaching of the ancients. He was not an original thinker. He was a compiler, an editor, a defender and reproclaimer of the ancient religion, and an exemplar of the wisdom and writings of the Chinese fathers. He felt that his duty was exactly that which some Christian theologians of to-day conscientiously feel to be theirs—to receive intact a certain "deposit" or "system" and, adding nothing to it, simply to teach, illuminate, defend, enforce and strongly maintain it as "the truth." He gloried in absolute freedom from all novelty, anticipating in this respect a certain illustrious American who made it a matter for boasting, that his school had never originated a new idea.[1] Whether or not the Master Kung did nevertheless, either consciously or unconsciously, modify the ancient system by abbreviating or enlarging it, we cannot now inquire.

Confucius wan born into the world in the year 551 B.C., during that wonderful century of religious revival which saw the birth of Ezra, Gautama, and Lao Tsze, and in boyhood he displayed an unusually sedate temperament which made him seem to be what we would now call an "old-fashioned child." The period during which he lived was that of feudal China. From the ago of twenty-two, while holding an office in the state of Lu within the modern province of Shan-Tung, he gathered around him young men as pupils with whom, like Socrates, he conversed in question and answer. He made the teachings of the ancients the subjects of his research, and he was at all times a diligent student of the primeval records. These sacred books are called King, or Kiō in Japanese, and are: Shu King, a collection of historic documents; Shih King, or Book of Odes; Hsiao King, or Classic of Filial Piety, and Yi King, or Book of Changes.[2] This division of the old sacred canon, resembles the Christian or non-Jewish arrangement of the Old Testament scriptures in the four parts of Law, History, Poetry and Prophesy, though in the Chinese we have History, Poetry, Ethics and Divination.[3]

His own table-talk, conversations, discussions and notes were compiled by his pupils, and are preserved in the work entitled in English, "The Confucian Analects," which is one of the four books constituting the most sacred portion of Chinese philosophy and instruction. He also wrote a work named "Spring and Autumn, or Chronicles of his Native State of Lu from 722 B.C., to 481[4] B.C." He "changed his world," as the Buddhists say, in the year 478 B.C., having lived seventy-three years.

Primitive Chinese Faith.

The pre-Confucian or primitive faith was monotheistic, the forefathers of the Chinese nation having been believers in one Supreme Spiritual Being. There is an almost universal agreement among scholars in translating the term "Shang Ti" as God, and in reading from these classics that the forefathers "in the ceremonies at the altars of Heaven and earth ... served God." Concurrently with the worship of one Supreme God there was also a belief in subordinate spirits and in the idea of revelation or the communication of God with men. This restricted worship of God was accompanied by reverence for ancestors and the honoring of spirits by prayers and sacrifices, which resulted, however, neither in deification nor polytheism. But, as the European mediaeval schoolmen have done with the Bible, so, after the death of Confucius the Chinese scholastics by metaphysical reasoning and commentary, created systems of interpretation which greatly altered the apparent form and contents of his own and of the ancient texts. Thus, the original monotheism of the pre-Confucian documents has been completely obscured by the later webs of sophistry which have been woven about the original scriptures. The ancient simplicity of doctrine has been lost in the mountains of commentary which were piled upon the primitive texts. Throughout the centuries, the Confucian system has been conditioned and greatly modified by Taoism, Buddhism and the speculations of the Chinese wise men.

Confucius, however, did not change or seriously modify the ancient religion except that, as is more than probable, he may have laid unnecessary emphasis upon social and political duties, and may not have been sufficiently interested in the honor to be paid to Shang Ti or God. He practically ignored the God-ward side of man's duties. His teachings relate chiefly to duties between man and man, to propriety and etiquette, and to ceremony and usage. He said that "To give one's self to the duties due to men and while respecting spiritual beings to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom."[5]

We think that Confucius cut the tap-root of all true progress, and therefore is largely responsible for the arrested development of China. He avoided the personal term, God (Ti), and instead, made use of the abstract term, Heaven (Tien). His teaching, which is so often quoted by Japanese gentlemen, was, "Honor the Gods and keep them far from you." His image stands in thousands of temples and in every school, in China, but he is only revered and never deified.

China has for ages suffered from agnosticism; for no normal Confucianist can love God, though he may learn to reverence him. The Emperor periodically worships for his people, at the great marble altar to Heaven in Peking, with vast holocausts, and the prayers which are offered may possibly amount to this: "Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name." But there, as it seems to a Christian, Chinese imperial worship stops. The people at large, cut off by this restricted worship from direct access to God, have wandered away into every sort of polytheism and idolatry, while the religion of the educated Chinese is a mediaeval philosophy based upon Confucianism, of which we shall speak hereafter.

The Confucian system as a religion, like a giant with a child's head, is exaggerated on its moral and ceremonial side as compared with its spiritual development. Some deny that it is a religion at all, and call it only a code. However, let us examine the Confucian ethics which formed the basis and norm of all government in the family and nation, and are summed up in the doctrine of the "Five Relations." These are: Sovereign and Minister; Father and Son; Husband and Wife; Elder Brother and Younger Brother; and Friends. The relation being stated, the correlative duty arises at once. It may perhaps be truly said by Christians that Confucius might have made a religion of his system of ethics, by adding a sixth and supreme relation—that between God and man. This he declined to do, and so left his people without any aspiration toward the Infinite. By setting before them only a finite goal he sapped the principles of progress.[6]

Vicissitudes of Confucianism.

After the death of Confucius (478 B.C.) the teachings of the great master were neglected, but still later they were re-enforced and expounded in the time (372-289 B.C.) of Meng Ko, or Mencius (as the name has been Latinized) who was likewise a native of the State of Lu. At one time a Chinese Emperor attempted in vain to destroy not only the writings of Confucius but also the ancient classics. Taoism increased as a power in the religion of China, especially after the fall of its feudal system. The doctrine of ancestral worship as commended by the sage had in it much of good, both for kings and nobles. The common people, however, found that Taoism was more satisfying. About the beginning of the Christian era Buddhism entered the Middle Kingdom, and, rapidly becoming popular, supplied needs for which simple Confucianism was not adequate. It may be said that in the sixth century—which concerns us especially—although Confucianism continued to be highly esteemed, Buddhism had become supreme in China—that venerable State which is the mother of civilization in all Asia cast of the Ganges, and the Middle Kingdom among pupil nations.

Confucianism overflowed from China into Korea, where to this day it is predominant even over Buddhism. Thence, it was carried beyond sea to the Japanese Archipelago, where for possibly fifteen hundred years it has shaped and moulded the character of a brave and chivalrous people. Let us now turn from China and trace its influence and modifications in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It must be remembered that in the sixth century of the Christian Era, Confucianism was by no means the fully developed philosophy that it is now and has been for five hundred years. In former times, the system of Confucius had been received in China not only as a praiseworthy compendium of ceremonial observances, but also as an inheritance from the ancients, illumined by the discourses of the great sage and illustrated by his life and example. It was, however, very far from being what it is at present—the religion of the educated men of the nation, and, by excellence, the religion of Chinese Asia. But in those early centuries it did not fully satisfy the Chinese mind, which turned to the philosophy of Taoism and to the teachings of the Buddhist for intellectual food, for comfort and for inspiration.

The time when Chinese learning entered Japan, by the way of Korea, has not been precisely ascertained.[7] It is possible that letters[8] and writings were known in some parts of the country as early as the fourth century, but it is nearly certain, that, outside the Court of the Emperor, there was scarcely even a sporadic knowledge of the literature of China until the Korean missionaries of Buddhism had obtained a lodgement in the Mikado's capital. Buddhism was the real purveyor of the foreign learning and became the vehicle by means of which Confucianism, or the Chinese ethical principles, reached the common people of Japan. The first missionaries in Japan were heartily in sympathy with the Confucian ethics, from which no effort was made to alienate them. They were close allies, and for a thousand years wrought as one force in the national life. They were not estranged until the introduction, in the seventeenth century, of the metaphysical and scholastic forms given to the ancient system by the Chinese schoolmen of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1333).

Japanese Confucianism and Feudalism Contemporary.

The intellectual history of the Japanese prior to their recent contact with Christendom, may be divided into three eras:

1. The period of early insular or purely native thought, from before the Christian era until the eighth century; by which time, Shintō, or the indigenous system of worship—its ritual, poetry and legend having been committed to writing and its life absorbed in Buddhism—had been, as a system, relegated from the nation and the people to a small circle of scholars and archaeologists.

2. The period from 800 A.D. to the beginning of the seventeenth century; during which time Buddhism furnished to the nation its religion, philosophy and culture.

3. From about 1630 A.D. until the present time; during which period the developed Confucian philosophy, as set forth by Chu Hi in the twelfth century, has been the creed of a majority of the educated men of Japan.

The political history of the Japanese may also be divided into three eras:

1. The first extends from the dawn of history until the seventh century. During this period the system of government was that of rude feudalism. The conquering tribe of Yamato, having gradually obtained a rather imperfect supremacy over the other tribes in the middle and southern portions of the country now called the Empire of Japan, ruled them in the name of the Mikado.

2. The second period begins in the seventh century, when the Japanese, copying the Chinese model, adopted a system of centralization. The country was divided into provinces and was ruled through boards or ministries at the capital, with governors sent out from Kiōto for stated periods, directly from the emperor. During this time literature was chiefly the work of the Buddhist priests and of the women of the imperial court.

While armies in the field brought into subjection the outlying tribes and certain noble families rose to prominence at the court, there was being formed that remarkable class of men called the Samurai, or servants of the Mikado, which for more than ten centuries has exercised a profound influence upon the development of Japan.

In China, the pen and the sword have been kept apart; the civilian and the soldier, the man of letters and the man of arms, have been distinct and separate. This was also true in old Loo Choo (now Riu Kiu), that part of Japan most like China. In Japan, however, the pen and the sword, letters and arms, the civilian and the soldier, have intermingled. The unique product of this union is seen in the Samurai, or servant of the Mikado. Military-literati, are unknown in China, but in Japan they carried the sword and the pen in the same girdle.

3. This class of men had become fully formed by the end of the twelfth century, and then began the new feudal system, which lasted until the epochal year 1868 A.D.—a year of several revolutions, rather than of restoration pure and simple. After nearly seven hundred years of feudalism, supreme magistracy, with power vastly increased beyond that possessed in ancient times, was restored to the emperor. Then also was abolished the duarchy of Throne and Camp, of Mikado and Shōgun, and of the two capitals Kiōto and Yedo, with the fountain of honor and authority in one and the fountain of power and execution in the other. Thereupon, Japan once more presented to the world, unity.

Practically, therefore, the period of the prevalence of the Confucian ethics and their universal acceptance by the people of Japan nearly coincides with the period of Japanese feudalism or the dominance of the military classes.

Although the same ideograph, or rather logogram, was used to designate the Chinese scholar and the Japanese warrior as well, yet the former was man of the pen only, while the latter was man of the pen and of two swords. This historical fact, more than any other, accounts for the striking differences between Chinese and Japanese Confucianism. Under this state of things the ethical system of the sage of China suffered a change, as does almost everything that is imported into Japan and borrowed by the islanders, but whether for the better or for the worse we shall not inquire too carefully. The point upon which we now lay emphasis is this: that, although the Chinese teacher had made filial piety the basis of his system, the Japanese gradually but surely made loyalty (Kun-Shin), that is, the allied relations of sovereign and minister, of lord and retainer, and of master and servant, not only first in order but the chief of all. They also infused into this term ideas and associations which are foreign to the Chinese mind. In the place of filial piety was Kun-shin, that new growth in the garden of Japanese ethics, out of which arose the white flower of loyalty that blooms perennial in history.

In Japan, Loyalty Displaces Filial Piety.

This slow but sure adaptation of the exotic to its new environment, took place during the centuries previous to the seventeenth of the Christian era. The completed product presented a growth so strikingly different from the original as to compel the wonder of those Chinese refugee scholars, who, at Mito[9] and Yedo, taught the later dogmas which are orthodox but not historically Confucian.

Herein lies the difference between Chinese and Japanese ethical philosophy. In old Japan, loyalty was above filial obedience, and the man who deserted parents, wife and children for the feudal lord, received unstinted praise. The corner-stone of the Japanese edifice of personal righteousness and public weal, is loyalty. On the other hand, filial piety is the basis of Chinese order and the secret of the amazing national longevity, which is one of the moral wonders of the world, and sure proof of the fulfilment of that promise which was made on Sinai and wrapped up in the fourth commandment.

This master passion of the typical Samurai of old Japan made him regard life as infinitely less than nothing, whenever duty demanded a display of the virtue of loyalty. "The doctrines of Koshi and Moshi" (Confucius and Mencius) formed, and possibly even yet form, the gospel and the quintessence of all wordly wisdom to the Japanese gentleman; they became the basis of his education and the ideal which inspired his conceptions of duty and honor; but, crowning all his doctrines and aspirations was his desire to be loyal. There might abide loyal, marital, filial, fraternal and various other relations, but the greatest of all these was loyalty. Hence the Japanese calendar of saints is not filled with reformers, alms-givers and founders of hospitals or orphanages, but is over-crowded with canonized suicides and committers of hara-kiri. Even today, no man more quickly wins the popular regard during his life or more surely draws homage to his tomb, securing even apotheosis, than the suicide, though he may have committed a crime. In this era of Meiji or enlightened peace, most appalling is the list of assassinations beginning with the murder in Kiōto of Yokoi Heishiro, who was slain for recommending the toleration of Christianity, down to the last cabinet minister who has been knifed or dynamited. Yet in every case the murderers considered themselves consecrated men and ministers of Heaven's righteous vengeance.[10] For centuries, and until constitutional times, the government of Japan was "despotism tempered by assassination." The old-fashioned way of moving a vote of censure upon the king's ministers was to take off their heads. Now, however, election by ballot has been substituted for this, and two million swords have become bric-a-brac.

A thousand years of training in the ethics of Confucius—which always admirably lends itself to the possessors of absolute power, whether emperors, feudal lords, masters, fathers, or older brothers—have so tinged and colored every conception of the Japanese mind, so dominated their avenues of understanding and shaped their modes of thought, that to-day, notwithstanding the recent marvellous development of their language, which within the last two decades has made it almost a new tongue,[11] it is impossible with perfect accuracy to translate into English the ordinary Japanese terms which are congregated under the general idea of Kun-shin.

Herein may be seen the great benefit of carefully studying the minds of those whom we seek to convert. The Christian preacher in Japan who uses our terms "heaven," "home," "mother," "father," "family," "wife," "people," "love," "reverence," "virtue," "chastity," etc., will find that his hearers may indeed receive them, but not at all with the same mental images and associations, nor with the same proportion and depth, that these words command in western thought and hearing. One must be exceedingly careful, not only in translating terms which have been used by Confucius in the Chinese texts, but also in selecting and rendering the current expressions of the Japanese teachers and philosophers. In order to understand each other, Orientals and Occidentals need a great deal of mutual intellectual drilling, without which there will be waste of money, of time, of brains and of life.

The Five Relations.

Let us now glance at the fundamentals of the Confucian ethics—the Five Relations—as they were taught in the comparatively simple system which prevailed before the new orthodoxy was proclaimed by Sung schoolmen.

First. Although each of the Chinese and Japanese emperors is supposed to be, and is called, "father of the people," yet it would be entirely wrong to imagine that the phrase implies any such relation, as that of William the Silent to the Dutch, or of Washington to the American nation. In order to see how far the emperor was removed from the people during a thousand years, one needs but to look upon a brilliant painting of the Yamato-Tosa school, in which the Mikado is represented as sitting behind a cloud of gold or a thick curtain of fine bamboo, with no one before the matting-throne but his prime ministers or the empress and his concubines. For centuries, it was supposed that the Mikado did not touch the ground with his feet. He went abroad in a curtained car; and he was not only as mysterious and invisible to the public eye as a dragon, but he was called such. The attributes of that monster with many powers and functions, were applied to him, with an amazing wealth of rhetoric and vocabulary. As well might the common folks to-day presume to pray unto one of the transcendent Buddhas, between whom and the needy suppliant there may be hosts upon hosts of interlopers or mediators, as for an ordinary subject to petition the emperor or even to gaze upon his dragon countenance. The change in the constitutional Japan of our day is seen in the fact that the term "Mikado" is now obsolete. This description of the relation of sovereign and minister (inaccurately characterised by some writers on Confucianism as that of "King and subject," a phrase which might almost fit the constitutional monarchy of to-day) shows the relation, as it did exist for nearly a thousand years of Japanese history. We find the same imitation of procedure, even when imperialism became only a shadow in the government and the great Shōgun who called himself "Tycoon," the ruler in Yedo, aping the majesty of Kiōto, became so powerful as to be also a dragon. Between the Yedo Shōgun and the people rose a great staircase of numberless subordinates, and should a subject attempt to offer a petition in person he must pay for it by crucifixion.[12]

As, under the emperor there were court ministers, heads of departments, governors and functionaries of all kinds before the people were reached, so, under the Shōgun in the feudal days, there were the Daimiōs or great lords and the Shomiōs or small lords with their retainers in graduated subordination, and below these were the servants and general humanity. Even after the status of man was reached, there were gradations and degradations through fractions down to ciphers and indeed to minus quantities, for there existed in the Country of Brave Warriors some tens of thousands of human beings bearing the names of eta (pariah) and hī-nin (non-human), who were far below the pale of humanity.

The Paramount Idea of Loyalty.

The one idea which dominated all of these classes,[13]—in Old Japan there were no masses but only many classes—was that of loyalty. As the Japanese language shows, every faculty of man was subordinated to this idea. Confucianism even conditioned the development of Japanese grammar, as it also did that of the Koreans, by multiplying honorary prefixes and suffixes and building up all sociable and polite speech on perpendicular lines. Personality was next to nothing and individuality was in a certain sense unknown. In European languages, the pronoun shows how clearly the ideas of personality and of individuality have been developed; but in the Japanese language there really are no pronouns, in the sense of the word as used by the Germanic nations, at least, although there are hundreds of impersonal and topographical substitutes for them.[14] The mirror, of the language itself, reflects more truth upon this point of inquiry than do patriotic assertions, or the protests of those who in the days of this Meiji era so handsomely employ the Japanese language as the medium of thought. Strictly speaking, the ego disappears in ordinary conversation and action, and instead, it is the servant speaking reverently to his master; or it is the master condescending to the object which is "before his hand" or "to the side" or "below" where his inferior kneels; or it is the "honorable right" addressing the "esteemed left."

All the terms which a foreigner might use in speaking of the duties of sovereign and minister, of lord and retainer and of master and servant, are comprehended in the Japanese word, Kun-shin, in which is crystallized but one thought, though it may relate to three grades of society. The testimony of history and of the language shows, that the feelings which we call loyalty and reverence are always directed upward, while those which we term benevolence and love invariably look downward.

Note herein the difference between the teachings of Christ and those of the Chinese sage. According to the latter, if there be love in the relation of the master and servant, it is the master who loves, and not the servant who may only reverence. It would be inharmonious for the Japanese servant to love his master; he never even talks of it. And in family life, while the parent may love the child, the child is not expected to love the parent but rather to reverence him. So also the Japanese wife, as in our old scriptural versions, is to "see that she reverence her husband." Love (not agape, but eros) is indeed a theme of the poets and of that part of life and of literature which is, strictly speaking, outside of the marriage relation, but the thought that dominates in marital life, is reverence from the wife and benevolence from the husband. The Christian conception, which requires that a woman should love her husband, does not strictly accord with the Confucian idea.

Christianity has taught us that when a man loves a woman purely and makes her his wife, he should also have reverence for her, and that this element should be an integral part of his love. Christianity also teaches a reverence for children; and Wordsworth has but followed the spirit of his great master, Christ, when expressing this beautiful sentiment in his melodious numbers. Such ideas as these, however, are discords in Japanese social life of the old order. So also the Christian preaching of love to God, sounds outlandish to the men of Chinese mind in the middle or the pupil kingdom, who seem to think that it can only come from the lips of those who have not been properly trained. To "love God" appears to them as being an unwarrantable patronage of, and familiarity with "Heaven," or the King of Kings. The same difficulty, which to-day troubles Christian preachers and translators, existed among the Roman Catholic missionaries three centuries ago.[15] The moulds of thought were not then, nor are they even now, entirely ready for the full truth of Christian revelation.

Suicide Made Honorable.

In the long story of the Honorable Country, there are to be found many shining examples of loyalty, which is the one theme oftenest illustrated in popular fiction and romance. Its well-attested instances on the crimson thread of Japanese history are more numerous than the beads on many rosaries. The most famous of all, perhaps, is the episode of the Forty-Seven Rōnins, which is a constant favorite in the theatres, and has been so graphically narrated or pictured by scores of native poets, authors, artists, sculptors and dramatists, and told in English by Mitford, Dickens and Grecy.[16]

These forty-seven men hated wife, child, society, name, fame, food and comfort for the sake of avenging the death of their master. In a certain sense, they ceased to be persons in order to become the impersonal instruments of Heaven's retribution. They gave up every thing—houses, lands, kinsmen—that they might have in this life the hundred-fold reward of vengeance, and in the world-life of humanity throughout the centuries, fame and honor. Feeding the hunger of their hearts upon the hope of glutting that hunger with the life-blood of their victim, they waited long years. When once their swords had drunk the consecrated blood, they laid the severed head upon their master's tomb and then gladly, even rapturously, delivered themselves up, and ripping open their bowels they died by that judicially ordered seppuku which cleansed their memory from every stain, and gave to them the martyr's fame and crown forever. The tombs of these men, on the hillside overlooking the Bay of Yedo, are to this day ever fragrant with fresh flowers, and to the cemetery where their ashes lie and their memorials stand, thousands of pilgrims annually wend their way. No dramas are more permanently popular on the stage than those which display the virtues of these heroes, who are commonly spoken of as "The righteous Samurai." Their tombs have stood for two centuries, as mighty magnets drawing others to self-impalement on the sword—as multipliers of suicides.

Yet this alphabetic number, this i-ro-ha of self-murder, is but one of a thousand instances in the Land of Noble Suicides. From the pre-historic days when the custom of Jun-shi, or dying with the master, required the interment of the living retainers with the dead lord, down through all the ages to the Revolution of 1868, when at Sendai and Aidzu scores of men and boys opened their bowels, and mothers slew their infant sons and cut their own throats, there has been flowing through Japanese history a river of suicides' blood[17] having its springs in the devotion of retainers to masters, and of soldiers to a lost cause as represented by the feudal superior. Shigemori, the son of the prime minister Kiyomori, who protected the emperor even against his own father, is a model of that Japanese kun-shin which placed fidelity to the sovereign above filial obedience; though even yet Shigemori's name is the synonym of both virtues. Kusunoki Masashige,[18] the white flower of Japanese chivalry, is but one, typical not only of a thousand but of thousands of thousands of soldiers, who hated parents, wife, child, friend in order to be disciple to the supreme loyalty. He sealed his creed by emptying his own veins. Kiyomori,[19] like King David of Israel, on his dying bed ordered the assassination of his personal enemy.

The common Japanese novels read like records of slaughter-houses. No Moloch or Shiva has won more victims to his shrine than has this idea of Japanese loyalty which is so beautiful in theory and so hideous in practice. Despite the military clamps and frightful despotism of Yedo, which for two hundred and fifty years gave to the world a delusive idea of profound quiet in the Country of Peaceful Shores, there was in fact a chronic unrest which amounted at many times and in many places to anarchy. The calm of despotism was, indeed, rudely broken by the aliens in the "black ships" with the "flowery flag"; but, without regarding influences from the West, the indications of history as now read, pointed in 1850 toward the bloodiest of Japan's many civil wars. Could the statistics of the suicides during this long period be collected, their publication would excite in Christendom the utmost incredulity.

Nevertheless, this qualifying statement should be made. A study of the origin and development of the national method of self-destruction shows that suicide by seppuku, or opening of the abdomen, was first a custom, and then a privilege. It took, among men of honor, the place of the public executions, the massacres in battle and siege, decimation of rebels and similar means of killing at the hands of others, which so often mar the historical records of western nations. Undoubtedly, therefore, in the minds of most Japanese, there are many instances of hara-kiri which should not be classed as suicide, but technically as execution of judicial sentence. And yet no sentence or process of death known in western lands had such influence in glorifying the victim, as had seppuku in Japan.

The Family Idea.

The Second Relation is that of father and son, thus preceding what we should suppose to be the first of human relations—husband and wife—but the arrangement entirely accords with the Oriental conception that the family, the house, is more important than the individual. In Old Japan the paramount idea in marriage, was not that of love or companionship, or of mutual assistance with children, but was almost wholly that of offspring, and of maintaining the family line.[20] The individual might perish but the house must live on.

Very different from the family of Christendom, is the family in Old Japan, in which we find elements that would not be recognized where monogamy prevails and children are born in the home and not in the herd. Instead of father, mother and children, there are father, wife, concubines, and various sorts of children who are born of the wife or of the concubine, or have been adopted into the family. With us, adoption is the exception, but in Japan it is the invariable rule whenever either convenience or necessity requires it of the house. Indeed it is rare to find a set of brothers bearing the same family name. Adoption and concubinage keep the house unbroken.[21] It is the house, the name, which must continue, although not necessarily by a blood line. The name, a social trade-mark, lives on for ages. The line of Japanese emperors, which, in the Constitution of 1889, by adding mythology to history is said to rule "unbroken from ages eternal," is not one of fathers and sons, but has been made continuous by concubinage and adoption. In this view, it is possibly as old as the line of the popes.

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

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

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

The Marital Relation.

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

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

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

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

The Elder and the Younger Brother.

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

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

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

Friendship and Humanity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In him is the yea."—Paul.


Japan's Millennium of Simple Confucianism.

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

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

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

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

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

Survey of the Intellectual History of China.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One set of politicians, led by Wang (1021-1086), urged an extension of administrative functions, including agricultural loans, while the brothers Cheng (1032-1085, 1033-1107) reaffirmed, with fresh intellectual power, the old orthodoxy.

The school of writers and party agitators, led by Szma Kwaug (1009-1086)[5] the historian, contended that the ancient principles of the sages should be put in force. Others, the Populists of that age and land, demanded the entire overthrow of existing institutions.

In the bitter contest which ensued, the Radicals and Reformers temporarily won the day and held power. For a decade the experiment of innovation was tried. Men turned things social and political upside down to see how they looked in that position. So these stood or oscillated for thirteen years, when the people demanded the old order again. The Conservatives rose to power. There was no civil war, but the Radicals were banished beyond the frontier, and the country returned to normal government.

This controversy raised a landmark in the intellectual history of China.[6] The thoughts of men were turned toward deep and acute inquiry into the nature and use of things in general. This thinking resulted in a literature which to-day is the basis of the opinions of the educated men in all Chinese Asia. Instead of a sapling we now have a mighty tree. The chief of the Chinese writers, the Calvin of Asiatic orthodoxy, who may be said to have wrought Confucianism into a developed philosophy, and who may be called the greatest teacher of the mind, of modern China, Korea and Japan, is Chu Hi, who reverently adopted the criticisms on the Chinese classics of the brothers Cheng.[7] It is evident that in Chu Hi's system, we have a body of thought which may be called the result of Chinese reflection during a millennium and a half. It is the ethics of Confucius transfused with the mystical elements of Taoism and the speculations of Buddhism. As the common people of China made an amalgam of the three religions and consider them one, so the philosophers have out of these three systems made one, calling that one Confucianism. The dominant philosophy in Japan to-day is based upon the writings of Chu Hi (in Japanese, Shu Shi) and called the system of Tei-Shu, which is the Japanese pronunciation of the names of the Cheng brothers and of Chu (Hi). It is a medley which the ancient sage could no more recognize than would Jesus know much of the Christianity that casts out devils in his name.

Contrast between the Chinese and Japanese Intellect.

Here we must draw a contrast between the Chinese and Japanese intellect to the credit of the former; China made, Japan borrowed. While history shows that the Chinese mind, once at least, possessed mental initiative, and the power of thinking out a system of philosophy which to-day satisfies largely, if not wholly, the needs of the educated Chinaman, there has been in the Japanese mind, as shown by its history, apparently no such vigor or fruitfulness. From the literary and philosophical points of view, Confucianism, as it entered Japan, in the sixth century, remained practically stationary for a thousand years. Modifications, indeed, were made upon the Chinese system, and these were striking and profound, but they were less developments of the intellect than necessities of the case. The modifications were made, as molten metal poured into a mould shaped by other hands than the artist's own, rather than as clay made plastic under the hand of a designer. Buddhism, being the dominant force in the thoughts of the Japanese for at least eight hundred years, furnished the food for the requirements of man on his intellectual and religious side.

Broadly speaking, it may be said that the Japanese, receiving passively the Chinese classics, were content simply to copy and to recite what they had learned. As compared with their audacity in not only going beyond the teachings of Buddha, but in inventing systems of Buddhism which neither Gautama nor his first disciples could recognize, the docile and almost slavish adherence to ancient Confucianism is one of the astonishing things in the history of religions in Japan. In the field of Buddhism we have a luxuriant growth of new and strange species of colossal weeds that overtower and seem to have choked out whatever furze of original Buddhism there was in Japan, while in the domain of Confucianism there is a barren heath. Whereas, in China, the voluminous literature created by commentators on Confucius and the commentaries on the commentators suggests the hyperbole used by the author of John's Gospel,[8] yet there is probably nothing on Confucianism from the Japanese pen in the thousand years under our review which is worth the reading or the translation.[9] In this respect the Japanese genius showed its vast capabilities of imitation, adoption and assimilation.

As of old, Confucianism again furnished a Chinese wall, within which the Japanese could move, and wherein they might find food for the mind in all the relations of life and along all the lines of achievement permitted them. The philosophy imported from China, as shown again and again in that land of oft-changing dynasties, harmonizing with arbitrary government, accorded perfectly with the despotism of the Tokugawas, the "Tycoons" who in Yedo ruled from 1603 to 1868. Nothing new was permitted, and any attempt at modification, enlargement, or improvement was not only frowned and hissed down as impious innovation, but usually brought upon the daring innovator the ban of the censor, imprisonment, banishment, or death by enforced suicide.[10] In Yedo, the centre of Chinese learning, and in other parts of the country, there were, indeed, thinkers whose philosophy did not always tally with what was taught by the orthodox,[11] but as a rule even when these men escaped the ban of the censor, or the sword of the executioner, they were but us voices crying in the wilderness. The great mass of the gentry was orthodox, according to the standards of the Seido College, while the common people remained faithful to Buddhism. In the conduct of daily life they followed the precepts which had for centuries been taught them by their fathers.

Philosophical Confucianism the Religion of the Samurai.

What were the features of this modern Confucian philosophy, which the Japanese Samurai exalted to a religion?[12] We say philosophy and religion, because while the teachings of the great sage lay at the bottom of the system, yet it is not true since the early seventeenth century, that the thinking men of Japan have been satisfied with only the original simple ethical rules of the ancient master. Though they have craved a richer mental pabulum, yet they have enjoyed less the study of the original text, than acquaintance with the commentaries and communion with the great philosophical exponents, of the master. What, then, we ask, are the features of the developed philosophy, which, imported from China, served the Japanese Samurai not only as morals but for such religion as he possessed or professed?

We answer: The system was not agnostic, as many modern and western writers assert that it is, and as Confucius, transmitting and probably modifying the old religion, had made the body of his teachings to be. Agnostic, indeed, in regard to many things wherein a Christian has faith, modern Confucianism, besides being bitterly polemic and hostile to Buddhism, is pantheistic.

Certain it is that during the revival of Pure Shintō in the eighteenth century, the scholars of the Shintō school, and those of its great rival, the Chinese, agreed in making loyalty[13] take the place of filial duty in the Confucian system. To serve the cause of the Emperor became the most essential duty to those with cultivated minds. The newer Chinese philosophy mightily influenced the historians, Rai Sanyo and those of the Mito school, whose works, now classic, really began the revolution of 1868. By forming and setting in motion the public opinion, which finally overthrew the Shōgun and feudalism, restored the Emperor to supreme power, and unified the nation, they helped, with modern ideas, to make the New Japan of our day. The Shintō and the Chinese teachings became amalgamated in a common cause, and thus the philosophy of Chu Hi, mingling with the nationalism and patriotism inculcated by Shintō, brought about a remarkable result. As a native scholar and philosopher observes, "It certainly is strange to see the Tokugawa rule much shaken, if not actually overthrown, by that doctrine which generations of able Shōguns and their ministers had earnestly encouraged and protected. It is perhaps still more remarkable to see the Mito clan, under many able and active chiefs, become the centre of the Kinno[14] movement, which was to result in the overthrow of the Tokugawa family, of which it was itself a branch."

A Medley of Pantheism.

The philosophy of modern Confucianism is wholly pantheistic. There is in it no such thing or being as God. The orthodox pantheism of Old Japan means that everything in general is god, but nothing in particular is God; that All is god, but not that God is all. It is a "pantheistic medley."[15]

Chu Hi and his Japanese successors, especially Kyū-so, argue finely and discourse volubly about Ki[16] or spirit; but it is not Spirit, or spiritual in the sense of Him who taught even a woman at the well-curb at Sychar. It is in the air. It is in the earth, the trees, the flowers. It comes to consciousness in man. His Ri is the Tao of Lao Tsze, the Way, Reason, Law. It is formless, invisible.

"Ri is not separate from Ki, for then it were an empty abstract thing. It is joined to Ki, and may be called, by nature, one decreed, changeless Norm. It is the rule of Ki, the very centre, the reason why Ki is Ki."

Ten or Heaven is not God or the abode of God, but an abstraction, a sort of Unknowable, or Primordial Necessity.

"The doctrine of the Sages knows and worships Heaven, and without faith in it there is no truth. For men and things, the universe, are born and nourished by Heaven, and the 'Way,' the 'ri,' that is in all, is the 'Way,' the 'ri' of Heaven. Distinguishing root and branch, the heart is the root of Heaven and the appearance, the revolution of the sun and moon, the order of the stars, is the branch. The books of the sages teach us to conform to the heart of Heaven and deal not with appearances."

"The teaching of the sages is the original truth and, given to men, it forms both their nature and their relationships. With it complete, naught else is needed for the perfect following of the 'Way.' Let then the child make its parents Heaven, the retainer, his Lord, the wife her husband, and let each give up life for righteousness. Thus will each serve for Heaven. But if we exalt Heaven above parent or Lord, we shall come to think we can serve it though they be disobeyed and like tiger or wolf shall rejoice to kill them. To such fearful end does the Western learning lead.... Let each one die for duty, there is naught else we can do."

Thus wrote Ohashi Junzo, as late as 1857 A.D., the same year in which Townsend Harris entered Yedo to teach the practical philosophy of Christendom, and the brotherhood of man as expressed in diplomacy. Ohashi Junzo bitterly opposed the opening of Japan to modern civilization and the ideas of Christendom. His book was the swan-song of the dying Japanese Confucianism. Slow as is the dying, and hard as its death may be, the mind of new Japan has laid away to dust and oblivion the Tei-shu philosophy. "At present they (the Chinese classics) have fallen into almost total neglect, though phrases and allusions borrowed from them still pass current in literature, and even to some extent in the language of every-day life." Seido, the great temple of Confucius in Tokyo, is now utilized as an educational Museum.[17]

A study of this subject and of comparative religion, is of immediate practical benefit to the Christian teacher. The preacher, addressing an audience made up of educated Japanese, who speaks of God without describing his personality, character, or attributes as illustrated in Revelation, will find that his hearers receive his term as the expression for a bundle of abstract principles, or a system of laws, or some kind of regulated force. They do, indeed, make some reference to a "creator" by using a rare word. Occasionally, their language seems to touch the boundary line on the other side of which is conscious intelligence, but nothing approaching the clearness and definiteness of the early Chinese monotheism of the pre-Confucian classics is to be distinguished.[18] The modern Japanese long ago heard joyfully the words, "Honor the gods, but keep them far from you," and he has done it.

To love God would no more occur to a Japanese gentleman than to have his child embrace and kiss him. Whether the source and fountain of life of which they speak has any Divine Spirit, is very uncertain, but whether it has, or has not, man need not obey, much less worship him. The universe is one, the essence is the same. Man must seek to know his place in the universe; he is but one in an endless chain; let him find his part and fulfil that part; all else is vanity. One need not inquire into the origins or the ultimates. Man is moved by a power greater than himself; he has no real independence of his own; everything has its rank and place; indeed, its rank and place is its sole title to a separate existence. If a man mistakes his place he is a fool, he deserves punishment.

The Ideals of a Samurai.

Out of his place, man is not man. Duty is more important than being. Nearly everything in our life is fixed by fate; there may seem to be exceptions, because some wicked men are prosperous and some righteous men are wretched, but these are not real exceptions to the general rule that we are made for our environment and fitted to it. And then, again, it may be that our judgments are not correct. Let the heart be right and all is well. Let man be obedient and his outward circumstance is nothing, having no relation to his joy or happiness. Even when as to his earthly body man passes away, he is not destroyed; the drop again becomes part of the sea, the spark re-enters the flame, and his life continues, though it be not a conscious life. In this way man is in harmony with the original principle of all things. He outlasts the universe itself.

Hence to a conscientious Samurai there is nothing in this world better than obedience, in the ideal of a true man. What he fears most and hates most is that his memory may perish, that he shall have no seed, that he shall be forgotten or die under a cloud and be thought treacherous or cowardly or base, when in reality his life was pure and his motives high. "Better," sang Yoshida Shoin, the dying martyr for his principles, "to be a crystal and to be broken, than to be a tile upon the housetop and remain."

So, indeed, on a hundred curtained execution grounds, with the dirk of the suicide firmly grasped and about to shed their own life-blood, have sung the martyrs who died willingly for their faith in their idea of Yamato Damashii.[19] In untold instances in the national history, men have died willingly and cheerfully, and women also by thousands, as brave, as unflinching as the men, so that the story of Japanese chivalry is almost incredible in its awful suicides. History reveals a state of society in which cool determination, desperate courage and fearlessness of death in the face of duty were quite unique, and which must have had their base in some powerful though abnormal code of ethics.

This leads us to consider again the things emphasized by Japanese as distinct from Chinese and Korean[20] Confucianism, and to call attention to its fruits, while at the same time we note its defects, and show wherein it failed. We shall then show how this old system has already waxed old and is passing away. Christ has come to Japan, and behold a new heaven and a new earth!

New Japan Makes Revision.

First. For sovereign and minister, there are coming into vogue new interpretations. This relation, if it is to remain as the first, will become that of the ruler and the ruled. Constitutional government has begun; and codes of law have been framed which are recognizing the rights of the individual and of the people. Even a woman has rights before the law, in relation to husband, parents, brothers, sisters and children. It is even beginning to be thought that children have rights. Let us hope that as the rights are better understood the duties will be equally clear.

It is coming to pass in Japan that even in government, the sovereign must consult with his people on all questions pertaining to their welfare. Although, thus far the constitutional government makes the ministers responsible to the Sovereign instead of to the Diet, yet the contention of the enlightened men and the liberal parties is, that the ministers shall be responsible to the Diet. The time seems at hand when the sovereign's power over his people will not rest on traditions more or less uncertain, on history manufactured by governmental order, on mythological claims based upon the so-called "eternal ages," on prerogatives upheld by the sword, or on the supposed grace of the gods, but will be "broad-based upon the people's will." The power of the rulers will be derived from the consent of the governed. The Emperor will become the first and chief servant of the nation.

Revision and improvement of the Second Relation will make filial piety something more real than that unto which China has attained, or Japan has yet seen, or which is yet universally known in Christendom. The tyranny of the father and of the older brother, and the sale of daughters to shame, will pass away; and there will arise in the Japanese house, the Christian home.

It would be hard to say what Confucianism has done for woman. It is probable that all civilizations, and systems of philosophy, ethics and religion, can be well tested by this criterion—the position of woman. Confucianism virtually admits two standards of morality, one for man, another for woman.[21] In Chinese Asia adultery is indeed branded as one of the vilest of crimes, but in common idea and parlance it is a woman's crime, not man's. So, on the other hand, chastity is a female virtue, it is part of womanly duty, it has little or no relation to man personally. Right revision and improvement of the Third Relation will abolish concubinage. It will reform divorce. It will make love the basis of marriage. It will change the state of things truthfully pictured in such books as the Genji Monogatari, or Romance of Prince Genji, with its examples of horrible lust and incests; the Kojiki or Ethnic scripture, with its naive accounts of filthiness among the gods; the Onna Dai Gaku, Woman's Great Study, with its amazing subordination and moral slavery of wife and daughter; and The Japanese Bride, of yesterday—all truthful pictures of Japanese life, for the epoch in which each was written. These books will become the forgotten curiosities of literature, known only to the archaeologist.

Improvement and revision of the Fourth Relation, will bring into the Japanese home more justice, righteousness, love and enjoyment of life. It will make possible, also, the cheerful acceptance and glad practice of those codes of law common in Christendom, which are based upon the rights of the individual and upon the idea of the greatest good to the greatest number. It will help to abolish the evils which come from primogeniture and to release the clutch of the dead hand upon the living. It will decrease the power of the graveyard, and make thought and care for the living the rule of life. It will abolish sham and fiction, and promote the cause of truth. It will hasten the reign of righteousness and love, and beneath propriety and etiquette lay the basis of "charity toward all, malice toward none."

Revision with improvement of the Fifth Relation hastens the reign of universal brotherhood. It lifts up the fallen, the down-trodden and the outcast. It says to the slave "be free," and after having said "be free," educates, trains, and lifts up the brother once in servitude, and helps him to forget his old estate and to know his rights as well as his duties, and develops in him the image of God. It says to the hinin or not-human, "be a man, be a citizen, accept the protection of the law." It says to the eta, "come into humanity and society, receive the protection of law, and the welcome of your fellows; let memory forget the past and charity make a new future." It will bring Japan into the fraternity of nations, making her people one with the peoples of Christendom, not through the empty forms of diplomacy, or by the craft of her envoys, or by the power of her armies and navies reconstructed on modern principles, but by patient education and unflinching loyalty to high ideals. Thus will Japan become worthy of all the honors, which the highest humanity on this planet can bestow.

The Ideal of Yamato Damashii Enlarged.

In this our time it is not only the alien from Christendom, with his hostile eye and mordant criticism, who is helping to undermine that system of ethics which permitted the sale of the daughter to shame, the introduction of the concubine into the family and the reduction of woman, even though wife and mother, to nearly a cipher. It is not only the foreigner who assaults that philosophy which glorified the vendetta, kept alive private war, made revenge in murder the sweetest joy of the Samurai and suicide the gate to honor and fame, subordinated the family to the house, and suppressed individuality and personality. It is the native Japanese, no longer a hermit, a "frog in the well, that knows not the great ocean" but a student, an inquirer, and a critic, who assaults the old ethical and philosophical system, and calls for a new way between heaven and earth, and a new kind of Heaven in which shall be a Creator, a Father and a Saviour. The brain and pen of New Japan, as well as its heart, demand that the family shall be more than the house and that the living members shall have greater rights as well as duties, than the dead ancestors. They claim that the wife shall share responsibility with the husband, and that the relation of husband and wife shall take precedence of that of the father and son; that the mother shall possess equal authority with the father; that the wife, whether she be mother or not, shall not be compelled to share her home with the concubine; and that the child in Japan shall be born in the home and not in the herd. The sudden introduction of the Christian ideas of personality and individuality has undoubtedly wrought peril to the framework of a society which is built according to the Confucian principles; but faith in God, love in the home, and absolute equality before the law will bring about a reign of righteousness such as Japan has never known, but toward the realization of which Christian nations are ever advancing.

Even the old ideal of the Samurai embodied in the formula Yamato Damashii will be enlarged and improved from its narrow limits and ferocious aspects, when the tap-root of all progress is allowed to strike into deeper truth, and the Sixth Relation, or rather the first relation of all, is taught, namely, that of God to Man, and of Man to God. That this relation is understood, and that the Samurai ideal, purified and enlarged, is held by increasing numbers of Japan's brightest men and noblest women, is shown in that superb Christian literature which pours from the pens of the native men and women in the Japanese Christian churches. Under this flood of truth the old obstacles to a nobler society are washed away, while out of the enriched soil rises the new Japan which is to be a part of the better Christendom that is to come. Christ in Japan, as everywhere, means not destruction, but fulfilment.


"Life is a dream is what the pilgrim learns, Nor asks for more, but straightway home returns." —Japanese medieval lyric drama.

"The purpose of Buddha's preaching was to bring into light the permanent truth, to reveal the root of all suffering and thus to lead all sentient beings into the perfect emancipation from all passions."—Outlines of the Mahayana.

"Buddhism will stand forth as the embodiment of the eternal verity that as a man sows he will reap, associated with the duties of mastery over self and kindness to all men, and quickened into a popular religion by the example of a noble and beautiful life."—Dharmapala of Ceylon.

"Buddhism teaches the right path of cause and effect, and nothing which can supersede the idea of cause and effect will be accepted and believed. Buddha himself cannot contradict this law which is the Buddha, of Buddhas, and no omnipotent power except this law is believed to be existent in the universe.

"Buddhism does not quarrel with other religions about the truth ... Buddhism is truth common to every religion regardless of the outside garment."—Horin Toki, of Japan.

"Death we can face; but knowing, as some of us do, what is human life, which of us is it that without shuddering could (if we were summoned) face the hour of birth?" -De Quinccy.

The prayer of Buddhism, "Deliver us from existence." The prayer of the Christian, "Deliver us from evil."

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."—Genesis.

"I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly."—Jesus.


Pre-Buddhistic India.

Does the name of Gautama, the Buddha, stand for a sun-myth or for a historic personage? One set of scholars and writers, represented by Professor Kern,[1] of Leyden, thinks the Buddha a mythical personage. Another school, represented by Professor T. Rhys Davids,[2] declares that he lived in human flesh and breathed the air of earth. We accept the historical view as best explaining the facts.

In order to understand a religion, in its origin at least, we must know some of the conditions out of which it arose. Buddhism is one of the protestantisms of the world. Yet, is not every religion, in one sense, protestant? Is it not a protest against something to which it opposes a difference? Every new religion, like a growing plant, ignores or rejects certain elements in the soil out of which it springs. It takes up and assimilates, also, other elements not used before, in order to produce a flower or fruit different from other growths out of the same soil. Yet whether the new religion be considered as a development, fulfilment, or protest, we must know its historical perspective or background. To understand the origin of Buddhism, one of the best preparations is to read the history of India and especially of the thought of her many generations; for the landmarks of the civilizations of India, as a Hindu may proudly say, are its mighty literatures. At these let us glance.[3]

The age of the Vedas extends from the year 2000 to 1400 B.C., and the history of this early India is wonderfully like that of America. During this era, the Hindus, one of the seven Aryan tribes of which the Persian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Sclav and Teutonic form the other six, descending from the mid-Asian plateau, settled the Punjab in Northwest India. They drove the dark-skinned aborigines before them and reclaimed forest and swamp to civilization, making the land of the seven rivers bright with agriculture and brilliant with cities. This was the glorious heroic age of joyous life and conquest, when men who believed in a Heavenly Father[4] made the first epoch of Hindu history.

Then followed the epic age, 1400-1000 B.C., when the area of civilization was extended still farther down the Ganges Valley, the splendor of wealth, learning, military prowess and social life excelling that of the ancestral seats in the Punjab. Amid differences of wars and diplomacy with rivalries and jealousies, a common sacred language, literature and religion with similar social and religious institutions, united the various nations together. In this time the old Vedas were compiled into bodies or collections, and the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, besides the great epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were composed.

The next, or rationalistic epoch, covers the period from 1000 B.C. to 320 B.C., when the Hindu expansion had covered all India, that is, the peninsula from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin. Then, all India, including Ceylon, was Hinduized, though in differing degrees; the purest Aryan civilization being in the north, the less pure in the Ganges Valley and south and east, while the least Aryan and more Dravidian was in Bengal, Orissa, and India south of the Kistna River.

This story of the spread of Hindu civilization is a brilliant one, and seems as wonderful as the later European conquest of the land, and of the other "Indians" of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Beside the conquests in material civilization of these our fellow-Aryans (who were the real Indians, and who spoke the language which is the common ancestor of our own and of most European tongues), what impresses us most of all, in these Aryans, is their intellectual energy. The Hindus of the rationalistic age made original discoveries. They invented grammar, geometry, arithmetic, decimal notation, and they elaborated astronomy, medicine, mental philosophy and logic (with syllogism) before these sciences were known or perfected in Greece. In the seventh century before Christ, Kapila taught a system of philosophy, of which that of the Europeans, Schopenhaur and Hartmann, seems largely a reproduction.

Following this agnostic scheme of thought, came, several centuries later, the dualistic Yoga[5] system in which the chief feature is the conception of Deity as a means of final emancipation of the human soul from further transmigration, and of union with the Universal Spirit or World Soul. There is, however, perhaps no sadder chapter in the history of human thought than the story of the later degeneration of the Yoga system into one of bloody and cruel rites in India, and of superstition in China.

Still other systems followed: one by Gautama, of the same clan or family of the later Buddha, who develops inference by the construction of syllogism; while Kanada follows the atomic philosophy in which the atoms are eternal, but the aggregates perishable by disintegration.

Against these schools, which seemed to be dangerous "new departures," orthodox Hindus, anxious for their ancient beliefs and practices as laid down in the Vedas, started fresh systems of philosophy, avowedly more in consonances with their ancestral faith. One system insisted on the primitive Vedic ritual, and another laid emphasis on the belief in a Universal Soul first inculcated in the Upanishads.

Conditions out of which Buddhism Arose.

Whatever we may think of these schools of philosophy, or the connection with or indebtedness of Gautama, the Buddha, to them, they reveal to us the conceptions which his contemporaries had of the universe and the beings inhabiting it. These were honest human attempts to find God. In them the various beings or six conditions of sentient existence are devas or gods; men; asuras or monsters; pretas or demons; animals; and beings in hell. Furthermore, these schools of Hindu philosophy show us the conditions out of which Buddhism arose, furnish us with its terminology and technical phrases, reveal to us what the reformer proposed to himself to do, and, what is perhaps still more important, show us the types to which Buddhism in its degeneration and degradation reverted. The strange far-off oriental words which today scholars discuss, theosophists manipulate, and charlatans employ as catchpennies were common words in the every-day speech of the Hindu people, two or three thousand years ago.

Glancing rapidly at the condition of religion in the era ushering in the birth of Buddha, we note that the old joyousness of life manifested in the Vedic hymns is past, their fervor and glow are gone. In the morning of Hindu life there was no caste, no fixed priesthood, and no idols; but as wealth, civilization, easy and settled life succeeded, the taste for pompous sacrifices conducted by an hereditary priestly caste increased. Greater importance was laid upon the detail of the ceremonies, the attention of the worshipper being turned from the deities "to the minutiae of rites, the erection of altars, the fixing of the proper astronomical moments for lighting the fire, the correct pronunciation of prayers, and to the various requisite acts accompanying a sacrifice."[6] In the chapter of decay which time wrote and literature reflects, we find "grotesque reasons given for every minute rite, dogmatic explanation of texts, penances for every breach of form and rule, and elaborate directions for every act and moment of the worshipper."

The literature shows a degree of credulity and submission on the part of the people and of absolute power on the part of the priests, which reminds us of the Middle Ages in Europe. The old inspiring wars with the aborigines are over. The time of bearing a noble creed, meaning culture and civilization as against savagery and idolatry, is past, and only intestine quarrels and local strife have succeeded. The age of creative literature is over, and commentators, critics and grammarians have succeeded. Still more startling are the facts disclosed by literary history. The liquid poetry has become frozen prose; the old flaming fuel of genius is now slag and ashes. We see Hindus doing exactly what Jewish rabbis, and after them Christian schoolmen and dogma-makers, did with the old Hebrew poems and prophecies. Construing literally the prayers, songs and hopes of an earlier age, they rebuild the letter of the text into creeds and systems, and erect an amazing edifice of steel-framed and stone-cased tradition, to challenge which is taught to be heresy and impiety. The poetical similes used in the Rig Vedas have been transformed into mythological tales. In the change of language the Vedas themselves are unreadable, except by the priests, who fatten on popular beliefs in the transmigration of souls and in the power of priestcraft to make that transmigration blissful—provided liberal gifts are duly forthcoming. Idolatry and witchcraft are rampant. Some saviour, some light was needed.

Buddhism a Logical Product of Hindu Thought.

At such a time, probably 557 B.C., was born Shaka, of the Muni clan, at Kapilavastu, one hundred miles northeast of Benares. We pass over the details[7] of the life of him called Prince, Lord, Lion of the Tribe of Shaka, and Saviour; of his desertion of wife and child, called the first Great Renunciation; of his struggles to obtain peace; of his enlightenment or Buddhahood; of his second or Greater Renunciation; of merit on account of austerities; and give the story told in a mountain of books in various tongues, but condensed in a paragraph by Romesh Chunder Dutt.

"At an early age, Prince Gautama left his royal home, and his wife, and new-born child, and became a wanderer and a mendicant, to seek a way of salvation for man. Hindu rites, accompanied by the slaughter of innocent victims, repelled his feelings. Hindu philosophy afforded him no remedy, and Hindu penances and mortifications proved unavailing after he had practised them for years. At last, by severe contemplation, he discovered the long coveted truth; a holy and calm life, and benevolence and love toward all living creatures seemed to him the essence of religion. Self-culture and universal love—this was his discovery—this is the essence of Buddhism."[8]

From one point of view Buddhism was the logical continuance of Aryan Hindoo philosophy; from another point of view it was a new departure. The leading idea in the Upanishads is that the object of the wise man should be to know, inwardly and consciously, the Great Soul of all; and by this knowledge his individual soul would become united to the Supreme Being, the true and absolute self. This was the highest point reached in the old Indian philosophy[9] before Buddha was born.

So, looking at Buddhism in the perspective of Hindu history and thought, we may say that it is doubtful whether Gautama intended to found a new religion. As, humanly speaking, Saul of Tarsus saved Christianity from being a Jewish sect and made it universal, so Gautama extricated the new enthusiasm of humanity from the priests. He made Aryan religion the property of all India. What had been a rare monopoly as narrow as Judaism, he made the inheritance of all Asia. Gautama was a protestant and a reformer, not an agnostic or skeptic. It is more probable that he meant to shake off Brahmanism and to restore the pure and original form of the Aryan religion of the Vedas, as far as it was possible to do so. In one sense, Buddhism was a revolt against hereditary and sacerdotal privilege—an attack of the people against priestcraft. The Buddha and his disciples were levellers. In a different age and clime, but along a similar path, they did a work analogous to that of the so-called Anabaptists in Europe and Independents in England, centuries later.

It is certain, however, that Buddhism has grown logically out of ancient Hinduism. In its monastic feature—one of its most striking characteristics—we see only the concentration and reduction to system, of the old life of the ascetics and religious mendicants recognized and respected by Hinduism. For centuries the Buddhist monks and nuns were regarded in India as only a new sect of ascetics, among many others which flourished in the land.

The Buddhist doctrine of karma, or in Japanese, ingwa, of cause and effect, whereby it is taught that each effect in this life springs from a cause in some previous incarnation, and that each act in this life bears its fruit in the next, has grown directly out of the Hindu idea of the transmigration of souls. This idea is first inculcated in the Upanishads, and is recognized in Hindu systems of philosophy.

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