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Japanese samurai in armour, 1860s. Photograph by Felice Beato

Bushidō (武士道?), roughly translated as "the way of the warrior," is a Japanese code of conduct and way of samurai life, loosely analogous to the Western concept of chivalry. As part of the samurai philosophy, Bushidō stresses loyalty, frugality, the mastery of martial arts, and "honor unto death." Born of two main influences, philosophy and swordsmanship, the violent existence of the samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Japanese Shinto and Buddhism.[1]

According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, "Bushidō is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period." In Bushidō: The Soul of Japan author Nitobe Inazō wrote:

"...Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe... More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten... It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career."[2]

Nitobe was not the first person to document Japanese chivalry in this way. In his text Feudal and Modern Japan, historian Arthur May Knapp wrote:

"The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice..... It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation. The fine instinct of honor demanding it was in the very blood..."[3]

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of bushidō became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law.[4]

Contents

Historical development

Early history to 12th centuries

Busido kal.svg

The Kojiki is Japan's oldest extant book. Written in 712 AD, it contains passages about Yamato Takeru, the son of the Emperor Keiko. It provides an early indication of the values and literary self-image of the Bushidō ideal, including references to the use and admiration of the sword by Japanese warriors.

This early concept is further found in the Shoku Nihongi, an early history of Japan written in the year 797. The chapter covering the year 721 is notable for an early use of the term "bushi" (武士?) and a reference to the educated warrior-poet ideal. The Chinese term bushi had entered the Japanese vocabulary with the general introduction of Chinese literature, supplementing the indigenous terms tsuwamono and mononofu.

An early reference to saburau — a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person of high rank — appears in Kokin Wakashū, the first imperial anthology of poems, (early 10th century). By the end of the 12th century, saburai ("retainer") had become largely synonymous with bushi, and closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class.

Although many of the early literary works of Japan contain the image of the warrior, the term "bushidō" does not appear in early texts like the Kojiki. Warrior ideals and conduct may be illustrated, but the term did not appear in text until the Sengoku period, towards the end of the Muromachi era (1336–1573).[5]

13th to 16th centuries

From the literature of the 13th to 16th centuries, there exists an abundance of references to the ideals of Bushidō. Carl Steenstrup noted that 13th and 14th century writings (gunki) "portrayed the bushi in their natural element, war, eulogizing such virtues as reckless bravery, fierce family pride, and selfless, at times senseless devotion of master and man."

Compiled in 1371, the Heike Monogatari chronicles the struggle between the Minamoto and Taira clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century—a conflict known as the Gempei War. Clearly depicted throughout the Heike Monogatari is the ideal of the cultivated warrior. The warriors in the Heike Monogatari served as models for the educated warriors of later generations, and the ideals depicted by them were not assumed to be beyond reach. Rather, these ideals were vigorously pursued in the upper echelons of warrior society and recommended as the proper form of the Japanese man of arms. By the time of Imagawa Ryoshun's "Regulations" at the beginning of the 15th century, the Bushidō ideal was fairly clear, and the term itself came into widespread use.

Other examples of the evolution in the Bushidō literature of the 13th to 16th centuries included:

The sayings of Sengoku-period retainers and warlords such as Kato Kiyomasa and Nabeshima Naoshige were generally recorded or passed down to posterity around the turn of the 16th century when Japan had entered a period of relative peace. In a handbook addressed to "all samurai, regardless of rank," Kato states:

"If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushido daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus, it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one's mind well."

Kato was a ferocious warrior who banned even recitation of poetry, stating:

"One should put forth great effort in matters of learning. One should read books concerning military matters, and direct his attention exclusively to the virtues of loyalty and filial piety....Having been born into the house of a warrior, one's intentions should be to grasp the long and the short swords and to die."[1]

Naoshige says similarly, that it is shameful for any man to die without having risked his life in battle, regardless of rank, and that "Bushidō is in being crazy to die. Fifty or more could not kill one such a man." However, Naoshige also suggests that "everyone should personally know exertion as it is known in the lower classes."[1]

17th to 19th centuries

Miyamoto Musashi killing a giant creature, from The Book of Five Rings

Japan enjoyed a period of relative peace during the Sakoku period from 1600 to the mid-19th century, also called the "Pax Tokugawa". During this period, the samurai class played a central role in the policing and administration of the country under the Tokugawa shogunate. The bushidō literature of this time contains much thought relevant to a warrior class seeking more general application of martial principles and experience in peacetime, as well as reflection on the land's long history of war. The literature of this time includes:

The Hagakure contains many of the sayings of Sengoku-period retainer Nabeshima Naoshige (1537–1619) regarding Bushidō related philosophy early in the 18th century by Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659–1719), a former retainer to Naoshige's grandson, Nabeshima Mitsushige. The Hagakure was compiled in the early 18th century, but was kept as a kind of "secret teaching" of the Nabeshima clan until was the end of the Tokugawa era (1867).[2]

Tokugawa-era rōnin scholar and strategist Yamaga Sokō (1622–1685) wrote extensively on matters relating to bushidō, bukyō (a "warrior's creed"), and a more general shido, a "way of gentlemen" intended for application to all stations of society. Sokō attempts to codify a kind of "universal bushidō" with a special emphasis on "pure" Confucian values, (rejecting the mystical influences of Tao and Buddhism in Neo-Confucian orthodoxy), while at the same time calling for recognition of the singular and divine nature of Japan and Japanese culture. These radical concepts—including ultimate devotion to the Emperor, regardless of rank or clan—put him at odds with the reigning shogunate. He was exiled to the Akō domain, (the future setting of the 47 Rōnin incident), and his works were not widely read till the rise of nationalism in the early 20th century.

The aging Tsunetomo's interpretation of bushidō is perhaps more illustrative of the philosophy refined by his unique station and experience, at once dutiful and defiant, ultimately incompatible with the mores and laws of an emerging civil society. Of the 47 Rōnin—to this day, generally regarded as exemplars of bushidō—Tsunetomo felt they were remiss in hatching such a wily, delayed plot for revenge, and had been over-concerned with the success of their undertaking. Instead, Tsunetomo felt true samurai should act without hesitation to fulfill their duties, without regard for success or failure.

This romantic sentiment is of course expressed by warriors down through history, though it may run counter to the art of war itself. This ambivalence is found in the heart of bushidō, and perhaps all such "warrior codes". Some combination of traditional bushidō's organic contradictions and more "universal" or "progressive" formulations, (like those of Yamaga Soko), would inform Japan's disastrous military ambitions in the 20th century.

Tenets

Three stone monuments of great philosophers who had achievements in Buddhism, Shintoism and Confucianism

Bushidō expanded and formalized the earlier code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honor to the death. Under the bushidō ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide).

In an excerpt from his book Samurai: The World of the Warrior,[6] historian Stephen Turnbull describes the role of seppuku in feudal Japan:

In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.

Bushidō was widely practiced, varying little over time, and across the geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai, who at one time represented up to 10% of the Japanese population.[7] The first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the "high samurai", allowed to ride a horse, and 492,000 members of the "low samurai", allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse, in a country of about 25 million.[8]

Bushidō includes compassion for those of lower station, and for the preservation of one's name.[1] Early bushidō literature further enforces the requirement to conduct oneself with calmness, fairness, justice, and propriety.[1] The relationship between learning and the way of the warrior is clearly articulated, one being a natural partner to the other.[1]

Other parts of the bushidō philosophy cover methods of raising children, appearance, and grooming, but all this may be seen as part of one's constant preparation for death—to die a good death with one's honor intact, the ultimate aim in a life lived according to bushidō. Indeed, a "good death" is its own reward, and by no means assurance of "future rewards" in the afterlife. Notable samurai have throughout history held such aims or beliefs in disdain, or expressed the awareness that their station—as it involves killing—precludes such reward, especially in Buddhism. On the contrary, the soul of a noble warrior suffering in hell or as a lingering spirit is a common motif in Japanese art and literature. Bushidō, while exhibiting the influence of Dao through Zen Buddhism, is a philosophy in contradistinction to religious belief, with a deep commitment to propriety in this world for propriety's sake.

Seven virtues of Bushidō

The Bushidō code is typified by seven virtues:

Associated virtues

Modern translations

Modern Western translation of documents related to Bushidō began in the 1970s with Carl Steenstrup, who performed research into the ethical codes of famous Samurai clans including Hōjō Sōun and Imagawa Sadayo.[9]

Primary research into Bushidō was later conducted by William Scott Wilson in his 1982 text Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors. The writings span hundreds of years, family lineage, geography, social class and writing style—yet share a common set of values. Wilson's work also examined the earliest Japanese writings in the 8th century: the Kojiki, Shoku Nihongi, the Kokin Wakashū, Konjaku Monogatari, and the Heike Monogatari, as well as the Chinese Classics (the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius.

In May 2008, Thomas Cleary translated a collection of 22 writings on Bushido "by warriors, scholars, political advisers, and educators". The comprehensive collection provides a historically rich view of samurai life and philosophy. The book gives an insider's view of the samurai world: "the moral and psychological development of the warrior, the ethical standards they were meant to uphold, their training in both martial arts and strategy, and the enormous role that the traditions of Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism had in influencing samurai ideals." The translations, in 22 chapters, span nearly 500 years from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

Major figures associated with Bushidō

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f William Scott Wilson, Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors (Kodansha, 1982) ISBN 0-89750-081-4
  2. ^ a b "The Samurai Series: The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure -The Way of the Samurai & Bushido - The Soul of Japan" ELPN Press (November, 2006) ISBN 1934255017
  3. ^ Arthur May Knapp (1896). "Feudal and Modern Japan". http://ia311035.us.archive.org/2/items/feudalmodernjapa01knapuoft/feudalmodernjapa01knapuoft_djvu.txt. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  4. ^ Japanese Feudal Laws John Carey Hall, The Tokugawa Legislation, (Yokohama, 1910), pp. 286-319
  5. ^ "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism," by Robert H. Sharf, in Curators of the Buddha, edited by Donald Lopez, pg 111
  6. ^ excerpt from Samurai: The World of the Warrior by Stephen Turnbull
  7. ^ Cleary, Thomas Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook Shambhala (May, 2008) ISBN 1590305728
  8. ^ Mikiso Hane Modern Japan: A Historical Survey, Third Edition Westview Press (January, 2001) ISBN 0813337569
  9. ^ Monumenta Nipponica

External links and further reading



1911 encyclopedia

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Wiktionary

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Etymology

From Japanese 武士道 (ぶしどう, bushidō).

Noun

Singular
bushido

Plural
uncountable

bushido (uncountable)

  1. An ethical code of the samurai that was prevalent in feudal Japan that advocated unquestioning loyalty to the master at all costs and obedience in all deeds, valuing honor above life.

Related terms

See also


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|250px|Japanese samurai in armour, 1860s.]]

Bushidō ( Bushidō?), meaning "Way of the Warrior", is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of life, more or less similar to the European code of chivalry. It comes from the samurai moral code and gives great importance to certain virtues like frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery and honour until death. Bushidō was created between the 11th to 14th centuries and took form as a code from the 12th to 16th centuries.

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Bushidō became official Japanese Feudal Law.[1] Honor codes are still used in modern times; for example, as part of the kamikaze beliefs...

Other pages

References

  1. Japanese Feudal Laws John Carey Hall, The Tokugawa Legislation, (Yokohama, 1910), pp. 286-319









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