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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The heads of uji were practically feudal chiefs


SUPERSTITIONS

style="text-align: justify;">No influences of alien character affected the religious beliefs of the Japanese during the period we are now considering (fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries). The most characteristic feature of the time was a belief in the supernatural power of reptiles and animals. This credulity was not limited to the uneducated masses. The Throne itself shared it. Yuryaku, having expressed a desire to see the incarnated form of the Kami of Mimoro Mountain, was shown a serpent seventy feet long. In the same year a group of snakes harrassed a man who was reclaiming a marsh, so that he had to take arms against them and enter into a compact of limitations and of shrine building. Other records of maleficent deities in serpent shape were current, and monkeys and dragons inspired similar terror. Of this superstition there was born an evil custom, the sacrifice of human beings to appease the hostile spirits. The Kami of Chusan in Mimasaka province was believed to be a giant ape, and the Kami of Koya, a big reptile. The people of these two districts took it in turn to offer a girl at the shrines of those Kami, and in the province of Hida another colossal monkey was similarly appeased. There were further cases of extravagant superstition.

ARTS AND CRAFTS

Of the development of sericulture and of the arts of weaving and ceramics in this era enough has already been written; but, as showing the growth of refinement,

it may be noted that among the articles ordered by the Emperor Yuryaku were a silk hat and a sashiha, or round fan with a long handle. The colour of the fan was purple, and it is said to have been hung up as an ornament in the palace.

FORM OF GOVERNMENT

The original form of government under the Yamato seems to have been feudal. The heads of uji were practically feudal chiefs. Even orders from the Throne had to pass through the uji no Kami in order to reach the people. But from the time of Nintoku (313-349) to that of Yuryaku (457-479), the Court wielded much power, and the greatest among the uji chiefs found no opportunity to interfere with the exercise of the sovereign's rights. Gradually, however, and mainly owing to the intrusion of love affairs or of lust, the Imperial household fell into disorder, which prompted the revolt of Heguri, the o-omi of the Kwobetsu (Imperial families); a revolt subdued by the loyalty of the o-muraji of the Shimbetsu (Kami families).

From the days of the Emperor Muretsu (499-506), direct heirs to succeed to the sceptre were wanting in more than one instance, and a unique opportunity thus offered for traitrous essays. There was none. Men's minds were still deeply imbued with the conviction that by the Tenjin alone might the Throne be occupied. But with the introduction of Buddhism (A.D. 552), that conviction received a shock. That the Buddha directed and controlled man's destiny was a doctrine inconsistent with the traditional faith in the divine authority of the "son of heaven." Hence from the sixth century the prestige of the Crown began to decline, and the puissance of the great uji grew to exceed that of the sovereign. During a short period (645-670) the authority of the Throne was reasserted, owing to the adoption of the Tang systems of China; but thereafter the great Fujiwara-uji became paramount and practically administered the empire.


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