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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Tradition says that Shiba Tachito came from Liang


No such reception awaited Buddhism in Japan when, in 522, a Chinese bonze, Shiba Tachito, arrived, erected a temple on the Sakata plain in Yamato, enshrined an image, of Buddha there, and endeavoured to propagate the faith. At that time, Wu, the first Emperor of the Liang dynasty in China, was employing all his influence to popularize the Indian creed. Tradition says that Shiba Tachito came from Liang, and in all probability he took the overland route via the Korean peninsula, but the facts are obscure. No sensible impression seems to have been produced in Japan by this essay. Buddhism was made known to a few, but the Japanese showed no disposition to worship a foreign god. Twenty-three years later (545), the subject attracted attention again. Song Wang Myong, King of Kudara, menaced by a crushing attack on the part of Koma and Shiragi in co-operation, made an image of the Buddha, sixteen feet high, and petitioned the Court of Yamato in the sense that as all good things were promised in the sequel of such an effort, protection should be extended to him by Japan. Tradition says that although Buddhism had not yet secured a footing in Yamato, this image must be regarded as the pioneer of many similar objects subsequently set up in Japanese temples.

Nevertheless, A.D. 552 is usually spoken of as the date of Buddhism's introduction into Japan. In that year the same King of Kudara presented direct to the Yamato Court a copper image of Buddha plated with gold; several canopies (tengai), and some volumes of the sacred books, by the hands of Tori Shichi (Korean pronunciation, Nori Sachhi) and others. The envoys carried also a memorial which said: "This doctrine is, among all, most excellent. But it is difficult to explain and difficult to understand. Even the Duke Chou and Confucius did not attain to comprehension. It can produce fortune and retribution, immeasurable, illimitable. It can transform a man into a Bodhi. Imagine a treasure capable of satisfying all desires in proportion as it is used. Such a treasure is this wonderful doctrine. Every earnest supplication is fulfilled and nothing is wanting. Moreover, from farthest India to the three Han, all have embraced the doctrine, and there is none that does not receive it with reverence wherever it is preached. Therefore thy servant, Myong, in all sincerity, sends his retainer, Nori Sachhi, to transmit it to the Imperial country, that it may be diffused abroad throughout the home provinces,* so as to fulfil the recorded saying of the Buddha, 'My law shall spread to the East.'"** It is highly probable that in the effort to win the Yamato Court to Buddhism, King Myong was influenced as much by political as by moral motives. He sought to use the foreign faith as a link to bind Japan to his country, so that he might count on his oversea neighbour's powerful aid against the attacks of Koma and Shiragi.

*That is to say, the Kinai, or five provinces, of which Yamato is the centre.

**The memorial is held by some critics to be of doubtful authenticity, though the compilers of the Chronicles may have inserted it in good faith.

A more interesting question, however, is the aspect under which the new faith presented itself to the Japanese when it first arrived among them as a rival of Shinto and Confucianism. There can be no doubt that the form in which it became known at the outset was the Hinayana, or Exoteric, as distinguished from the Mahayana, or Esoteric. But how did the Japanese converts reconcile its acceptance with their allegiance to the traditional faith, Shinto? The clearest available answer to this question is contained in a book called Taishiden Hochu, where, in reply to a query from his father, Yomei, who professed inability to believe foreign doctrines at variance with those handed down from the age of the Kami, Prince Shotoku is recorded to have replied:


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