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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Japan returned a respectful address


The

Emperor greets the sovereign of Wa.* Your envoy and his suite have arrived and have given us full information. We, by the grace of heaven, rule over the universe. It is Our desire to diffuse abroad our civilizing influence so as to cover all living things, and Our sentiment of loving nurture knows no distinction of distance. Now We learn that Your Majesty, dwelling separately beyond the sea, bestows the blessings of peace on Your subjects; that there is tranquillity within Your borders, and that the customs and manners are mild. With the most profound loyalty You have sent Us tribute from afar, and We are delighted at this admirable token of Your sincerity. Our health is as usual, notwithstanding the increasing heat of the weather. Therefore We have sent Pei Shieh-ching, Official Entertainer of the Department charged with the Ceremonial for the Reception of Foreign Ambassadors, and his suite, to notify to you the preceding. We also transmit to you the products of which a list is given separately.**

*It has already been stated that Japan was generally known in China and Korea by the term "Wa," which, being written with an ideograph signifying "dwarf" or "subservient," was disliked by the Japanese. The envoy sent from Yamato in 607 was instructed to ask for the substitution of Nippon (Place of Sunrise), but the Sui sovereign declined to make the change and Japan did not receive the designation "Nippon" in China until the period Wu Teh (A.D. 618-626)

of the Tang dynasty. It is not certain at what time exactly the Japanese themselves adopted this nomenclature, but it certainly was before the seventh century.

**Translated by Aston in the Nihongi.

When the reading of the document was concluded, a high noble stepped forward, took it from the envoy's hands and advanced with it towards the audience-hall, from which another noble came out to meet him, received the letter, deposited it on a table before the chief entrance, and then reported the facts to the Empress. This ended the ceremony. The haughty condescension of the Chinese despatch does not appear to have offended the Japanese, nor did they cavil at the omission of one important ideograph from the title applied to their Empress. China's greatness seems to have been fully recognized. When, a month later, the envoy took his departure, the same Imoko was deputed to accompany him, bearing a despatch* in which, to China's simple "greeting," Japan returned a "respectful address;" to China's expression of ineffable superiority Japan replied that the coming of the embassy had "dissolved her long-harboured cares;" and to China's grandiloquent prolixity Japan made answer with half a dozen brief lines. Imoko was now accompanied by eight students four of literature and four of religion. Thus was established, and for long afterwards maintained, a bridge over which the literature, arts, ethics, and philosophies of China were copiously imported into Japan.

*In this despatch Japan called herself "the place where the sun comes forth," and designated China as "the place where the sun sets." The idea, doubtless, was merely to distinguish between east and west, but the Sui sovereign resented the diction of this "barbarian letter."


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