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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

There arrived from Kudara another Chinese literatus


IMPORTATION

OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION

Although Japan's military influence on the neighbouring continent waned perceptibly from the reign of Kimmei (540-571) onwards, a stream of Chinese civilization flowed steadily into the Island Empire from the west, partly coming direct from the fountain head; partly filtering, in a more or less impure form, through Korean channels. Many of the propagandists of this civilization remained permanently in Japan, where they received a courteous welcome, being promoted to positions of trust and admitted to the ranks of the nobility. Thus a book (the Seishi-roku), published in 814, which has been aptly termed the "peerage of Japan," shows that, at that time, nearly one-third of the Japanese nobility traced their descent to Chinese or Korean ancestors in something like equal proportions. The numbers are, China, 162 families; Kudara, 104; Koma, 50; Mimana, 9; Shiragi, 9; doubtful, 47. Total, 381 Chinese and Korean families out of a grand aggregate of 1177. But many of the visitors returned home after having sojourned for a time as teachers of literature, art, or industrial science.

This system of brief residence for purposes of instruction seems to have been inaugurated during the reign of Keitai, in the year 513, when Tan Yang-i, a Chinese expounder of the five classics, was brought to Yamato by envoys from Kudara as a gift valued enough to purchase political intervention for the restoration

of lost territory; and when, three years later, a second embassy from the same place, coming to render thanks for effective assistance in the matter of the territory, asked that Tan might be allowed to return in exchange for another Chinese pundit, Ko An-mu. The incident suggests how great was the value attached to erudition even in those remote days. Yet this promising precedent was not followed for nearly forty years, partly owing to the unsettled nature of Japan's relations. with Korea.

After the advent of Buddhism (552), however, Chinese culture found new expansion eastward. In 554, there arrived from Kudara another Chinese literatus, and, by desire of the Emperor, Kimmei, a party of experts followed shortly afterwards, including a man learned in the calendar, a professor of divination, a physician, two herbalists, and four musicians. The record says that these men, who, with the exception of the Chinese doctor of literature, were all Koreans, took the place of an equal number of their countrymen who had resided in Japan for some years. Thenceforth such incidents were frequent. Yet, at first, a thorough knowledge of the ideographic script seems to have spread very slowly in Japan, for in 572, when the Emperor Bidatsu sought an interpretation of a memorial presented by the Koma sovereign, only one man among all the scribes (fumi-bito), and he (Wang Sin-i) of Chinese origin, was found capable of reading the document.

But from the accession of the Empress Suiko (593), the influence of Shotoku Taishi made itself felt in every branch of learning, and thenceforth China and Japan may be said to have stood towards each other in the relation of teacher and pupil. Literature, the ideographic script,* calendar compiling, astronomy, geography, divination, magic, painting, sculpture, architecture, tile-making, ceramics, the casting of metal, and other crafts were all cultivated assiduously under Chinese and Korean instruction. In architecture, all substantial progress must be attributed to Buddhism, for it was by building temples and pagodas that Japanese ideas of dwelling-houses were finally raised above the semi-subterranean type, and to the same influence must be attributed signal and rapid progress in the art of interior decoration. The style of architecture adopted in temples was a mixture of the Chinese and the Indian. Indeed, it is characteristic of this early epoch that traces of the architectural and glyptic fashions of the land where Buddhism was born showed themselves much more conspicuously than they did in later eras; a fact which illustrates Japan's constant tendency to break away from originals by modifying them in accordance with her own ideals.


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