free ebooks

A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Buddhism was largely responsible

Thus, outlaws, living by plunder, became a common feature of the time, and there arose a need for guards more capable than those supplied by the system of partial conscription. Hence, in the reign of Shomu, the sons and brothers of district governors (gunshi) proficient in archery and equestrianism were summoned from Omi, Ise, Mino, and Echizen, and to them was assigned the duty of guarding the public storehouses in the provinces. At the same time many men of prominence and influence began to organize guards for their private protection. This was contrary to law, but the condition of the time seemed to warrant it, and the authorities were powerless to prevent it. The ultimate supremacy of the military class had its origin in these circumstances. The Government itself was constrained to organize special corps for dealing with the brigands and pirates who infested the country and the coasts.

It has been well said by a Japanese historian that the fortunes of the Yamato were at their zenith during the reigns of the three Emperors Jimmu, Temmu, and Mommu. From the beginning of the eighth century they began to decline. For that decline, Buddhism was largely responsible. Buddhism gave to Japan a noble creed in the place of a colourless cult; gave to her art and refinement, but gave to her also something like financial ruin. The Indian faith spread with wonderful rapidity among all classes and betrayed them into fanatical extravagance. Anyone who did not erect or contribute largely to the erection of a temple or a pagoda was not admitted to the ranks of humanity. Men readily sacrificed their estates to form temple domains or to purchase serfs (tera-yakko) to till them. The sublimity of these edifices; the solemn grandeur of the images enshrined there; the dazzling and exquisite art lavished on their decoration; the strange splendour of the whole display might well suggest to the Japanese the work of some supernatural agencies.

In the Nara epoch, the Government spent fully one-half of its total income on works of piety. No country except in time of war ever devoted so much to unproductive expenditures. The enormous quantities of copper used for casting images not only exhausted the produce of the mines but also made large inroads upon the currency, hundreds of thousands of cash being thrown into the melting-pot. In 760 it was found that the volume of privately coined cash exceeded one-half of the State income, and under pretext that to suspend the circulation of such a quantity would embarrass the people, the Government struck a new coin--the mannen tsuho--which, while not differing appreciably from the old cash in intrinsic value, was arbitrarily invested with ten times the latter's purchasing power. The profit to the treasury was enormous; the disturbance of values and the dislocation of trade were proportionately great. Twelve years later (772), another rescript ordered that the new coin should circulate at par with the old. Such unstable legislation implies a very crude conception of financial requirements.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us