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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Desiring to evade taxation and forced labour


*The

district was consequently named Nima, an abbreviation of ni (two) man (ten thousand).

Passing to the question of religion, the memorialist declared that the Shinto ceremonials to secure good harvests had lost all sincerity. The officials behaved as though there were no such thing as deities. They used the offerings for their own private purposes, sold the sacred horses, and recited the rituals without the least show of reverence. As for Buddhist priests, before asking them to pray for the welfare of their parishioners, they must be asked to purge themselves of their own sins. The priests who ministered at the provincial temples had lost all sense of shame. They had wives, built houses, cultivated lands, and engaged in trade. Was it to be supposed that heaven would hearken to the intervention of such sinners?

Meanwhile, luxury and extravagance had reached an extreme degree. On one suit of clothes a patrimony was expended, and sometimes a year's income barely sufficed for a single banquet. At funeral services all classes launched into flagrant excesses. Feasts were prepared on such a scale that the trays of viands covered the entire floor of a temple. Thousands of pieces of gold were paid to the officiating priests, and a ceremony, begun in mourning, ended in revelry. Corresponding disorder existed with regard to the land. The original distribution into kubunden, as we saw, had been partly for purposes of taxation.

But now these allotments were illegally appropriated, so that they neither paid imposts nor furnished labourers; and while governors held worthless regions, wealthy magnates annexed great tracts of fertile land. Another abuse, prevalent according to Miyoshi Kiyotsura's testimony, was that accusations were falsely preferred by officials against their seniors. Provincial governors were said to have frequently indulged in this treacherous practice and to have been themselves at times the victims of similar attacks. The Court, on receipt of such charges, seldom scrutinized them closely, but at once despatched officers to deal with the incriminated persons, and in the sequel, men occupying exalted positions were obliged to plead on an equal footing with officials of low grade or even common people. Self-respecting persons chose to stand aside altogether from official life rather than to encounter such risks.

This was an almost inevitable result of the exceptional facilities given to petitioners under the Daika and Daiho systems. Miyoshi Kiyotsura urged that all petitioning and all resulting inquiries by specially appointed officials should be interdicted, except in matters relating to political crime, and that all offenders should be handed over to the duly constituted administrators of justice. As to these latter, he spoke very plainly. The kebiishi, he wrote, who, being appointed to the various provinces, have to preserve law and order within their jurisdictions, should be men specially versed in law, whereas a majority of those serving in that capacity are ignorant and incompetent persons who have purchased their offices. To illustrate further the want of discrimination shown in selecting officials, he refers to the experts appointed in the maritime provinces for manufacturing catapults, and declares that many of these so-called "experts" had never seen a catapult.

ENGRAVING: FAMILY LIFE OF NOBLES, HEIAN EPOCH, A.D. 782-1192

It is against the Buddhist priests and the soldiers of the six guards that he inveighs most vehemently, however. He calls them "vicious and ferocious," Those who take the tonsure, he says, number from two to three thousand yearly, and about one-half of that total are wicked men--low fellows who, desiring to evade taxation and forced labour, have shaved their heads and donned priests vestments, aggregate two-thirds of the population. They marry, eat animal food, practise robbery, and carry on coining operations without any fear of punishment. If a provincial governor attempts to restrain them, they flock together and have recourse to violence. It was by bandits under the command of wicked priests that Fujiwara Tokiyoshi, governor of Aki, and Tachibana Kinkado, governor of Kii, were waylaid and plundered.


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