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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

In the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan


*Kemmu

was the Northern Court's name of the year-period 1334 to 1338: see p. 398.

**The Kemmu Shikimoku by Mr. Consul-General Hall, in the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan;" epitomized by Murdoch.

THE JINNO SHOTOKI

Before proceeding with the history of this troubled era, it is advisable to speak of a great political brochure which was compiled by Kitabatake Chikafusa during the period (1340-1343) of his attempt to harass the Ashikaga from the direction of Hitachi. This was a work designed to establish the divine claim of the sovereign of the Southern Court. Hence the title of the treatise, Correct Genealogy (Shotoki) of the Divine Emperor (Jinno). The reader knows that when, in the eighth century, Japan went to Chinese sources for jurisprudential inspiration, she had to eliminate the Confucian and Mencian doctrine that the sceptre may not be wielded by anyone whose virtues do not qualify him for the task in the eyes of the nation. This same doctrine permeated by construction the commentaries that accompanied the articles of the Kemmu Shikimoku as quoted above, and in that fact Chikafusa saw an opportunity of winning adherents for the Southern Court by proclaiming its heaven-conferred rights.

"Great Yamato," Kitabatake wrote, "is a divine country. It is only our land whose foundations were first laid by the divine ancestor. It alone has

been transmitted by the Sun goddess to a long line of her descendants. There is nothing of this kind in foreign countries. Therefore it is called the divine land. . . It is only our country which from the time when the heaven and earth were first unfolded, has preserved the succession to the throne intact in one single family. Even when, as sometimes naturally happened, it descended to a lateral branch, it was held according to just principles. This shows that the oath of the gods (to preserve the succession) is ever renewed in a way which distinguishes Japan from all other countries. . . . It is the duty of every man born on the Imperial soil to yield devoted loyalty to his sovereign, even to the sacrifice of his own life. Let no one suppose for a moment that there is any credit due to him for doing so. Nevertheless, in order to stimulate the zeal of those who came after, and in loving memory of the dead, it is the business of the ruler to grant rewards in such cases (to the children). Those who are in an inferior position should not enter into rivalry with them. Still more should those who have done no specially meritorious service abstain from inordinate ambitions. I have already touched on the principles of statesmanship. They are based on justice and mercy, in the dispensing of which firm action is requisite. Such is the clear instruction vouchsafed to us by the Sun goddess."*

*Aston's Japanese Literature.

It is not to be supposed that these doctrines produced any wide-spread influence on public opinion at the time of their promulgation. In the first place they were not generally accessible; for not until the year 1649 was Kitabatake's brochure printed. That it remained in manuscript during three centuries after its compilation is not attributable to technical difficulties. The art of blockprinting came to Japan from China in very early times, and it is on record that, in 770, the Empress Shotoku caused a million Buddhist amulets to be printed. But the Jinno Shotoki did not fall on fruitful soil. Either its teaching was superfluous or men were too much engrossed with fighting to listen to academical disquisitions. Chikafusa's work was destined to produce great and lasting effects in future ages, but, for the moment, it accomplished little.


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