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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Bestowed Ryukyu on Shimazu Tadakuni


is no reason to doubt the truth of these records, naive as are some of the descriptions. Unquestionably the Wokou were a terrible scourge to the Chinese on the eastern littoral.


Japanese annals say that the royal family of Ryukyu was descended from the hero Minamoto Tametomo who was banished to the island in 1156, and certainly the inhabitants of the archipelago are a race closely allied to the Japanese. But in 1373, the then ruler, Chuzan, sent an envoy to the Ming Court and became a tributary of the latter. In 1416, however, an ambassador from the islands presented himself at the Muromachi shogunate, and twenty-five years later (1441), the shogun Yoshinori, just before his death, bestowed Ryukyu on Shimazu Tadakuni, lord of Satsuma, in recognition of meritorious services. Subsequently (1471) the shogun Yoshimasa, in compliance with a request from the Shimazu family, forbade the sailing of any vessel to Ryukyu without a Shimazu permit, and when, a few years later, Miyake Kunihide attempted to invade Ryukyu, the Shimazu received Muromachi's (Yoshitane's) commission to punish him. Historically, therefore, Ryukyu formed part of Japan, but its rulers maintained a tributary attitude towards China until recent times, as will presently be seen.


Throughout the Muromachi period of two

and a half centuries a group of military men held the administration and reaped all rewards and emoluments of office so that literary pursuits ranked in comparatively small esteem. Some education was necessary, indeed, for men of position, but eminent scholars were exceptional. Noteworthy among the latter were Nijo Yoshimoto, Ichijo Fuyuyoshi, Doin Kinsada, Sanjonishi Sanetaka, and Kiyowara Naritada. Most renowned was Ichijo Kaneyoshi. Equally versed in the classics of China and Japan, as well as in Buddhism and Confucianism, he composed several works of high merit. A feature of the period was the erudition of the priests. Gen-e, a bonze of the temple Hiei-zan, adopted the commentaries of the Sung savants, Chengtzu and Chutsu, rejecting those of the earlier Han and Tang writers. In other words, he adopted the eclectic system of Buddhism and Confucianism as compounded by the scholars of the Sung and the Yuan epochs, in preference to the system of earlier pundits. The Emperor Go-Daigo invited Gen-e to Court and directed him to expound the Sutras. Thereafter, the Sung philosophy obtained wide allegiance, being preached by the priests of the Five Great Temples in Kyoto, and by all their provincial branches. On the other hand, the hereditary schools of Oye and Sugawara, adhering to their old dogmas, fell behind the times and declined in influence.

The feature of the age in point of learning was that scholarship became a priestly specialty. From the Five Temples (Go-zari) students constantly flocked to China, where they received instructions in the exoterics and esoterics of Buddhism, as modified by the creed of Confucius, laying the foundations of systems upon which philosophers of later ages, as Kazan and Seiga, built fair edifices. These priests of the Five Temples were more than religious propagandists: they were ministers of State, as Tenkai and Soden were in after times under the Tokugawa, and they practically commanded the shoguns. One reason operating to produce this result was that, in an age when lineage or military prowess was the sole secular step to fortune, men of civil talent but humble birth had to choose between remaining in hopeless insignificance or entering the priesthood where knowledge and virtue were sure passports to distinction. It was thus that in nearly every monastery there were found men of superior intellect and erudition. The fact was recognized. When Ashikaga Takauji desired to take counsel of Muso Kokushi, he repaired to that renowned priest's temple and treated him as a respected parent; and Yoshimitsu, the third of the Ashikaga shoguns, showed equal respect towards Gido, Zekkai and Jorin, whose advice he constantly sought.

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