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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Took Sugawara Toyonaga for preacher


It

was strange, indeed, that in an age when the sword was the paramount tribunal, the highest dignitaries in the land revered the exponents of ethics and literature. Takauji and his younger brother, Tadayoshi, sat at the feet of Gen-e as their preceptor. Yoshimitsu appointed Sugawara Hidenaga to be Court lecturer. Ujimitsu, the Kamakura kwanryo, took Sugawara Toyonaga for preacher. Yoshimasa's love of poetry impelled him to publish the Kinshudan.* Above all, Yoshihisa was an earnest scholar. He had a thorough knowledge of Chinese and Japanese classics; he was himself a poetaster of no mean ability; he read canonical books even as he sat in his palanquin; under his patronage Ichijo Kaneyoshi wrote the Shodan-chiyo and** the Bummei Ittoki; Fujiwara Noritane compiled the Teio-keizu; Otsuki Masabumi lectured on the analects and Urabe Kanetomo expounded the standard literature of the East.

*The Embroidered Brocade Discourse.

**Rustic Ideals of Government.

Yet, side by side with these patrons of learning stood a general public too ignorant to write its own name. Military men, who formed the bulk of the nation, were engrossed with the art of war and the science of intrigue to the exclusion of all erudition. The priests were always available to supply any need, and the priests utilized the occasion. Nevertheless, it stands to the credit of these bonzes that they made no attempt to monopolize

erudition. Their aim was to popularize it. They opened temple-seminaries (tera-koya) and exercise halls (dojo) where youths of all classes could obtain instruction and where an excellent series of text-books was used, the Iroha-uta* the Doji-kyo, the Teikin-orai** and the Goseibai-shikimoku.*** The Doji-kyo has been translated by Professor Chamberlain (in Vol. VIII of the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan"). A few extracts will serve to show the nature of the ethical teaching given to Japanese children in medieval days:

*A syllabary of moral precepts like the ethical copy-books of Occidentals.

**A model letter-writer.

***The criminal laws of Hojo Yasutoki. All these text-books remained in use until the Meiji era.

Let nothing lead thee into breaking faith with thy friend, and depart not from thy word. It is the tongue that is the root of misfortunes; if the mouth were made like unto the nose, a man would have no trouble till his life's end. In the house where virtue is accumulated there will surely be superabundant joy. No man is worthy of honour from his birth; 'tis the garnering-up of virtue that bringeth him wisdom and virtue; the rich man may not be worthy of honour. In thin raiment on a winter's night, brave the cold and be reading the whole night through; with scanty fare on a summer's day, repel hunger and be learning the whole day long. . . . A father's loving kindness is higher than the mountains; a mother's bounty is deeper than the sea. . . . He that receiveth benefits and is not grateful is like unto the birds that despoil the branches of the trees they perch on. . . . Above all things, men must practise charity; it is by almsgiving that wisdom is fed; less than all things, men must grudge money; it is by riches that wisdom is hindered. . . . The merit of an alms given with a compassionate heart to one poor man is like unto the ocean; the recompense of alms given to a multitude for their own sake is like unto a grain of poppy-seed.


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