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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The principles they established are called michi ethics


"In

the eighth century, the Chinese costume and etiquette were adopted by the Court. This foreign pomp and splendour covered the rapid depravation of men's hearts, and created a wide gulf between the Mikado and his people. So long as the sovereign maintains a simple style of living, the subjects are contented with their own hard lot. Their wants are few and they are easily ruled. But if a sovereign has a magnificent palace, gorgeous clothing, and crowds of finely dressed women to wait on him, the sight of these things must cause in others a desire to possess themselves of the same luxuries; and if they are not strong enough to take them by force, their envy is excited. Had the Mikado continued to live in a house roofed with shingles and having walls of mud, to carry his sword in a scabbard wound round with the tendrils of some creeping plant, and to go to the chase carrying his bow and arrows, as was the ancient custom, the present state of things would never have come about. But since the introduction of Chinese manners, the sovereign, while occupying a highly dignified place, has been degraded to the intellectual level of a woman. The power fell into the hands of servants, and although they never actually assumed the title, they were sovereigns in fact, while the Mikado became an utter nullity. . .

"In ancient times, when men's dispositions were straightforward, a complicated system of morals was unnecessary. It would naturally happen that bad

acts might occasionally be committed, but the integrity of men's dispositions would prevent the evil from being concealed and growing in extent. In these days, therefore, it was unnecessary to have a doctrine of right and wrong. But the Chinese, being bad at heart, were only good externally, in spite of the teaching they received, and their evil acts became of such magnitude that society was thrown into disorder. The Japanese, being straightforward, could do without teaching. It has been alleged that, as the Japanese had no names for 'benevolence,' 'righteousness,' 'propriety,' 'sagacity,' and 'truth' they must have been without these principles. But these things exist in every country, in the same way as the four seasons which make their annual rounds. In the spring, the weather does not become mild all at once, or in the summer, hot. Nature proceeds by gradual steps. According to the view of the Chinese, it is not summer or spring unless it becomes hot or mild all of a sudden. Their principles sound very plausible but are unpractical. [Kamo Mabuchi.]

"Japan is the country which gave birth to the goddess of the Sun, which fact proves its superiority over all other countries that also enjoy her favours. The goddess having endowed her grandson with the Three Sacred Treasures, proclaimed him sovereign of Japan for ever and ever. His descendants shall continue to rule it as long as the heavens and earth endure. Being invested with this complete authority, all the gods under heaven and all mankind submitted to him, with the exception of a few wretches who were quickly subdued. To the end of time each Mikado is the son of the goddess. His mind is in perfect harmony of thought and feeling with hers. He does not seek out new inventions but rules in accordance with precedents which date from the Age of the Gods, and if he is ever in doubt, he has recourse to divination, which reveals to him the mind of the great goddess. In this way the Age of the Gods and the present age are not two ages, but one, for not only the Mikado but also his ministers and people act up to the tradition of the divine age. Hence, in ancient times, the idea of michi, or way, (ethics) was applied to ordinary thoroughfares only, and its application to systems of philosophy, government, morals, religion, and so forth is a foreign notion.

"As foreign countries (China and India, particularly the former) are not the special domain of the Sun goddess, they have no permanent rulers, and evil spirits, finding a field of action there, have corrupted mankind. In those countries, any bad man who could manage to seize the power became a sovereign. Those who had the upper hand were constantly scheming to maintain their positions, while their inferiors were as constantly on the watch for opportunities to oust them. The most powerful and cunning of these rulers succeeded in taming their subjects, and having secured their position, became an example for others to imitate. In China the name of 'holy men' has been given to these persons. But it is an error to count these 'holy men' as in themselves supernatural and good beings, superior to the rest of the world as are the gods. The principles they established are called michi (ethics), and may be reduced to two simple rules, namely, to take other people's territory and to keep fast hold of it.


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