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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

In the pages of Chinese and Korean history


The

fourth method corresponds to that adopted in Europe where the number of a year is referred to the birth of Christ. In Japan, the accession of the Emperor Jimmu--660 B.C.--is taken for a basis, and thus the Occidental year 1910 becomes the 2570th year of the Japanese dynasty. With such methods of reckoning some collateral evidence is needed before accepting any of the dates given in Japanese annals. Kaempfer and even Rein were content to endorse the chronology of the Chronicles--the Records avoid dates altogether--but other Occidental scholars* have with justice been more sceptical, and their doubts have been confirmed by several eminent Japanese historians in recent times. Where, then, is collateral evidence to be found?

*Notably Bramsen, Aston, Satow, and Chamberlain.

In the pages of Chinese and Korean history. There is, of course, no inherent reason for attributing to Korean history accuracy superior to that of Japanese history. But in China the habit of continuously compiling written annals had been practised for many centuries before Japanese events began even to furnish materials for romantic recitations, and no serious errors have been proved against Chinese historiographers during the periods when comparison with Japanese annals is feasible. In Korea's case, too, verification is partially possible. Thus, during the first five centuries of the Christian era, Chinese annals contain sixteen notices of events

in Korea. If Korean history be examined as to these events, it is found to agree in ten instances, to disagree in two, and to be silent in four.* This record tends strongly to confirm the accuracy of the Korean annals, and it is further to be remembered that the Korean peninsula was divided during many centuries into three principalities whose records serve as mutual checks. Finally, Korean historians do not make any such demand upon our credulity as the Japanese do in the matter of length of sovereigns' reigns. For example, while the number of successions to the throne of Japan during the first four centuries of the Christian era is set down as seven only, making fifty-six years the average duration of a reign, the corresponding numbers for the three Korean principalities are sixteen, seventeen, and sixteen, respectively, making the average length of a reign from twenty-four to twenty-five years. It is, indeed, a very remarkable fact that whereas the average age of the first seventeen Emperors of Japan, who are supposed to have reigned from 660 B.C. down to A.D. 399, was 109 years, this incredible habit of longevity ceased abruptly from the beginning of the fifth century, the average age of the next seventeen having been only sixty-one and a half years; and it is a most suggestive coincidence that the year A.D. 461 is the first date of the accepted Japanese chronology which is confirmed by Korean authorities.

*Aston's essay on Early Japanese History

In fact, the conclusion is almost compulsory that Japanese authentic history, so far as dates are concerned, begins from the fifth century. Chinese annals, it is true, furnish one noteworthy and much earlier confirmation of Japanese records. They show that Japan was ruled by a very renowned queen during the first half of the third century of the Christian era, and it was precisely at that epoch that the Empress Jingo is related by Japanese history to have made herself celebrated at home and abroad. Chinese historiographers, however, put Jingo's death in the year A.D. 247, whereas Japanese annalists give the date as 269. Indeed there is reason to think that just at this time--second half of the third century--some special causes operated to disturb historical coherence in Japan, for not only does Chinese history refer to several signal events in Japan which find no place in the latter's records, but also Korean history indicates that the Japanese dates of certain cardinal incidents err by exactly 120 years. Two cycles in the sexagenary system of reckoning constitute 120 years, and the explanation already given makes it easy to conceive the dropping of that length of time by recorders having only tradition to guide them.


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