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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The route taken by Hsu Fuh namely


is therefore not extravagant to conclude that the first ten and a half centuries covered by Japanese annals must be regarded as prehistoric. On the other hand, the incidents attributed to this long interval are not by any means of such a nature as to suggest deliberate fabrication. An annalist who was also a courtier, applying himself to construct the story of his sovereign's ancestors, would naturally be disposed to embellish his pages with narratives of great exploits and brilliant achievements. Neither the Records nor the Chronicles can be said to display such a propensity in any marked degree. The Chronicles do, indeed, draw upon the resources of Chinese history to construct ethical codes and scholarly diction for their Imperial figures, but the Records show no traces of adventitious colour nor make an attempt to minimize the evil and magnify the good.

Thus, while it is evident that to consolidate Jimmu's conquest and to establish order among the heterogeneous elements of his empire he must have been followed by rulers of character and prowess, the annals show nothing of the kind. On the contrary, the reigns of his eight immediate successors are barren of all striking incident. The closing chapter of Jimmu himself is devoted chiefly to his amours, and the opening page in the life of his immediate successor, Suisei, shows that the latter reached the throne by assassinating his elder brother. For the rest, the annals of the eight sovereigns

who reigned during the interval between 561 and 98 B.C. recount mainly the polygamous habits of these rulers and give long genealogies of the noble families founded by their offspring--a dearth of romance which bears strong witness to the self-restraint of the compilers. We learn incidentally that on his accession each sovereign changed the site of his palace, seldom passing, however, beyond the limits of the province of Yamato, and we learn, also, that the principle of primogeniture, though generally observed, was often violated.


A Japanese tradition assigns to the seventy-second year of the reign of Korei the advent of a Chinese Taoist, by name Hsu Fuh. Korei, seventh in descent from Jimmu, held the sceptre from 290 to 215 B.C., and the seventy-second year of his reign fell, therefore, in 219 B.C. Now, to the east of the town of Shingu in Kii province, at a place on the seashore in the vicinity of the site of an ancient castle, there stands a tomb bearing the inscription "Grave of Hsu Fuh from China," and near it are seven tumuli said to be the burial-places of Hsu's companions. Chinese history states that Hsu Fuh was a learned man who served the first Emperor of the Chin dynasty (255-206 B.C.), and that he obtained his sovereign's permission to sail to the islands of the east in search of the elixir of life. Setting out from Yentai (the present Chefoo) in his native province of Shantung, Hsu landed at Kumano in the Kii promontory, and failing to find the elixir, preferred to pass his life in Japan rather than to return unsuccessful to the Court of the tyranical Chin sovereign, burner of the books and builder of the Great Wall. A poem composed in the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1280) says that when Hsu Fuh set out, the books had not been burned, and that a hundred volumes thus survived in his keeping. Of course, the date assigned by Japanese tradition to the coming of Hsu may have been adapted to Chinese history, and it therefore furnishes no evidence as to the accuracy of the Chronicles' chronology. But the existence of the tomb may be regarded as proving that some communication took place between China and Japan at that remote epoch.*

*The route taken by Hsu Fuh namely, from Chefoo down the China Sea and round the south of Japan is difficult to understand.


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