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The Rule of the Dead

 IT should now be evident to the reader that the ethics of Shintō were all comprised in the doctrine of unqualified obedience to customs originating, for the most part, in the family cult. Ethics were not different from religion; religion was not different from government; and the very word for government signified "matters-of-religion." All government ceremonies were preceded by prayer and sacrifice; and from the highest rank of society to the lowest every person was subject to the law of tradition. To obey was piety; to disobey was impious; and the rule of obedience was enforced upon each individual by the will of the community to which he belonged. Ancient morality consisted in the minute observance of rules of conduct regarding the household, the community, and the higher authority.

But these rules of behaviour mostly represented the outcome of social experience; and it was scarcely possible to obey them faithfully, and yet to remain a bad man. They commanded reverence toward the Unseen, respect for authority, affection to parents, tenderness to wife and children, kindness to neighbours, kindness to dependants, diligence and exactitude in labour, thrift and cleanliness in habit. Though at first morality signified no more than obedience to tradition, tradition itself gradually became identified with true morality. To imagine the consequent social condition is, of course, somewhat difficult for the modern mind. Among ourselves, religious ethics and social ethics have long been practically dissociated; and the latter have become, with the gradual weakening of faith, more imperative and important than the former. Most of us learn, sooner or later in life, that it is not enough to keep the ten commandments, and that it is much less dangerous to break most of the commandments in a quiet way than to violate social custom. But in Old Japan there was no distinction tolerated between ethics and custom — between moral requirements and social obligations: convention identified both, and to conceal a breach of either was impossible, — as privacy did not exist. Moreover the unwritten commandments were not limited to ten; they were numbered by hundreds, and the least infringement was punishable, not merely as a blunder, but as a sin. Neither in his own home nor anywhere else could the ordinary person do as he pleased; and the extraordinary person was under the surveillance of zealous dependants whose constant duty was to reprove any breach of usage. The religion capable of regulating every act of existence by the force of common opinion requires no catechism.


Early moral custom must be coercive custom. But as many habits, at first painfully formed under compulsion only, become easy through constant repetition, and at last automatic, so the conduct compelled through many generations by religious and civil authority, tends eventually to become almost instinctive. Much depends, no doubt, upon the degree to which religious compulsion is hindered by exterior causes, — by long-protracted war, for example, — and in Old Japan there was interference extraordinary. Nevertheless, the influence of Shintō accomplished wonderful things, — evolved a national type of character worthy, in many ways, of earnest admiration. The ethical sentiment developed in that character differed widely from our own; but it was exactly adapted to the social requirements. For this national type of moral character was invented the name Yamato-damashi (or Yamato-gokoro), the Soul of Yamato (or Heart of Yamato), — the appellation of the old province of Yamato, seat of the early emperors, being figuratively used for the entire country. We might correctly, though less literally, interpret the expression Yamato-damashi as "The Soul of Old Japan."

It was in reference to this "Soul of Old Japan" that the great Shintō scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries put forth their bold assertion that conscience alone was a sufficient ethical guide. They declared the high quality of the Japanese conscience a proof of the divine origin of the race. "Human beings” wrote Motowori, "having been produced by the spirits of the two Creative Deities, are naturally endowed with the knowledge of what they ought to do, and of what they ought to refrain from doing. It is unnecessary for them to trouble their minds with systems of morality. If a system of morals were necessary, men would be inferior to animals, all of whom are endowed with the knowledge of what they ought to do, only in an inferior degree to men."1... Mabuchi, at an earlier day, had made a comparison between Japanese and Chinese morality, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. "In ancient times," said Mabuchi, “when men's dispositions were straightforward, a complicated system of morals was unnecessary. It would naturally happen that bad actions might be occasionally committed; but the straightforwardness of men's dispositions would prevent the evil from being concealed and so growing in extent. So in those days it was unnecessary to have a doctrine of right and wrong. But the Chinese, being bad at heart, in spite of the teaching which they got, were good only on the outside; so their bad acts became of such magnitude that society was thrown into disorder. The Japanese, being straightforward, could do without teaching." Motowori repeated these ideas in a slightly different way: "It is because the Japanese were truly moral in their practice that they required no theory of morals; and the fuss made by the Chinese about theoretical morals is owing to their laxity in practice.... To have learned that there is no Way [ethical system] to be learned and practised, is really to have learned to practise the Way of the Gods." At a later day Hirata wrote: "Learn to stand in awe of the Unseen, and that will prevent you from doing wrong. Cultivate the conscience implanted in you: then you will never wander from the Way."

Though the sociologist may smile at these declarations of moral superiority (especially as based on the assumption that the race had been better in primeval times, when yet fresh from the hands of the gods), there was in them a grain of truth. When Mabuchi and Motowori wrote, the nation had been long subjected to a discipline of almost incredible minuteness in detail, and of extraordinary rigour in application. And this discipline had actually brought into existence a wonderful average of character, — a character of surprising patience, unselfishness, honesty, kindliness, and docility combined with high courage. But only the evolutionist can imagine what the cost of developing that character must have been.


It is necessary here to observe that the discipline to which the nation had been subjected up to the age of the great Shintō writers, seems to have had a curious evolutional history of its own. In primitive times it had been much less uniform, less complex, less minutely organized, though not less implacable; and it had continued to develop and elaborate more and more with the growth and consolidation of society, until, under the Tokugawa Shōgunate the possible maximum of regulation was reached. In other words, the yoke had been made heavier and heavier in proportion to the growth of the national strength, — in proportion to the power of the people to bear it.... We have seen that, from the beginning of this civilization, the whole life of the citizen was ordered for him: his occupation, his marriage, his rights of fatherhood, his rights to hold or to dispose of property, — all these matters were settled by religious custom. We have also seen that outside as well as inside of his home, his actions were under supervision, and that a single grave breach of usage might cause his social ruin, — in which case he would be given to understand that he was not merely a social, but also a religious offender; that the communal god was angry with him; and that to pardon his fault might provoke the divine vengeance against the entire settlement. But it yet remains to be seen what rights were left him by the central authority ruling his district, — which authority represented a third form of religious despotism from which there was no appeal in ordinary cases.


Material for the study of the old laws and customs have not yet been collected in sufficient quantity to yield us full information as to the conditions of all classes before Meiji. But a great deal of precious work has been accomplished in this direction by American scholars; and the labours of Professor Wigmore and of the late Dr. Simmons have furnished documentary evidence from which much can be learned about the legal status of the masses during the Tokugawa period. This, as I have said, was the period of the most elaborated regulation. The extent to which the people were controlled can be best inferred from the nature and number of the sumptuary laws to which they were subjected. Sumptuary laws in Old Japan probably exceeded in multitude and minuteness anything of which Western legal history yields record. Rigidly as the family-cult dictated behaviour in the home, strictly as the commune enforced its standards of communal duty, — just so rigidly and strictly did the rulers of the nation dictate how the individual — man, woman, or child — should dress, walk, sit, speak, work, eat, drink. Amusements were not less unmercifully regulated than were labours.

Every class of Japanese society was under sumptuary regulation, — the degree of regulation varying in different centuries; and this kind of legislation appears to have been established at an early period. It is recorded that, in the year 681 A.D., the Emperor Temmu regulated the costumes of all classes, — "from the Princes of the Blood down to the common people, and the wearing of headdresses and girdles, as well as of all kinds of coloured stuffs, — according to a scale."2 The costumes and the colours to be worn by priests and nuns had been already fixed, by an edict issued in 679 A.D. Afterwards these regulations were greatly multiplied and detailed. But it was under the Tokugawa rulers, a thousand years later, that sumptuary laws obtained their most remarkable development; and the nature of them is best indicated by the regulations applying to the peasantry. Every detail of the farmer's existence was prescribed for by law, — from the size, form, and cost of his dwelling, down even to such trifling matters as the number and the quality of the dishes to be served to him at meal-times. A farmer with an income of 100 koku of rice (let us say 90 to £100 per annum) — might build a house 60 feet long, but no longer: he was forbidden to construct it with a room containing an alcove; and he was not allowed — except by special permission — to roof it with tiles. None of his family were permitted to wear silk; and in case of the marriage of his daughter to a person legally entitled to wear silk, the bridegroom was to be requested not to wear silk at the wedding. Three kinds of viands only were to be served at the wedding of such a farmer's daughter or son; and the quality as well as the quantity of the soup, fish, or sweetmeats offered to the wedding-guests, were legally fixed. So likewise the number of the wedding-gifts: even the cost of the presents of rice-wine and dried fish was prescribed, and the quality of the single fan which it was permissible to offer the bride. At no time was a farmer allowed to make any valuable presents to his friends. At a funeral he might serve the guests with certain kinds of plain food; but if rice-wine were served it was not to be served in wine-cups, — only in soup-cups! [The latter regulation probably referred to Shintō funerals in especial.] On the occasion of a child's birth, the grandparents were allowed to make only four presents (according to custom), — including “one cotton baby-dress"; and the values of the presents were fixed. On the occasion of the Boy's Festival, the presents to be given to the child by the whole family, including grandparents, were limited by law to "one paper-flag," and a two toy-spears."... A farmer whose property was assessed at 50 koku was forbidden to build a house more than 45 feet long. At the wedding of his daughter the gift-girdle was not to exceed 50 sen in value; and it was forbidden to serve more than one kind of soup at the wedding-feast.... A farmer with a property assessed at 20 koku was not allowed to build a house more than 36 feet long, or to use in building it such superior qualities of wood as keyaki or hinoki. The roof of his house was to be made of bamboo-thatch or straw; and he was strictly forbidden the comfort of floor-mats. On the occasion of the wedding of his daughter he was forbidden to have fish or any roasted food served at the wedding-feast. The women of his family were not allowed to wear leather sandals: they might wear only straw-sandals or wooden clogs; and the thongs of the sandals or the clogs were to be made of cotton. The women were further forbidden to wear hair-bindings of silk, or hair-ornaments of tortoise-shells; but they might wear wooden combs and combs of bone — not ivory. The men were forbidden to wear stockings, and their sandals were to be made of bamboo.3 They were also forbidden to use sun-shades — hi-gasa — or paper-umbrellas.... A farmer assessed at 10 koku was forbidden to build a house more than 30 feet long. The women of his family were required to wear sandals with thongs of bamboo-grass. At the wedding of his son or daughter one present only was allowed, — a quilt-chest. At the birth of his child one present only was to be made: namely, one toy-spear, in the case of a boy; or one paper-doll, or one “mud-doll” in the case of a girl.... As for the more unfortunate class of farmers, having no land of their own, and officially termed mizunomi, or "water-drinkers," it is scarcely necessary to remark that these were still more severely restricted in regard to food, apparel, etc. They were not even allowed, for example, to have a quilt-chest as a wedding-present. But a fair idea of the complexity of these humiliating restrictions can only be obtained by reading the documents published by Professor Wigmore, which chiefly consist of paragraphs like these: —


"The collar and the sleeve-ends of the clothes may be ornamented with silk, and an obi (soft girdle) of silk or crepe-silk may be worn — but not in public.”... "A family ranking less than 20 koku must use the Takιdawan (Takιda rice-bowl), and the Nikkō-zen (Nikkō tray)."... [These were utensils of the cheapest kind of lacquer-ware.]

"Large farmers or chiefs of Kumi may use umbrellas; but small farmers and farm-labourers must use only mino (straw-raincoats), and broad straw-hats."...


These documents published by Professor Wigmore contain only the regulations issued for the daimiate of Maizuru; but regulations equally minute and vexatious appear to have been enforced throughout the whole country. In Izumo I found that, prior to Meiji, there were sumptuary laws prescribing not only the material of the dresses to be worn by the various classes, but even the colours of them, and the designs of the patterns. The size of rooms, as well as the size of houses, was fixed there by law, — also the height of buildings and of fences, the number of windows, the material of construction....It is difficult for the Western mind to understand how human beings could patiently submit to laws that regulated not only the size of one's dwelling, and the cost of its furniture, but even the substance and character of clothing, — not only the expense of a wedding outfit, but the quality of the marriage-feast, and the quality of the vessels in which the food was to be served, — not only the kind of ornaments to be worn in a woman's hair, but the material of the thongs of her sandals, — not only the price of presents to be made to friends, but the character and the cost of the cheapest toy to be given to a child. And the peculiar constitution of society made it possible to enforce this sumptuary legislation by communal will; the people were obliged to coerce themselves! Each community, as we have seen, had been organized in groups of five or more households, called kumi; and the heads of the households forming a kumi elected one of their number as kumi-gashira, or group-chief, directly responsible to the higher authority. The kumi was accountable for the conduct of each and all of its members; and each member was in some sort responsible for the rest. "Every member of a kumi" declares one of the documents above mentioned, "must carefully watch the conduct of his fellow-members. If any one violates these regulations, without due excuse, he is to be punished; and his kumi will also be held responsible." Responsible even for the serious offence of giving more than one paper-doll to a child!... But we should remember that in early Greek and Roman societies there was much legislation of a similar kind. The laws of Sparta regulated the way in which a woman should dress her hair; the laws of Athens fixed the number of her robes. At Rome, in early times, women were forbidden to drink wine; and a similar law existed in the Greek cities of Miletus and Massilia. In Rhodes and Byzantium the citizen was forbidden to shave; in Sparta he was forbidden to wear a moustache. (I need scarcely refer to the later Roman laws regulating the cost of marriage-feasts, and the number of guests that might be invited to a banquet; for this legislation was directed chiefly against luxury.) The astonishment evoked by Japanese sumptuary laws, particularly as inflicted upon the peasantry, is justified less by their general character than by their implacable minuteness, their ferocity of detail....

Where a man's life was legally ordered even to the least particulars, — even to the quality of his foot-gear and head-gear, the cost of his wife's hairpins, and the price of his child's doll, — one could hardly suppose that freedom of speech would have been tolerated. It did not exist; and the degree to which speech became regulated can be imagined only by those who have studied the spoken tongue. The hierarchical organization of society was faithfully reflected in the conventional organization of language, — in the ordination of pronouns, nouns, and verbs, — in the grades conferred upon adjectives by prefixes or suffixes. With the same merciless exactitude which prescribed rules for dress, diet, and manner of life, all utterance was regulated both negatively and positively, — but positively much more than negatively. There was little insistence upon what was not to be said; but rules innumerable decided exactly what should be said, — the word to be chosen, the phrase to be used. Early training enforced caution in this regard: everybody had to learn that only certain verbs and nouns and pronouns were lawful when addressing superiors, and other words permissible only when speaking to equals or to inferiors. Even the uneducated were obliged to learn something about this. But education cultivated a system of verbal etiquette so multiform that only the training of years could enable any one to master it. Among the higher classes this etiquette developed almost inconceivable complexity. Grammatical modifications of language, which, by implication, exalted the person addressed or humbly depreciated the person addressing, must have come into general use at some very early period; but under subsequent Chinese influence these forms of propitiatory speech multiplied exceedingly. From the Mikado himself — who still makes use of personal pronouns, or at least pronominal expressions, forbidden to any other mortal — down through all the grades of society, each class had an "I" peculiarly its own. Of terms corresponding to "you" or "thou" there are still sixteen in use; but formerly there were many more. There are yet eight different forms of the second person singular used only in addressing children, pupils, or servants.4 Honorific or humble forms of nouns indicating relationship were similarly multiplied and graded: there are still in use nine terms signifying "father,” nine terms signifying "mother," eleven terms for "wife," eleven terms for "son," nine terms for "daughter," and seven terms for "husband." The rules of the verb, above all, were complicated by the exigencies of etiquette to a degree of which no idea can be given in any brief statement.... At nineteen or twenty years of age a person carefully trained from childhood might have learned all the necessary verbal usages of respectable society; but for a mastery of the etiquette of superior converse many more years of study and experience were required. With the unceasing multiplication of ranks and classes there came into existence a corresponding variety of forms of language: it was possible to ascertain to what class a man or a woman belonged by listening to his or to her conversation. The written, like the spoken tongue, was regulated by strict convention: the forms used by women were not those used by men; and those differences in verbal etiquette arising from the different training of the sexes resulted in the creation of a special epistolary style, — a "woman's language," which remains in use. And this sex-differentiation of language was not confined to letter-writing: there was a woman's language also of converse, varying according to class. Even to-day, in ordinary conversation, an educated woman makes use of words and phrases not employed by men. Samurai women especially had their particular forms of expression in feudal times; and it is still possible to decide, from the speech of any woman brought up according to the old home-training, whether she belongs to a Samurai family.

Of course the matter as well as the manner of converse was restricted; and the nature of the restraints upon free speech can be inferred from the nature of the restraints upon freedom of demeanour. Demeanour was most elaborately and mercilessly regulated, not merely as to obeisances, of which there were countless grades, varying according to sex as well as class, — but even in regard to facial expression, the manner of smiling, the conduct of the breath, the way of sitting, standing, walking, rising. Everybody was trained from infancy in this etiquette of expression and deportment. At what period it first became a mark of disrespect to betray, by look or gesture, any feeling of grief or pain in the presence of a superior, we cannot know; there is reason to believe that the most perfect self-control in this regard was enforced from prehistoric times. But there was gradually developed — partly, perhaps, under Chinese teaching — a most elaborate code of deportment which exacted very much more than impassiveness. It required not only that any sense of anger or pain should be denied all outward expression, but that the sufferer's face and manner should indicate the contrary feeling. Sullen submission was an offence; mere impassive obedience inadequate: the proper degree of submission should manifest itself by a pleasant smile, and by a soft and happy tone of voice. The smile, however, was also regulated. One had to be careful about the quality of the smile, it was a mortal offence, for example, so to smile in addressing a superior, that the back teeth could be seen. In the military class especially this code of demeanour was ruthlessly enforced. Samurai women were required, like the women of Sparta, to show signs of joy on hearing that their husbands or sons had fallen in battle: to betray any natural feeling under the circumstances was a grave breach of decorum. And in all classes demeanour was regulated so severely that even to-day the manners of the people everywhere still reveal the nature of the old discipline. The strangest fact is that the old-fashioned manners appear natural rather than acquired, instinctive rather than made by training. The bow, — the sibilant indrawing of the breath which accompanies the prostration, and is practised also in praying to the gods, — the position of the hands upon the floor in the moment of greeting or of farewell, the way of sitting or rising or walking in presence of a guest, — the manner of receiving or presenting anything, — all these ordinary actions have a charm of seeming naturalness that mere teaching seems incapable of producing. And this is still more true of the higher etiquette, — the exquisite etiquette of the old-time training in cultivated classes, — particularly as displayed by women. We must suppose that the capacity to acquire such manners depends considerably upon inheritance, — that it could only have been formed by the past experience of the race under discipline.

What such discipline, as regards politeness, must have signified for the mass of the people, may be inferred from the enactment of Iyιyasu authorizing a Samurai to kill any person of the three inferior classes guilty of rudeness. Be it observed that Iyιyasu was careful to qualify the meaning of "rude": he said that the Japanese term for a rude fellow signified "an other-than-expected person" — so that to commit an offence worthy of death it was only necessary to act in an "unexpected manner"; that is to say, contrary to prescribed etiquette: —


"The Samurai are the masters of the four classes. Agriculturists, artizans, and merchants may not behave in a rude manner towards Samurai. The term for a rude man is ‘other-than-expected fellow'; and a Samurai is not to be interfered with in cutting down a fellow who has behaved to him in a manner other than is expected. The Samurai are grouped into direct retainers, secondary retainers, and nobles and retainers of high and low grade; but the same line of conduct is equally allowable to them all towards an other-than-expected fellow." — [Art. 45.]


But there is little reason to suppose that Iyιyasu created any new privilege of slaughter: he probably did no more than confirm by enactment certain long-established military rights. Stern rules about the conduct of inferiors to superiors would seem to have been pitilessly enforced long before the rise of the military power. We read that the Emperor Yūriaku, in the latter part of the fifth century, killed a steward for the misdemeanour of remaining silent, through fear, when spoken to: we also find it recorded that he struck down a maid-of-honour who had brought him a cup of wine, and that he would have cut off her head but for the extraordinary presence of mind which enabled her to improvise a poetical appeal for mercy. Her only fault had been that, in carrying the wine-cup, she failed to notice that a leaf had fallen into it, — probably because court-custom obliged her to carry the cup in such a way as not to breathe upon it; for emperors and high nobles were served after the manner of gods. It is true that Yūriaku was in the habit of killing people for little mistakes; but it is evident that, in the cases cited, such mistakes were regarded as breaches of long-established decorum.


Probably before as well as after the introduction of the Chinese penal codes, — the so-called Ming and Tsing codes, by which the country was ruled under the Shōguns, — the bulk of the nation was literally under the rod. Common folk were punished by cruel whippings for the most trifling offences. For serious offences, death by torture was an ordinary penalty; and there were extraordinary penalties as savage, or almost as savage, as those established during our own medieval period, — burnings and crucifixions and quarterings and boiling alive in oil. The documents regulating the life of village-folk do not contain any indication of the severity of legal discipline: the Kumi-chō declarations that such and such conduct "shall be punished" suggest nothing terrible to the reader who has not made himself familiar with the ancient codes. As a matter of fact the term "punishment" in a Japanese legal document might signify anything from a trifling fine up to burning alive.... Some evidence of the severity used to repress quarrelling even as late as the time of Iyιyasu, may be found in a curious letter of Captain Saris, who visited Japan in 1613. "The first of Iuly," wrote the Captain, "two of our Company happened to quarrell the one with the other, and were very likely to haue gone into the field [i.e. to have fought a duel] to the endangering of vs all. For it is a custome here that whosoever drawes a weapon in anger, although he do noe harme therewith, hee is presently cut in peeces; and, doing but small hurt, not only themselues are so executed, but their whole generation."... The literal meaning of "cut in peeces" he explains later on, when recounting in the same letter an execution that came under his observation: —


"The eighth, three Iaponians were executed, viz., two men and one woman: the cause this, the woman, none of the honestest (her husband being trauelled from home) had appointed these two their several hours to repair vnto her. The latter man, not knowing of the former, and comming in before the houre appointed, found the first man, and enraged thereat, he whipped out his cattan [katana] and wounded both of them very sorely, hauing very neere hewn the chine of the mans back in two. But as well as hee might he cleared himselfe, and recouering his cattan, wounded the other. The street, taking notice of the fray, forthwith seased vpon them, led them aside, and acquainted King Foyne therewith, and sent to know his pleasure, (for according to his will, the partie is executed), who presently gaue order that they should cut off their heads: which done, euery man that listed (as very many did) came to try the sharpness of their cattans vpon the corps, so that, before they left off, they had hewne them all thus into peeces as small as a mans hand, — and yet notwithstanding, did not then giue over, but, placing the peeces one vpon another, would try how many of them they could strike through at a blow, and the peeces are left to the fowles to deuoure."....


Evidently the execution was in this case ordered for cause more serious than the offence of fighting; but it is true that quarrels were strictly forbidden and rigorously punished.

Though privileged to cut down "other-than-expected" people of inferior rank, the military class itself had to endure a discipline even more severe than that which it maintained. The penalty for a word or a look that displeased, or for a trifling mistake in performance of duty, might be death. In most cases the Samurai was permitted to be his own executioner; and the right of self-destruction was deemed a privilege; but the obligation to thrust a dagger deeply into one's belly on the left side, and then draw the blade slowly and steadily across to the right side, so as to sever all the entrails, was certainly not less cruel than the vulgar punishment of crucifixion, or rather, double-transfixion.


Just as all matters relating to the manner of the individual's life were regulated by law, so were all matters relating to his death, — the quality of his coffin, the expenses of his interment, the order of his funeral, the form of his tomb. In the seventh century laws were passed to the effect that no one should be buried with unseemly expense; and these laws fixed the cost of funerals according to rank and grade. Subsequent edicts decided the dimensions and material of coffins, and the size of graves. In the eighth century every detail of funerals, for all classes of persons from prince to peasant, was fixed by decree. Other laws, and modifications of laws, were made upon the subject in later centuries; but there appears to have always been a general tendency to extravagance in the matter of funerals, — a tendency so strong that, in spite of centuries of sumptuary legislation, it remains to-day a social danger. This can easily be understood if we remember the beliefs regarding duty to the dead, and the consequent desire to honour and to please the spirit even at the risk of family impoverishment.


Most of the legislation to which reference has already been made must appear to modern minds tyrannical; and some of the regulations seem to us strangely cruel. There was, moreover, no way of evading or shirking these obligations of law and custom: whoever failed to fulfil them was doomed to perish or to become an outcast; implicit obedience was the condition of survival. The tendency of such regulation was necessarily to suppress all mental and moral differentiation, to numb personality, to establish one uniform and unchanging type of character; and such was the actual result. To this day every Japanese mind reveals the lines of that antique mould by which the ancestral mind was compressed and limited. It is impossible to understand Japanese psychology without knowing something of the laws that helped to form it, — or, rather, to crystallize it under pressure.


Yet, on the other hand, the ethical effects of this iron discipline were unquestionably excellent. It compelled each succeeding generation to practise the frugality of the forefathers; and that compulsion was partly justified by the great poverty of the nation. It reduced the cost of living to a figure far below our Western comprehension of the necessary; it cultivated sobriety, simplicity, economy; it enforced cleanliness, courtesy, and hardihood. And — strange as the fact may seem — it did not make the people miserable: they found the world beautiful in spite of all their trouble; and the happiness of the old life was reflected in the old Japanese art, much as the joyousness of Greek life yet laughs to us from the vase-designs of forgotten painters.

And the explanation is not difficult. We must remember that the coercion was not exercised only from without: it was really maintained from within. The discipline of the race was self-imposed. The people had gradually created their own social conditions, and therefore the legislation conserving those conditions; and they believed that legislation the best possible. They believed it to be the best possible for the excellent reason that it had been founded upon their own moral experience; and they could greatly endure because they had great faith. Only religion could have enabled any people to bear such discipline without degenerating into mopes and cowards; and the Japanese never so degenerated: the traditions that compelled self-denial and obedience, also cultivated courage, and insisted upon cheerfulness. The power of the ruler was unlimited because the power of all the dead supported him. “Laws,” says Herbert Spencer, "whether written or unwritten, formulate the rule of the dead over the living. In addition to that power which past generations exercise over present generations, by transmitting their natures, — bodily and mental, — and in addition to the power they exercise over them by bequeathed habits and modes of life, there is the power they exercise through their regulations for public conduct, handed down orally, or in writing.... I emphasize these truths," — he adds, — "for the purpose of showing that they imply a tacit ancestor-worship."... Of no other laws in the history of human civilization are these observations more true than of the laws of Old Japan. Most strikingly did they "formulate the rule of the dead over the living." And the hand of the dead was heavy: it is heavy upon the living even to-day.


 1 All of these extracts are quoted from Satow’s great essay on the Shintō revival.

 2 See Nihongi, Aston's translation, Vol. II, pp. 343, 348, 350.

 3 There are sandals or clogs made of bamboo-wood, but the meaning here is bamboo-grass.

 4 The sociologist will of course understand that these facts are not by any means inconsistent with that very sparing use of pronouns so amusingly discussed in Percival Lowell's "Soul of the Far East.” In societies where subjection is extreme "there is an avoidance of the use of personal pronouns,” though, as Herbert Spencer points out in illustrating this law, it is just among such societies that the most elaborate distinctions in pronommal forms of address are to be found.

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