ASIA212Varley

14 the spawning grounds of townsman culture were the

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Unformatted text preview: ntury by the shogunate as the permanent resting place of Ieyasu, whom the Tokugawa transformed into a national god with the designation of Tòshò Dai-Gongen (Great Avatar Who Illuminates the East). During the remainder of the Tokugawa period, the Tòshògû Shrine was visited on countless occasions by shoguns, emissaries of the imperial court, and even foreign (Korean and Ryukyuan) envoys. The calendrical era of Genroku lasted from 1688 until 1703, but the Genroku cultural epoch is usually taken to mean the span of approximately a half-century from, say, 1675 until 1725. Setting the stage for this rise of a townsman-oriented culture was nearly a century of peace and steady commercial growth. Such growth was, of course, almost en- 180 Fig. 52 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture Tòshògû Shrine at Nikkò (Consulate General of Japan, New York) tirely domestic and, owing in large part to the strict limitations on foreign trade imposed by the seclusion policy, it had begun to taper off markedly even during the Genroku epoch. Nevertheless, the commercial advances of the first century of Tokugawa rule were sufficient to bring to the fore for the first time in Japanese history a numerically significant and prosperous class of merchants who, although still regarded as inferior by their samurai masters, came increasingly to assert their social and cultural independence. Other factors that contributed to the flourishing of Genroku culture were the rapid spread of learning and literacy among all classes in the The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture 181 seventeenth century and the transformation of warfare from a practical reality, which it had been throughout the medieval age, to little more than a distant memory. The samurai still sported their swords and flaunted their martial ways, but they were generally resigned to the fact that their proper, and apparently permanent, function was to practice the arts of peace rather than those of war. One result of the great increase in literacy and also of w...
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