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Unformatted text preview: e way of formal
assignments or responsibilities to occupy their time. In the first provisions
of its “Laws for the Military Houses,” issued in 1615, the shogunate had
enjoined the samurai to pursue with single-minded devotion the arts of
“peace and war”; and it was in line with this injunction that Sokò formulated his code for samurai conduct. Observing that “the samurai eat
food without growing it, use utensils without manufacturing them, and
profit without buying or selling,” Sokò asked what justified the existence
of the samurai as a class. His answer was that “the business of the samurai
consists in reflecting on his own station in life, in discharging loyal service to his master if he has one, in deepening his fidelity in associations
with friends, and, with due consideration of his own position, in devoting
himself to duty above all.”3 Thus, according to Sokò, the samurai was to
serve as an exemplar of high moral purpose for Japanese of all classes.
Central to this moral purpose was the samurai’s commitment to “duty
above all.” In one sense, this duty or giri was the same giri we noticed
affecting the behavior of townsman characters in the domestic plays of
Chikamatsu. When set forth by Yamaga Sokò as a moral imperative for
the samurai, however, it implied an absolute loyalty to one’s overlord and
devotion to duty that far transcended what could realistically be expected
of members of the other classes of Tokugawa society.
On the basis of views such as these, Yamaga Sokò is generally credited
as the formulator of the code of bushidò, or the “way of the warrior.”4
Certainly he was a pioneer in analyzing the role of the samurai as a
member of a true ruling elite and not simply as a rough, and frequently
illiterate, participant in the endless civil struggles of the medieval age.
Yamaga Sokò is also famous for having been, at one time, the teacher
of Òishi Kuranosuke (1659–1703), leader of the famed “forty-seven
rònin.” The story of the forty-seven...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13