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Unformatted text preview: xpansion in the use of money,
spread at a rate that would have been inconceivable a century earlier
when it had been confined mainly to the central provinces and the foreign entry ports of Kyushu.
It is ironic that the prosperity of the Tokugawa period most greatly
benefited that class, the townsmen, that the authorities had emphatically
relegated to the bottom of the social scale. Yet this was inevitable. Both
samurai and peasants were dependent almost solely on income from agriculture and constantly suffered declines in real income as the result of
endemic inflation; only the townsmen, who as commerts could
adjust to price fluctuations, were in a position to profit significantly from
the economic growth of the age. We should not be surprised, therefore,
to find this class giving rise to a lively and exuberant culture that reached
its finest flowering in the Genroku epoch at the end of the seventeenth
and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. The mainstays of Genroku
culture were the theatre, painting (chiefly in the form of the woodblock
print), and prose fiction, all of which, while drawing heavily on Japan’s
aristocratic cultural tradition, evolved as distinctly popular, bourgeois
forms of art.
Before turning to the chònin arts, however, let us look first at the development of Confucianism during the early Tokugawa period inasmuch
as this most Chinese of creeds set much of the intellectual tone for the
period. The Japanese had, of course, absorbed Confucian thinking from
the earliest centuries of contact with China, but for more than a millennium Buddhism had drawn most of their intellectual attention. Not until
the Tokugawa period did they come to study Confucianism with any
One of the most conspicuous features of the transition from medieval
to early modern times in Japan was the precipitous decline in the vigor
of Buddhism and the rise of a secular spirit. The military potential and
much of the remaining landed wealth of the medieval Buddh...
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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