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daimyos and the country as a whole. Some scholars have speculated that
if the shogunate had continued on the same course it would have transformed itself from a rather loose, hegemonic government into a centralized monarchy.1 But, after 1651, what appeared to be a drive toward ever
greater centralization of power ceased, and during the remaining two centuries of Tokugawa rule the shogunate in fact allowed many of the powers
it had accumulated to slip away.
The post-1651 shogunate became a highly conservative regime, committed to traditional policies and practices and generally unwilling to
consider serious or fundamental change to its way of governance. Yet
shogunate conservatism, although it led to the meting out of harsh punishments to some dissidents, by no means stifled all diversity and change.
The flourishing of a bourgeois culture, for example, brought the modification or alteration of many of the traditional canons of taste in Japanese
literature, theatre, and the visual arts. In philosophy, too, scholars expressed much diversity of opinion, often in opposition to Chu Hsi NeoConfucianism, which, as we have seen, was officially championed as an
orthodoxy by the shogunate from at least the late seventeenth century
through its patronage of the Hayashi family of Confucian scholars.
The blossoming of philosophy as a field of study was one of the most
striking developments of the Tokugawa period. Although the Japanese
had contributed much to Buddhist theology before Tokugawa, as observable in the careers and writings of men such as Kûkai, Shinran, and
Dògen, they had done little in philosophy. Indeed, one would be hard
pressed to name a single Japanese “philosopher” for the period before
Tokugawa. One reason for the advancement of philosophy as a field after
1600 was the quest by the Tokugawa to legitimize their rule—that is, to
justify or have recognized as “right” what they had achieved by military 206 Heterodox Trends “might.” After early experimentation with both Buddhist and Shinto
rationales for rulership, the Tokugawa settled on Chu Hsi Neo-Confucianism, which provided an ideology that, as we have seen, could be inte...
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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