Unformatted text preview: rpreted as sanctifying both the Tokugawa regime and its social class structure as based on laws that were as immutable as those of nature itself. As
Hayashi Razan put it:
Heaven is above and earth is below. . . . [I]n everything there is an order
separating those above and those below . . . , [and] we cannot allow disorder
in the relations between ruler and subject, between those above and those
below. The separation into four classes of samurai, farmers, artisans and
merchants, like the five relationships, is part of the principles of heaven and is
the Way which was taught by the Sage (Confucius).2 The first important scholar to challenge the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy
was Nakae Tòju (1608–48). After serving in his youth as a samurai
retainer, Tòju denounced the rigidities of such service and retired at the
early age of twenty-six to a life of study and contemplation at his birthplace on Lake Biwa in Òmi Province. As a scholar, Tòju had at first been
a keen student of Chu Hsi Neo-Confucianism, but from his observation
of people of all classes in Japan he came to question whether certain of
its basic tenets were truly meaningful when applied to them. Neo-Confucianism, for one thing, endorsed a hierarchical structuring of society in
which all people were expected to accept without question the obligations
attendant upon predominantly inferior-superior relations among men.
But was it proper for the ruling class of Tokugawa Japan to enjoy its
privileges solely on the basis of birth rather than, as in China, on intellectual or scholarly merit?
At an even more fundamental level, Tòju questioned the orthodox
Neo-Confucian view of moral perfectibility. According to this view, as
we have seen, human nature is basically good and is governed by r i or
reason. Although there is the danger that one’s ki (ether or substance)
may, through cravings and passions, obscure r i, if one’s basic nature is
properly cultivated through moral training, one will invariably act in a
good and upright fa...
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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 UBC.
- Spring '13