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The introduction of buddhism 37 the oldest extant

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Unformatted text preview: tives, adjectives, and verbal stems, and the kana symbols are employed as grammatical markers and for the writing (among other things) of adverbs and foreign names. There is little question that Japanese is the most complex written language in the world today, and the modern man who holds utility to be the ultimate value must sorely lament that the Japanese ever became burdened with the Chinese writing system. Yet, from the aesthetic standpoint, the Chinese characters have been infinitely enriching, and through the centuries have provided an intimate cultural bond between the Chinese and Japanese (as well as the Koreans, who have also utilized Chinese characters) that is one of the most significant features of East Asian civilization. The Introduction of Buddhism 37 The oldest extant books of the Japanese, as we have seen, are two works of myth and history entitled Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, completed in 712 and 720, respectively. Prince Shòtoku supposedly wrote texts a century earlier on both Buddhism and history, but these were destroyed in the burning of the Soga family’s library at the time of the 645 Taika coup. It is fitting that Japan’s earliest remaining works, composed at a time when the country was so strongly under the civilizing influence of China, should be of a historical character. In the Confucian tradition, the writing of history has always been held in the highest esteem, since Confucianists believe that the lessons of the past provide the best guide for ethical rule in the present and future. In contrast to the Indians, who have always been absorbed with metaphysical and religious speculation and scarcely at all with history, the Chinese are among the world’s greatest record-keepers. They revere the written word, no doubt even more so because of the evocative nature of their ideographic script, and they transmitted this reverence for writing to the Japanese at an early date. The Kojiki consists of an account of Japan from its creation to approximately the year a.d. 500, plus additional genealogical data about the imperial family for the next century and a quarter. Unreliable as history, it is writt...
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