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Throughout the seventh century, which was of course the great age of
reform, these Korean immigrants played a vital role as scribes, craftsmen,
and artists in the advancement of culture and civilization in Japan.
Prince Shòtoku and other Japanese intellectuals of the early reform
period studied not only Buddhism but also the teachings of Chinese Confucianism. Like Buddhism, Confucianism was about a millenium old
when it entered Japan and it had expanded greatly beyond the simple
humanism of Confucius (551–479 b.c.) and his followers. The early Confucianists were concerned with man in society, and not with metaphysical
speculation: they preached the cultivation of virtue and its application to
public service. In his famous Seventeen-Article Constitution of 604,
Prince Shòtoku, in addition to calling for the reverence of Buddhism,
sought also to propagate Confucian values among the Japanese.3 Indeed,
the Constitution is mainly a Confucian document. Although it may appear to be a collection of simplistic maxims—for example, that harmony
should be prized (Article I) and that ministers should obey imperial com- 26 The Introduction of Buddhism mands (III), behave decorously (IV), reject covetous desires (V), and
attend court early in the morning (VIII)—it is the first statement in Japanese history of the need for ethical government. Addressed primarily to
Japan’s ministerial class, the Constitution, in characteristic Confucian
fashion, offers general principles of guidance for rule by moral suasion
rather than compulsion, which requires detailed laws with specified
Scholars have long questioned whether the Seventeen-Article Constitution, which appears in Nihon Shoki, a work compiled more than a century later, could truly have been written by Prince Shòtoku, inasmuch as
it contains ideas and principles that the Japanese were not likely to have
stressed or adopted until the late seventh or early eighth centuries, when
state centralization, based on continued borrowing from the conti...
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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