Unformatted text preview: s, seating positions at the shogun’s court in
Edo castle, was intended to lock all samurai into place on a social hierarchy that denied the possibility of anyone’s rise or fall.
Because they were primary producers of food, the peasants were honored with second place in the official social ordering. But as Sir George
Sansom has noted, “[Tokugawa-period] statesmen thought highly of agriculture, but not of agriculturalists.”6 The life of the average peasant was
one of much toil and little joy. Organized into villages that were largely
self-governing, the peasants were obliged to render a substantial portion
of their farming yields—on average, perhaps 50 percent or more—to the
samurai, who provided few services in return. The resentment of peasants
toward samurai grew steadily throughout the Tokugawa period and was
manifested in countless peasant rebellions which, although they never
seriously threatened the daimyo domains, much less the shogunate itself, proved increasingly vexatious to the samurai authorities, who were
often obliged to accede to peasant demands.
Along with the upper strata of the samurai class, the socially despised
artisans and merchants—known collectively as chònin or townsmen—
enjoyed the greatest prosperity in Tokugawa times. Although in the long
run the seclusion policy undeniably limited the economic growth of Tokugawa Japan by its severe restrictions both on foreign trade and on the
inflow of technology from overseas, it also ensured a lasting peace that
made possible a great upsurge in the domestic economy, especially during the first century of shogunate rule. Agricultural productivity, for
example, increased markedly in the seventeenth century; transportation
and communication facilities, benefiting in particular from the alternate
attendance system, were extensively improved; urban populations in the
key administrative and trading centers of the country, beginning with
Edo, rose dramatically; and commerce, stimulated especially by the alter- 170 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture nate attendance system and a sharp e...
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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