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247, a despatch was sent by the Chinese authorities
admonishing the Japanese to desist from internecine quarrels. These
references indicate that the use of the ideographs was known in Japan
long before the reign of Ojin, whether we take the Japanese or the
corrected date for the latter. It will probably be just to assume,
however, that the study of the ideographs had scarcely any vogue in
Japan until the coming of Atogi and Wani, nor does it appear to have
attracted much attention outside Court circles even subsequently to
that date, for the records show that, in the reign of the Emperor
Bidatsu (A.D. 572-585), a memorial sent by Korea to the Yamato Court
was illegible to all the officials except one man, by name
Wang-sin-i, who seems to have been a descendant of the Paikche
emigrant, Wan-i.

Buddhism, introduced into Japan in A.D. 552, doubtless supplied the
chief incentive to the acquisition of knowledge. But had the Japanese
a script of their own at any period of their history? The two oldest
manuscripts which contain a reference to this subject are the
Kogo-shui, compiled by Hironari in A.D. 808, and a memorial (kammori)
presented to the Throne in A.D. 901 by Miyoshi Kiyotsura. Both
explicitly state that in remote antiquity there were no letters, and
that all events or discourses had to be transmitted orally. Not until
the thirteenth century does the theory of a purely Japanese script
seem to have been conceived, and its author* had no basis for the
hypothesis other than the idea that, as divination was practised in
the age of the Kami, letters of some kind must have been in use.
Since then the matter has been much discussed. Caves used in ancient
times as habitations or sepulchres and old shrines occasionally offer
evidence in the form of symbols which, since they bear some
resemblance to the letters of the Korean alphabet (onmuri), have been
imagined to be at once the origin of the latter and the script of the
Kami-no-yo (Age of the Kami). But such fancies are no longer
seriously entertained. It is agreed that the so-called "letters" are
nothing more than copies of marks produced by the action of fire upon
bones used in divination. The Japanese cleverly adapted the Chinese
ideographs to syllabic purposes, but they never devised a script of
their own.

*Kanekata, who wrote the Shaku Nihongi in the era 1264--1274.

ETHICAL EFFECTS OF THE INTRODUCTION OF CHINESE LITERATURE

A generally accepted belief is that the study of the Chinese classics
exercised a marked ethical influence upon the Japanese nation. That
is a conclusion which may be profitably contrasted with the views of
Japan's most distinguished historians. Mr. Abe Kozo says:
"Acquaintance with the Chinese classics may be supposed to have
produced a considerable moral effect on the people of Japan. Nothing
of the kind seems to have been the case. The practical civilization
of China was accepted, but not her ethical code. For any palpable
moral influence the arrival of Buddhism had to be awaited. Already
the principles of loyalty and obedience, propriety, and righteousness
were recognized in Japan though not embodied in any written code."
Dr. Ariga writes: "Our countrymen did not acquire anything specially
new in the way of moral tenets. They must have been surprised to find
that in China men did not respect the occupants of the throne. A
subject might murder his sovereign and succeed him without incurring
the odium of the people." Rai Sanyo says: "Moral principles are like
the sun and the moon; they cannot be monopolized by any one country.
In every land there are parents and children, rulers and ruled,
husbands and wives. Where these relations exist, there also filial
piety and affection, loyalty and righteousness may naturally be
found. In our country we lack the precise terminology of the
classics, but it does not follow that we lack the principles
expressed. What the Japanese acquired from the classics was the
method of formulating the thought, not the thought itself."

THE SIXTEENTH SOVEREIGN, NINTOKU (A.D. 313-399)

This sovereign is represented by the Chronicles as having reigned
eighty-six years, and by the Records as having died at the age of
eighty-three. The same Chronicles make him the lover of a girl whom
his father, also her lover, generously ceded to him. This event
happened in A.D. 282. Assuming that Nintoku was then sixteen, he
cannot have been less than 133 at the time of his death. It is thus
seen that the chronology of this period, also, is untrustworthy.
Nintoku's reign is remembered chiefly on account of the strange
circumstances in which he came to the throne, his benevolent charity,
and the slights he suffered at the hands of a jealous consort. His
father, Ojin, by an exercise of caprice not uncommon on the part of
Japan's ancient sovereigns, had nominated a younger son,
Waka-iratsuko, to be his heir. But this prince showed invincible
reluctance to assume the sceptre after Ojin's death. He asserted
himself stoutly by killing one of his elder brothers who conspired
against him, though he resolutely declined to take precedence of the
other brother, and the latter, proving equally diffident, the throne
remained unoccupied for three years when Waka-iratsuko solved the
problem by committing suicide.

Such are the simplest outlines of the story. But its details, when
filled in by critical Japanese historians of later ages, suggest a
different impression. When Ojin died his eldest two sons were living
respectively in Naniwa (Osaka) and Yamato, and the Crown Prince,
Waka-iratsuko, was at Uji. They were thus excellently situated for
setting up independent claims. From the time of Nintoku's birth, the
prime minister, head of the great Takenouchi family, had taken a
special interest in the child, and when the lad grew up he married
this Takenouchi's granddaughter, who became the mother of three
Emperors. Presently the representatives of all branches of the
Takenouchi family came into possession of influential positions at
Court, among others that of o-omi, so that in this reign were laid
the foundations of the controlling power subsequently vested in the
hands of the Heguri, Katsuragi, and Soga houses. In short, this epoch
saw the beginning of a state of affairs destined to leave its mark
permanently on Japanese history, the relegation of the sovereign to
the place of a fainéant and the usurpation of the administrative
authority by a group of great nobles.

Nintoku had the active support of the Takenouchi magnates, and
although the Crown Prince may have desired to assert the title
conferred on him by his father, he found himself helpless in the face
of obstructions offered by the prime minister and his numerous
partisans. These suffered him to deal effectively with that one of
his elder brothers who did not find a place in their ambitious
designs, but they created for Waka-iratsuko a situation so
intolerable that suicide became his only resource. Nintoku's first
act on ascending the throne explains the ideographs chosen for his
posthumous name by the authors of the Chronicles, since nin signifies
"benevolence" and toku, "virtue." He made Naniwa (Osaka) his capital,
but instead of levying taxes and requisitioning forced labour to
build his palace of Takatsu, he remitted all such burdens for three
years on observing from a tower that no smoke ascended from the roofs
of the houses and construing this to indicate a state of poverty.
During those three years the palace fell into a condition of
practical ruin, and tradition describes its inmates as being
compelled to move from room to room to avoid the leaking rain.*

*Doubts have been thrown on the reality of this incident because a
poem, attributed to Nintoku on the occasion, is couched in obviously
anachronistic language. But the poem does not appear in either the
Records or the Chronicles: it was evidently an invention of later
ages.

Under Nintoku's sway riparian works and irrigation improvements took
place on a large scale, and thus the eminent historian, Rai Sanyo,
may not be without warrant for attributing to this ruler the
sentiment quoted in the Chronicles: "A sovereign lives for his
people. Their prosperity is his enrichment; their poverty, his loss."
Yet it is in connexion with Nintoku's repairs of the Manda river-bank
that we find the first mention of a heinous custom occasionally
practised in subsequent ages--the custom of sacrificing human life to
expedite the progress or secure the success of some public work.

At the same time, that habits indicating a higher civilization had
already begun to gain ground is proved by an incident which occurred
to one of the Imperial princes during a hunting expedition. Looking
down over a moor from a mountain, he observed a pit, and, on inquiry,
was informed by the local headman that it was an "ice-pit." The
prince, asking how the ice was stored and for what it was used,
received this answer: "The ground is excavated to a depth of over ten
feet. The top is then covered with a roof of thatch. A thick layer of
reed-grass is then spread, upon which the ice is laid. The months of
summer have passed and yet it is not melted. As to its use--when the
hot months come it is placed in water or sake and thus used."
[Aston's Nihongi.] Thenceforth the custom of storing ice was adopted
at the Court. It was in Nintoku's era that the pastime of hawking,
afterward widely practised, became known for the first time in Japan.
Korea was the place of origin, and it is recorded that the falcon had
a soft leather strap fastened to one leg and a small bell to the
tail. Pheasants were the quarry of the first hawk flown on the moor
of Mozu.

Light is also thrown in Nintoku's annals on the method of
boatbuilding practised by the Japanese in the fourth century. They
used dug-outs. The provincial governor* of Totomi is represented as
reporting that a huge tree had floated down the river Oi and had
stopped at a bend. It was a single stem forked at one end, and the
suzerain of Yamato was ordered to make a boat of it. The craft was
then brought round by sea to Naniwa, "where it was enrolled among the
Imperial vessels." Evidently from the days of Ojin and the Karano a
fleet formed part of the Imperial possessions.



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