7 Zhang, Jiabin

Nothing this week because I am preoccupied with midterms and papers.


This week our study of Japanese culture turns to the Transcendental Order from the Order of Here-and-Now. This shift, of course, came within a context, that is, the “opening” of Japan in 1854 and the age of colonization. After witnessing powerful foreigners, Japan started modernization by learning from the “barbarians,” which accompanied the shift to the Transcendental Order. Since “modern culture is mass culture,” something was needed to unite the masses, which could not be local kami (Inouye, 105). Naturally, the perfect candidate for the national kami was the Meiji Emperor, who was rescued from his subservience under the Tokugawa family. The apotheosis of the Meiji Emperor enabled people to identify themselves with everyone living on the Japanese archipelago and hence the concept of the modern nation was formed at this time. Now that people identified themselves as “Japanese,” they needed an ideology to direct them. This was when Bushido by Inazo Nitobe came in. To me, a Chinese, Bushido reads like a Confucian work because the characteristics of Bushido introduced in this book are all included in the Confucian virtues such as the Wuchang, the Five Constants. As a result, this book shared many metaphysical elements of Confucianism, which makes it different than what we read the last few weeks. Nitobe confirmed the apotheosis of the Emperor, saying ‘he is the bodily representative of Heaven on earth” and “ symbol of national unity”(Nitobe, 41). That explains why the Japanese people were so fanatic and loyal to the Emperor who had been absent for over 200 years under Tokugawa rule. The majority of this book was an attempt to establish abstract concepts by explaining a series of Bushido virtues that are philosophical. For example, when taking about honesty, Nitobe wrote, “I am told that ‘honesty is the best policy,’–that it pays to be honest. Is not this virtue, then, its own reward? If it is followed because it brings in more cash than falsehood, I am afraid Bushido would rather indulge in lies”(Nitobe, 76). The book also has an element of Taoism which is even more philosophical: “The Way is the way of Heaven and Earth; Man’s place is to follow it; therefore make it the object of thy life to reverence Heaven”(Nitobe, 82). With so many high ideals beyond this world, samsara, symbols were needed to connect the Transcendental Order and the Order of Here-and-Now. For instance, two swords that a samurai carried are symbols “of what he carries in his mind and heart,–loyalty and honor”(Nitobe, 118).

This entry was posted in Week 7: Bushido and the Transcendental Order. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 7 Zhang, Jiabin

  1. Amanda Greaves says:

    Hello Jiabin,
    I love the details in your drawing.

    I am a N00b when it comes to Japanese culture and what codes they follow. In your blog, you talk about the differences in codes that you see within Japanese ideology. I agree that it is a mix of Confucian and Bushido law. I would even go as far to say that a lot of those ideals that are there, will be there for a while. When Japan opened its borders for other countries to come in, it also allowed for their culturally fragrant ideas to come in. In many cases, this would cause a country to began to change their identity. In the case of Japan, it allowed them to see the differences, and pull closer together as a community.Thus allowing them to follow Bushido and Confucian notions tighter.

  2. Profile photo of Karen  Lee Karen Lee says:

    Thank you for bringing in Chinese Confucianism! It’s very interesting how closely linked those two are, and how involved both Chinese and Japanese cultures are with it – and yet, the two cultures are fundamentally so different.

  3. Philippe Maman says:

    I think it was very interesting how you speak about forming a national identity. Japan had to do so abruptly after the bomb was dropped and it is very interesting to observe the difference between the change that occured in Japan then and the changes that happened so long before with Bushido. Also nice job on the drawing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *