Essential Questions • Why did Japan copy so much of China’s religious traditions, culture, and political institutions at various times early in its history? • Why did Japan’s emperor, who was seen as divine, lack much real political power from the Heian era on? • Why was Japan until the mid-1800s so often divided into regions ruled mainly by aristocratic clans or powerful individual leaders, the daimyos? • What role(s) have the samurai played in Japan’s long history? How important was the code of honor, bushido, in maintaining or undermining order in Japan’s feudal systems? • Why were the shoguns, rather than the emperor, the key national leaders for so many centuries prior to the late 1800s? • What forces led to the decline of the Tokugawa Shogunate and its ultimate end during the Meiji Restoration in 1868?
Chinese Influence on Japanese Identity • Japan borrowed many Chinese ideas and innovations • Chinese writing script and literature • Governmental organization • Buddhism • Persistence of Shinto
The Yamato State • In its early history, Japan was organized around the uji • The Yamato State developed as a consolidation of several uji • Chinese-style government • Prince Shotoku and the Seventeen-Article Constitution Prince Shotoku
Taika Reforms • Elites unhappy with Yamato policies, installed Tenchi • Emperor moved to curb power of elite families • Taika Reforms (646) • Land restribution • Taxation system • Taiho Code (701)
Nara Period • 710–794 • New capital established • Buddhist temples built • The Sutra of the Golden Light • Power struggles continued within Japanese government • Capital moved to Heian
Discussion Questions • What key aspects of social, political, and cultural life did the Japanese borrow from China in forming their national identity and political system early in the Common Era? • How did the Nara period (710–794) show the continuing influence of China on Japan’s political rulers and their political system? • What showed the continuing strengths of native Japanese traditions during this time when much was borrowed from China?
Heian Japan • 794–1185 • Emperor as divine, not to be bothered with ruling • Cultural contributions • Courtly life in Heian Japan • Social and political organization The Tale of Genji
Land and the Heian • Land became consolidated in the hands of a few powerful families • Tax burden fell more and more on the peasants • Shoen: private estates that operated as small, local states
Military and the Heian • Powerful families in the government organized armies relying heavily on mounted cavalry • Samurai emerged • Contending armies grew in power