Early Beginnings According to Shinto belief, Jimmu is regarded as a direct descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu and claimed the title of Emperor. Original prehistoric inhabitants were of Polynesian stock, called Ainu. The Ainu were displaced by people of Mongolian background around 500 CE. This gave rise to the first dominant clan called the Yamato.
The Yamato Emperor established a capital in Nara and ruled there until 794 CE
The Japanese continued to “selectively borrow” from China
The Nara Period What did the Japanese borrow from the Chinese? The Great Wall of China design Chinese civil service exam Chinese Characters in the written language Mandate of Heaven Confucian Literary classics Chinese architecture Court etiquette from the Tang Dynasty Buddhism
Capital city and Emperor’s court was moved to Heian (Kyoto)
“ City of Peace” established a long period of peace in Japan known as the “Classical Era”
The Heian Period Emperor became more isolated and simply stayed in Heian and oversaw Shinto rituals - figurehead Lords controlled the political realms of Japan Various noble landowning clansmen vied for the title of Kwampaku, or Chancellor. They ruled in the Emperor’s name Led to the rise of powerful families with private armies – the Fujiwara, Tairo, and Minamoto families were the most influential Oversaw an artistic and cultural flowering at the court
Cultural Developments: The traditional Japanese religion is Shintoism. Everything in nature possesses a spirit and natural forces govern the earth. Traditional Japanese customs combined with Buddhism produced Zen Buddhism. Contacts with China were halted during the Heian Period (794-1185) as the Japanese were encouraged to express traditional Japanese culture. Women dominated literature. The Tale of Genji was written by Lady Murasaki. Women enjoyed considerable legal and economic rights compared to later periods. Economic Development: Japan was a predominantly agrarian society with a local artisan class of weavers, carpenters, and iron workers. Most people worked on land that was owned by other people and had to pay an in-kind tax on their harvests on a yearly basis. The Heian Period
Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199AD) set up a new government close to the present city of Tokyo. The new government was called bakufu or “tent government,” suggesting a military encampment. Although the emperor continued to exist in Kyoto, his role would only be ceremonial. Yoritomo simplified the government processes and instituted a basic legal code, although the court in Kyoto retained much of its form and administrative function. Large family domains retained varying numbers of samurai. Common people tilled the land, much as they had always done. The Kamakura Period
Geography: Island configuration of Japan led to the development of isolated communities, Political Developments: Attempts at centralizing the Japanese state were relatively unsuccessful during the first millennium. The Japanese also attempted to fashion their bureaucracy in the image of the Chinese Confucian model. Emissaries and scholars were sent to China to study. The Rise of Feudalism: Eventually a system of feudalism developed in which a central figure, the Shogun , reigned as supreme military general and political authority over Japan. The power of the shogun was depended on the loyalties of the local daimyos and samurais . 1185-1333 The Kamakura Period
Zen Buddhism The mental posture involved in sitting meditation is that of concentration. One’s attention may be focused on an object, such as one’s breathing or on a koan. A koan is a kind of riddle, for example: “ What was the appearance of your face before your ancestors were born?” “ What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Stressed austerity, meditation and the complete control of the mind to attain a state of detachment from the physical world. This detached state was brought about by strict self-discipline and constant meditation. Samurai believed that by perfecting themselves in this way, they would be able to face their enemy and even death without fear. Samurai believed that through the practice of Zen Buddhism, they would develop the intuition to respond quickly to a sudden and dangerous situation by attaining a state of awareness and physical detachment which would lead to the domination over their enemies.