A Centralized Feudal State
A Centralized Feudal State
Unlike other feudal system, the Tokugawa Japan was a form of feudalism that had strictly followed the classification of people in a hierarchical manner. The population was classified into 4 classes namely, samurai, peasants, craftsmen and the traders. It was restricted and maintained by the Tokugawa shoguns whose motives were purely for power and glory. A class had certain privileges that the other classes cannot enjoy. For example, only the samurai class can carry a sword. Thus farmers were not allowed carry a sword to even if they have one. In this type of governance, the shoguns were the rulers of the land.
Everyone was subject to their authority. It was their duty to distribute the crops and the rice produced by the farmers in their land. There was a centralization of power and authority. The daimyo were actually the local lords who were immediately below them. They were given the tasked by the shoguns to control a particular territory. They were given the privilege to have their own army of samurais to serve them in all their needs. They could assign a samurai to be a mentor, a counsellor, a private body guard or to be an assistant in their internal affairs.
In this type of feudal system, next to the shoguns and its officials, the samurai had the highest level in the hierarchy. They had a lot of functions. They could either have a public or private task in the society. The Edo samurai could work as a government official or as a police officer performing services to the public. On the other hand, there were some samurais who did not have a patron or supporter. They were called the ronins who spend their time to teach and do other work. They could even lease their services as warriors or mercenaries for a particular daimyo or shogun.
The samurai comprised less than ten percent of the total population during those times. The next class would be the farmers who produce the much needed crop in Japan – rice. The amount of rice produced by the farmers was calculated based on koku, their standard way of measuring the bushels of rice produced. A koku was equivalent to five bushels of rice that could feed a person in a year. Twenty percent of the rice produced by the farmers would go to the shogun. Almost similar amounts would go to the daimyos and other officials. This distribution did not change even on bad weather that was why farmers were left with a few bushels to live on.
On the other hand, the craftsmen and the merchants were on the lower level after the farmer feudal class. The craftsmen were the people who use their talents in creating products. An example of a craftsman would be a sword maker who made the swords for the samurai or a dressmaker who could make dresses and attires. The lowest class would belong to the merchants. This was based on the idea injected by Confucius that the merchants did not labor on the production of commodities unlike the craftsmen and peasants so they deserve the lowest rank.
They simply sell the products made other people. However, despite the treatment in the feudal class, the merchants proved to be successful and wealthy. They were able to expound their business that most samurais were even tempted to stoop down their class level and become merchants. Other than these classes there were a class of people that were recognized in this feudal system. Those were the priests; the eta and the people change that had provided entertainment. These people were given more freedom than those in the feudal class with some limitations.
Among these people, the etas were considered as the outcasts and were looked down and avoided by any member of the community because of their belief that their work were against the Buddhism and even Shintoism. The etas were the ones who were in charge of the dead animals and the tanning of the hides and skins of these animals. These were considered a major violation in Shintoism and Buddhism. The prejudice against association with these etas were so high that even until this time, conservative people still despise and avoid getting married into a Japanese with an eta ancestry.
Because of struggle between the social classes and the abuse of those in authority, rebellion and uprisings were eminent. The Tokugawa Shogunate was eventually overthrown by the restoration of the Meiji. This was actually similar to the feudal system in Europe during the Middle Ages. The centralization of force of the whole country actually benefited the privileged few while others were driven into poverty. Another ironical characteristic of this system would be the basis of classifying people. In Europe, people who were in the lower classes would usually have lesser wealth than this in the upper level.
However, the Tokugawa system based their classification on the type of work. Those who labor more should be given a higher respect compared to those who merely harbour the labor of others. This was based on the Confucian belief that people who worked harder should be given a higher regard than those who had lesser effort. However, this can be paradoxical. Why does the shoguns and daimyos earn more and treated with highest regard when in fact they did not toil the land to earn a living? This paradox was the system that had existed during the samurai era when the economy Japan was heavily dependent on crops.
Rise of the Manchu Dynasty and Choson Korea The Choson Dynasty replaced the Koryo dynasty in Korea. This dynasty ruled Koreas from 1392 until 1910. They adopted a purely Confucian philosophy and had withdrawn the teachings of Buddhism. Their Confucian perspective had been the basis for the rules and the way of living for the Koreans. It had been manifested in the attitude of the Koreans as well as in its structure. This long reigning dynasty had adapted a culture similar to the Chinese, During the last days of the Koryo Dynasty in 1389, a Korean general, Yi Song-gye seized political and military power thus deposing King Ch’ang .
This was followed by the ascent of King Kongyang (r. 1389-1392) to the throne. He had fought against the declining Koryo monarchy and nobility. When the Kwajonpop (rank land law) was instituted, General Yi was given the dominion and authority to rule Korea. He and his group were well aware that the ability to bring order to their nation and to end the opulent Koryo Dynasty lay in the restructuring of the land tenure system. According to this new system, land should be distributed based on the social status of a person. Those who were privileged enough to acquire land were given the permission to collect rents.
On the other hand, those who were on level simply given the rights to cultivate the land while paying lease for the lands they cultivate. These peasants were given the right to cultivate. The customary rent amounted to half the crop and was usually paid as rent-tax to the state. The peasants were given the protection not to be subjected to confiscation. Thus his livelihood was improved. The accumulation of land was strictly regulated and was always subject to constant supervision and surveillance. Through this extensive land reform, General Yi became popular and successful. He was able to acquire economic power.
Through continued reform in land, he was able to expel the last reigning emperor and resume his position marking the start of a very long dynasty. The end of the 16th century witnessed the rise of the Manchu Dynasty. The Jurchen nomadic tribes from the southern and southeastern region had unified their forces against the Chinese imperial army. They were led by an efficient and intelligent Jurchen leader of the Chien-chou tribe named Nurhachi. His systematic and organized leadership and charisma had enticed other tribes to join him and together they build an army that consist of warriors, households and slaves into self-contained legions.
These Jurchen warriors made intense attacks on the northeastern border of Choson. Choson had made a good defense against the unified Jurchen tribes but could not completely defeat them. Even during the initial invasions of the Japanese in 1592, there were still battles between th Jurchen tribes. Nurhachi even attempted to extend his help and his armies to both King Sonjo and the ruler of the Ming dynasty. The Chinese did not accept the offer of the Nurhachi while the former considered the offer but no negotiation had been made.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 December 2016
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