Japan Table of Contents

Although not practiced as a religion, Confucianism from China has deeply influenced Japanese thought. In essence, Confucianism is the practice of proper forms of conduct, especially in social and familial relationships. It is derived from compilations attributed to the fifth-century B.C. Chinese philosopher Kong Fuzi or Kongzi (Confucius; in Japanese, Koshi). Confucian government was to be a moral government, bureaucratic in form and benevolent toward the ruled. Confucianism also provided a hierarchical system, in which each person was to act according to his or her status to create a harmoniously functioning society and ensure loyalty to the state. The teachings of filial piety and humanity continue to form the foundation for much of social life and ideas about family and nation.

Neo-Confucianism, introduced to Japan in the twelfth century, is an interpretation of nature and society based on metaphysical principles and is influenced by Buddhist and Daoist ideas. In Japan, where it is known as Shushigaku (Shushi School, after the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Xi--Shushi in Japanese), it brought the idea that family stability and social responsibility are human obligations. The school used various metaphysical concepts to explain the natural and social order. Shushigaku, in turn, influenced the kokutai (national polity) theory, which emphasized the special national characteristics of Japan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress