- The art of the Con
The Seventeen Article Constitution of Japan
This was Japanâ€™s first Constitution and basically
shaped morality and the countryâ€™s legal system. “One of its clauses said that
“peace and harmony should be respected because they are very important for intergroup
relations”. This shows emphasis of “Oriental law” which seeks to prevent disputes,
whereas “Western law” seeks to resolve disputes.”
While our primary concern is the evolution of Western
style law and who it reflects the social systems that are in place at any given
time, all civilizations seem to evolve in similar fashions and the only serious
wild card is the effect that regional environment has upon its people Those
civilizations that evolved on the continents had to create laws that we primarily
oriented towards defending cross border territory, however, Japan was an island
and attacks by intruders by sea were historically rare. Thus, Japan became an isolationist country in its thinking and future planning.
Prince Shotoku was a member of the Yamato ruling family and
was goal oriented. He was highly desirous of making his mark on the country
and although Japan was only an amalgam of tribal communities,
he had the desire to unite these entities under one rule of law. During that
period of time, it was common belief that most of the worldâ€™s knowledge emanated
from the Chinese who had produced such great philosophers as Confucius. The
reason that the Japanese knew anything about Chinese philosophy and law was
through their numerous incursions into Korea trying to capture as much of that
country as they could. However, China had made its substantial mark there
and returning military professionals were almost in awe of the creativity of
that system of government and law.
The young prince determined that he wanted to learn from the
best and sent his emissaries to China and left them there for years as
they absorbed the system and the culture. When they returned, Prince Shotoku
asked them to put together a compendium of the Chinese and Buddhist philosophy
and laws, which he ultimately culled, making sociological changes that would
fit the Japanese customs. While he called the finished document a constitution
for Japan, it was more like the Ten Commandments
of Chinese Philosophy. In order to get a flavor this series or moral statements
we take a look a few of these statements. Many of them are almost direct translations
from the “Analects” which was the formulation of Chinese regulation.
Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided. Everyone has his biases,
and few men are far-sighted. Therefore, some disobey their lords and fathers
and keep up feuds with their neighbors. But when the superiors are in harmony
with each other and the inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly
and the right view of matters prevails.
the evil and reward the good. This was the excellent rule of antiquity. Therefore,
do not hide the good qualities of others or fail to correct what is wrong when
you see it. Flatterers and deceivers are a sharp weapon for the overthrow of
the state, and a sharp sword for the destruction of the people. Men of this
kind are never loyal to their lord, or to the people. All this is a source of
Ministers and officials should attend the court early in the morning and retire
late, for the whole day is hardly enough for the accomplishment of state business.
If one is late in attending Court, emergencies cannot be met; if officials retire
early, the work cannot be completed.
To subordinate private interests to the public good—that is the path of a vassal.
Now if a man is influenced by private motives, he will be resentful, and if
he is influenced by resentment, he will fail to act harmoniously with others.
If he fails to act harmoniously with others, the public interest will suffer.
Resentment interferes with order and is subversive of law. “
As we can see, these seem to be statements
rather than regulations and with them are thrown in a course in human betterment.
It seems though, that throughout this work the message is clear, be obedient
and work within the system. It was at this time that Japan started to call itself, “Jihben”
or “land of the rising sun” as opposed to China,
which was to its west and was called the “land of the setting sun.” Moreover,
until this time, Japanâ€™s culture was based upon a hierarchy
of clans. The Uji clan, which was located in Nara made up the regulations while other
clans (Ujiâ€™s) were much smaller, not organized and scattered. The Nara clan created the values
and these were distributed to the people thru the clans. Various of the leaders
claimed descent from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. However, there were so many
deities that it became difficult to keep track of who should be praying for
whom. Thus, part of the changes wrought by Prince Shotoku was the recommendation
that Buddhism be made the state religion.