AskDefine | Define bushido

Dictionary Definition

Bushido n : traditional code of the Japanese samurai which stressed courage and loyalty and self-discipline and simple living

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English

Etymology

From sc=Jpan.

Noun

  1. An ethical code of the samurai that was prevalent in feudal Japan that advocated unquestioning loyalty to the master at all costs and obedience in all deeds, valuing honor above life.

See also

Extensive Definition

, meaning "Way of the Warrior", is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery and honour unto death. Born of two main influences, the violent existence of the Samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Confucianism and Buddhism. Bushidō developed between the 9th to 12th centuries and numerous translated documents dating from the 12th to 16th centuries demonstrate its wide influence across the whole of Japan.
According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, "Bushidō is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period." In the 20th century, Nitobe Inazō, in his book Bushidō: The Soul of Japan, described it in this way. "...Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe... More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten... It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career."
Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of Bushidō became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law.
Translation of documents related to Bushido began in the 1970's with Dr. Carl Steenstrup who performed a lifetime of research into the ethical codes of famous Samurai clans including Hojo Soun and Imagawa Ryoshun. Steenstrup's 1977 dissertation at Harvard University was entitled "Hôjô Shigetoki (1198–1261) and his Role in the History of Political and Ethical Ideas in Japan". Steenstrup holds two PhD's in Japanese History--one from Harvard in 1977 and another from The University of Copenhagen in 1979.
According to the editors of Monumenta Nipponica, "Tens of thousands of documents survive from the medieval period... Only a few have been translated into English, or are likely ever to appear in translation." One of the oldest English-language academic journals in the field of Asian studies, much of Dr. Steenstrup's significant findings were written for MN.
Primary research into Bushido was later conducted by William Scott Wilson in his 1982 text "Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors" . The writings span hundreds of years, family lineage, geography, social class and writing style--yet share a common set of values. Wilson's work also examined the earliest Japanese writings in the 8th century: the Kojiki (712 AD), Shoku Nihongi (797 AD), the Kokinshu (early 10th century), Konjaku Monogatari (CA 1106 AD) and the Heike Monogatari (1371), as well as the Chinese Classics (the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius (CA 500 BC)). Wilson holds a Master's Degree in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1979 and served as a Consular Specialist for the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle in 1980. Mr. Wilson recently received Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, Masakazu Toshikage on 2005 November 15.

Historical development

Early history to 12th centuries

According to Wilson, the four Confucian classics: the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius, are mentioned specifically in the warrior's own precepts as suggested reading. Takeda Nobushige included examples of what was considered proper reading for the educated warrior. His "Ninety-Nine Articles", lists the Analects of Confucius as one of the main texts of study. Wilson describes Confucianism as "Basically a philosophy of humanism which places much emphasis on education, rationalism, sincerity of action, and the relationships of people involved in society, rather than spiritual affairs or speculation on life after death."

Tenets

Bushido expanded and formalized the earlier code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honor to the death. Under the Bushido ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide).
In an excerpt from his book Samurai: The World of the Warrior, historian Stephen Turnbull describes the role of Seppuku in feudal Japan:
In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.
Bushido was widely practiced and it is surprising how uniform the samurai code remained over time, crossing over all geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai. The samurai represented a wide populace numbering from 7% to 10% of the Japanese population, and the first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the "high samurais", allowed to ride a horse, and 492,000 members of the "low samurai", allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse, in a country of about 25 million.
Other parts of the Bushido philosophy cover methods of raising children, appearance and grooming, and most of all, constant preparation for death. One might say that death is at the very center of Bushido as the overall purpose- to die a good death and with one's honor intact.

Seven virtues of Bushido

The Bushido code is typified by seven virtues:
-Translations from: Random House's Japanese-English, English-Japanese Dictionary
Others that are sometimes added to these:

Modern bushido

Some people in Japan as well as other countries follow the same virtues listed above under the philosophical term modern bushido. The idea was derived from the fact that the Japanese male should be able to adapt his beliefs and philosophies to a changing world.
In an excerpt of James Williams' article "Virtue of the sword", a fairly simple explanation of modern bushido can be found:
The warrior protects and defends because he realizes the value of others. He knows that they are essential to society and, in his gift of service, recognizes and values theirs... take the extra moment in dark parking lots at night to make sure that a woman gets into her car safely before leaving yourself. Daily involvement in acts such as these are as much a part of training as time spent in the dojo, and indeed should be the reason for that time spent training... When faced with a woman or child in a situation in which they are vulnerable, there are two types of men: those who would offer succor and aid, and those who would prey upon them.

See also

References

External links and further reading

bushido in Arabic: بوشيدو
bushido in Bulgarian: Бушидо
bushido in Catalan: Bushidō
bushido in Czech: Bušidó
bushido in Danish: Bushido
bushido in German: Bushidō
bushido in Spanish: Bushidō
bushido in Esperanto: Buŝido
bushido in French: Bushido
bushido in Indonesian: Bushido
bushido in Icelandic: Bushido
bushido in Italian: Bushidō
bushido in Hebrew: בושידו
bushido in Malay (macrolanguage): Bushido
bushido in Dutch: Bushido
bushido in Japanese: 武士道
bushido in Norwegian: Bushido
bushido in Polish: Bushidō
bushido in Portuguese: Bushido
bushido in Russian: Бусидо
bushido in Simple English: Bushido
bushido in Slovak: Bušidó
bushido in Serbian: Бушидо
bushido in Finnish: Bushidō
bushido in Swedish: Bushido
bushido in Vietnamese: Võ sĩ đạo
bushido in Ukrainian: Бусідо
bushido in Chinese: 武士道
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