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Though classed as a despotism by Europeans, China had encouraged learning through many centuries, while European kings discouraged it. In theory education and merit were the sole means of gaining official station and of retaining it when once acquired. Knowledge of the laws was exacted of all officials. Those who wielded the powers of government were not above the law, but themselves liable to punishment for its violation. A Western judge is not liable to punishment for a wrong judgment but in China all the court officials as well as the judge were subject to punishment for disregarding the law.
Until very recent times the rulers of Europe refused to give information to their subjects of the doings at their courts. The Emperors of China have long made public their official acts, and through the Peking Gazette all might keep informed of the acts and orders of the government.
The people of China have from a very early day enjoyed, not only a large measure of liberty of individual action, but of association and combination as well. The Empire includes all varieties of climate, soil, and productions. Perpetual winter reigns on the peaks of the Thian Shan and Kuen Lun, while the most southern provinces extend into the tropics. The people have never relied on any other country for the necessaries or even luxuries of life. Foreign commerce has always been limited, yet the internal commerce of China is and long has been second to that of no country in the world. It has never been the policy of the rulers of China to interfere with the useful activities of the people, nor has the government for any long period attempted to supervise or direct them. Industry, thrift and the performance of obligations have been enjoined and enforced. The average Chinaman, whether at home or abroad, looks to China as the only really civilized country in the world, and the best place on Earth in which to live. Is it quite certain that he is altogether wrong?
It is easy to point out moral blemishes in the Chinese. It is equally easy to see them in Europeans and Americans. It is not easy to judge justly of the relative merits and demerits of the different people or of their institutions and laws.
China combined democratic local self-government under written laws with an autocratic central power acting through a most carefully devised arrangement of bureaus and departments designed to afford mutual checks on each other. Under this system one-fourth of all the people on the globe lived. They have known less of the horrors of war than any other equal number of people on Earth no matter how selected. They are subject to less annoying restrictions in the transaction of their daily business than the people of most states of Europe. The morality inculcated by their classical books and the Buddhist teachers is as pure and lofty as that found in the teachings followed by the people of the West.
As the study of a foreign language is one of the best means for learning ones mother tongue, so the study of the code of laws most dissimilar to that of our own country is an excellent method of finding out the defects and absurdities of the system to which the student is accustomed. The extreme dissimilarity of the institutions of China and those of Europe and America give especial value to the study of its ancient moral teachings, laws, customs and government.
JAPAN So far as the history of Japan has come down to us it is the history of a single dynasty. No other country is now ruled by a family so long in power or to speak more accurately, theoretically in power. Starting with Jimmu Tenno, whose reign commenced about 660 B.C., the mikados have traced their descent from him and have been recognized as the sovereigns of the empire. That there were people on the island prior to his time and that many events of great historic interest transpired long before, does not admit of doubt, but, as the Japanese had no written records till the sixth century of our era, even the history of the early rulers is founded on tradition and starts with the supernatural and mythical. According to the legend, Ningo-no-Mikoto, grandson of the sun goddess Ameterasu-o-mi-Kami, settled in the south part of the island of Kiushiu. His son, Jimmu Tenno, proceeded northward and landed on the principal island from the Bay of Ozaka. Thence he advanced into the country, subduing the neighboring provinces, and established his residence near the town of Nara in the year 660 B.C. It is surmized that the Ainos, now found only in the extreme north of the empire, were the aborigines, and that Jimmu Tenno was the leader of a superior race, which invaded the country from the south. The character of the inhabitants of the island at the date of his advent must, however, remain a matter of conjecture rather than of established fact until some record not yet made public is discovered.
The fundamental theory of the government, promulgated and maintained through all the generations, is that of a ruler divinely descended and commissioned to govern the people according to his sovereign will. Jimmu Tenno is credited with introducing the culture of cereals, hemp, garlic and ginger.
His early successors would seem to have had exceptionally long reigns, as the tenth Mikado, Sujin Tenno, ruled from 97 to 30 B.C. This would allow more than an average of sixty years to each mikado. Though some progress was made in agriculture and the authority of the Mikado was so extended as to extort tribute from Corea in 32 B.C., a low state of civilization may be inferred from the existence of a custom by which on the death of the Mikado or one of his near relatives his servants were buried alive with him. A law prohibiting this custom was promulgated in the year A.D. 2. Such a custom implies the prevalence of the most unmitigated slavery and abject submission to despotic power. It is evident that the dominion of the early rulers did not extend over all the islands, for not until the reign of Kuko Tenno, A.D. 71 to 130, was the great Kuwanto subdued, and an invasion from Kiushiu caused the subjugation of that island, which, though the landing place of the father of the first Mikado, would seem never to have been subject to his immediate successors. Though Japanese writers seem to accept the accounts of the administrations of the early rulers as historic facts, there are so many elements of improbability connected with them that they hardly afford a safe basis for deductions. Little is known of the number of people on the islands or their condition prior to the introduction of letters. It seems reasonably certain however, that the early mikados ruled over a rather sparsely settled country, and that their dominions were confined to a portion only of the islands. Despotism of the most absolute character is the earliest form of government of which an account is preserved. Though the Japanese maintain that the abolition of the shogunate and the restoration of power to the Mikado but reinstate the reigning house in the authority which of right it always had, the actual power has in the course of centuries not merely passed into other hands, who have administered it for long periods, but the system of government and the organization of society have undergone radical changes. In studying these changes let us bear in mind that we are dealing with a people whose homogenity has continued without material change for more than 2,000 years.
There was not at any time after Jimmu an invading conqueror, nor is any account preserved of the influx of a servile race. The present population of the islands have descended from its early inhabitants with but slight and occasional intermixture of foreign blood, never enough to materially affect the great mass. Whence the early ideas of government were derived is unimportant. They were essentially despotic.
In 202 the Empress Jingu Kogo invaded Corea and placed it under tribute. This was followed by an embassy from China and the introduction into Japan of the teachings of Buddha and Confucius, and the language, literature and laws of the Chinese. It was several centuries however before this produced marked affect, for it is said that the introduction Buddhism is generally regarded as dating from 522, and that the Japanese had no written language till that century. The king of Kudara in Corea sent the Mikado bonzes, statues of Buddha, prayer books and other religious paraphernalia. As he still adhered to the Shinto religion he asked for apothecaries, soothsayers and almanac makers instead, for which he exchanged munitions of war.
About the year 600 the Empress Suiko introduced into her court the manners of the Chinese, with whom at that time there was considerable intercourse. How great a change this effected cannot be definitely stated, but it did not materially alter the form or character of the government. During her reign the Buddhist religion gained adherents rapidly, and its influence tended to improve society and bring about peaceful conditions. The early practice of burying living slaves and wives with the bodies of their deceased lords seems to have continued, notwithstanding the early prohibition of it, until the reign of the thirtieth Mikado, when a strict injunction against it was issued.
In the time of the thirty-eighth emperor, the three chief offices of Sa-Dai-Jin, U-Dai-Jin and Nai-Dai-Jin were created. Tenji also established the office of Dai-Jo-Dai-Jin (great minister of the great government), and conferred it on his eldest son. His friend Nakatomi he made Nai-Dai-Jin and allowed him to adopt the family name of Fujiwara. This family