Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"into a city called Nain" - Japan and China in these 2500 Years

A Mountain City North of Tokyo

Japan and China in these 2000 Years

Historically, there is some clear distinction between the Han tribe, a major tribe of Chinese, and Japanese.  Their language systems are also different.  However, in terms of culture and civilization after the era of simple hunting and food gathering about 2500 years ago or more, Japanese owed many things to China (and Korea as an extension of the Chinese civilization).

However, it was till Japanese missions to Sui China dispatched between 600 and 618 that Japanese imperial court and political leaders unconditionally respected Chinese courts.
Between 607 and 838, Japan sent 19 missions to China. Knowledge was the principal objective of each expedition. For example: Priests studied Chinese Buddhism. Officials studied Chinese government. Doctors studied Chinese medicine. Painters studied Chinese painting. Approximately one third of those who embarked from Japan did not survive to return home.
Especially in the second mission to the Sui dynasty, the Japanese imperial court took a bold stance by indicating that Japan was not a tributary or a subject kingdom to Sui.
Ono was appointed by Empress Suiko as an official envoy (Kenzuishi) to the Sui court in 607 (Imperial embassies to China), and he delivered the famous letter from Japan's Prince Shōtoku which began "The Son of Heaven where the sun rises [Japan], to the Son of Heaven where the sun sets [China], may good health be with you." Emperor Yang was angered at being addressed in this way, although it is not clear whether he was angered more by the insult of Sui being referred to as the land of the setting sun, or by the use of Son of Heaven to refer both to himself and the emperor of Japan, hinting that they were equals, when China considered the Yamato state of Japan to be nothing more than an insignificant barbarian state. Nevertheless, Emperor Yang was probably more interested in obtaining Japan's support in his campaigns against Goguryeo than in matters of decorum, and despite the insult, he sent his own envoy, Pei Shiqing (Hai-sei-sei in Japanese), back to Japan with Ono.
Since then, any Japanese emperors, samurai leaders (shoguns), and government kept this stance for more than 1400 years to date so as to make Japan politically and militarily independent from China (except one samurai shogun who wanted wealth in trade with China).

China has had a large land area and a large population with old and rich culture since early centuries of history.  Any nations around China have been cautious in their relationship with China so as not to be absorbed by Chinese power.  (A recent example is Tibet.)

However, how deep Japan was once influenced by Chinese power could be seen in an example of Himiko, one of the most notable and popular figures in the Japanese history.
Himiko or Pimiko ( c. 170–248 AD) was a shaman queen of Yamataikoku in Wa (ancient Japan). Early Chinese dynastic histories chronicle tributary relations between Queen Himiko and the Cao Wei Kingdom (220–265), and record that the Yayoi period people chose her as ruler following decades of warfare among the kings of Wa. Early Japanese histories do not mention Himiko, but historians associate her with legendary figures such as Empress Consort Jingū, who was Regent (c. 200–269) in roughly the same era as Himiko.
Hiumiko might be one of ancestors of the current Imperial Family of Japan.  But the theory that Himiko was subject to a Chinese kingdom could not be accepted by later Japanese Imperial family, politicians, leaders of the Japanese society, and scholars especially before the end of WWII where Imperial Japan fought China.

But even before Himiko, there is a historical fact that a unique Chinese arrived at Japan.   It is Xu Fu ("Jyofuku" in Japanese), a kind of sorcerer of a country near the East China Sea.

Xu Fu got permission to meet in person the First Emperor of Qin (259 BC to 210 BC), who happened to be traveling for inspection of vast local territories he had conquered.  Xu Fu said to the Emperor that if he was allowed to sail eastward from the Chinese continent with support of the Emperor, he would reach a "legendary holy land in the east" (which is believed to be Japan of ancient days) and bring back some arcanums that would give immortality to the Emperor.  So, the First Emperor approved Xu Fu's plan.

Xu Fu is believed to have arrived at Japan, but had no intention to return to China and the First Emperor of China with the elixir of life that might be found in Japan, because the Emperor was well known for his cruelty and severe oppression of people.  Xu Fu succeeded in deceiving the Emperor, in this context. 

This is the oldest episode that China had an influence on Japanese culture.   And, even today, there are some Japanese who think that Xu Fu must have some relationship with the origin of the Imperial Family of Japan.

The relationship between Japan and China is no simple in these 2000 years.

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Luk 7:11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.