- Confucianism and Shinto
- Confucianism, though it has no institutional presence as a religion in Japan, has played a major role in the evolution of Japanese religion and in particular the character of modem Shinto. While Confucian philosophy, especially of the shushi variety, became the state orthodoxy of Tokugawa Japan a nationwide Buddhist parish system (tera-uke) was simultaneously established to eradicate Christianity. Traditional tensions between Buddhism and Confucianism in China were thus set to be replicated in Japan. Confucian ideology seeks a return to the 'golden age' of Confucius and emphasises the subordination of one's selfish desires to the requirements of social duty so that harmony in social relationships can be mirrored in cosmic harmony and prosperity. The selfless state can be achieved by methods of self-cultivation and training ranging from Zen-type meditation to unremitting self-discipline in one's allotted role in the hierarchy, activity construed in Confucian terms as the repayment of reciprocal obligations to superiors. In feudal Japan the relationship between ruler and subject came to outweigh the father-son relationship. Teachers such as Ishida, Baigan popularised such Confucian ideas in a manner which appealed to different social classes. Confucian scholarly investigations inspired the academic researches of kokugaku scholars who sought Japanese equivalents of the ancient Chinese texts, and kokugaku-sha and Confucianists came to share resentment against Buddhism's privileged position under the shogunate. In the latter part of the Tokugawa period nationalist Confucians became favourable to the idea of the restoration of a sacred monarchy to replace the declining shogunate and lent their support to fukko shinto activists, who by now interpreted Shinto largely in Confucian terms. Most of the ethical content of modern Shinto founded on the emperor system (tennosei) can be traced to the Confucian ideology of the Tokugawa period, allied of course with modern nationalism and devotion to technological progress.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.