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A History of Japanese Literature: Volume 2: The Years of by Shuichi Kato

By Shuichi Kato

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It consists of five books, entitled 'Earth', 'Water', 'Fire', 'Wind' and 'Void' (the gorin or 'five circles' of the elements in Buddhist terminology). The volumes are arranged systematically. The 'Earth' book gives the general argument, 'Water' explains the school's techniques, 'Fire' is on tactics, 'Wind' deals with other schools and 'Void' is the conclusion. ' This 'Way of the Void' is the highest state, as it is in Takuan's Unshifting Wisdom. In The Five Circles Musashi contends that the art of tactics can be applied to all situations in human life in order to 'triumph THEINTELLECTUALS 23 physically over people [and] triumph mentally over people' .

That four such discrete groups can be identified is an indication of the way in which the new social system was beginning to stratify society. There were separate intellectual schools for the powerful higher-dass samurai, for the middle and lower-class samurai, for the masses and for the intellectuals themselves. The state of the arts at the time was of course analogous. Whereas in the fifteenth century everyone from Shögun to ordinary citizen watched the same sarugaku performances, in the seventeenth century the samurai watched Nö and the chönin watched Kabuki, an unusually clear and striking example of social division.

An adviser on the actual problems of government his usefulness must have been Iimited. The man who most deeply influenced succeeding generations was not Seika but his pupil Hayashi Razan (1583-1657). Razan entered service in the Shögun's court at an early age (in 1607) and served Ieyasu and his two successors . His function within the Bakufu was that of a kind of scholarly conversation partner for THEINTELLECTUALS 19 the Shögun rather than an adviser on the problems of government. The work Honchö kösö-den, which gives biographies of eminent Japanese priests, is at pains to point out the difference between his role and that of Tenkai and Süden.

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