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The Akô Incident. Bushido as an Ethical System Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Bu-shi-do.

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Presentation on theme: "The Akô Incident. Bushido as an Ethical System Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Bu-shi-do."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Akô Incident

2 Bushido as an Ethical System Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Very loosely translated as a form of chivalry. Bu-shi-do means “Military-Knight-Ways.” Bu-shi-do means “Military-Knight-Ways.” Code of moral principles, which the knights were required to observe. Code of moral principles, which the knights were required to observe. Not a written code, but organic growth from centuries of military history. Not a written code, but organic growth from centuries of military history.

3 Sources of Bushido 1. Buddhism (Zen)  To put oneself in harmony with the Absolute. 2. Shintoism:  Ancestor worship made the imperial family the fountainhead of the whole nation – the incarnation of heaven on earth.  Focused on patriotism and loyalty, but the emphases were not on the doctrine as much as the impulse. 3. Confucianism

4 Confucius Five moral relations: (the governing and the governed)  Master and servant  Father and son  Husband and wife  Older and younger brother  Between friend and friend

5 Bushido’s Seven Virtues Gi – Rectitude Gi – Rectitude Yū – Courage Yū – Courage Jin – Benevolence Jin – Benevolence Rei – Respect Rei – Respect Makoto – Honesty/Truth Makoto – Honesty/Truth Meiyo – Honor Meiyo – Honor Chūgi – Loyalty Chūgi – Loyalty

6 Gi – Rectitude The power of resolution: “Duty,” “Rectitude.” “Duty,” “Rectitude.” “Rectitude is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering – to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right.” “Rectitude is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering – to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right.” Distinct from hō – “law” that preserves social order. Distinct from hō – “law” that preserves social order.

7 Yū – Courage Yū – Courage Courage must be exercised in the cause of righteousness or it is unworthy to be counted amongst the virtues. “Perceiving what is right and doing it not, argues lack of courage.” ~Confucius~

8 Jin – Benevolence In a ruler, a paternal government: In a ruler, a paternal government: “When the prince loves what the people love and hates what the people hate, then is he what is called the parent of the people.” “When the prince loves what the people love and hates what the people hate, then is he what is called the parent of the people.” ~Confucius~ ~Confucius~

9 Rei – Respect Rei expresses the spiritual significance of social graces and decorum; a graceful expression of sympathy. Rei expresses the spiritual significance of social graces and decorum; a graceful expression of sympathy.

10 The difference between truth - makoto - and fact - honto. The difference between truth - makoto - and fact - honto. Makoto – Honesty/Truth

11 Meiyo – Honor Consciousness of personal dignity and worth. Consciousness of personal dignity and worth. Fear of disgrace. Fear of disgrace. Disgrace engenders intense sense of shame. Disgrace engenders intense sense of shame. Add to this the concept of ichibun – “private honor.” Add to this the concept of ichibun – “private honor.”

12 Chūgi – Loyalty The interest of the family and of the member is one and inseparable. There is no individual interest for father, son, husband, or wife. The interest of the family and of the member is one and inseparable. There is no individual interest for father, son, husband, or wife. The state antedates the individual. The state antedates the individual. Add to this the concept of katakiuchi - “striking down the enemy” by or on behalf of the victim - “redress.” Add to this the concept of katakiuchi - “striking down the enemy” by or on behalf of the victim - “redress.”

13 The Akô Incident In December 1702, 47 former retainers of the late Lord Asano attacked Lord Kira’s mansion. They were led by Ōishi Kuranosuke. Twenty-two months earlier in April 1701, Lord Asano was ordered to commit seppuku for attacking Lord Kira in Edo castle.

14 Lord Asano is restrained after cutting Lord Kira.

15 The apparent motive was a grudge developed during a collaboration to prepare for the imperial visit – tension was brewing between the two, but the origin remains a mystery. Violent altercation within the imperial castle was a crime punishable by death for all involved. Though involved, Lord Kira was not punished. Lord Kira, it seems, did not mount an honorable defense, but instead, attempted to flee, according to the lone eyewitness.

16 Lord Asano prepares to commit seppuku.

17 With the death of Lord Asano and confiscation of his holdings, his retainers were masterless; they became “ronin.” Lord Kira was deemed the enemy. Lord Kira, in fear, doubled his guard. The ronin made a show of having dispersed. In reality, for over 20 months, 47 of the ronin made careful battle plans, including the use of the Edo supply depot. When Lord Kira relaxed his guard, they struck.

18 Lord Ōishi and 47 loyal retainers at Lord Kira’s mansion

19 The discovery and capture of Lord Kira in a woodshed

20 Ōishi used Lord Asano’s short seppuku sword - tantō - to decapitate Lord Kira.

21 The Aftermath During the Tokugawa period of relative peace (1600 – 1868), the attack was the most thrilling event to occur in recent memory. The last armed conflict had occurred over 60 years previously (Shimabara Rebellion). It brought immediate acclaim and admiration. Ōishi and the ronin took on the aspects of a victorious general and his army.

22 The shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, wished to reward Ō ishi and his men... a marked difference in attitude from the Asano-Kira incident earlier. He made of show of bowing to the will of the people in doing so. Leading scholars of the day believed that the ronin should have been held up as examples and rewarded. Some criticized Kira's son (adopted heir) for not assisting his father and also for not committing seppuku after the raid.

23 The Result: After the successful attack, the ronin gave themselves up to the authorities. Weeks passed as the case was intensely argued on moral and, increasingly, legal merits. On 4 February 1703, the 46 ronin were informed that they would be permitted to die by their own hands. Within two weeks, the first Kabuki play, Chūshingura, was staged.

24 Chūshingura “Chūshingura is an all-encompassing term for the entire body of cultural production that ultimately stems from the Akô Incident of ” ~Henry D. Smith II, Columbia University~ “Rethinking the Story of the 47 Ronin.”

25 The ronin were legally wrong; however, their actions were in accord with the official moral code. How can the bushido code provide solutions for the very dilemmas it fostered? The Dilemma


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