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The Samurai Spirit Probably few aspects of Japanese life have captured the imagination and admiration of the West than the life and culture of the Japanese warrior. During the cyber journeys, one of the topics of great interest is the lifestyle and spirituality of the Samurai, which is generally regarded with deference and a sense of mystique…
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Download file to see previous pages... Paradoxically, a more careful study of the Samurai, their code of conduct, and their philosophy shows their way of life to be simple, austere, balanced, and contemplative. These attributes are reflected in their customs, art and architecture. The Samurai originated as Japan’s pre-modern warriors who quelled the uprising of the native Emishi tribe during the Heian Period. Subsequently, these warriors found themselves in the hire of wealthy landowners (known as feudal lords) who grew apart and eventually declared themselves independent from the central government and raised their own private armies. When the country was finally reunited again late in the 1500s under the Edo period, the Samurai were positioned at the top of the social caste system. Because of their mandate to defend their feudal lord or emperor, the Samurai developed an unquestioning loyalty and a reputation for fierce fighting skills and, therefore, were regarded In order to preserve the caste distinctions that emerged during the Edo Period, the Samurai were forced to reside in districts designated for them, in homes with a characteristic architectural style. The typical Samurai residence (sometimes called Samurai castle) is expansive and spacious, partly because the Samurai is accorded a level of prestige, and partly because he housed a sizeable retinue. As an illustration, the Aizu Bukeyashiki (Aizu Samurai residence) is depicted in the pictures shown at the end. This edifice served as the quarters that housed the highest rank and most revered Samurai, his family, employees, and servants (Japan-Guide.com, 2012). There are a variety of rooms and section, numbering several dozen; these would include a teahouse, gardens, an archery range, a rice mill, and of course several guest rooms. The Samurai are also known as ‘bushi,’ from the term Bushido which literally translates to “The Way of the Warrior” (some bifurcations of the word could be more closely translated to “way of the sword” - Marshall, 2012). The Bushido is the unwritten code of conduct and morality that embodies the standards of moral principles by which the Samurai were sworn to live by. The code, while evolving through the centuries, manifests the profound influence of Zen Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism. These elements may be found in the painting, poetry, and lifestyle of the Samurai; for instance, the preparation and serving of tea (a Chinese legacy) has been elevated into an art form in the cha no yu or ‘tea ceremony’. The cha no yu is a metaphor for the Zen Buddhist influence in the Samurai lifestyle as well as the Japanese way of life – ‘Complicated and yet utterly simple, at once straightforward and deep’ (West & Seal, 2012). As with all aspects of the Samurai lifestyle, the tea ceremony evolved from being a custom engaged in by the wealthy, towards a practice associated with a simpler, more austere lifestyle: the elegant but expensive Chinese utensils were replaced with simple practical utensils, and the showy teahouses of the elite were replaced by Soan, the ‘grass hut’ style teahouse (West & Seal, 2012). Another unique art form influenced by the Samurai is the rock garden or karesansui, which are small stylized landscapes comprised of arrangements of rocks, water, moss, pruned trees and bushes (bonsai plants), and gravel or sand which are raked in such a way as to represent ripples in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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