The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
In the year 1282, Nichiren, reviewing his own life, said that there were three things for which he considered himself deserving of commendation. 1 He had published his treatise of "Risshō Ankoku," and presented a copy to the Regent, at great personal risk to himself, thereby calling the Regent's attention to the evils of the State, and the only apparent remedy for them. He had next, some years later, dared to tell the same exalted personage that the only safety for the State lay in the adoption of the doctrines which he himself so earnestly advocated. This boldness had almost cost him his life. And, lastly, not content with general warnings about the Mongols, he had foretold the exact time when the much-dreaded invasion was going to take place, and events had fully justified his prophecy.
We have spoken of Nichiren's famous writing; we have also treated of the doctrines which he preached in season and out. It remains for us to speak of the Mongols and their attempted invasion of Japan.
Central and North-Eastern Asia was for centuries the cradle of fierce and barbarous races which started out on a career of conquest, and acquired permanent homes for themselves in the fertile and more favoured districts of Europe. Scythians and Goths, Alans and Huns,
[paragraph continues] Bulgarians and Cumani, Yuëtchi and Uighurs, were merely "reshuffles of the same cards," 1 different strata, as it were, of the same peoples, going forth from their homes in Central Asia to worry the civilized nations of two continents.
In the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, it was the Mongolian power that made itself feared throughout the world. 2 The Mongols and the Tartars were, as it were, the aristocracy and plebs of a large semi-barbarous tribe of nomad herdsmen, hunters, and warriors, whose home lay to the north of China proper, around the Gobi Desert, by the banks of the Amur river, and among the mountains south of Lake Baikal. Here was born in the year 1162, in the tent of the tribal chief, a child to whom was given the name of Temujin, a name afterwards exchanged for that of Gengis-Khan, or the Perfect Warrior. 3 Gengis Khan in due time succeeded to the chieftaincy of the Mongol and Tartar tribes (1206), and then commenced a series of victories, campaigns, and conquests, which fairly throws the exploits of Alexander and Napoleon into the shade, the Mongol conqueror having this advantage over his two European rivals, that he was able to transmit his power and military genius to descendants as remarkable
and as talented as himself. The first conquests of the Mongols were in Northern China; their next exploit was the overthrow of the Chowaresmian Kingdom, which reached from India to the Caspian Sea, with its capital at Bokhara. From the Caspian to Russia was but a step; in 1237 (only thirty years after Gengis Khan's election) his grandson Batu, at the head of a Mongol army; had subdued Russia, burnt Moscow and Khiew, and compelled the Russian princes to do him homage and pay tribute to the Great Khan, his uncle Octal, the son of Genghis, who ruled at Karakorum, somewhere halfway in a straight line between Pekin and Lake Baikal. Entering Poland and Silesia, they were met by a German army at Wahlstatt in 1241, and, though victors in the battle, pushed their advances no further in this direction; but, devoting themselves to the strengthening of their dominions in South Russia, pushed their conquests into Hungary, drove the king of that country to take refuge on an island off the coast of Dalmatia, and advanced to within two days’ march of Vienna. Their line of march was everywhere marked by terrible traces of vindictive cruelty. They spared neither age nor sex, neither town nor country, neither palace nor church. They had no respect for, and less fear of, the chivalry of Europe. They knew that Christendom was a conglomeration of States hostile to each other; they knew, also, that the best elements in Christendom were frittering away their strength in vain attempts to recover the Holy Sepulchre, and so long as it pleased Western Europe to keep up the Crusades, they did not trouble themselves much about attacking the Saracens. Nevertheless, in 1258, their Asiatic armies overthrew the Khalifate of Bagdad and destroyed that city, and when, between 1274 and 1279, Kublaï Khan, the grandson and fourth successor of Gengis Khan, added the whole of China
to the dominions of the Mongols, their Empire could fairly claim to be the largest that the world had ever seen. It embraced the whole of Asia (except Hindustan, which was afterwards conquered, Burma, Siam, Arabia, and Japan), the whole of European Russia, and the eastern half of Hungary.
When Kublaï Khan was in the midst of his conquests in China, having already overthrown the dynasty of the Kin, and being then meditating the subjugation of the rival dynasty of the Sung, he remembered the Empire of Japan, as having been at one time in the habit of sending presents to the Tang Emperors, which those rulers accepted as tribute. At once, in 1268, he sent an arrogant letter to the Regent, demanding the submission of Japan to the rule of the Mongol Khans, and the transmission of tribute in recognition of that suzerainty. We know what was the tenour of that letter. The Mongols had for several years been sending the most insulting and arrogant epistles to the Russian princes, the Kings of Hungary and France, the Emperor of Germany, and even the Pope, and the letter to the Regent of Japan was couched in no less arrogant language than the other missives. But Hōjō Tokimune was a match for the Tartar Khan (were they not all chips of the same block? and may not Japanese blood have been mixed with that of the Mongol chiefs?), and well understood the art of meeting arrogance with arrogance. The first letter was left without an answer. A second letter, sent with an embassy in 1271, was returned unopened. In 1274 Kublaï sent a fleet of 150 ships, which ravaged Tsushima and Ikishima, and effected a landing at Imatsu in Chikuzen, an expedition which might have been very serious had not the Mongol commander been killed in battle and a large part of the fleet destroyed by a typhoon. Tokimune must have known by this time that he was
running tremendous risks in opposing a Power whose rulers openly boasted that they were lords over the whole earth; yet he never swerved from the line he had taken up of meeting arrogance with pride. In 1276, Kublaï sent an ambassador to Kamakura. Tokimune caused him to be led out to Tatsu no Kuchi (the same spot that had witnessed the attempted execution of Nichiren), and there beheaded him. Two others, who came on the same errand, were beheaded at Hakata in Kyūshū, as soon as ever they landed on Japanese soil. Further hostilities were now unavoidable. In 1279, Tokimune ordered the Daimyōs of Kyūshū and the West to prepare to resist a hostile invasion. In 1281, an Armada, carrying 100,000 Mongols and 10,000 Koreans, appeared off Dazaifu in Kyūshū, having ravaged the island of Iki on the way. The invaders landed at Goryū-san in Hizen, where they met with a strenuous resistance. At the end of a week's fighting, neither army could claim to have gained much advantage. Then came one of those terrible storms that from time to time visit the shores of Japan; the invaders were obliged to look to the safety of their ships; they were literally "between the Devil and the deep sea," and, being in that awkward predicament, were practically annihilated. Of all the mediæval nations of Asia and Europe that were obliged to face those terrible conquerors in the heyday of their power, Japan was the only one that scored a complete victory. It was also probably the only one that absolutely refused to be cowed by Tartar bluster.
But we must not forget that our present concern with the Mongol invasion of Japan is its bearing on the religious history of that country.
We mentioned in a previous chapter that Nichiren expounded a system of millenarianism very similar to that which the Franciscan Abbot Joachim advocated in his
[paragraph continues] Commentaries on the Book of Revelation, between 1170 and 1200, A.D. Abbot Joachim's work enjoyed a very great reputation during those last years of the twelfth century. Is it possible that these two sets of Apocalyptic speculations can in any sense have had a common source or origin?
First, I would mention the fact that Abbot Joachim travelled in the East as a young man, before commencing his work on the Apocalypse. It is quite possible that he may have there gathered the ideas which he afterwards put into definite literary form in his books.
Secondly, it is a certain fact that the religious world of Europe took a great deal of interest in the Conversion to Christianity of the Great Khan of Tartary, and that several embassies were sent from Europe for that purpose. The matter was brought before the Council of Lyons, in 1245, by Pope Innocent IV., and a resolution arrived at that the Pope should send missionaries to the Mongol Emperor, urging him to abstain from further bloodshed and to turn to the true faith. In consequence of this resolution, Innocent IV. sent two embassies, which left Rome the following year. The first, which consisted of four Dominican monks, was sent to Persia, to plead with the Mongolian generals in that country. 1 The second was taken from the Order of St. Francis, and consisted of Brother Benedict of Poland, Brother Lawrence of Portugal, and John de Plan Carpin, an Italian. This embassy, of which John de Plan Carpin has left a very minute account, 2 made its way right across Central Asia and Siberia to Karakorum, somewhere to the south of Lake Baikal, and was present in that city during the whole of the prolonged ceremonies connected
with the election and enthronement of Mangu, the fourth of the Great Khans of the Mongols, and the grandson of Genghis Khan. About the same time, Louis IX. (St. Louis) of France sent a similar embassy, which arrived at Karakorum a little before the election of Mangu, and presented its credentials and letters to the widow of the late Khan, Gaiyuck, who was acting as Regent during the vacancy of the throne. Three Dominicans (of whom one was Rubruquis) were charged with this duty, but their embassy was scarcely a successful one, as the Mongols interpreted it as an act of submission on the part of the French monarch. Russian Princes were also compelled, as tributaries to the Mongols, to make periodical journeys to the Court of the Mongol Khans; amongst them were the sainted hero of the Russians, Alexander Newsky, 1 and another brave man, also canonized, a certain Michael, who preferred martyrdom at the hand of the quick-tempered Mongols rather than bow his head before the symbols of idolatry.
We have thus a very fair amount of information as to the state of the Mongol Court in the days before the accession of Kublaï Khan, and the singularly consistent information thus given is reinforced and confirmed by the testimony of subsequent writers, such as Orpélian, John de Mandeville, Marco Polo, and some Arabs.
All the accounts represent the Mongols as monotheists. There is one God in Heaven, the Ruler and Judge of all, and there is One Sovereign upon Earth, whose privilege it is to rule over the whole earth. 2 "God in Heaven, the Khan upon Earth," was the motto which they engraved
upon their official seals, and to this short creed they expected and exacted universal obedience. About further religious details they did not trouble themselves very much. One of their Khans said that there were as many ways of serving God as there were fingers upon a man's hands, and provided that the Universal Sovereignty of the Khan was acknowledged, they let men serve God in any way they liked. Nestorian Christians were frequently found at their courts, in places of high honour, and we sometimes read, in the pages of D’Ohsson and Karamsin, of women in Mongol families receiving baptism; indeed, it was even said of Sartac, son of Batu, who governed in Russia, that he was a Christian. The Mongols, when they had once established their rule in Russia, treated the Russian Church with kindness and consideration, and the Metropolitan Cyril felt himself justified, says Karamsin, in appointing an archbishop for those portions of Russia which had come under direct Mongol rule, and in creating a special province to be under that prelate's jurisdiction. 1 Constant mention is made of Christian services held at the Great Khan's Court, under the direct patronage of the Sovereign and his family.
This toleration led many in Europe to believe (the more readily because the wish was, in this case, father to the thought) that the Khans of Tartary were about to become Christians. 2 This was, however, very far from the truth. The Mongols had their own religion (which we have already explained), with priests or magicians (Kame) of their own. These priests guarded the avenues leading to the palace with magic rites and ceremonies which all were expected
to treat with reverence. But they tolerated all faiths alike, and the Buddhist and Mahometan had exactly the same privileges as the Nestorian, or indeed any other species of Christian, if he was not hampered by a belief in a Vicegerent of Heaven whose claims could clash with those of the Mongol ruler. We are told that on certain occasions Christian, Mahometan, and Buddhist priests would be admitted in quick succession to bless the food of which the Great Khan was about to partake, and that all were treated with absolute impartiality. It is possible (and indeed Carpini expressly affirms it of the Nestorian priests) 1 that there was not much of real religion in any of these Court chaplains of various creeds. Religion was at a low ebb everywhere throughout the Asiatic dominions of the Mongols, otherwise this happy family arrangement could not have continued as it did; one result, however, must have ensued from this strange fraternization—the various religions must have learned a good deal about one another from their close propinquity at the Court.
Another fact, about which all the writers are agreed who have written about the Mongolian Court under the three or four immediate successors of Genghis Khan, is that, in addition to priests and monks of the various religions, there was a considerable number of lay persons from many countries. We find mention of Frenchmen, Italians, Englishmen, serving the Mongols in various capacities. 2 Koreans were there, and Chinamen. It seems hard to suppose that there were no Japanese. It was still the practice of Japanese in those days to cross to China for purposes of study and research, and the Mongols, living as they did on the northern frontiers of the Celestial Empire, were looked upon as half Chinese, long before Kublaï made
himself Emperor of China on the overthrow of the Sung dynasty. There does not seem to have lurked in the Japanese mind any suspicion as to Mongol designs until Nichiren's writings and preachings forced the authorities to be on their guard against the danger. 1
If, therefore, we put all these considerations together, we shall see that it is far from impossible that some of Abbot Joachim's speculations may have been derived from the same sources which furnished the religious writers of Japan with the materials for their speculations, though through a different channel. There is a law of action and re-action in the world of ideas as well as in more material spheres.
D’Ohsson (op. cit., vol. ii. p. 265) tells us in a note that the Mongols called the Christians Arcaoun or Arkhaïoun. I have not been able to identify this word absolutely in the only Mongolian Dictionaries accessible to me; but I venture to conjecture that it is the same word as the Sanskrit Arhat, which appears in ordinary Japanese as Rakan, but which Nichiren seems consistently to have written as Arakan. 2 It is quite probable that the Christianity of the Nestorians may have appeared to the Mongolians as merely a variant form of Buddhism; for the Buddhism of Central Asia and China embraced in its wide bosom a very varied assortment
of heterogeneous elements. Nichiren knew of the Shatparāmita Sūtra, 1 referred to in a former chapter, which was produced by the collaboration of the Nestorian priest Adam with the Indian Buddhist Prajṇā, and he rejected it with scorn. 2 Two centuries later, when St. Francis Xavier landed in Kyushu and desired to preach the Faith of Christ, he received from the local Daimyo a written permit authorizing him to preach the doctrines of Buddha. 3 It did not at first occur to the average Japanese mind that the Faith which the Jesuit Fathers had come to preach was anything more than a new variety of the multiplex Mahāyāna.
Kublaï was the first of the Mongol rulers who formally adopted Buddhism as his own personal religion. It is to him that the world owes that peculiar institution, the Dalai Lama, the Supreme Pope of the Thibetan and Mongolian Buddhists. The first Dalai Lama was appointed in 1261, not long after the visit of the Franciscan ambassadors from the Court of Rome. Imitation is very often the sincerest form of flattery. But the Dalai Lama and the Lamaist form of Buddhism has nothing to do with the Japanese Mahāyāna. We may therefore content ourselves with the bare mention of the fact of the institution. Kennyo Shōnin, one of Shinran's successors in the fifteenth
century, is credited with having harboured designs of establishing something very much like it in Japan 1 for his own benefit.
It is of distinct importance for the student to keep in mind the Buddhist conception of the three "millenniums," the last of which is to witness the decay of the Faith taught by S’akyamuni. There is a tendency to shirk the obvious conclusions of the doctrine as at first enunciated, by expanding the third millennium to a period of two or even ten thousand years. It is a tendency caused by fear. Buddhists not unnaturally dread the coming of the time when their faith shall disappear. There is another way of looking at the question. If it should disappear it will do so only to make room for something better, and that "something better" is what the whole world is prepared to welcome. I shall refer to it again in my concluding chapter. 2
330:1 H. E. Parker.
330:2 I have consulted D’Ohsson's "Histoire des Mongols," Karamsin's "History of the Russian Empire" (German trans.), and Black, "Proselytes of Ishmael."
330:3 It has pleased certain Japanese writers to identify Genghis Khan with Yoshitsune, the popular hero of the Minamoto, who disappears from Japanese history in the year 1189, at the age of thirty-one. No proof can be given for the assumption. It is made to rest on the Sinico-Japanese reading of the name Minnamoto Yoshitsune, which is Gen Gikyō, a fair approximation to Genghis Khan. Yoshitsune certainly had the same adventurous spirit that is to be found in Gengis Khan and his descendants, and the suggested identification is a very flattering one to certain Japanese minds.
334:1 Cf. D’Ohsson, "Histoire des Mongols," bk. ii. cap. 4, p. 208.
334:2 Karamsin, "Geschichte des Russischen Reichs," vol. iv. cap. 1, pp. 33 ff.
335:1 Ibid., vol. iv. cap. i. p. 30.
335:2 The resemblance to Nichiren's initial and oft-repeated sermon is striking. There is also a general resemblance in the ecclesiastical policies of the Mongols and Japanese which should be kept in mind.
336:1 Karamsin, op. cit., iv. 1.
336:2 The French Court was on one occasion hoaxed by a pretended embassy which came professedly from the Khan to ask for Christian instruction.
337:1 Cf. D’Ohsson, "Hist. des Mongols," vol. ii. chap. 4.
338:1 Dr. Haas, in his "Chronological Notes on Buddhism in Japan," published in the Transactions of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur and Volkerkunde Ostasiens (Tokyo), mentions five or six priests who went over to China during this period, some of whom made very long stays; and there were probably others. Nichiren's information about the doings of the Mongols was so very accurate that he must have had an informant who had seen with his own eyes what he related.
338:2 "Seigōroku," p. 208. Nichiren seems to have been almost pedantic in his use of Sanskrit words rather than the popular Sinico-Japanese corruptions. Kowalewsky (vol. i. pp. 144, 150) and Schmidt (p. 4, col. a) give a word, connected with the Sanskrit arhat, which seems to be pronounced archaiun, and which means "the saints."
339:1 See above, Chapter XII. p. 128.
339:2 "Seigōroku," p. 681. He says that the Sūtra was brought from India by Amoghavajra towards the end of the Tang dynasty, that it was unknown in China until then, that none of the teachers in the period of the "three Southern and seven Northern States" knew anything about it, and that it was inconsistent with the Hokekyō.
339:3 Murdoch and Yamagata, "History of Japan," p. 67. The licence runs as follows: "This deed witnesseth that I have given permission to the priests (sō, a Buddhist term) who have come to this country from the Western regions, in accordance with their request and desire, that they may found and erect a monastery and house, in order to develop the Law of Buddha."
340:1 Murdoch and Yamagata, "History of Japan," p. 22.
340:2 It is well to observe the way in which persons and nations, dwelling in remote parts of the world, and apparently without any dealings with one another, become, as it were, simultaneously obsessed by the same ideas. We may find illustrations of this in the development of Greek and Indian philosophies, in the reforms of S’akyamuni as contemporaneous with those of the post-exilic prophets and lawgivers, in the simultaneous realization both in East and West of the need of a personal Saviour who shall be of kingly race and born out of the common way of men. Simultaneously, both in East and West is proclaimed the doctrine of Salvation by Faith, of the approaching end of the age, of the need of using the temporal sword for the suppression of heresy. We cannot always trace an actual contact; it is perhaps enough to recognize the fact that these thoughts were in the air.