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Confucianism and Prince Shôtoku's Constitution

Robert Oxnam :: The Japanese were also influenced by the Confucian ideas that good government depends on the correct behavior of ethical men.

H. Paul Varley :: If you borrow from China as the Japanese did, you automatically get Confucianism. Confucianism is fundamental to Chinese civilization, much more so than Buddhism. It is essentially a socio-political creed. Basically, Confucianism is concerned about the development of ethical behavior, starting with individuals, and then the individuals using this developed ethical behavior in the public arena, serving as ministers of the state. In the central thinking of Confucianism, it is not enough to develop your own ethical qualities. You are then duty bound to try to use these in the service of the state, and the state in Confucian terms ought to be a state that is run by ethical men.

Robert Oxnam :: Prince Shôtoku [573-621], a legendary leader of seventh century Japan, gave voice to Confucian principles in this seventeen article constitution.

[Excerpts from the Constitution of Prince Shôtoku]

The Prince Imperial Shôtoku in person prepared laws for the first time. There are seventeen clauses as follows:

One. Harmony should be valued...

[Four.] The ministers and officials of state should make proper behavior their first principle, for if the superiors do not behave properly, the inferiors are disorderly; if inferiors behave improperly, offenses will naturally result. Therefore, when lord and vassal behave with propriety, the distinctions of rank are not confused. When people behave properly the Government will be in good order.

Excerpts from Prince Shôtoku's constitution from Japan: Selected Readings, Hyman Kubin, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968), pp. 31-32.