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Home » 1. General Introduction » History of Shrines and Shinto
3. Shinto in the Early Modern Period (2)
From Buddhistic Shinto to Confucian Shinto
One of the most conspicuous features of early modern Shinto is the shift from the prominence of Ryōbu Shintō, Sannō Shintō and other related philosophies based on the combination of buddhas and kami (see shinbutsu shūgō and bukka Shintō ), to the emergence of "Confucian Shinto," namely, a philosophy based on the claimed unity of Confucianism and Shinto (see juka Shintō ). Of course Confucian interpretations of Shinto had already been seen in medieval Ise Shintō or Yoshida Shintō, but they did not proclaim the unity of Shinto with Confucianism. The earlier theories merely used Confucianism as an expedient in establishing a position that reversed the Buddhistic honji suijaku theory (namely, the position that kami were fundamental and buddhas were provisional), with the result that while they gave Shinto priority, they did not aggressively reject Buddhism. The new Confucian version of Shinto, however, was a Confucian-based Shinto founded on a clear rejection of Buddhism; namely, it can be called an intellectual discipline that interpreted Shinto from the position of the Neo-Confucianism that formed the major philosophical current of early modern feudal society.
Among the prominent Confucian Shintoists of the period were Neo-Confucianists Fujiwara Seika, Hayashi Razan, and Yamazaki Ansai. Together with National Learning (kokugaku), this Confucian Shinto occupied a central position in early modern Shinto thought. In addition, Ise Shintō and Yoshida Shintō also underwent new developments through the work of figures like Watarai Nobuyoshi and Yoshikawa Koretari, and also exerted strong influence on the Suika Shintō of the representative Confucian Shintoist Yamazaki Ansai.


The Shinto Philosophies of Hayashi Razan and Yoshikawa Koretari
       The earliest hint of Confucianist Shinto can be seen in concept of Confucian-Shinto unity ("Shinto and Confucianism are identical in spirit though differing in name") often attributed to the Sendai motogusa of Fujiwara Seika, who was called the creator of Edo period Neo-Confucianism (Confucianism of the Zhuxi school). Fujiwara's disciple, Hayashi Razan, explained this idea in greater detail, equating Shinto with "the kingly way (ōdō)." Razan further gave this "kingly way Shinto" the name Ritō shinchi Shintō, and claimed it was the ultimate essence of Shinto, while any other kind of Shinto was no more than liturgies and the performance of rites. In Shintō denju (Transmission of Shinto), he distinguished his interpretation of "kingly way Shinto" from other theories, claiming the illegitimacy of any other interpretation. It is well known that Razan's Shinto thought was greatly influenced by the concept of the "kingly way" (wangdao) in the Confucianism forming his area of specialty, together with the Neo-Confucian thought of the Song period regarding concepts of "principle," "material force," and "original nature." But it is also clear from Razan's vast knowledge of late-medieval Yoshida Shintō that it also played an important role in the formation and development of his Shinto thought.
       The influence of Yoshida Shintō did not stop with Razan, but extended strongly to the Confucian-Shinto thought of Yoshikawa Koretari as well. Koretari studied with Hagiwara Kaneyori, the most authoritative figure of Yoshida Shintō in the early Edo period, and he became the systematizer of and successor to its esoteric teachings. Not only did Koretari develop Yoshida Shintō, he, like Razan, focused on Shinto's significance in national governance and in his in Gyokuden hiketsu emphasized the virtues of the imperial regalia (sanshu no jingi). He also took up the material phases "earth" and "metal" from the five-phases theory and proclaimed that "earth is the mother of all things, and metal is the father," thus providing a popularized form of human ethics. In his Dokonri hiketsu Koretari wrote that earth and metal are the origin of propriety (tsutsushimi), while propriety is "the way of heaven and earth" and the foundation of ethics. Koretari's interpretation of Shinto is known as rigaku Shintō ("Shinto of the fundamental principle"; see Yoshikawa Shintō), and it later exerted a large influence on Yamazaki Ansai. Koretari also lectured to the powerful daimyō Tokugawa Yorinobu of Kishū Domain and Hoshina Masayuki of Aizu, and later performed a Shinto funeral for and bestowed a Shinto religious title (reishagō) on Hoshina. As heir to the lineage of Yoshida Shintō, Koretari acted in these and other ways to contribute greatly to the tradition's early modern expansion and development.


The Shinto Philosophies of Watarai Nobuyoshi and Yamazaki Ansai
       With the appearance of Yoshikawa Koretari, Yoshida Shintō changed greatly and assumed its early modern form. On the other hand, with the appearance of Watarai Nobuyoshi, criticism of the Confucian-Shinto synthesis emerged for virtually the first time. Nobuyoshi wrote in Yōbukuki that even if the teachings of Confucianism and Shinto were the same, the differences between China and Japan should be kept in mind when propounding a philosophy of the identity of the two faiths. His new interpretation of Ise Shintō based on the argument that Japan's original Shinto thought was fundamental and that Confucianism was used merely as an explanatory tool had a strong influence on Yamazaki Ansai, and represented a watershed in the formation and development of early modern Shinto.
       We have seen above how Hayashi Razan, Yoshikawa Koretari, and Watarai Nobuyoshi rejected the combinatory Shinto-Buddhist theories then prevalent, and gave shape to early modern Shinto from the perspective of the union of Shinto and Confucianism, but it was Yamazaki Ansai who succeeded in synthesizing these Shinto theories, weaving Shinto into one of the great intellectual and academic disciplines of the early modern period. Ansai studied Yoshida Shintō from Yoshikawa Koretari and took the epistolary name Suika Reisha, based on characters taken from the Yamato hime no mikoto seiki of the Shintō gobusho (five texts of Ise Shintō), in these ways displaying the great influence of Yoshida Shintō and Ise Shintō on his thought. He relied primarily on the Nakatomi no harae and the Nihon shoki's "Divine Age" chapter, and particularly on passages involving the material phases "earth and metal," claiming that "The Shinto of Japan originates in earth and metal." The main elements of Ansai's Suika Shinto were (1) the idea that human beings possess an element of the divine spirit, a Shinto application of the Neo-Confucian concept of the "unity of Heaven and man"; (2) Yoshikawa Koretari's emphasis on earth, metal, and the concept of propriety; and (3) the idea of the "way of ruler and subject" (kunshin no michi) symbolized by Ise Shintō's secret traditions about the transmission of the three imperial regalia (Sanshu no jingi gokuhiden), and the Himorogi iwasaka gokuhi no den considered important by both Yoshida Shintō and Yoshikawa Shintō. The third of these elements, in particular, had a great influence on the formation of the imperial loyalist (sonnō) thought of the period (a movement seeking to institute direct imperial rule), so much so, in fact, that Suika Shintō is often virtually equated with loyalist thought. The lineage of Yamazaki Ansai's Suika Shintō produced many later Shintoists, including Ōgimachi Kinmichi, Tamaki Masahide, Yoshimi Yoshikazu, Wakabayashi Kyōsai, Atobe Yoshiakira, Tomobe Yasutaka, Matsuoka Yūen, Takeuchi Shikibu, and Tanigawa Kotosuga. Yamazaki's Shintō theories also had a strong influence on Tsuchimikado Shintō, which represented a merging of Shinto with Japanese Yin-Yang divination (Onmyōdō), and on the Mito School (see Mitogaku) which formed one of the great intellectual bases of the loyalist movement late in the period.


The Shinto Thought of Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane
       In this way, Confucian Shinto became the main line of early modern Shinto, as typified by the Suika Shinto that appeared together with the rise of Confucian studies, but against this, the appearance of National Learning (kokugaku) led to the rise of new Shinto currents that gradually grew in strength from around the middle of the period. Kokugaku, which was based on Japanese writings as its main object of learning and scholarship, began with the analysis of waka poetry. The classical scholarship of Motoori Norinaga, a disciple of Kamo Mabuchi, especially in his research on the Kojiki, led him to believe that Japan's original Shinto thought was represented by neither combinatory kami-buddha theories (shinbutsu shūgō; see Shinto and Buddhism) nor Confucian Shinto, thus leading him to develop an understanding of Shinto that relied neither on Buddhism nor Confucianism, and that brand of kokugaku Shinto eventually came to occupy a place challenging Confucian Shinto.
        Kokugaku Shinto thought developed from Motoori Norinaga's study of classical texts, starting with the Kojiki. Norinaga insisted not only that Shinto was different from both Buddhism and Confucianism, but also different from the Taoist thought of Laozi and Zhuangzi with which his teacher Mabuchi generally identified it. In Naobi no mitama, Norinaga identified Shinto with the processes of the creation and development of all things begun by the creator kami Takamimusubi, Izanami and Izanagi, and followed by Amaterasu. He wrote further that all events are the work of the kami, that their actions may be either good or evil, and that it is impossible for humanity to surmise, guess, or understand those divine acts. He continued that Shinto differs from Buddhism and Confucianism, which are based on the transmission of teachings. Instead, humanity is enabled to lead a properly human life through the spirit of birth and becoming (musuhi). As a result, Norinaga completely denied human understanding of the kami, asserting that if only people would reject the "foreign mind (karagokoro)" and read the Japanese classics with a pure heart, they would be able to grasp Shinto naturally.
       This philosophy of what might be called the ineffability of Shinto denied all attempts to comprehend it using Confucian, Buddhist, or other foreign religious and philosophical approaches. On the other hand, since Norinaga gave absolute validity to the deeds of the kami related the Kojiki and rejected any attempt to use human interpretation, his Shinto as a philosophy or religion came across as extremely sparse, despite his emphasis on the concept of Musuhi no kami. His emphasis on the Kojiki, and resulting thin conceptualization of the afterlife led directly to a shallowness of Shinto as a religion. Thoroughly removing Confucian and Buddhist elements from Shinto suggested a new viewpoint for understanding the tradition, but it was left to Hirata Atsutane to use National Learning once again to add a new religiosity to Norinaga's rather simple framework.
       While absorbing many of Norinaga's ideas, including his emphasis on the Japanese spirit and Japanese exceptionalism, Hirata also constructed his own Shinto worldview (sekaikan), cosmology (uchūkan), and views of life after death. He proposed the concept that the origin of all production and growth was Amenominakanushi and the other three kami of creation (zōkasanshin), and he denied Motoori's idea that people go to the underworld land of Yomi after death. Instead, Hirata contributed to the religious nature of Shinto by asserting that after death humans go to the "hidden world" of kakuriyo, where they are judged by the presiding kami Ōkuninushi. Hirata's Shinto thought greatly influenced the rise of Shinto at the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period, and he attracted many disciples around the country, both before and after his death. These disciples took part in movements to revive Shinto funerals and to promote imperial loyalism, and during the Meiji Restoration, their influence was felt not only through the power of their philosophy, but also through concrete political activity.
       As described above, the National Learning of Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane occupied a major position in the history of Edo-period Shinto philosophy alongside Confucian Shinto. In addition to these movements, Ishida Baigan's shingaku, popular Shinto as propounded by Masuho Zanko, the hōtoku thought of Ninomiya Sontoku, together with the popular ethics based on the concept of the "the unity of the three creeds" of Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism, can also broadly be called forms of Shinto thought. Finally, mention must also be made of Kamo Norikiyo and his Uden Shintō, which can be considered the beginnings of sectarian Shinto thought (see Shinto-Derived Religious Groups), together with more practice-oriented movements such as the popular confraternities devoted to Mount Fuji (Fuji-kō; see kō).

— Sakamoto Koremaru
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
URL http://21coe.kokugakuin.ac.jp/
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