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Home » 1. General Introduction » Religious and Intellectual Influences on Shinto
Shinto and Confucianism
Early Interaction between Kami Cults and Confucianism—        
It is very difficult to clearly determine the earliest contacts between Shinto and Confucianism, but a reference can already be found in Nihon shoki's chronicle of Emperor Kōtoku's reign (r. 645-654) in which the emperor is said to "think fondly of Confucianism." An order is also found from the seventh year of the chronicle for Empress Jitō's reign (r. 690-697) to "promote Confucianism," showing clearly that the influence of Confucianism started early. Its concrete influence on thought, however, is seen in works written by nobles and kami priests (shinkan) from medieval times. This is especially true of commentaries on Nihon shoki's "Divine Age chapter (jindaikan)" —among them Ichijō Kaneyoshi's Nihon shoki sanso, and Yoshida Kanetomo's Nihon shoki Jindaikanshō—both of which adopt Confucian ethics and Chinese Yijing creation theory. In addition to those works, Inbe Masamichi's Jindaikan kuketsu and Kiyohara Nobutaka's Nihon shoki jindaikanshō also actively drew upon Song schools of "Neo-Confucianism" and the teachings of Zhu Xi (Jp. Shushi) in particular. Within the Shinto priesthood, Watarai Ieyuki of the Outer Shrine at Ise (Ise Jingū) was very interested in the teachings of Zhu Xi. In his representative work Ruijū jingi hongen (1320) Watarai quoted part of Zhou Lianxi's Taiji tushuo (J: Taikyoku zusetsu) and other commentaries on the Yijing by Song Neo-Confucian scholars as he established his own unique view of Shinto. Watarai, however, was quoting from secondary sources that drew upon Chinese originals, with the result that his usages were not always faithful to the primary texts themselves. Exposed to such medieval Ise Shinto teaching, Kitabatake Chikafusa took it upon himself to study Song Neo-Confucian teachings very carefully, and his efforts are reflected in his works Jinnō shōtōki, Gengenshū, and Tōkahiden. This kind of medieval theorizing regarding the relationship between Shinto and Confucianism always took the position that Shinto, Confucianism and Buddhism were three versions of the same ultimate truth (shinjubutsu sankyō-itchi), but the specific nature of the relationship between Shinto and Confucianism was only fully debated from the early modern period onwards. Especially at the beginning of Edo period, Confucian scholars actively promoted the theory that Shinto and Confucianism were one (Shinju itchi), with the result that the Shinto theories of this period are generally known as Confucian Shinto (Juka Shintō).

The Unity of Shinto and Confucianism
Discussions of "Confucian Shinto" have conventionally begun from Fujiwara Seika's (1561-1619) Kana shōri. Today, however, it is generally accepted that Kana shōri is most likely a secondary source based on the Shingaku gorinsho, a textbook for writing kana. Further problematizing the traditional importance placed on Kana shōri is the appearance of various theories attributing the work instead to Hayashi Razan, Kumazawa Banzan, or Bonshun, making it difficult to attribute authorship firmly to any single individual. However, since Fujiwara Seika was both adopted into the Yoshida family, and is said to have used Song Neo-Confucian terminology in the attempt to divide the full text of the Nihon shoki's "Divine Age chapter" into discrete sections, the issue of his position in Shinto history will continue to be debated. On the contrary, it is more appropriate to point to Fujiwara's disciple Hayashi Razan as the real pioneer of Confucian Shinto. Hayashi was active in the early Edo period, authoring many works including the Honchō jinjakō, Shintō denjushō, and Shintō hidden setchū zokkai. In these works he advocated a form of Shinto called Ritō Shinchi Shintō, a Shinto doctrine with strong political bent. He criticized the medieval combinatory religion of accommodating kami and buddhas (see shinbutsu shūgō), attempting instead to sweep away all traces of Buddhism and create a new Shinto doctrine infused with Confucian thought. Ritō Shinchi Shintō, however, was more a product of Hayashi's personal intellectual interests and was little known outside the Hayashi family and his circle of close acquaintances. In his youth, Hayashi was exposed to the teachings of Kyoto's Gozan ("Five Mountain") Zen as well as the Kiyohara family's version of Confucianism, and he was also a friend of Bonshun of the Yoshida family. Well versed in medieval Shinto, Confucianism and Buddhism, Hayashi's version of Shinto can be understood as a comprehensive compilation of medieval Shinto centered on Yoshida Shintō.
       Yamazaki Ansai, on the other hand, conducted more orthodox research on medieval Shinto, establishing his own version of Shinto called Suika Shintō. In arriving at his own original interpretations, Yamazaki drew upon traditions of Shinto that had existed since medieval times, including both Ise Shintō and Yoshida Shintō, and also including elements of Inbe Shintō. This kind of inclination towards Shinto in his later years, however, caused confusion and conflict among Yamazaki's disciples. As a result, following his death, his disciples were divided into three factions: the senjinha, which favored the Shinto elements of Yamazaki's teachings and included people such as Ōgimachi Kinmichi, Izumoji Nobunao and Kamo Sukeyuki; the senjuha, which took the Confucian elements as the essence of Yamazaki's teachings and included Sato Naokata and Miyake Shōsai; and the kenshūha, which saw Yamazaki's combination of Shinto and Confucianism as the most important element of his teaching and included Asami Keisai and Wakabayashi Kyōsai.
       Even before Yamazaki Ansai, Nakae Tōju had formed his own original view of Shinto in the first half of the seventeenth century. While Nakae was not so well versed in Japanese classical studies (wagaku) as Hayashi and Yamazaki, he advocated his unique Taikyo (Ch. taixu) Shintō ("Shinto of the great void") based on the knowledge of Daoism and Ming Confucianism he had accumulated up until the prime of his life. He considered Taikyo Shintō a universal principle, with Confucianism as a specific manifestation of that principle that had emerged within the Chinese environment. As Nakae considered both Shinto and Confucianism to be but particular manifestations of this universal principle, he saw Taikyo Shintō itself as the most vital object of inquiry. His disciple Kumazawa Banzan further developed Nakae's Shinto theories in works such as Miwa monogatari, Shintō taigi, and Sanja takusenkai, where he discussed the relationship between Shinto as universal principle and the particularistic Shinto teachings that existed since the advent of Amaterasu ōmikami, thus promoting the unity of Shinto and Confucianism while attacking Buddhism.
       Active about the same time as Yamazaki Ansai, Yamaga Sokō also left a noteworthy theory in the history of Confucian Shinto studies. A disciple of Hayashi Razan, Yamaga later studied Inbe Shintō and Ryōbu Shintō, and was also learned in history. Yamaga promoted a Japanocentric theory based on the concept that Japan was the true "central land (nakatsukuni)" and "middle kingdom (chūchō )," terms normally applied to China. The Chūchō jijitsu (Facts of the Middle Kingdom) pithly transmits Yamaga's view of Shinto. Kaibara Ekiken also arrived at a theory of the "unity of Shinto and Confucianism" based on his research on shrine founding legends (jinja engi) and contacts with men like Yoshikawa Koretari and Matsushita Kenrin. He also wrote works on the subject such as the Jingikun and the Shinju heikō aimotoraru no ron.
       Shrine priests (shinkan) of the day were significantly influenced by this current of theories proclaiming the unity of Shinto and Confucianism. By the middle of the Edo period, when Shinto theories such as that of Yoshikawa Koretari of the Yoshida school and Deguchi Nobuyoshi of the Ise school came to display a strong Neo-Confucian tinge, Kaneo, the head of the Yoshida family, welcomed Matsuoka Yūen of Suika Shintō as the head of the Yoshida family school as he attempted to restore the teachings of Yoshida Shintō. Near the end of the early modern period, Aizawa Seishisai of the Mito school expounded an emperor-centered theory of the state, attempting to seize public sentiment through the use of Confucian views on life and death and a theory of the union of loyalty and filial piety. On the other hand, some scholars of National Learning (kokugaku) naturally criticized this theory of the unity of Shinto and Confucianism. In the modern period, a trend toward accommodation with Confucian can be seen especially among sectarian Shinto groups (kyōha Shintō). Representative of this phenomenon is Shintō Shūseiha founded by Nitta Kuniteru. The influence of Confucianism is also apparent in the ethical virtues affirmed by modern Shrine Shinto.

—Yazaki Hiroyuki
"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
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