The United Nations is charged with the maintenance and order of world affairs. Keeping in line with this mission to provide stability and justice in the world the UN Council on Historical Affairs has compiled the following brief to serve as an overview of cultural affairs on the planet from 600 C.E. to 1450 C.E.
The UNWCHA will be charged with hearing evidence from the seven regions of the planet outlining their behaviors in creating frameworks of socio-cultural behaviors to provide for their people.
In the interest of full disclosure this amicus brief will provide litigation teams with all information already gathered by the court on each of the seven cultures. The following is that evidence.
China’s Dynasties during the Post-Classical: A broad overview of each Dynasty
Southern & Northern Dynasties420 C.E. – 589 C.E.
With the collapse of Eastern Jin in 420 AD, China entered the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. In north the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534 AD) of the Xianbei tribe dominated the northern part of China, south of Yangtze River the Chinese dynasty Liu Song ruled the land. Like most of the time in China's history, it was again an age of civil war and political disunity. Despite these troubles it was also a time of flourishing of arts and culture, advancement in technology. Buddhism, imported from India, and the native religion and philosophy of Taoism spreading.
Following the fall of the Han Dynasty in 200 CE, China remained fragmented until the Sui Dynasty united the country due to its harsh policies and set the stage for the Tang, the longest lasting dynasty from 618-906. Started from 581 and ended in 618, the Sui Dynasty lasted for only 38 years and had only three emperors. With a tyrannical second emperor - Emperor Yang, this dynasty was often compared to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC). However, the whole nation was reunified and certain economic and political advances were achieved in the period.
Sui Dynasty 581 - 618 AD
The short-lived dynasty, founded by Emperor Wen (Yang Jian), unified Southern and Northern China after four centuries of fragmentation in which North and South had gone quite different ways. It was a period of great prosperity. In Northern Zhou (557 - 581), Yang Jian, who was born to the noble class and was the Chengxiang (Prime Minister) of the last emperor, monopolized the political and military power and suppressed the separatist forces as well as some other royal forces. In 581, Yang Jian replaced Northern Zhou with Sui and proclaimed himself Emperor Wen. Thus Sui was founded, with Chang'an (currently Xian) the capital and Luoyang the auxiliary capital. In 589, the Sui Court defeated the last of the Southern Dynasties, Chen, and unified the whole nation.
As a result of the reunification, the society became stable and peaceful which encouraged economical and political development.
At the beginning, the agricultural acreage increased greatly which promoted the crop yield. The skills industry made some new advances with the shipbuilding technology reaching a new high level. Meanwhile, the commerce in Luoyang was fairly prosperous and in order to develop the national economy, a series of policies, such as Juntian (equal division of fields) System and Zutiao (tax moderation) System, were carried out. This equally distributed the farmland and moderated the tax rates while increasing the fiscal revenue.
In order to enhance the communication between southern and northern areas, Emperor Yang ordered his people to dredge a grand canal running from north and south. Centering on Luoyang, the Grand Canal was more than 2.5 miles long and functioned as the main artery in the Nation's transportation.
There were also many changes in political life. A new political system - Three Departments and Six Ministries was established - the first in Chinese history. Under this system, the royal power was enhanced and the work division in the court became detailed. Since this period, the method of selecting talent was thoroughly overhauled. The traditional Jiupin Zhongzheng (nine ranks of officials) Hierarchical System was replaced by the Imperial Examination System, which connected studying, the taking of examinations and attaining an official position. It had a profound influence on the selection of talent in Chinese history.
Confucianism makes a come back
State granaries were built to feed the people in times of famine
Utilized large numbers of slaves to dig a canal from the Yellow River to the Yangtze River in the south
Helped finish connecting the Great Wall of China
Sui Decline The decline of the Sui Dynasty started from the second monarch, Emperor Yang, who was a typical tyrant. His reputation was that of a son who lacked respect for his parents, committed patricide and usurped the throne.
Emperor Yang led a luxurious and corrupt life. Upon gaining the throne, he employed two million laborers to build the second capital city of Luoyang and was even reputed to have cruised along the river in a large dragon ship, with thousands of ships following in attendance.
Craving greatness and success, Emperor Yang also waged war against Gaoli (currently Korea). Both burdensome military service and heavy corvee labor forced peasants to leave their farmland. Later, famine was common and caused by the resulting desolation leaving all the countryside in extreme misery.
In 611, peasants from Mt. Changbaishan in Shandong began a rebellion. Before long, rebels from all over the country formed into several powerful groups. Among them, the main military force was called the Wagang Army which was led by Zhai Rang and Li Mi. The force captured the granary of the Sui Court and issued the food to the peasants.
As a result, the Sui regime became rather unstable and in 618, when Emperor Yang was strangled by one of his subordinates, it completely collapsed.
Tang Dynasty 618 - 907 AD Founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The capital of the dynasty was Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at that time. The Tang period is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization - equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty - as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of the central authority in the latter half of the dynasty.
The first glorious period was from 627 to 649 when the Tang Dynasty was just set up and its national strength was recovering from the previous weak condition. Under Emperor Taizong Li Shimin's wise governing, the national strength and social development reached an unparalleled prosperity - economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries.
After Li Shim in died, the throne passed to his ninth son Li Zhi who was later crowned as Emperor Gaozong and married Li Shimin's imperial concubine Wu Meiniang. Wu Meiniang was officially named Wu Zetian and afterwards became the empress. Actually it was Wu Zetian who had the real power during Emperor Gaozong's reign since the emperor suffered from bad health. After Li Zhi died, Wu successively enthroned and dethroned her two sons - Li Xian and Li Dan. In 690, disregarding the objections and criticisms of all chancellors, Wu Zetian proclaimed herself Emperor Shengshen and established a new dynasty - Zhou, which lasted for 15 years. During her reign, the state economy continued to develop rapidly.
In 705, a coup broke out which brought one of the former emperors, Li Xian, to the throne as Emperor Zhongzong. However, Emperor Zhongzong's ruling was manipulated by his wife, Empress Wei. In 710, plotting to be the second woman emperor, Empress Wei along with Princess Anle poisoned Zhongzong. At that time, Li Longji (son of Li Dan) launched a coup with the assistance of his parental aunt Princess Taiping, killing Empress Wei and Princess Anle. After that, Li Dan was crowned as Emperor Ruizong.
The second glorious period was during Emperor Xuanzong's reign. In 712, Emperor Ruizong abdicated and Li Longji was enthroned as Emperor Xuanzong. Under his ruling, the national economy, politics and culture all developed rapidly and the social development entered a new heyday. In that period, Chang'an City was the largest and the most prosperous metropolis in the world. Since the title of Xuanzong's reign was Kaiyuan, that period was called the Heyday of Kaiyuan, in which the dynasty reached its summit of prosperity.
In his old age, Emperor Xuanzong was complacent and indifferent to state affairs. Hopelessly, he indulged himself in the beauty of his concubine Yang Yuhuan. Besides, he also appointed some wicked chancellors who corrupted the political order. Meanwhile, troops on the frontiers gradually gathered together and formed a powerful military force. In 755, An Lushan aligned with Shi Siming and launched a rebellion, called the An Shi Rebellion which lasted for eight years and heavily knocked the Tang regime. From then on, the national strength was weakened daily by separatist forces in local areas. Because of the incompetence of the emperors the dominance of the eunuchs and power struggles between chancellors became increasingly intense. Hence the Tang Dynasty declined from generation to generation. In 859, a large-scale peasant uprising launched by Huang Chao again severely attacked the Tang regime. In 907, the last Tang emperor, Emperor Ai was forced to abdicate by Chancellor Zhu Quanzhong, who afterwards changed the state title into Liang, finally putting the ever powerful and mighty dynasty to an end.
Connected to the Silk Road and engaged in trade with Abbasid Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire
Trade increases led to tax increases which led to a higher standard of living
Foot-binding began during this dynasty
They invented the printing press, the mechanical clock, gunpowder
All government officials studied and practiced Confucianism and could not gain a government position until they passed a civil service exam based on Confucian application to government
Used to hire administrators for the Chinese government locally, regionally and nationally
Empress Wu 625-705 CE: Only female ruler of China, cruel but effective ruler, had to fight the Confucian social belief that women should serve men, encouraged women to be more vocal and demand better treatment from their family.
Powerful military state, extended the boundaries of China through Siberia, Korea in the east, Vietnam in the South. Extended a corridor of control along the Silk Road well into modern-day Afghanistan
Tang Religion/Philosophy: Liberal attitude towards all religions at first. This dynasty saw the spread of Buddhism in China. Later during the Tang, Confucianism becomes more aggressive in fighting Buddhist influence in China
Tang Social Life
More cosmopolitan culture. Cities have a great social life with live music and drama. Loved poetry and landscape painting. Height of Chinese poetry
Second ZhouOctober 16, 690 - March 3, 705 AD The Tang dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right. Wu began her career at the age of 13 as a junior concubine at the palace of the second Tang emperor Taizong
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
The Five Dynasties of Northern China:
Later Liang Dynasty; 907 – 923 AD
Later Tang Dynasty; 923 – 936 AD
Later Jin Dynasty; 936 – 947 AD
Later Han Dynasty; 947 – 951 AD
Later Zhou Dynasty; 951 – 960 AD
The period was an era of political upheaval in China, beginning in the Tang Dynasty and ending in the Song Dynasty. This period lasted a little more than half a century, and China was scattered in a multi-state nation. Five dynasties quickly succeeded one another in the old Imperial heartland in northern China, and more than 12 independent states were established, mainly in parts of southern and western China. However, only ten are traditionally listed, hence the era's name "Ten Kingdoms".
Song Dynasty960 - 1279 AD The Song Dynasty was a period in Chinese history often called a "Chinese Renaissance" marked by progress in technology, inventions, and revolutionary new economic concepts, like the development of the banknote (printed paper money), which led to commercial expansion and economic prosperity. Private trade grew and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces with the interior. The Song court upheld foreign relations with Chola in India, Fatimid Egypt, Srivijayan Indonesia, and other countries. The enormous growth rate of the populations doubled China's overall population to more than 100 million people due to increased agricultural cultivation in the 10th to 11th century.
The Song Dynasty is divided into two distinct periods:
the Northern Song and Southern Song.
Northern Song 960 - 1127 AD Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) unified China through military conquest during his reign, ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. With a strong central government the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (today Kaifeng, eastern Henan province).
Southern Song 1127 (1131) - 1279 AD Refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jin Dynasty. The Song court retreated and established its capital at Lin'an located in the Yangtze River Delta (today Hangzhou, Zhejiang province).
Although weakened and pushed south along the Huai River, the Southern Song found new ways to bolster their already strong economy and to defend their state against the Jin Dynasty. The government sponsored massive shipbuilding and harbor improvement projects, to protect and support the multitudes of ships sailing for maritime interests. With this the Song Dynasty established China's first permanent navy in 1132.
effective centralized bureaucracy
Elite families important locally
Official must pass the Civil Service Exam
the mercantile class grew in power as they became wealthy
•private trade grew, and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces and the interior.
•Much trade along Silk Road, Grand Canal and coastal regions of China and SE Asia
•Song Grain Mills
Confucianism remains the most important official philosophy
Neo-Confucianism added metaphysical answers to many Buddhist questions
SONG Social Life
Poor farmers’ remain the same as always; women still oppressed
City life improves with better food, music, art, and great entertainment
Many opportunities for travel
Education increases in the city
Houses and architecture improve
SONG Intellectual Life
magnetic compass and calculator (the abacus) invented
Education improved since schools were abundant.
Woodblock printing made books more widely available.
Confucian scholars were respected
monumental landscape painting
often done in a watercolor/ink wash style
Great poetry continue
The Yuan Dynasty 1271 - 1368 C.E.
The dynasty's official title 'Da Yuan' originates from 'I Ching'. It was the first non-Han dynasty to rule all of China. It was a khanate of the Mongol Empire, a political entity ruled by a Khan, namely Kublai Khan. He became the first Yuan emperor, his reign dominated over Mongolia, Inner China, and some adjacent areas. Kublai Khan proclaimed the capital to be at Dadu (today Beijing). After some years of hard work, he finally defeated the Han-Dynasty of Southern Song in 1279. As emperor he also worked hard to minimize the influences of regional lords who had held immense power before and during the Song Dynasty. Almost all important central posts were monopolized now by Mongols. Unlike his predecessors Kublai Khan had decided to become the first absolute monarchy.
Ming Dynasty 1368 - 1644 AD
The Empire of the Great Ming followed the collapse of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. Rivalry among the Mongol imperial heirs, natural disasters, and uprisings of Han Chinese groups against the Yuan Dynasty led to its collapse. The Ming dynasty was founded by the Han Chinese, Zhu Yuanzhang, a former Buddhist monk from a peasant family. In 1356 Zhu Yuanzhang's rebel force captured the city of Yingtian (Nanjing), where he established his own military base. In 1368, after Zhu Yuanzhang's army captured the Yuan capital Dadu (today Beijing), Zhu Yuanzhang officially proclaimed himself Emperor of China and founded the Ming Dynasty. Under Zhu Yuanzhang the Chinese government established a standing army of 1,000,000 warriors and ordered the construction of a vast navy. The era saw enormous projects of construction, including the restoration of the Grand Canal, the Great Wall and the construction of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing. The Ming was the last imperial dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Hans.
– Fields could be kept continuously in cultivation
– While still maintaining their fertility
Reforestation of China
Hong-wu's most aggressive agricultural project involved reforestation beginning in the 1390's.
Nanjing was reforested with 50 million trees in1391; these trees became the lumber that built the naval fleet put together by Yung-lo in the early1400's.• All in all, over one billion trees were planted in this decade in a reforestation project that greatly replenished both the timber and the food supply.
Ming Industrial Development
Textiles, paper, silk, and porcelain traded with Japan, Europe (especially Spain), India, SE Asia and Indonesian islands for
Firearms and American goods such as sugar, potatoes, and tobacco.
In exchange for raw goods such as silver—probably half the silver mined in the Americas from the mid-1500's to 1800 ended up in China
Technological boom in every area from silk looms to paper manufacture to the development of new machines for planting, growing, and harvesting crops.
Matteo Ricci (Italian) the first Christian missionary started nearly 300 Catholic churches but Christian influence condemned in late Ming and early Qing
Muslims and Buddhists continued to grow in influence as well
MING Social Life
– New art, literature and musical styles especially in opera
Still emphasizes landscape and nature scenes
MING Intellectual Life
Literacy increased and books became cheaper because of the printing press and a stable govt
Yongle Dadian was regarded as the biggest and earliest encyclopedia in the world.
A man named Wan Hoo even tried to fly to the sky by sitting in a chair propelled by gunpowder sticks. Unfortunately, he failed.
MING Great Wall
Great Walls had been built in earlier times, most of what is seen today was either built or repaired by the Ming. The brick and granite work was enlarged, the watch towers were redesigned and cannons were placed along the wall
Examples of Chinese influence
7th century: Japan has contact with China
Buddhism blends with Shinto (indigenous Japanese belief)
rebellion against use of China as model leads to fragmentation into large estates whose owners built powerful armies
power of emperor declines while power of aristocrats grows (feudalism in Japan)
bushi: aristocrats that owned large amounts of property and wielded armies; samurai were the knights of the bushi; bushido = code of honor
peasants became serfs, bound to the land of the local lord
12th century: powerful clans emerged (Fujiwara) with the help of alliances among local lords
Gempei Wars: destructive wars between samurai and peasants, led to the victory of the Minamoto family who established a military government (emperor becomes puppet figure)
668: Silla kingdom in Korea pushes Tang out of Korea in exchange for an agreement to pay tribute
Silla unites Korea after departure of the Tang
trade with China and others in Indian Ocean network via South China Sea
Buddhism popular with elite
Mongol invasions in 14th century interrupt contacts with China
metallurgy and agriculture
Chinese culture spread when settlers moved to Korea during Han rule
Civil service exams
Japan: The Imperial Age
Chinese influence on Japan peaked in the 7th and 8th centuries as Japanese rulers and their courtiers tried to build a Chinese-style bureaucracy and army and to emulate Chinese culture. But the isolated and civilized court centers lost political control to aristocratic families and local warlords. Intensifying rivalries between regional military leaders eventually plunged Japan into a long series of civil wars.
The Era of Warrior Dominance
From the 12th century onward, Japanese history was increasingly dominated by civil wars between shifting factions of the court aristocracy and local warlords. Chinese influence declined steadily in the centuries that followed. But in the midst of strife and social dislocation, the warrior elite and the artisan classes that served them managed to develop a distinctly Japanese intellectual tradition. This creativity was obscured by continuing civil strife, which ended in the 16th century.
Korea: Between China and Japan
Korea was the East Asian state most profoundly influenced for the longest period of time by the Chinese culture. Because the Korean peninsula is an extension of the Chinese mainland, historical Korean kingdoms were dwarfed by their giant neighbor to the west. Nevertheless, Korea has been ruled by native dynasties throughout most of its history, and developed a distinctly Korean civilization.
Confucianism is a philosophical system of morals, ethics, correct behavior, and interlocking relationships. It is not a religion but often functions as an ethnic faith because of the impact it has on the way people live their lives. Confucianism was founded about 500 years before Christ by a young scholar named K'ung-tze; his Western name is “Confucius". The main ideas of Confucius are the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucius taught that immorality resulted from ignorance and that knowledge leads to a virtuous lifestyle. Confucius stressed teaching by example and his recorded sayings are proverbs of virtuous men. Confucius also believed in being around positive people. He also stressed to his disciples the importance of self-critique because self-discipline was also a virtue. Above all, Confucius emphasized the importance of following traditions, fulfilling obligations, and treating others with sympathy and respect.
Some of the most fundamental virtues of Confucianism were sincerity, benevolence, filial piety, and propriety. Sincerity meant more to Confucius than just a casual relationship. It was important to be trustworthy and honest in speech, and to be committed to promises made. To Confucius, to be sincere meant that one's conduct was founded in virtue, and sought to reserve the rules of right conduct in his heart and outward actions. It was just as important to be virtuous whether alone or in public. Benevolence, holding regard for the well-being of others, and helping those in need were fundamental to Confucius. They were considered characteristic of the virtuous man. Confucius was quoted as saying, "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."
The philosopher Li Uhr, commonly known as Lao Tze founded Daoism in sixth century CE. Lao Tze is an honorific title meaning either "Old Boy" or "Old Philosopher". Historians have little trustworthy information about the life of Lao Tze, but the story is told that when Lao Tze was leaving public life as an old man, he was stopped at the city gate and begged to leave behind his wisdom. Lao Tze stopped, wrote a document of 5,000 characters, known as the Tao-Te Ching, and departed never to be heard from again.
Daoism is the belief in the natural order of things. Ch'i, which means breath, is central to Daoism. Cosmic energy is derived from Ch'i, and is from which yin and yang spring. Ch'i was split into the light, yang breath forming heaven, and into the dark yin breath, forming Earth. The yin and yang, therefore, are a part of one another and are constantly striving for a balance. The universally recognized symbol for Daoism is the circle divided into black and white, representing yin and yang. Within the yin and the yang is a little spot of the opposite, demonstrating that they are in reality a part of the other. The primary text of Taoism is the Tao-Te Ching, the collection of wisdom from Lao Tze. Also important is the Lieh-tzu, a collection of stories and philosophical musings. Later writings by Chuang-tzu are also considered important.
Most of the Tao-Te Ching deals with the interaction of yin and yang and their influences upon nature. Yin represents the female and is serene and without motive. Yang represents the masculine aspects of the universe, which are hot, dry, and active. The ideal balance is to retain the characteristics of both. The nature of paradox illustrates this balance of yin and yang. Tao represents "the way" or "the path" or possibly even "God". Te means virtue. Thus, the title of the Tao-Te Ching might be rendered "The Canon of the Way of Virtue." The Tao-Te Ching is the basis of many other works in Taoism. Interpretations of the parables within the work are diverse. Therefore, many different sects have developed. Yet, there are some inherent principles that remain throughout the changes of Daoism. In addition to Ch'i, yin, and yang, there are other characteristics of Daoism that are just as important. According to Wu Wei, one should not work against the natural order of things. This does not mean complete inaction; rather it means that whatever action one does, it should be in harmony with the natural order. Nothing can be achieved unless Wu Wei is incorporated. For this reason, every time the natural order is deliberately intervened or interfered with, the exact opposite of what was trying to be accomplished will result. Failure, therefore, is the only result of nonconformity to the Wu Wei.
Buddhism was founded in the sixth century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, a Hindu Kshatriya, and carried on afterwards by his followers. Siddhartha was born in Lumbini near the border of present-day India and Nepal. His dissatisfaction with the nature of suffering and the answers of existing religion led him in a quest which eventually brought him to enlightenment, and thus the title, the Buddha--meaning "an enlightened one".
Buddhism is primarily a spiritual philosophy and system of ethics. As originally practiced, it places little or no emphasis on deities, teaching that the goal of the faithful is to achieve nirvana, a blissful state of release from the bonds of the self, the world, and samsara, the endless round of birth, death, and rebirth in successive lives. Spiritual perfection is achieved through the practice of humility, generosity, mercy, abstention from violence, and above all, self-control. The major writings of Buddhism are a collection of greater and lesser writings, known as the Tripitaka. They are a collection of teachings, monastic rules, and philosophy of the Buddha. Many of these teachings are known as sutras. One of the most important symbols of Buddhism is the wheel of life, which depicts the cycle of birth and death. The eight spokes represent the Eightfold Path. The lotus blossom is strongly associated with the Buddha, symbolic of the enlightenment of the soul.
Whether as a religion, one in which Buddha attains the status of a god, or as a philosophy, Buddhism shares few concepts with Christianity. For example, Buddhists do not believe in a transcendent or immanent God or gods, or a personal savior. Even in Mahayana Buddhism, the gods and Bodhisattvas will eventually enter Nirvana after they have helped all other souls achieve the same goal. Buddhism believes that the position of humanity is supreme--humanity is responsible for saving itself. Buddhism requires no faith, but is a matter of seeing and knowing. The teachings of Buddhism are wholly practical, refraining from questions such as "Where did I come from?" and "Where am I going?" Rather, it is concluded that such questions lead to sadness, confusion, and strife: only distracting from the task at hand. Enlightenment, as would be expected, is complex. Many things became apparent to Gautama Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Of these, the Four Noble Truths are the basic teachings on the human condition. The Four Noble Truths are:
All is pain, suffering, sorrow, misery, impermanence, imperfection, emptiness, insubstantiality, and hollowness. There is no "I" or "self"; only a combination of energies known as the Five Aggregates which are matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. These five aggregates are not separate from Dukkha, but are responsible for the perception of self by working interdependently according to cause and effect.
The cause of suffering is desire --the desire to have and control sense gratification. These desires include the desires found in pleasures such as intoxication, sex, or eating as well as the desire for existence or popularity. Death does not end the existence of these energies.
To end pain, end desire. It is truth that leads to the cessation of pain and desire, which leads to the end suffering, called Nirvana. Nirvana is total detachment and extinction of desire. Nirvana is absolute truth or the realization of absolute truth. One who has realized Nirvana in this life is free from attachment, desire, greed, hatred, conceit, ignorance; free to enjoy things in their purest sense, left with universal love, kindness, compassion, and understanding. Wanting nothing, such are free from illusions of self.
The path to the cessation of desire is found in the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the way to Nirvana. It is the "middle path," avoiding the extremes of life such as extreme wealth or extreme poverty, and asceticism or gluttony.
The Noble Eightfold Path or Path of Righteousness has eight precepts divided into three groups. Wisdom involves Right Understanding (of the Four Noble Truths) and Right Thought (selfless renunciation, universal love, etc.). Ethical conduct includes Right Speech (not to lie, slander, gossip, foolishly babble); Right Conduct (not to kill, steal, fornicate, become intoxicated, etc.); and Right Livelihood (not to trade in arms, drugs, alcohol, or promote evil). Mental Discipline includes Right Effort (will to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind); Right Mindfulness (awareness of bodily actions, states of mind, emotions), and Right Concentration (a meditative state of mind heightening awareness).
Shinto, meaning "the Way of the Gods", is the indigenous system of beliefs and rituals of the Japanese people. Shinto is a combination of two Chinese words: Shin, meaning divinity, and Tao, meaning "the way" or "the path". In many ways, it represents the oldest, polytheist and traditional ethnic religion still in existence.
Shinto arose more than 2,500 years ago as a mixture of many animistic tribal religions, each having had their own gods and goddesses. Shinto is a system of faith and a body of folkways, festivals, myths, ancient writings, and cultural attitudes. Shintoism is an ethnic religion, based in Japan. Although Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism later affected it as these religions spread to Japan from Asia and Korea, Shinto has remained basically and distinctly a religion of the Japanese people.
Shintoists believe in the sacredness of the whole universe and that man can be in tune with this sacredness. This mirrors Daoism. Every mountain, volcano, river, plant, beast, and all the diverse phenomena of heaven and earth have presiding spirits, or kami. And all are interconnected in the rhythm of life. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and typhoons have their places in Shinto society. This is not surprising in that Japan sits atop the Ring of Fire, or ring of volcanoes and tectonic plates that ring the Pacific and constantly influence life. Reverence is paid to the ancestors. But Shinto has no creed, ethical doctrine, official sacred book, philosophy, or theology of any kind. Its theory of human duty is to follow your natural impulses and obey the laws of the state. In this it mirrors Confucianism.