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“Soul of the Samurai“: how in Japan there was a sword cult?

the Geographical position of Japan do it by a terminal point, “store“ of cultural impulses of the continental East. The cultural phenomena going from India, China, Korea, reaching Japan, lose an effusiveness and begin to be improved, finding completeness. Japan is inclined to produce not so much new how many carefully to cultivate and refine already existing. It belongs even to such cultural phenomena as a tea ceremony, a zen, “rock-gardens“, the etiketnost of behavior and a ritualization of all aspects of life (which is going back to Confucian virtues).

Naturally, the limit ritualization could not pass a sword - a symbol of ruling estate.

The phrase “Japanese sword“ means a katana for many fans of the East, and even modern kendo many connect with this weapon. Meanwhile it is also incomplete, and it is incorrect. The weapon kendo - Sinai, direct bamboo imitation of a sword which form, in a combination to sports tactical tasks, dictates the rigid rectilinear equipment constructed on the cutting blows. Curved and rather massive katana is better adapted for more plastic (though not less powerful) rubyashche - the cutting movements. It`s not just that it is difficult for bamboo preparation to give the curved form. The hieroglyph which is read in a combination “êýíäî“ as ken as the independent word has reading “tsuruga“, and not “katan“ at all. And tsurug - too “the Japanese sword“, and primordial.

The first reliable mentions of a curved sword are not more senior than 8 - 9 centuries, and the oldest known sword is dated 1159. Before the Japanese soldiers used tsurug - a direct sword with bilateral sharpening. Similar swords are found in tombs of drevneyaponsky patrimonial leaders and remind ancient Chinese from which, most likely, they also came. The blade about 70 cm long had Tsurug. Judging by rather short handle, it is an odnoruchny sword. Tsurug really the closest relative of Jian - the classical weapon of the Chinese aristocrats. Jian was also a symbol of the imperial power and the sacred person of the emperor.

Certainly, this circumstance affected also the relation to a sword of Japanese. In the 7th century there “by the state order“ the set of Shinto myths “Kojiki“ (“Notes about acts of antiquity“) registered and unified. The mythology of lands of Yamato - the center of the Japanese statehood from where there was an imperial sort is the basis it. Seeking not to concede to the great Chinese state, governors of Japan kitaizirovat character, the relations and the status of deities. By analogy with the Chinese cult of ancestors in which special value for all country was played by a cult of divine ancestors of the emperor domination in a pantheon was given to the solar goddess Amaterasu and her descendants, founders of the Japanese imperial surname. Sending the grandson Ninigi to the earth, the goddess handed him 3 sacred subjects: a mirror, a jasper suspension bracket and a sword - future imperial regalia. And in Japan the sword became the sacral subject connected with the imperial power.

In 7 - 8 centuries were applied and punish swords of the Korean sample - tsurug: direct, but longer and heavy, two-handled, with unilateral sharpening.

Approximately then also the curved sword appeared. It could be dictated by development of technology and requirements of military science. The military estate needed the weapon not for distinguished fencing, and for mass fight in an armor. Much more powerful curved sword equally allowed both to prick and to cut, was much more convenient in horse fight. In opposition to the direct sword borrowed from China, it was called “nikhon - that“ - “the Japanese sword“.

But how Japanese was actually this prototype of a katana? In early chronicles such sword is called “Korean“. Curved swords were really widespread in Korea, and masters and methods of metal working differed in the highest for those times in level. By the way, the curved sword for centuries of the existence considerably evolved, the bend location, its curvature etc. of

Of course changed, treated a sword with the highest respect. But the similar relation to the “noble“ weapon in general is peculiar to medieval society where war - a duty and the right of the upper class. Therefore raises doubts, for example, that each blade was made within long years, and all process of its creation was entangled by sublime rituals. Yes, the ritual party accompanied this activity, as well as any other (so, fortune-telling and rituals accompanied the choice of day of the beginning of travel, important actions and even washing of hair). Production of a sword was followed by clarification rituals, but hardly each blade was produced for many years as quite often write popular articles and editions.

Often you read about long-term keeping of preparations in the earth; about nearly months-long process of polishing. That Samurais therefore, allegedly, that the commoner`s hands should not have touched this sacred subject were engaged in production of blades. But we will remember that during an era of feudal wars, decades of the lasting military conflicts, the sword is first of all the weapon. It was actively used in fight, so shcherbitsya, in a stupor and broke. Rather sacral subject cannot be substituted under blows of other sword (so sacral), to cut with it on a steel armor...

The main part of the history the Japanese sword - a product of mass production. The chosen copies of blades possessing these or those outstanding properties or the biography could acquire the status of sacred. And such sword was hardly actively used in military operations, serving as rather status weapon. The overwhelming majority of swords differed though high, but ordinary qualities. Also frankly nasty came across.

Swords were required in a large number, and it was impossible to spend for production of a blade several months in any way. Their ordinary handicraftsmen though allocated from the lump of workmen owing to special complexity and prestigiousness of their work did. Yes, also great masters - as well as in any profession met, they were units. Perhaps, Samurais were also not forbidden to be engaged in it not in low craft, but if someone from them and made swords or their parts, then was engaged in it “as a hobby“.

Actually, long time not the sword, but onions was “symbol“ of the Samurai. Since the end of the period of Yamato (apprx. 300 - 710) with distribution of a cavalry onions become the integral accessory of the well-born soldier, and even the size of army is estimated on number of onions. Art of archery - one of the major military disciplines, obligatory part of “education“ of the noble young man, and competition in firing - favourite entertainment of both military estate, and the court aristocracy. Even in the 17th century among more than two tens military arts the first place was allocated to archery.

And how sword cult? In this or that look it really existed, being shown by respect for the weapon - both to the, and to the stranger. But the etiketnost and a ritualization of reality, especially in its so important part making a basis of existence of an upper crust in general is characteristic of medieval consciousness. The numerous texts devoted to medieval Japan dazzle with descriptions of the rituals surrounding the address with a sword.

Only “the senior on a rank“ could enter others house with the weapon, all others gave a sword to the servant who was carefully assigning it to a special support. To take others sword without demand, to touch it in crowd even incidentally - a deadly insult. To partially bare the weapon - a call, etc. There was a set of in details developed rules. But it is hardly worth seeing in it manifestation of mysterious Japanese soul. Similar “cult“ of the weapon existed at many people - for example, in medieval Europe. Hardly it is possible to present the German or the Frenchman, without the permission of enough and furthermore kicking others sword. And gesture of the hand falling by a hilt or partially baring a blade, certainly, was perceived as threat.

The sword cult in that look as we got used to hear about it, arose much later approaches of blossoming of samurai culture - in the 17th century. With establishment of the firm power and the termination of civil strifes the sword almost ceases to be used in military operations and turns into the poyedinochny weapon, a symbol and a subject of class pride. Here develop and the numerous rituals surrounding “are finally made out I smother the Samurai“ - his sword. Samurais of that time began to pay considerably bigger attention to finishing of a sword - earlier, military weapon had much more modest appearance. Since 17th century there is a set of schools of martial arts, and applied ken - to dzyuets (art of a sword) begins to turn gradually in ken - to - a way of a sword.

Article is written in a co-authorship with Natalya Kolpakova