Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Samurai Loyalty: Honor and the "Get Out of Death Free" Card

I'm currently reading my way through an interesting samurai biography (The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, review to come once I'm done), and part of the beginning touches on their famous loyalty to their lords, which included both "individual" and "institutional" aspects.

In the first way, samurai loyalty could be shown in the medieval idea of "junshi", 殉死 the act of committing suicide upon your lord's death rather than going on to serve another lord.

Junshi required the lord's prior approval, and was technically outlawed in 1663, but "remained a model for individual loyalty". This showed a samurai's connection to his lord as an individual man, rather than just the title of lord itself.

However, if your lord was being a jackass, you had an out. ;) Samurai were also called upon to guard the "state" of the lord, the good of his holdings and kingdom and the future of his heirs. This was institutional loyalty, and gave samurai the right to directly disobey their lords if they felt their lords were making poor decisions (gambling away the estate, marching into a battle for the wrong reasons, etc.), or opt out of junshi if they felt they could better serve the state by living.

1 comment:

sakil khan said...
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