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Money Economy and Kings’ Solution

The Tokugawa period occurred between 1604 and 1869. It marked the time of hierarchical divisions among various groups. The rivals included samurai, peasants, artisans, and merchants. In view of the economy known as shogunate, the role of the peasants involved producing basic foodstuffs – they were to give a good portion of it as the tax to the ruling classes. Artisans, on the other hand, crafted necessary non-food items. Goods that could not be acquired through any other means were bought through merchants. Ogyu Sorai asserts that money economy brings economic power, regional movements, urban development, and emergence of the elite groups; and it also deprives kings of their obligations thereby leading to disregard of the Tokugawa social norms. As a result, kings can offer a solution to the problem, since they possess peacekeeping skills. They also promulgate the Confucian ideologies and represent authority that advocates for the order in the society.
Acording to Sorai, the presence of the money economy removes the responsibility of the sages to control the society. It gives much freedom and power to the Tokugawa people and makes them have no order in transacting their duties. The sages controlled the operation of rice farming in the community and people managed to maintain some order. However, the rise of money economy changed everything. As a result, the Tokugawa period portrayed a rapid and sustained economic growth which they first witnessed in agriculture. It was a revolution from the Tokugawa authorities which held the old notions of a static, agrarian-based economy. These Tokugawa policies forbade the samurai class from participating in the profitable trade or farming – a limitation aimed at increasing the economy growth

Sorai interprets money economy as creating changes that lead to less control of the people, since they have much economic power. Among the positive things that happened during the war period was the growth of agriculture production which increased by about 60%. Their policies included the promotion of land reclamation and clearance. The process enhanced production in Tokugawa. As a result, the land under cultivation increased by approximately 130%. This transformation was made possible through strict monitoring and spread of information about cropping patterns and fertilizers.

Money economy resulted in a situation that people moved to different places, which also lead to the uncontrollable social group. In the war period, the local lords coordinated their territories. This movement gained approval from Hideyoshi and Tokugawa, and retainers were demanded to live in the capitals rather than their domains. Moreover, the number of the towns continued to grow in this period. Consequently, it created a substantial impact on the economic growth. As the towns continued to grow into cities, there was an increase in a number of laborers who settled in towns, while the samurai settled near the castles of their lords. The commoners who, in their turn, served the samurai moved to the places near the castles as well.

Urban development led to less regard to social values. Owing to these changes, the city of Edo, which later became the shogunul capital, developed rapidly. It also produced significant shogunul capital. Numerous buildings were constructed, and namely warehouses, storefronts, shrines, temples, and common dwellings. Small towns known as the castle towns also emerged at that time. This drastic change led to an increased growth of the economy and, as a result, merchants benefited from the increase in trade, markets, and urbanization. The merchants then built large houses for themselves and dressed in finery.

The money economy introduced Tokugawa to a new culture. Economic development triggered the entertainment areas created by merchants, and they consisted of theaters, teahouses, brothels etc. Brothels were a new culture in the cities, and the Tokugawa government sought to control it through licensing. Nevertheless, the government could neither control it nor close it, as illegal prostitution was present in the cities. This clearly indicated the moral decay of the commoners and merchants, since the samurai were forbidden from the brothels as they were expected to maintain moral uprightness.

The rise of the oppressed people due to money economy led to serious consequences. However, the literacy, which mainly originated from different classes in the society like the Buddhist, commoner intellectuals etc., was spread to village headmen, urban townsmen, women, and many others. This led to the development of learning centers and an increase in demand for books. Thus, the spread of learning among commoners had its own repercussions such as protests that led to the overthrow of the governments.

Restoring the order required the rule of the kings. The Way of the Ancient Kings/Sages referred to as the way or the way that Confucius taught is meant to bring peace into the world. The ancient literature was written by Wang Shin-Chen and Li P’an-lung. Confucius urged his students to realize their individual talent in order to serve others. What is more, he compiled the Six Classics which together combine the Way of the Ancient Kings. To bring peace into the world, the self or individual must strive enough to have the peace.

The term “Way” indicates all the elements that were incorporated by the Ancient Kings which are rituals, music, and law and statecraft. The way was constructed by Ancient Kings, and thus, it is not natural. The Ancient Kings or sages possessed high intelligence and wisdom, and they received favor from heavens to be the rulers. The Sages dedicated themselves to maintaining peace under heaven and involving their spiritual and mental powers to the task. The way was created as guidance for later generations. It is important to note that it was carefully shaped over time by brilliant sages and not a creation of one individual Tokugawa. Through scholarship, one cannot become a sage as these Sages attained wisdom and intellectual power at birth; it was given to them by the heavens.

Confucius held that benevolence was the most important idea, since it incorporated the whole notion of the Way of Ancient Kings, which was mainly an advocated devotion towards the heavens. Therefore, when the heavens chose someone to be a lord, princes, or any other person, they must have people below them to direct or govern. In this context, whatever the heavens calls one to do, one must do it well.
If each individual fully understood the peaceful intent of the Way of the Ancient Kings and strived to make himself/herself better in terms of benevolence, then he/she was able to identify own character in terms of the Way. Among the people who were able to identify and understand their character were Confucius’ disciples – Yu in his courage, Zu in his intelligence, and Ch’in in his artistry. Through understanding, these men may seem benevolent and thus capable of promoting peace and well-being.

The way of the Ancient Kings which aims at maintaining peace, and with this in mind, all governments forbade uprising against authority and put great measures to punish those who did not comply with the rules. Therefore, the way insists on wisdom, courage, and righteousness known as virtues. If humans were to be true and follow their own true nature, then they would maintain these virtues. Under any government, it is right to promote or raise the honorable rather than the dishonorable. In this sense, what is good in an individual should be appreciated and maintained so that the evil shall not find the place – the wisdom from the Way of the Ancient Kings.

The Way of the Ancient Kings strived to find peace and well-being under heaven, and in those times students of the political economy followed this view. These laws made any human feelings of kindness and affection, which were there in there in the ancient times, seem non-existent. This government mainly emphasized on skills such as writing conventional lines.

Following the Way of the Ancient Kings, when the important foundations are in place, other concepts will flourish on their own. The Ancient Kings and Confucius relied on real facts in spreading their ideas, and, in turn, their teachings were accepted and later taught widely by the students. The Way was referred as the culture which was the declaration of rites and music. The Way of the Ancient Kings expresses that rites are meant to control the human spirit. At the beginning, the Way was known as the “Way of Artistic Technique.” The ancient teachings came to improve the knowledge of the students, so with time, they effortlessly realized their individual virtues that led to their nourishment.

In conclusion, Soarai opposes the money economy and embraces the rule of kings in Tokugawa. All activities within the way of Sages are manipulated in a process and if the results are not fully realized, then the vision is to be used in future. If the goals cannot be realized in a period of a year or more, they are postponed to indefinite future. In this way, leaders nurtured their minds and discovered their virtues, governing people to make customs that are aimed at goodness and elimination of evil. The Way of the Sages is combined with nature to continually develop human and natural aspects in indefinite future.