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China and Japan. page 2

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At this time feudalism had become fully developed, and the land was divided among the soldiers of the Shogun (Tycoon) or military commander and ruler, from whom they held their estates as fiefs on condition of service in war. These military lords, or daimios, had vassals, holding lands as fiefs, of the agricultural and other classes, and the holders of civil offices, the Mikado and his court, sank to a low position, impoverished by the greed of the feudal lords who grasped most of the taxes. In the 15th and 16th centuries Japan was in a wretched condition of civil warfare of rival emperors and between ambitious nobles, and towards the end of the period we have the Japanese invasion of Corea already recorded, and the persecution of Jesuit missionaries. About the middle of the 17th century, under a new dynasty of Shoguns (or Tycoons, "high princes"), we find the adoption of an exclusive system which shut Japan to all foreigners except the Chinese and the Dutch, who were allowed to trade at Nagasaki. A general persecution at this time effected the extirpation of Christianity.

Japan became first known to Europe, under the name of Zipangu, through Marco Polo. In 1542 it was visited by the Portuguese, who carried on a lucrative trade until their final expulsion in 1640. In the 17th and 18th centuries much progress was made, through native energy and ability, in civilisation and material prosperity, and the population of the islands, in 1744, was found to exceed 26,000,000. We arrive at the middle of the 19th century before we find any startling change in the political and social condition of the people who had so long been living in the isolated state, according to their own proverb, of "frogs in a well." The class called samurai, or second order of vassals, to whom the great feudal nobles, or daimios, leased their farms in return for military service, had long been dissatisfied with the usurped power of the Shoguns (Tycoons), and the daimios were jealous of the long tenure of the Shogunate by the Tokugawa family, who had held it since 1603. An element of internal revolution was thus at work. At the same time, in 1854, Commodore Perry, of the United States, after a visit in the previous year, with four men-of-war, to the harbour of Yedo, induced the Shogun to conclude a treaty with the great republic of the West, conceding certain rights of trade to citizens of the States. In the same and the following year Great Britain and Russia made like treaties with Japan, and in 1858 Lord Elgin, after the Treaty of Tientsin with China, made arrangements with the Japanese ruler by which several ports, including Yokohama, Hakodate, and Nagasaki, were opened to British trade, with consular agents, and a resident British diplomatist at Yedo. In the same year the United States, France, and Russia received like concessions by treaty with the Shogun. The Mikado and his court, with the conservative Japanese party, were incensed at these proceedings of the Shogun, and there was a deep-seated feeling of hostility towards foreigners. In 1860 the first Japanese embassy to the United States was sent out by the prime minister, who paid the penalty in assassination. Civil dissensions arose, and a brief irregular war with Great Britain came through the murder, in September, 1862, of Mr. Richardson, a member of the British Embassy, who was attacked on the highroad by the retinue of a daimio, brother of the prince of Satsuma, one of the chief feudal nobles. The Shogun (or Tycoon), who was not responsible for this outrage, made a full apology, and paid a large sum in compensation, and Satsuma, who refused all redress, was brought to terms in August, 1863, by a British squadron which, in bombarding the forts at Kagosima, capital of Satsuma's province, almost destroyed the large wood-built town.

At last the long-threatened revolution in Japan came to pass, and it was one of a very rapid and complete character. There had been further warfare with foreigners, in consequence of their somewhat lawless conduct in entering one of the forbidden ports after due warning, and being fired on by the Japanese forts. In 1863 and 1864 British, French, Dutch, and American vessels bombarded and destroyed the batteries at Shimonoseki, and a large indemnity was exacted. In 1867 a struggle between the Shogun, with his partisans, and some of the chief daimios, ended in the resignation of the last military ruler (Shogun or Tycoon), and the "dual government" was abolished in the restoration of full power to the Mikado, or emperor, as both the temporal and spiritual head of the realm. A revolt occurred, with severe fighting, but by June, 1869, the imperialist cause prevailed, and the Mikado transferred his residence from Kioto to Yedo (Jeddo), changing that city's name to Tokio ("eastern capital"). This large and splendid place, the centre of Japanese literary, commercial, and political activity, now contains about 1,500,000 inhabitants. A complete change of policy followed. The life of the emperor and the court had henceforth a publicity in complete contrast to the olden seclusion. The former treaties with foreign nations were ratified, and embassies were dispatched to European capitals and to Washington. The daimios resigned their fiefs in exchange for state-pensions, and a system of constitutional and administrative government, on the European model, was established. Western civilisation was fully embraced, and hundreds of young Japanese men were sent to Europe for education. A new code of criminal law; a government postal system; railroads and telegraphs; the adoption of the European (Gregorian) calendar; a Tokio university; female education; modern military drill, tactics, and arms; and a modern navy, gave ample token, along with the establishment, in 1889, of a Parliament of two Houses, that Japan had, with startling energy, entered on a new path of progress to enlightenment, prosperity, and power. The chamber of peers is in advance of the British, in being partly hereditary, partly elective, partly nominated by the Mikado. The representative chamber is chosen by men of 25 years of age and upwards, paying taxes to a moderate annual amount. The cabinet or ministry includes officials, under the premier, presiding over foreign affairs, finance, war, the navy, education, religion, justice, public works, and the imperial household. In 1874 an expedition to Formosa avenged the murder of Japanese sailors on that island. In 1887 the Japanese imports from Great Britain and her colonies had reached a value of nearly, 4,000,000 pounds sterling, and the one thing needed to prove the completeness of Japan's conversion to European ways was a demonstration of her strength in the modern style of warfare. In August, 1894, a dispute concerning Corean affairs caused Japan to declare war against China. The first success was won by the Japanese army, which defeated the Chinese forces with great loss, in September, at Ping Yang, in Corea. On the same day the Chinese were worsted in a great naval action in Corea Bay. On October 24th the Japanese troops crossed the Yalu river and entered Chinese territory, and early in November Kinchow and Talienwan were captured by the invaders, who followed this up by the occupation of Port Arthur. Early in February, 1895, the greater portion of the Chinese fleet, attempting to escape from Wei-hai-wei, nearly opposite to Port Arthur and on the southern side of the entrance to the Gulf of Pe-chi-li, was sunk by the Japanese fleet stationed outside the harbour. This succession of severe blows, showing the decisive superiority of the reforming Japanese to the conservative Chinamen, in warfare both by sea and land, caused the Chinese government to sue for peace, and on March 16th, 1895, a treaty ceded Formosa and the adjacent Pescadores isles to Japan, and undertook the payment of a large indemnity.

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