The Beginning and the Fall of Tokugawa Shogunate Period

In the confucian world of western expansion, Japan, as a long-time learner and practitioner of Chinese culture, has been surprisingly different in its response to western challenges than China. So that the famous historian Zhengqing Fei said of this point: “historians who understand the true secret of Japan’s rapid westernization also hold clues to the far wast ear.” In the eyes of many historians , the institutional factors of geography, cultural tradition and pluralism seem to be the dominant view. The compact national unity, but also promotes the spread of new values and new knowledge throughout the country. It has also made the country vulnerable to and ware of foreign oppression, unlike the Chinese interior provinces, which have long been hard to influence by the west. Also because Japan has a long tradition of borrowing form China, there was less conflict and less pain in the 19th century when it borrowed form the west as well. In the past, Japan adapted certain aspects of the filtered Chinese culture with the slogan “Japanese spirit, Chinese knowledge”. Now Japan borrowed from the west that what they hopes for with the slogan “eastern morality, western craftsmanship”. 

Despite these basic differences, Japan like China, remained isolated until the 19th century.  Tokugawa Shogunate choose to lock the country in order to keep Japan unchanging, so that their rule would last forever. However, like the High Qing ear (1683-1839) in China, despite these efforts, Japanese society gained some momentum. The long period of peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate led to population growth, economic development, and the strengthening of the merchant class. The population growth soared form 18 million in 1600 to 26 million in 1725. The sharp increase of pollution increased the demand for commodities, which led to the great development of Japan’s manual manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, the increase of products led to the wide exchange of commodities, which promoted the development of monetary economy. Obviously, we can see Japanese society is slowly change . It os undergoing profound economic and social changes; and these message was lead to political tensions which reached their limit when commodore perry forced Japan to open doors. The reason why the Japanese were so happy to transform their society under the influence of the west is important because some members of the ruling class have relied that their society needs to be transformed. 

In 1854, as the wheel of history was turning, Japan was forced to sign the treaty of Kanagawa with the United States, which was roughly the same as the Treaty of Nanjing, except that Japan did not have to pay war reparations as China did. This is because Japan had no intention of fighting, they are forced to fight. The main effect of the western invasion was the crisis that brought down the Tokugawa Shogunate. As a result of treaties, and not just with the United States, the Shogunate was subjected to two conflicting pressures: one from the great power, who were constantly demanding benefits through treaties, and the other os from the Japanese, who were trying to be xenophobic. Finally, the anti-Tokugawa clan through the alliance and collusion with businessmen, so that they have the power to against Tokugawa. From 1858 to 1865, they took advantage of the public to attack the invaders and their accomplices under the slogan “the king os the king”. In 1867, with the death of the emperor, the Tokugawa fell, clearing the way for the “democratic reform”.  Which followed was a new pattern: the Tokugawa Shogunate was stripped of its power and feudal fiefdoms, and their status was replaced by a rebellious clan that controlled the country in the name fo the new Meiji emperor. 

Overall, it is worth nothing that the majority of the young samurai who served these clans went on to dominate all sections of society, providing the remarkable leadership that enabled Japan to succeed in modernizing. Unlike the literati in China, Japan’s policymakers recognize that the state os being help up in some way and that change is needed.

07 July 2022
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