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Essay Feudalism

By nikusia3505 Sep 10, 2013 799 Words
The word feudalism comes from the Latin word ‘feudum,’ meaning fief. Feudalism is a system in which nobles or lords are granted use of lands that legally belong to the king, in exchange for their loyalty, military service. The one of the king’s obligations is to protect his vassals. Although feudalism in Europe had started earlier, the feudal systems of Japan and Europe are somewhat alike. Both feudal systems were developed as a response to the need for security and stability. In Europe, the eastern part of the Roman Empire lived in continuous fear of constant invasions by Germanic, Islamic and Magyars tribes. Therefore people started to abandoned the cities and settle in the countryside where local lords started to form their own army and protect people in exchange for their loyalty and military service. In Japan, the feudal system was formed because local warlords battled with each other for territory and power and same as In Europe people needed protection. In both civilizations, because of the power and wealth of these lords, peasants were left vulnerable and dependent on them.

European and Japanese feudalism were indistinguishable in the social structure. The Japanese classes were the shogun just like the emperor in Europe, who held all the power. Then the daimyo (“private land”) which was an upper class group much like the same nobles and church officials in Europe. Vassals and Samurai Soldiers held land gained by daimyo or shogun in return for their loyalty and military service. In Europe knights, who were middle class, held this position. They were mounted horseman who pledged to defend their lord’s land in exchange for fiefs. Peasants and Artisans served beneath. They provided food and weapons for the Samurai class, craftsman, farmers and serfs. Second to the lowest class of people were the Merchants because they made money for others’ labor, but gradually gained influence. At the base of the feudal pyramid in Europe were landless peasants who toiled in the fiefs. An individual’s class in society was inherited from their parents. For example, children of farmers became farmers and the children of lords became lords. The most important similarity between Japanese and European feudalism was that the class you were born into is where you stayed for life. There was no opportunity to advance to a higher class. Similarly, those who were born into the families of local or samurai would belong to the same caste the same as their parents no matter how unique they were. Although Japanese Samurai and European knights never actually met, they had much in common. Both were the elite warriors of their time and place. The lives of knights and samurai were, in many ways, very similar. Both had to be loyal to their lords. These lords expected them to fight well and to be fearless in battle. The lords also expected their knights or samurai to live disciplined and honorable lives. Both European knights and Japanese samurai had to follow strict codes of honor of behavior. The Japanese code of the samurai was called Bushido and European code of the knights was called Chivalry. Both codes required knights and samurais to be brave and loyal but humble and modest at the same time. It also required them to be kind and generous when dealing with poor people, especially woman. Perhaps the main difference between medieval Europeans and Japanese was the religion and the culture. Nearly all of the Europeans were Christian, whereas the Japanese had a blended group of first Shinto and then Zen Buddhism. European and Japanese religions were taught very different ways of looking at the world. For Japanese samurais the tea ceremony was very important. It had elements of the culture and the religion. But for knights the loyalty to the lord was almost as important as the loyalty to the lady so they started to write love poems. The differences between Europe and Japan can also be seen in the artistic forms popular in each place. European art in the Middle Ages dealt mostly with religious themes. Paintings showed scenes from the Bible, and writers tried to inspire people with stories about great Christians. In Japan, on the other hand, most art dealt with natural themes. Paintings of nature were common, and people built many gardens where the tea ceremony occurs. Buildings blended with nature, rather than standing out. Japanese literature also celebrated nature. Although both Japanese and European feudalism during the post-classical era differed in religion and traditions, they were similar in that they both followed an honor code, and they had a similar hereditary caste system structure. The significance apparent here is the parallel of these two countries. They displayed the same system, yet took place at different times, and one never knew of the other.

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