The medieval Japanese warriors known as the samurai have been a source of fascination for people throughout the world for several centuries, and for good reason – they were among the most elite warriors in human history. The samurai are renown for a number of reasons, which includes their efficiency in battle, their well-crafted katana swords, and most importantly, their honor code known as bushido. It was the code of bushido that set the samurai apart from other contemporary warrior groups and gave them their reasons to fight. Without the code of bushido, the samurai would have just another one of the many warrior classes in history.
Bushido was a worldview that was extremely complex, but for the sake of comparison, it shared many attributes with the honor code of medieval European knights. The code of bushido was followed faithfully by the samurai and every detail of how they conducted themselves in battle was dictated by the code, including some of the following matters: the types of weapons that were allowed, the treatment of enemies, and how death was preferred over cowardice, which was considered the worst form of dishonor. Bushido also required that samurai spare women and children from violence and to never engage of wanton cruelty of animals. Besides these important ideas, the samurai were also expected to respect their culture and national traditions and to show utmost respect for their lord and shoguns, even to the point of following them after death. An examination of the code of bushido reveals that it is actually the result of three different but complimentary Eastern religious and philosophical traditions – Shintoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism.
Categories: Asian History