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The European knights existed long before the Japanese Samurai. Originally from France, they came into being in the Middle Ages and were mere soldiers, but the role they played in the society became more important. The church Christianized the knights and elevated their status very highly in the society to nobility. ( Mohammed Abbasi). The Samurai means one who serves (Tim Clark). They were born of nobility and protected the Imperial court. The knights’ code of conduct was chivalry. They protected the weak in the society and maintained peace (Nationmaster.com, 2003) A comprehensive definition of chivalry as given by James is “a military institution, prompted by enthusiastic benevolence, sanctioned by religion, and combined with religious ceremonies, the purpose of which was to protect the weak from the oppression of the powerful, and to defend the right cause against the wrong.” On the other hand the Samurais code of conduct was the Bushido. Both the Knights Chivalry and the Samurais Bushido were not written but rather passed on from other distinguished warriors to others by word. They were inculcated in them during their trainings ( Etna Demonia).
Stages of both warriors
The knight underwent through three main stages ending with their fall due to the new social norms and modern trends which were characterized by discovery of new weapons like guns and bombs. The samurais also changed when Japan was pacified and were more engrossed with the arts, teaching others and matters of spiritual well being. (Nozomu Sonda) They were effectively swordless samurais like the European knights who are just awarded knighthood due to non battle achievements. The first knights lived in castles and fortresses.. With the establishment of feudalism, the societies were able to maintain the knights. They offered security to the leaders and the other peasants and they were given land, food and paid taxes for their duties. Through this they rose in society to nobility.
Virtues for Relation with society
The warriors, the knights and samurais had true loyalty to their superiors. It is given great significance in the art of chivalry, but nowadays it may not be so upheld due to various factors. The knights took vows to maintain the virtues of hospitality, courtesy to others, kindness, heroism. (Ted Shelton, 2003). The warriors had to protect the society because they valued other people (Ashburn L. 2007).
Rectitude/ Justice for the Samurai is the personal authority to make up ones mind upon an action with logic without faltering, dieing without fear when necessary and attacking when its timely and the knights duty was mainly to protect the society at all costs. To do this the warriors had to have courage. This can only be a virtue if practiced for righteousness and rectitude, its being able to do the right thing. Courage was a major virtue for the samurais and for the knights, they had to show courage, bravery before being fully knighted.
Benevolence/mercy was touted by Confucius and Mencius as the most high necessity of a ruler, it comprises sympathy, pity, love, and care for other people. A samurai or a knight endowed with power to slay should equally have mercy for others.(Nozomu Sonda) Both groups of soldiers were required to be polite. Its courtesy and good manners, characteristic Japanese traits, which are the show of concern for other peoples feelings.
Personal virtues for the Samurai and the Knight
They were expected to have strong character and self control. According to bushido, there are only rights and wrongs and no in betweens and one ought to know the distinction. They were educated as the knights to develop their true manners as warriors with intelligence and action oriented. (Absolute Astronomy.com, 2008) The samurais were supposed to be simple and did not indulge in luxury. This was for the belief that money stopped one from acquiring knowledge.(Gardner B. 2007). This was unlike the knights who received land from the lords and received taxes for their services. They had honor. The samurai and the knight had great sense of self worth, respect and dignity and respected the duties of their professions alike. They had great patience as they were not easily provoked and did not give in to disgrace at all. The knights observed their codes of chivalry and their violation led to identification as ‘undignified knight.’ (Ted Shelton, 2003)
- Absolute Astronomy.com. Chivalry. 2008. Web.
- Brian Gardner. The Art of Manliness. The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai. 2007.
- Etna Demonia. Ridireacht (Chivalry). The code of conduct for a true Warrior.
- James, G. P. R.The History of Chivalry, Second edition London; 1830.
- Leslie Ashburn. Macrobiotic Guide. The Macrobiotic Samurai. 2008.
- Mohammed Abbasi. The Samurai Archives. The Japanese Samurai vs The European Knight.
- Nationmaster.com.Encyclopedia. Chivalry. 2003. Web.
- Nozomu Sonda. Bushido (Chivalry) and the Traditional Japanese Moral Education.
- Samurai Gwynne. The Code of the Feudal Warrior Part 1: Bushido. 2006. Web.
- Ted Shelton. Kappa Alpha Order. Chivalry and Gentility.