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Hojo Soun's 21 Articles

Posted January 18th, 2011 at 05:42 AM by leakbrewergator

House codes were a common occurrence in Pre-Modern Japan. Nearly every influential family throughout the land had a set of rules that were set down by their patriarch. These codes were usually meant to tell future generations how to tend to their land and govern their provinces properly. Perhaps the most recognizable of these codes are Hojo Sounís 21 Articles.

Iíll save the discussion of Sounís life (which is incredibly interesting) for a later date. For now, I want to focus on the House codes that he set forth sometime between 1500 and his death in 1519. (Probably closer to his death.) From what I know, there isnít really a full translation of the codes available on the internet. A lot of sites offer a few of the more important articles, or even fragments, but I canít seem to find all of them in whole. So here are the 21 articles in as basic language as I could possibly make it:

1.Believe in the Buddhas and the Gods.

2.Wake up early. If you donít, you set a bad example for the help. You also will tend to neglect public and private affairs if you sleep in. This will look bad to your boss.

3.Go to sleep early. Only bad things happen to people who stay up late. You risk the chance of being robbed and you waste valuable resources keeping the lighting on while you stay awake. Also, wake up early (again) and make sure you tell EVERYONE what to do.

4.Before you wash up in the morning, take a look around and see what needs to be cleaned up. Once you do begin to wash up, donít waste water! Also, be quiet while washing up.

5.Be righteous. Show respect and sympathy. Be straightforward and keep an open mind.

6.Be proud of your humble belongings. If you have any fancy armor and weapons, do not wear them needlessly in front of others.

7.Fix your hair as soon as you wake up. Even if you have nothing planned that day, it is best to be prepared for an uninvited guest. Untidy hair shows that you have a weak mind and it will rub off on those around you.

8.When in attendance with a superior, do not rush to greet him. Instead, notice your colleagues around you and see how they are dressed. Adjust yourself accordingly. Only then is it ok to see your boss.

9.Always show respect to your superior. When given an order, say ďYes, sir!Ē and complete the order promptly. Then, turn in a truthful report to your boss without bragging. Also, seek out advice when completing the task, even if you donít need it.

10.Do not gossip.

11.Donít be conspicuous and meddle in othersí affairs.

12.Always practice reading and writing. Do not let others see what you are reading, however.

13.Be polite and courteous when talking to or passing by senior retainers.

14.Always be truthful. No matter how low the rank of the person you are speaking to, do not lie! If you lie to others, others will lie to you. If you are caught in a lie, you will be disgraced for life.

15.Practice poetry. Be careful when choosing words for your poems as one word can really make you look bad.

16.Practice horse riding. Once you master the basics, practice guiding the horse properly.

17.Choose your friends wisely. Whether a man becomes good or bad depends on who he associates with. So only hang out with good people.

18.When you get home from work, walk through you entire house front to back. Check to see if any repairs need to be made to the exterior and interior of your home. Your servants are probably too stupid to realize if something is in disrepair, so you will need to do this on your own.

19.Keep your front gate closed at night. Only open it for those who are coming in and out. If you leave the front gate open, bad things will happen.

20.Check the fires in the house before you got to bed at night. Make sure there is nothing near them that can catch on fire, and be sure to see that the fires are under control. Do not trust your servants to do this. Also, go behind the women of your house, because they are dumb enough to leave their personal belongings near the fires to catch.

21.Obviously you need to practice both the art of peace and the art of war. I really donít even need to emphasize those to you hereÖ.
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  1. Old Comment
    Definitely an interesting read. It's rather interesting how many of these can easily apply to modern day life.
    Posted January 19th, 2011 at 05:16 PM by scholar scholar is offline
  2. Old Comment
    leakbrewergator's Avatar
    Indeed. They are definitely one of the more sensible set of house codes from the period.
    Posted January 19th, 2011 at 06:36 PM by leakbrewergator leakbrewergator is offline

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