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[b]I Formation of Buddhist Literature[/b]

For several centuries after the death of the Buddha, the scriptural traditions recited at the councils were transmitted orally. These were finally committed to writing about the 1st century bc. Some early schools used Sanskrit for their scriptural language. Although individual texts are extant, no complete canon has survived in Sanskrit. In contrast, the full canon of the Theravadins survives in Pali, which was apparently a popular dialect during the Buddha's life.

The Buddhist canon is known as the Tripitaka, or Three Baskets, because it consists of three collections of writings: the Sutra Pitaka, a collection of discourses; the Vinaya Pitaka, the code of monastic discipline; and the Abhidharma Pitaka, which contains philosophical, psychological, and doctrinal systemizations and classifications.

The Sutra Pitaka is primarily composed of dialogues between the Buddha and other people. It consists of five groups of texts: Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses), Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Medium-Length Discourses), Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Grouped Discourses), Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses on Numbered Topics), and Khuddaka Nikaya (Collection of Miscellaneous Texts). In the fifth group, the Jatakas, comprising stories of former lives of the Buddha, and the Dhammapada (Religious Sentences), a summary of the Buddha's teachings on mental discipline and morality, are especially popular.

The Vinaya Pitaka consists of more than 225 rules governing the conduct of Buddhist monks and nuns. Each is accompanied by a story explaining the original reason for the rule. The rules are arranged according to the seriousness of the offence resulting from their violation.

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The Abhidharma Pitaka consists of seven separate works. They include detailed classifications of psychological phenomena, metaphysical analysis, and a thesaurus of technical vocabulary. Although technically authoritative, the texts in this collection have little influence on the lay Buddhist. The complete canon, much expanded, also exists in Tibetan and Chinese versions.

Two non-canonical texts that have great authority within Theravada Buddhism are the Milindapanha (Questions of King Milinda) and the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification). The Milindapanha dates from about the 2nd century ad. It is in the form of a dialogue dealing with a series of fundamental problems in Buddhist thought. The Visuddhimagga is the masterpiece of the most famous of Buddhist commentators, Buddhaghosa (fl. early 5th century ad). It is a large compendium summarizing Buddhist thought and meditative practice.

Theravada Buddhists have traditionally considered the Tripitaka to be the recorded words of Siddhartha Gautama. Mahayana Buddhists have not limited their scriptures to the teachings of this historical figure, however, nor has Mahayana ever bound itself to a closed canon of sacred writings. Various scriptures retrospectively attributed to tbe Buddha have thus been authoritative for different branches of Mahayana at various periods of history. Among the more important Mahayana scriptures are the following: the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (Lotus of the Good Law Sutra, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra), the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra (Garland Sutra), and the Lankavatara Sutra (The Buddha's Descent to Sri Lanka Sutra), as well as a group of writings known as the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom).

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[b]III CONFLICT AND NEW GROUPINGS[/b]

As Buddhism developed in its early years, conflicting interpretations of the master's teachings appeared, resulting in the traditional 18 schools of Buddhist thought. As a group, these schools eventually came to be considered too conservative and literal-minded in their attachment to the master's message. Among them, Theravada was charged with being too individualistic and insufficiently concerned with the needs of the laity. Such dissatisfaction led a liberal wing of the sangha to begin to break away from the rest of the monks.

While the more conservative monks continued to honour the Buddha as a perfectly enlightened human teacher, the liberal Mahasanghikas developed a new concept. They considered the Buddha an eternal, omnipresent, transcendental being. They speculated that the human Buddha was but an apparition of the transcendental Buddha that was created for the benefit of humankind. In this understanding of the Buddha nature, Mahasanghika thought is something of a prototype of Mahayana.

The origins and development of the 18 early schools are highly complex and problematic: the number 18 is itself somewhat symbolic, and the names of the schools are not the same in all sources. The two major branches into which the sangha divided were the Mahasanghikas and the Sthaviras (Sthavirada in Sanskrit, Thera or Theravada in Pali). Both of these became further subdivided into separate schools; the Sthavira having some ten schools while the Mahasanghika had eight. The Theravada tradition of Sri Lanka and South East Asia definitely belongs to the Sthavira/Thera branch, but it is impossible to determine the tradition's place within that branch. After the spread of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, the Sthavira schools continued in India and later in China for many centuries. One of these schools, known as the Sarvastivada, produced its own Abhidharma works, which provided a systematic interpretation of early Buddhist doctrines. This Abhidharma became the main target of later Mahayana criticism of the early schools; Mahayana as a whole does not see its origins in any of the early schools.

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[b]A Mahayana [/b]

The origins of Mahayana are particularly obscure. Even the names of its founders are unknown, and scholars disagree about whether it originated in southern or in north-western India. Its formative years were between the 2nd century bc and the 1st century ad.

Speculation about the eternal Buddha continued well after the beginning of the Christian era and culminated in the Mahayana doctrine of his threefold nature, or triple “body” (trikaya). These aspects are the body of essence, the body of communal bliss, and the body of transformation. The body of essence represents the ultimate nature of the Buddha. Beyond form, it is the unchanging absolute and is variously spoken of as pure consciousness or the absolute voidness, the essential nature of all things, and so on. This essential Buddha nature manifests itself, taking on heavenly form as the body of communal bliss. In this form the Buddha sits in godlike splendour, preaching in the heavens. Lastly, the Buddha nature appears on Earth in human form to convert humankind. Such an appearance is known as a body of transformation. The Buddha has taken on such an appearance countless times. Mahayana considers the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, only one example of the body of transformation.

The new Mahayana concept of the Buddha made possible such concepts as Buddha's interventions in the world and ongoing revelation that are lacking in Theravada. Belief in the Buddha's heavenly manifestations led to the development of a significant devotional strand in Mahayana. Some scholars have therefore described the early development of Mahayana in terms of the “Hinduization” of Buddhism.

Another important new concept in Mahayana is that of the bodhisattva or enlightenment being, as the ideal toward which the good Buddhist should aspire. A bodhisattva is an individual who has set out to achieve perfect enlightenment but delays entry into final nirvana in order to make possible the salvation of all other sentient beings. The bodhisattva transfers merit built up over many lifetimes to less fortunate creatures. The key attributes of this social saint are compassion and loving-kindness. For this reason Mahayana considers the bodhisattva superior to the arhats who represent the ideal of Theravada. Certain bodhisattvas, such as Maitreya, who represents the Buddha's loving-kindness, and Avalokitesvara or Kuan-yin, who represents his compassion, have become the focus of popular devotional worship in Mahayana.

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[b]B Tantrism [/b]

By the 7th century ad a new form of Buddhism known as Tantrism had developed through the blend of Mahayana with popular folk belief and magic in northern India. Similar to Hindu Tantrism, which arose about the same time, Buddhist Tantrism differs from Mahayana in its strong emphasis on ritual, magic, and particular types of meditation. Also known as Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, Tantrism is an esoteric tradition. Its initiation ceremonies involve entry into a mandala, a mystic circle or symbolic map of the spiritual universe. Also important in Tantrism is the use of mudras, or ritual gestures, and mantras, or sacred syllables, which are repeatedly chanted and used as a focus for meditation. Vajrayana became the dominant form of Buddhism in Tibet and was also transmitted through China to Japan, where it continues to be practised by the Shingon sect.

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[b]IV FROM INDIA OUTWARD[/b]

Buddhism spread rapidly throughout the land of its birth. Missionaries dispatched by King Ashoka introduced the religion to southern India and to the north-west part of the subcontinent. According to inscriptions from the Ashokan period, missionaries were sent to countries along the Mediterranean, although without success.

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[b]A Asian Expansion[/b]

King Ashoka's son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta are credited with the conversion of Sri Lanka. From the beginning of its history there, Theravada was the state religion of Sri Lanka.

According to tradition, one Buddhist mission reached Burma during the reign of Ashoka, but no firm evidence of its presence there appears until much later. The indigenous inhabitants of the area of present-day Burma and Thailand, the Mons, professed Theravada Buddhism. The earliest states of the Burmese, the Pyu in central Burma and the state of Arakan, date from the 3rd century ad; under Indian influence, they followed Hindu cults, and Mahayana and Tantric forms of Buddhism. The true Burmese, related to the Pyu, established their capital Pagan in 849. They also followed Tantric Buddhism. The supremacy of Theravada Buddhism, which eventually superseded other forms in Burma, began with the reign of the Burmese king Anuruddha in the 11th century. Buddhism was adopted by the Thai people when they finally entered the region from south-western China from the 12th century. From the 13th century, the Thai kingdom of Sukhotai made Theravada Buddhism the official religion of the country.Theravada was adopted by the royal house in Laos during the 14th century.

Both Mahayana and Hinduism had begun to influence Cambodia by the end of the 2nd century ad, and both flourished there for several centuries. Extensive archaeological remains at the ancient city of Angkor attest to an impressive religious culture created by the Khmer kings under the influence of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. After the 14th century, however, under Thai influence, Theravada gradually replaced the older establishment as the primary religion in Cambodia.

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About the beginning of the Christian era, Buddhism was carried to Central Asia. From there it entered China along the trade routes by the early 1st century ad. This first period of Chinese Buddhism, lasting until about the 6th century, is generally seen as formative, as Buddhist doctrines and culture were imported and adapted. At first the religion penetrated and took root in China's intellectual and cultural elite, and to a lesser extent amongst the populace. The Chinese-speaking foreigners who first propagated Buddhism were gradually supplanted by native converts. Kumarajiva, who arrived at the capital Ch'ang-an in 401, introduced the Madhyamika school and supervised the state-sponsored translation of Buddist texts into Chinese. Such endeavours rendered large numbers of Hinayana, Mahayana and esoteric Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. Both Hinayana and Mahayana became established on Chinese soil, and the monastic ordinations transmitted through the Hinayana Dharmaguptaka school became the prevailing tradition in China and Korea up to the present day. However, Mahayana Buddhism eventually became the predominant doctrine. Effectively patronized by the non-Chinese dynasties who ruled the north prior to the reunification of China under the Sui dynasty (589-618), Buddhism reached its zenith under the Sui and the Tang (618-906). The many large, wealthy and sometimes worldly monasteries were sometimes the objects of persecution, often motivated by hostile Confucian and Taoist circles, but such persecutions focused on monastic institutions rather than lay believers. Although persecuted, Buddhism was never prohibited in China.

Several of the Buddhist schools that flourished in China from the 6th to the 9th centuries were direct or indirect importations of Indian schools. Four other major schools which arose in this period were basically Chinese creations, though making certain claims of Indian origin. Three were based on specific scriptures. The T'ien-t'ai school produced a fivefold gradation of Buddhist teachings, placing the doctrines of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (or Lotus Sutra) at the apex. The Huayan school accepted the Avatamsaka Sutra (Garland Sutra) as its scriptural authority. The third school, the Pure Land school of belief, based itself on three texts related to the Buddha Amitabha, developing a devotional form of Buddhism which stressed faith and belief in him. The most original and Chinese in character was the radical Ch'an school (Zen in Japanese), which eschewed scripture and doctrine in favour of spontaneous insight, the instantaneous realization of one's own Buddha-nature. After the great persecution of 845 Buddhism declined in China, albeit enjoying a brief revival during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1276-1368). It never conquered the country, but made a substantial contribution to China's culture and religious thought, and became a permanent feature of the Chinese way of life.

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At the time of the introduction of Buddhism, Korea consisted of three states: Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla. Koguryo received waves of Buddhist influence from northern and southern China, and proclaimed Buddhism its state religion in ad 392. Paekche embraced Buddhism in 384 and Silla in 528, following official missions dispatched from the Chinese court. Korean Buddhism experienced its greatest flourishing in the unified state of the Koryo Period (918-1392). Under the Yi dynasty (1392-1910), it became subordinate to the Confucianism which became the official ideology of the Korean state and ruling classes.

Vietnam, long ruled by China, followed mainly Chinese Buddhism, whilst the south of the country was more influenced by India. Buddhism remained well established after Vietnam broke free of China in the 10th century, and after a decline in the 15th century experienced an revival in the 18th century which induced the rise of indigenous Vietnamese sects of Buddhism.

Buddhism was carried into Japan from Korea. It was known to the Japanese earlier, but the official date for its introduction is given as either ad 538 or 552, depending on the source. It was proclaimed the state religion of Japan in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who is seen as the father of Japanese Buddhism, both in terms of his activities and his moral legacy. Several schools of Buddhism were introduced during the Nara (710-784) and Heian (794-1185) periods. The monk Saicho is credited with the foundation of the Tendai school, an importation of Chinese T'ien-t'ai doctrine which also served as a channel for the introduction of Pure Land, Zen and Tantric beliefs. Kukai also brought from China the variety of esoteric Buddhism which became the Shingon cult. Although Buddhism gained ground among ordinary people during the Nara and Heian periods, it existed primarily as a state-sponsored religion. The three schools which grew to prominence during the Kamakura period (1185-1333)—Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren Buddhism—succeeded in spreading Buddhism across the whole spectrum of Japanese society. Though none of these were doctrinally innovative, all assumed a distinctly Japanese character. Interestingly, the tradition of monastic ordination introducted into Japan was gradually eliminated, so that in general the clergy of all Japanese Buddhist schools are permitted to marry.

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Tibet was converted to Buddhism through two consecutive propagations. In the first, Buddhism was formally recognized as a state religion in the 7th century ad. Temples and monasteries were built, Tibetans were ordained as monks and a fair number of Buddhist texts were translated into Tibetan. Two Indian masters are particularly venerated for their impact on the spread of Buddhism in Tibet: Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava. While Shantarakshita introduced Mahayana Buddhism and ordination rites, Padmasambhava, a gifted Tantric master, appropriated local deities to serve as protectors of the new creed. This propagation ended in persecution by followers of indigenous Tibetan beliefs. The second propagation, which began in the 10th century, permanently implanted Buddhism in Tibet. Extensive traffic between India and Tibet introduced various traditions, which eventually consolidated into four major religious orders: Sakyapa, Kegyupa, Nyimepe, and Yelugpa. Tibetan Buddhism as a whole is a complex but coherent body of Mahayana doctrines and esoteric practices. Though many lamas and masters are married, the overwhelming majority of religious are ordained monks. The tradition of reincarnated lamas is a unique feature of Tibetan Buddhism. Such people are believed to be reincarnations of famous masters, or manifestations of certain Buddhas or boddhisattvas.

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[b]V INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES[/b]

Differences occur in the religious obligations and observances both within and between the sangha and the laity.

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[b]A Monastic Life[/b]

From the first, the most devoted followers of the Buddha were organized into the monastic sangha. Its members were identified by their shaved heads and robes made of unsewn orange cloth. The early Buddhist monks, or bhikkhus, wandered from place to place, settling down in communities only during the rainy season when travel was difficult. Each of the settled communities that developed later was independent and democratically organized. Monastic life was governed by the rules of the Vinaya, one of the three canonical collections of scripture. Fortnightly, a formal assembly of monks, the uposatha, was held in each community. Central to this observance was the formal recitation of the Vinaya rules and the public confession of all violations. The sangha included an order for nuns as well as for monks, a unique feature among Indian monastic orders. Theravada monks and nuns were celibate and obtained their food in the form of alms on a daily round of the homes of lay devotees. The Zen school came to disregard the rule that members of the sangha should live on alms. Part of the discipline of this sect required its members to work in the fields to earn their own food. In Japan the popular Shin school, a branch of Pure Land, allows its priests to marry and raise families. Among the traditional functions of the Buddhist monks are the performance of funerals and memorial services in honour of the dead. Major elements of such services include the chanting of scripture and transfer of merit for the benefit of the deceased.

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[b]B Lay Worship[/b]

Lay worship in Buddhism is primarily individual rather than congregational. Since earliest times a common expression of faith for laity and members of the sangha alike has been taking the Three Refuges, that is, reciting the formula “I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the dharma. I take refuge in the sangha”. Although technically the Buddha is not worshipped in Theravada, veneration is shown through the stupa cult. A stupa is a dome-like sacred structure containing a relic. Devotees walk around the dome in a clockwise direction, carrying flowers and incense as a sign of reverence. The relic of the Buddha's tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is the focus of an especially popular festival on the Buddha's birthday. The Buddha's birthday is celebrated in every Buddhist country. In Theravada this celebration is known as Vesakha, after the month in which the Buddha was born. Popular in Theravada lands is a ceremony known as pirit, or protection, in which readings from a collection of protective sutras from the Pali canon are conducted to exorcise evil spirits, cure illness, bless new buildings, and achieve other benefits.

In Mahayana countries ritual is more important than in Theravada. Images of the buddhas and bodhisattvas on temple altars and in the homes of devotees serve as a focus for worship. Prayer and chanting are common acts of devotion, as are offerings of fruit, flowers, and incense. One of the most popular festivals in China and Japan is the Ullambana Festival, in which offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to hungry ghosts. It is held that during this celebration the gates to the other world are open so that departed spirits can return to Earth for a brief time.

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[b]C Buddhism Today[/b]

One of the lasting strengths of Buddhism has been its ability to adapt to changing conditions and to a variety of cultures. It is philosophically opposed to materialism, especially of the Marxist-Communist variety. Buddhism does not recognize a conflict between itself and modern science. On the contrary, it holds that the Buddha applied the experimental approach to questions of ultimate truth.

In Thailand and Burma, Buddhism remains strong. Reacting to charges of being socially unconcerned, its monks have become involved in various social welfare projects. Although Buddhism in India largely died out after the 12th century, resurgence on a small scale was sparked by the conversion of 3.5 million former members of the untouchable caste, under the leadership of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, beginning in 1956. A similar renewal of Buddhism in Sri Lanka dates from the 19th century.

Under the Communist republics in Asia, Buddhism has faced a more difficult time. In China, for example, it continues to exist, although under strict government regulation and supervision. Many monasteries and temples have been converted to schools, dispensaries, and other public use. Monks and nuns have been required to undertake employment in addition to their religious functions. Falun Gong, a mystical sect associated with Buddhism, gained a large following within China and worldwide during the 1990s. The sect was banned by the Chinese government in 1999, and a number of followers have been imprisoned. In Tibet, the Chinese, after their takeover and the escape of the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist officials into India in 1959, attempted to undercut Buddhist influence.

Only in Japan since World War II have truly new Buddhist movements arisen. Notable among these is Soka Gakkai, the Value Creation Society, a lay movement associated with Nichiren Buddhism. It is noted for its effective organization, aggressive conversion techniques, and use of mass media, as well as for its nationalism. It promises material benefit and worldly happiness to its believers. Since 1956 it has been involved in Japanese politics, running candidates for office under the banner of its Komeito, or Clean Government party.

Growing interest in Asian culture and spiritual values in the West has led to the development of a number of societies devoted to the study and practice of Buddhism. Zen has grown in the West to encompass meditation centres and a number of actual monasteries. Interest in Vajrayana has also increased.

As its influence in the West slowly grows, Buddhism is once again beginning to undergo a process of acculturation to its new environment. Although its influence in the West is still small, it seems that new, distinctively Western forms of Buddhism may eventually develop.

[b]Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2004. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources[/i][/b]


[b]People:[/b] Population: 125, 449, 703. Age distrib. (%): <15: 16; 65+: 15. Pop. density: 860 per sq. mi. Urban: 78%. Ethnic groups: Japanese 99.4%, other (mostly Korean) 0.6%. Principal language: Japanese. Religions: Buddhism, Shintoism shared by large majority.

[b]Geography:[/b] Area: 145, 850 sq. mi. Location: Archipelago off E coast of Asia. Neighbors: Russia on N, South Korea on W. Topography: Japan consists of 4 main islands: Honshu ("mainland"), 87, 805 sq. mi.; Hokkaido, 30, 144 sq. mi.; Kyushu, 14, 114 sq. mi.; and Shikoku, 7, 049 sq. mi. The coast, deeply indented, measures 16, 654 mi. The northern islands are a continuation of the Sakhalin Mts. The Kunlun range of China continues into southern islands, the ranges meeting in the Japanese Alps. In a vast transverse fissure crossing Honshu E-W rises a group of volcanoes, mostly extinct or inactive, including 12, 388 ft. Mt. Fuji (Fujiyama) near Tokyo. Capital: Tokyo. Cities (1994 est.): Tokyo 8.0 mln.; Yokohama 3.3 mln.; Osaka 2.6 mln.; Nagoya 2.2 mln.; Sapporo 1.7 mln.; Kyoto 1.5 mln.; Kobe 1.5 mln.; Fukuoka 1.3 mln.; Kawasaki 1.2 mln.; Hiroshima 1.1 mil.

[b]Government:[/b] Type: Parliamentary democracy. Head of state: Emp. Akihito; b Dec. 23, 1933; in office: Jan. 7, 1989. Head of government: Prime Min. Ryutaro Hashimoto; b July 29, 1937; in office: Jan. 11, 1996. Local divisions: 47 prefectures. Defense: 1% of GDP (FY 1995-96). Active troop strength: 239, 500.

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[b]Economy:[/b] Industries: Electrical & electronic equip., autos, machinery, chemicals. Chief crops: Rice, sugar, beets, vegetables, fruits. Arable land: 13%. Livestock (1994): cattle: 5.0 mln.; pigs: 10.6 mil. Fish catch (1993): 8.7 mil metric tons. Electricity prod. (1993): 840 bil kWh. Labor force: 54% services & trade; 33% manuf. & mining; 7% agric.
Finance: Monetary unit: Yen (June 1996: 110 = $1 US). Gross domestic product (1994): $2.53 trl.* Per capita GDP: $20, 200. Imports (1994): $274.3 bln.; partners: SE Asia 25%, U.S. 23%, China 9%. Exports (1994): $395.5 bln.; partners: SE Asia 33%, U.S. 29%. Tourism (1993): $3.6 bil. National budget (1994): $671 bil. International reserves less gold (May 1996): $207 bil. Gold: 24.23 mil oz t. Consumer prices (change in 1995): -0.1%.

[b]Transport:[/b] Railroads: Length: 23, 690 mi. Motor vehicles: in use: 40.8 mil passenger cars, 22.5 mil comm. vehicles. Civil aviation: 69.3 bil passenger-mi.; 74 airports with scheduled flights. Chief ports: Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, Chiba, Kawasaki, Hakodate.
Communications: Television sets: 1 per 1.2 persons. Radios: 1 per 1.1 persons. Telephones: 1 per 2.1 persons. Daily newspaper circ.: 576 per 1, 000 pop.

[b]Health:[/b] Life expectancy at birth (1996): 77 male; 83 female. Births (per 1, 000 pop.): 10. Deaths (per 1, 000 pop.): 8. Natural increase: 0.3%. Hospital beds: 1 per 74 persons. Physicians: 1 per 566 persons. Infant mortality (per 1, 000 live births 1996): 4.
Education: Literacy (1994): 100%. Free and compulsory: ages 6-15.
Major International Organizations: UN and all its specialized agencies, OECD.

[b]Embassy:[/b] 2520 Massachusetts Ave. NW 20008; 939-6700.

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[b]A[/b]ccording to Japanese legend, the empire was founded by Emperor Jimmu, 660 bc, but earliest records of a unified Japan date from 1, 000 years later. Chinese influence was strong in the formation of Japanese civilization. Buddhism was introduced before the 6th century ad.
A feudal system, with locally powerful noble families and their samurai warrior retainers, dominated from 1192. Central power was held by successive families of shoguns (military dictators), 1192-1867, until recovered by the Emperor Meiji, 1868. The Portuguese and Dutch had minor trade with Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries; U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry opened it to U.S. trade in a treaty ratified 1854. Japan fought China, 1894-95, gaining Taiwan. After war with Russia, 1904-5, Russia ceded S half of Sakhalin and gave concessions in China. Japan annexed Korea 1910. In World War I Japan ousted Germany from Shandong in China, took over German Pacific islands. Japan took Manchuria 1931, started war with China 1932. Japan launched war against the U.S. by attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Aug. 6, and Nagasaki, Aug. 9, 1945. Japan surrendered Aug. 14, 1945. Japan apologized Aug. 15, 1995, for its acts of "colonial rule and aggression" during World War II.

In a new constitution adopted May 3, 1947, Japan renounced the right to wage war; the emperor gave up claims to divinity; the Diet became the sole law-making authority.
The U.S. and 48 other non-communist nations signed a peace treaty and the U.S. a bilateral defense agreement with Japan, in San Francisco Sept. 8, 1951, restoring Japan's sovereignty as of April 28, 1952.

On June 26, 1968, the U.S. returned to Japanese control the Bonin Is., the Volcano Is. (including Iwo Jima), and Marcus Is. On May 15, 1972, Okinawa, the other Ryukyu Is., and the Daito Is. were returned by the U.S.; it was agreed the U.S. would continue to maintain military bases on Okinawa.

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Industrialization was begun in the late 19th century. After World War II, Japan emerged as one of the most powerful economies in the world, and as a leader in technology.
The U.S. and EU member nations have criticized Japan for its restrictive policy on imports, which has given Japan a substantial trade surplus.

The Recruit scandal, the nation's worst political scandal since World War II, which involved illegal political donations and stock trading, led to the resignation of Premier Noboru Takeshita in May 1989. A series of scandals rocked Japan's financial sector in 1991.

Following new political scandals, the Liberal Democratic Party was denied a majority in general elections July 18, 1993. The LDP had held power since it was founded in 1955. Morihiro Hosokawa, a reformer, was chosen prime minister Aug. 6; he initiated reforms but resigned Apr. 8, 1994, because of controversy over his financial connections. His replacement, Tsutomu Hata, resigned June 25, to be replaced by Japan's first Socialist premier since 1947-48, Tomiichi Murayama.
An earthquake in the Kobe area, Jan. 17, 1995, claimed more than 6, 300 lives, injured nearly 35, 000, and caused over $90 billion in property damage. On Mar. 20, a nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway (blamed on a religious cult) killed 12 and injured thousands. Public anger at the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa schoolgirl by 3 U.S. servicemen, Sept. 4, led the U.S. to begin reducing its military presence there.

Murayama resigned as prime minister, Jan. 5, 1996, and was replaced by Ryutaro Hashimoto of the LDP. He signed a joint security declaration with U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in Tokyo, Apr. 17. In a nonbinding referendum Sept. 8, Okinawan voters called for further US troop reductions.

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[b]Source[/b]

---------------------------------------------------------
[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia[/i][/b]

The leading industrial state of Eastern Asia and of the non-Western world, Japan rivals the most advanced economic powers of the West. It rose rapidly from a crushing military defeat in World War II to achieve the fastest-growing economy of any major country in the postwar period. Today only the United States outproduces it, although the industrialization of China poses a strong challenge.
The Meiji Restoration of 1868 launched Japan onto the road of modernization. The Japanese skillfully developed the technological base for modern industry and built their country into a leading world power. Set back temporarily by wartime destruction and the consequences of military defeat, Japan has again become a world power. This time, however, its reputation is based not on armed might but on the productivity of its peacetime industry.
The Japanese people enjoy an unprecedented supply of goods. Their swelling cities, paced by the giant metropolis of Tokyo, are as modern as urban centers anywhere in the world. Japanese people face the problems that most inhabitants of great cities everywhere face--overcrowded housing, inadequate waste-disposal facilities, air and water pollution, and traffic congestion.
In few other places in the world do the values and traditions of the past continue to flourish so strongly alongside the ideas and practices of the present. The persisting contrast between the new and the old, the modern and the traditional, is one of the most characteristic features of present-day Japan.

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