The Patriarchal Family Paradigm
in Eighth-Century Japan
As it developed in early China, “Confucianism” can best be characterized as an ethical system built on hierarchies of human relationships known as the “three bonds” (sankō) and “five relations” (gorin). The three bonds distinguish primary functional pairings—those between ruler and minister, father and son, and husband and wife. The five relations, as they were articulated by the classical philosopher Mencius (ca. 372–289 b.c.e.), cover a broader spectrum of relationships: filiality between father and son, loyalty between ruler and minister, differential harmony between husband and wife, precedence between elder and younger sibs, and trust between friends. 1
In China, from the Han dynasty reign of Emperor Wu (141–87 b.c.e.) onward, canonical texts articulating rites and ethics of virtuous propriety based on these hierarchies were promulgated by successive dynasties. To the extent that the fatherhusband was the head of both family and state, we may refer to this system of ethical values and priorities as the “patriarchal family paradigm. ” As I make clear below, the ideal family thus prescribed is marked by gender hierarchy, patrilineal descent, and virilocal residence. By the time of the Tang dynasty (618–907), lawmakers were eager to nurture this paradigm with legislation, as evidenced by the Tang penal and administrative codes. Beyond Tang times, this paradigm as the ethical core of the Chinese state was adopted to varying degrees by states along Tang China's borders. Early Japan was one example.
FAMILY PARADIGM IN EARLY JAPAN
Transmission of classical Chinese texts and ideas was under way on the Japanese archipelago by the late fifth century. Hierarchical protocols for courtly behavior drawn from Chinese texts were evident, for example, in Prince Shōtoku's