The Character of a Man in Accordance with Loyalty and Honor

Bushido, the Honor Code of Samurai, which talks about the importance of Honor and Loyalty in Asian culture

Bushido, the Honor Code of Samurai, which talks about the importance of Honor and Loyalty in Asian culture

Loyalty and Honor are important traits valued high in Asian Culture. Loyalty is observed by a man’s sacrifice for the people he loves. Honor is defined by a man’s actions and how he treats others. Together honor and loyalty are what a man’s character is defined by.

Loyalty can be shown by the wiliness to take care of one’s kin, to remember to keep them in mind, and to make sure they are safe. In the novel Taiko, the main character Hideyoshi holds true to this aspect of loyalty and does his best to live up to its meaning. One of his most admirable traits, one that gets him so much attention as the book goes on, is his loyalty to his mother, sister, and lord. Upon leaving his house with the intent of serving a samurai, he vows to his sister, Otsumi, that “when [he] become[s] a great man, [he]’ll clothe [their] mother in silk, and buy [Otsumi] a sash of patterned satin for [her] wedding.” (Taiko, 37) From then on he continues to work hard with the sake of his family in mind. Once he is accepted into service by Nobunaga and becomes of his samurai later on, he still is loyal to his family, sending them food and good clothing like he promised.

Loyalty to one’s family is important but so is loyalty to one’s lord and country. After being accepted in Nobunaga’s servitude Hideyoshi was nothing but loyal to his lord. He took whatever job Nobunaga granted him and did all of his chores and more without hesitation or complaint. When Hideyoshi was put in charge of the firewood and charcoal, despite lowering the total consumption during the winter, it was said that “[he] was not satisfied that had carried out his duties to the fullest.” This attitude is something that stems from Hideyoshi’s total devotion and loyalty to his lord and job. Not only that but when some of Nobunaga’s family and retainers start to talk about turning on him, Hideyoshi was willing to put his own life on the line for his master. When Nobunaga went to castle of his revolting retainers Hideyoshi followed with his fellow sandal bearer and “if something had happened, they had agreed to Kiyosu Castle by sending a smoke signal from the fire tower, and kill the local guards if they had to.” (Taiko, 123) Hideyoshi once refused to even learn martial arts before this but when it came to protecting his lord, Hideyoshi was willing to go as far as killing for him, a sure sign of loyalty.

King Sejong, a man who shows great loyalty to his people

King Sejong, a man who shows great loyalty to his people

The value of loyalty does not simply define a common man but also is representative of someone as powerful as an Emperor or King. In the Korean Drama, Tree with Deep Roots, King Sejong is shown to be a great man thanks to his impressive value of loyalty. As a king, loyalty means being fair and just while keeping the wellbeing of the people who the king governs in mind. As king of his own Joseon, Sejong proves that he is an honorable king as he works to benefit his people. When his father, Taejong, tries to kill Ddol-bok, Sejong gets in the way, protecting the lives of his people with his own despite being a direct disorder to his father. Sejong shows that he cares for his people deeply, willing to put his life on the line for any one of them. Not only that but Sejong defends the right of his people to speak freely and voice their opinions. During a meeting with his scholars and officials, Sejong makes a point that, as king of the people, he has the need to hear all of his people’s voices on the government. Sejong realizes that it’s his job as king to act on the people’s demands and must be able to hear what they have to ask of him. Sejong also realizes that his people need to communicate in order to maintain their own independence, that’s why he creates the Korean written language that is so simple to learn.

One of the most influential players in promoting the importance of the values loyalty and honor is the samurai. Samurai, while native and most commonly related to Japan, can be good examples of the attitude of the Asian culture as a whole. The samurai took many values that were cherished in Asian society and made them part of their everyday lives. Loyalty and Honor are both key virtues in the samurai code of conduct, Bushido. In Inazo Nitobe’s book Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Nitobe talks about Bushido as “a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan as its emblem, the cherry blossom…” (Nitobe, 33) Bushido is something native to Japan but has ideals that can be spread through the entire Asian culture. In the video, the narrator talks about some of the rules that Samurai were expected to follow. Some rules were “Observe proper etiquette” and “do the right thing without hesitation.” These rules could be applied to anyone’s life. For those who followed rules like this could certainly be considered an honorable and just man with good character.

Loyalty has a large part in the Bushido code, being one of the eight virtues that the code exemplifies. Bushido expects true followers to place loyalty to one’s worldly neighbors but, more importantly, those they care for. According to Tim Clark’s Bushido Code: Eight Virtues of the Samurai¸ “real men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted to.” Bushido reminds men that they would not be where they were today without the help of others, no matter how small or large the contributions. To be truly a man of character, one must be aware of those they owe great thanks to and must be ready to do what they must for them.

Bushido also holds Honor in a high regard, often pairing it with loyalty as one of the most essential virtues. Honor in Bushido refers to a samurai’s duty to themselves and the people around them. It requires keeping true to one’s goals and promises. Samurai and followers of the Bushido code must “show compassion for others” as the video says. They must treat others as equals and not as lesser beings, even those less fortunate than them. In his novel, Nitobe writes “The sense of honor, implying a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, could not fail to characterize the samurai, born and bred to value the duties and privileges of their profession.” (Nitobe, 79) Honor is obviously closely tied with the effort and work one puts into their job. A truly honorable man puts all he has into what he does and doesn’t settle for less than the best he can do.

Honor is one of the toughest values to stay true to, because it requires a high moral fiber. In the novel Taiko Hideyoshi is extremely loyal to kin and lord but even when trying his best to stay honorable, it is a difficult task for him to accomplish. In the beginning of the novel he was far from honorable, he used to always get into trouble and become a nuisance for his family. Hideyoshi would frequently be dismissed from his jobs until he went on the path of the samurai. Before even finding a master, Hideyoshi knew that honor was important and made it the number one priority for a good master. He even left his first samurai master because he didn’t think of him as honorable for fueling a war between father and son.

Ddol bok, someone who keeps true to his goals for the sake of his honor

Ddol bok, someone who keeps true to his goals for the sake of his honor

A large part of honor is keeping true to one’s goals and putting everything one has into completing that goal. In Tree with Deep Roots, Chae-yoon, originally known Ddol-bok, is a great example of striving to complete one’s goal, no matter what the consequences are. Chae-yoon vowed to avenge his father and Dam after believing that both of them were killed because of the King. As a kid, Chae-yoon vowed to kill the King and as he grew up, all that he did was to achieve that goal. He joined the army and used it to learn how to fight and to get closer to the king. Along the way Chae-yoon met a master that he avidly sought out to teach him martial arts and assassination techniques so that one day he could employ them to fulfill his goal. Every time Chae-yoon comes in close proximity of Sejong, he calculates the chances of him successfully killing Sejong. Chae-yoon is fully committed to his goal and will stop at nothing to achieve it, no matter how terrible it is in actuality. This admirable trait defines him as a man and showcases his honor as a faithful son and loving friend.

A man’s honor partially comes from the way he interacts with others. Those who find ways to take cares of others, usually complete strangers, without seeking personal gain. In Tim Clark’s Bushido Code: Eight Virtues of the Samurai, Clark mentions that samurai originally meant “one who serves.” Samurai carry out their honor by serving the people in their nation and protecting them from harm. In Taiko, Hideyoshi acted honorably when it came to the protection of his lord and his province. When the men in charge of rebuilding the castle wall in book two were taking over twenty days to finish the job, Hideyoshi stepped in and tackled the problem head on, finishing the project in three days. He received a higher position and an increase in his pay for his efforts but Hideyoshi did it, not for the stature or money, for safety of his people. Hideyoshi said to his subordinates that “it’s not so much this particular construction project or even my own life that concerns me. I worry about the fate of this province in which you all live. But taking over twenty days to do just this little bit of construction – with that kind of spirit, this province is going to perish.” (Yoshikawa, 163) Times like this shows honorable samurai like Hideyoshi are by putting other’s lives and wellbeing before their own safety.

Loyalty and Honor, two of the most important values in Asian culture, helped show the moral fiber of a man’s character. Loyalty can be expressed in many different ways. For all people, caring and looking after one’s kind is one of the base roots of loyalty. When it comes to the relationship between commoners and kings, those who show loyalty to one another regardless of class differences are truly valuable men. In terms of Honor, following it can prove it be difficult at times because it requires the ability to choose what is right rather than what is easy. Honor is personally defined by one’s goals and how attentively they follow those goals. But most importantly, a man’s honor can be observed by watching how he interacts and cares for the people around him, even those he doesn’t know. Without honor and loyalty, a man can’t be considered one of reputable character and thus not worth being called a man at all.

Work Cited:
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York, NY: Kodansha USA, Inc.,
2012. Print

Tree with Deep Roots
Writ. Kim Young Hyun and Park Sang Yu. Dir. Jang Tae Yoo.
SBS TV Korea, 2011. Web

Clark, Tim. “The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai.” Art of (2008)
n. page. Web. 30 April 2014

Nitobe, Inazo. Bushido: The Soul of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.
2002. Print.

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The Character of a Man in Accordance with Loyalty and Honor by Conor McKoy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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