The two paths of writing and warring in medieval Japan

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The terms "civil" bun and "military" bu reflect changing views of governance in Japan. Initially, only members of the court could possess both skills. Even after the rise of the Kamakura bakufu, Japan's first warrior government in 1185, scribes or chamberlains, rather than warriors, were thought to master both bun and bu. During the fourteenth century, a competing concepts of "public authority" came to describe Kamakura's successor state, the Ashikaga bakufu, while the notions of civil and military came to refer to specialized knowledge of military texts. Ultimately, the seventeenth century witnessed the resurgence of the bun and bu ideal as a metaphor for governance, albeit one where expertise in civilian and military arts became redefined as the prerogative of Tokugawa warriors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-127
Number of pages43
JournalTaiwan Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Ashikaga bakufu
  • Chamberlains (kurǒdo)
  • Civil (bun) and military (bu)
  • Court
  • Kamakura bakufu
  • Public military authority (kǒbu)
  • Scribes (tegaki)
  • Warrior ideals


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