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Chivalry versus Bushido

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 2:19 pm
by f.Channell
I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss the difference between Chivarlry and Bushido.
Or the multitude of similiarities.


PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:42 pm
by Shana Moore
I look forward to reading the responses on this interesting topic. Thank you for posting it! I am only beginning to look into Bushido, but I do have more than a passing familiarity with some of the concepts of Chivalry, so I can offer a starting point, if you will:

I understand that both Bushido and Chivalry were mostly unwritten codes of conduct for upper class warriors. I think Chivalric codes had more spoken and written authors, but they rarely agreed on all topics and often had regional differences in conduct and emphasis.

Both Bushido and Chivalry emphasized honour, courage, and some type of code of courtesy/conduct. These aspects of courage/honour/conduct were an essential part of the central foundation of military skill with a variety of weapons. This martial skill included a component of strategy as well as how one treated one's enemies in combat/capture scenarios.

Both, to my understanding, emphasized a loyalty to the concept of Chivalry/Bushido. I think that Chivalry, over time, came to emphasize more of a religious loyalty to king and god than Bushido does to Buddhism and Confucianism or the emperor, but that is mostly supposition on my part. The ritualistic sides of knighthood often emphasized, at least in later times, a duty and service to god. I’d be very interested in those who know more of Bushido’s concepts of loyalty and the focus of that loyalty.

I know that Chivalry’s concepts changed greatly over time, as the Chivalry of the 11th and 13th century varies considerably form the chivalry of the 15th and 16th century and even from the concept today. These changes are due in part to the rising influence of Catholicism and Anglicanism, as well as the growing concept of courtly love during the medieval periods.... not to mention the romanticizing of chivalry in more modern times. Let us not forget that both of these codes were based on a military foundation in times that were not always kind or easy.

One significant difference between the two is the concept of pageantry vs. frugality. It is my understanding that Bushido focused on a frugality of style and expression that was similar to the Spartan attitudes of Greece (that being the closest analogy I can find, and may not be wholly accurate). Much of medieval chivalry involved a great expression of pageantry.
Knights were well versed in the complex laws of heraldry, where one bears a representative set of arms that can represents much about you and your family. A proper knowledge of heraldry could help you determine - -having never met your opponent - - if they were a bastard son or heir, and some clues as to the foundation of their wealth or family history.
Landed nobles held tournaments where their knights would compete, often at real and great risk, for mostly symbolic honours. It was not unusual to see elaborate displays of heraldry on and off the field for these types of events. If noble illuminated manuscripts known as "book of days" are to be believed, elaborate hunts were also held with fine court dress and heraldic display as men and women of the 13th and 14th century courts took a day or so to enjoy the sport of the hunt and the excuse to get out of doors. I, personally, think that many of these paintings idealized the settings and circumstances, but the pageantry was still a central part of these events.
Courtesy and treatment of guests, especially other landed nobility, was treated as an event where animals would be slaughtered and a feast of many removes (courses) might be offered. These feasts could cost the host a season's worth of food if they were held at the wrong time, and a slaughtered animal was usually held for religious holidays and special events. It was not a typical occurrence, and to have multiple animals slaughtered was truly extravagant.

I offer these as a starting point based on my own reading and research. Any inaccuracies are my own. I look forward to seeing other opinions and thoughts on this matter!

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:35 pm
by f.Channell
Hi Shana,

A samurai was loyal and dutiful to their superior. Samurai from what I've read means "to serve" to the point at which failure can simply not be lived with. Thus came about ritual suicide. And this later appeared in WWII as well. No to think of course suicide missions are exclusive of the Japanese, a suicide mission sank a Union naval ship during the Civil War.
One of the difference which seem apparent are the treatment of women. I see nothing in my readings that spell out how women should be treated in Bushido. Of course Chivalry still was a part of my upbringing, hitting a girl even if she hit you was simply not allowed. Although a specific rule book doesn't seem to have been written, there are many writings which I can draw from, some bizarre, which I'll research and dig out a few of.
There are 7 basic principles held highly in Bushido. In fact the samurai pants or hakama, have 7 pleats.
More later, please elaborate more on chivalry.


PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 7:27 pm
by Shana Moore
Unraveling Chilvarly and it's view on women or the role of women in the middle ages is a bit complex. It depended on the century, the region, some cases...the woman herself.

Let me start here: the concept of "not hitting a girl" as chilvalrous is a more modern interpretation of chilvalry. Chilvalry generally did hold to the concept of not attacking an unarmed opponent, protecting the innocent, and respecting women. That last is the one that probably had the most variation in practice. However, actual practice could vary greatly. In some areas, the Lady of the household was the head of the castle. This could mean everything from she actually ran the castle, held the key to the spice cabinets (a very high honor), and determiend who did what/when to maintain the household. In some areas, this included organizing the home guard when the lord of the house was out to war/hunt/etc. In others, the lady was the head of the household in name only, a second class citizen, and most of the true chores of running a household were handled by a seneschal or chatelaine.

The concept of courtley love is often quoted as enobling love and elevating the status of the lady of the house or ladies of the house to a platform of exceeding height. Well....courtly love was a creation of the court troubadours who sought to entertain the ladies of the castle with something other than the usual soldier tales of battle and valour. From teh 12th to 14th century it changed a bit, always...the idealized version of song and tale could often be far from the reality of nitty gritty life.

However, I find one hypothesis I read recently to have some good points. It stated that the concept and practice of courtly love was a great way to keep young lords, especially those without lands, in line and away from mischief, by encouraging noble deeds and service in the name of thier Lady. It should also be noted here, that the said Lady, was often unkown or not openly stated to most of the court, as Courtly love was not meant to be a public wooing or even a physical relationship. Which...if the Lady of the household was the object of esteem and honour of many young men in the castle...would be a smart thing. I find this theory makes a lot of sense in many ways.

So, long story short (I know, too late :oops: ), the ideal of chilvalry has women respected and held on a pedestal where deeds of honour and valour are piled at her feet, to show the regard and respect the Knight or Lord holds for her. In practice, the actual treatment could vary.

Need we go into the story of Tristan and Isolde? :wink:

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:15 am
by f.Channell
I'm sure chivalry changed throuh the years, as did bushido.
Great stuff you brought up. You seem quite knowledgeable. I actually don't know about Tristan, but I'll read up on it.
Chivalry from what I've read seemed to be present in several different areas. It even was present in Arab countries, which surprised me as they don't seem to have a tradition to women of which you spoke.
I haven't seen anything in Bushido which gives rules regarding treatment of women. So this was a good start to point out some differences.

Compensation may be an interesting area to discuss. I know Samurai where not allowed to handle money, yet they had beautiful armor and other weapons. So in some regards on the surface they may seem more wordly, but I'm not so sure they were less grandiose or flashy than their western counterparts.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:56 pm
by Shana Moore
Hmmmm, interesting thoughts, and thank you. I played with a medieval recreation group for aproximately 7 years. Participation and actual historical learning varies by person, but I loved learning about the culture and the realities of life in that time period. That's why I like books and movies where the broadsword fighters get tired....those suckers are HEAVY! Even regular training means most fights were not long drawn out events....but I digress....

We actually had a samurai group or two in the SCA, and thier armour was GE-or-GE-ous. My understanding is that they made it all themselves, and it was quite effective against the ratan weapons we used in combat. The image was stunning and impressive, and all handmade with the exception of a few hard metal points required by our combat rules for protection. Now, some of the medieval armour was also handmade, but the more elaborate plate metal was always made by a professional armourer. The articulation of leather and metal plates in samurai armour seemed more conducive to "homemade" than the artciulation in plate armour. I suspect this was due to the lacing versus riveting, etc. and simply how the armour fit together.

So my point answer to your question of patronage/ I suspect that there was some patronage of Samurai, but I think they may have had an easier time in creating elaborate image with minimal assistance. Whereas a medieval knight would require an armourer and blacksmith, as well as other support for the padding, etc. Also, I had a chance to talk with some of the oriental fighters, and check out their set up. In general, it was much lighter and tended to be more comfortable. They didn't have as many layers as the medieval plate, it was lighter, the plate articulation in the body core made it more manueverable in some ways (perhaps more vulnerable, but these guys were FAST!), and they wore a thicker gi-like garment, but didnt' wear padded gambesons, etc. When we fought in very hot climates, they tended to fair better because they had fewer layers, etc.

I know that Landed lords were required to pay patronage (taxes) to thier king, particularly in time of war, and any knights connected to a landed lord were also required to provide service and certain duties in response to the housing and board they received. Some knights had there own small parcels of land and were required to give a portion of thier take to thier liege lord....and as always..this could vary by region, etc. I'm not certain, but I suspect the knights got arm/armour upkeep and outfitting as part of the return package.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:59 pm
by Shana Moore
Also, on the arab/women topic...I think the courtley love was more of a european conceit.


PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:03 pm
I have been down and out for a bit, thank you Shana and Sensei Fred for keeping the forum a bit alive.

I have Turnbulls "Book of the Medieval Knight" ,b but it starts in the 14th Century with the refence to "A New Arthur", in this case, Robert the Bruce.

Not much chivalry was shown his family (and it was left out of the movie) as Longshank and his son hung the Bruce's daughter in an iron cage on an English fortress untill "The Bruce" ransomed her free with captives from Bannockburn, at which time he ransomed his wife, Elizabeth, free from prison.

Her father was a Norman/Irish Lord named "De Burgh" (morphed into "Burke") and that alone, probably saved her life.

Never the less, Turnbull does compare the Knight and the Samurai and I will post some excerpts.

Shana, I like your logo, can you tell us something of it?

Another thought is that the "chivalric Code" does not seem to have been written in a uniform matter, as I understand Bushido may have been.

Any comments on that as I cannot substantiate it.

My recollections from Sensei Mike's posting was that the Code of Bushido" was rendered in writing and morphed over the years.

He is the expert on it I think.

I have no recollections "the Code of Chivalry" ever being wriiten in any uniform fashion, but was, perhaps, governed by Custom.

Chivarly, of course, shares the root of "Chevalier" (horseman).

Custom, however, often has the force of law.

Some names among the best of the Chevaliers:

Le Chevalier Bayard (the knight sans peur and sans reproche) killed in battle, Sir John Chandos, killed at Bannockburn, Robert The Bruce, William the Marichal. Henry IV, The "Black Prince", Arundel, Edward III, Roderigo Diaz De Bivar (El Cid, although Al Sayyid seems to mean the 'butcher" in Arabic) Charles the Great (Charlemagne) Charles Martel (the hammer)may be placed of a "Knights of note" list.

There were many famous warriors on horseback, such as Richard II, whom our notions of chivalry could not be applied (especially after Richard's Massacre of 5000 Islamic Prisoners at Acre) No comment seems necessary Re: Richard the III.

Balian (of the Kingdom of heaven) was a real character of history, and was present at Salah a Dins' destruction of the Crusader Army at the Horns of Hattin (he commanded the third division) .

He did escape the debacle and, more or less as in the Movie, lead the defense of Jerusalem, "Knight" some commoners and surrender the city on terms.

The Norman French leaders of the 1st Crusade; Tancred the Great, Godfrey de Boulion, De Bohemond of 2 centuries earlier were certainly great fighters, but their adherence to any code is not known to me.

So I will pull out Turnbull's book and see what he has to say.

Howver the so called 'chivalric period" covered a great deal ot time, arguably from the 10th to the 16th century, and it is hard to pin matters down.

Of the time in Europe, H.G. Wells said, as feuadalism was mostly concurrent with the Chivalric period, "it was a time in which public law became private obligation". He particularly characterizes Norman feudalism as "iron Handed" and this does not seem to equate well with our notions of "chivalry".

Re: Hi

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:40 pm
by Shana Moore
Welcome back John! I hope all is well! This has been a very enjoyable discussion, and it is my pleasure to add to it in some way.

JOHN THURSTON wrote:Robert the Bruce-Not much chivalry was shown his family [...]
Another thought is that the "chivalric Code" does not seem to have been written in a uniform matter, as I understand Bushido may have been.[...]
I have no recollections "the Code of Chivalry" ever being wriiten in any uniform fashion, but was, perhaps, governed by Custom.[...]
Howver the so called 'chivalric period" covered a great deal ot time, arguably from the 10th to the 16th century, and it is hard to pin matters down.

Of the time in Europe, H.G. Wells said, as feuadalism was mostly concurrent with the Chivalric period, "it was a time in which public law became private obligation". He particularly characterizes Norman feudalism as "iron Handed" and this does not seem to equate well with our notions of "chivalry".

Three really good points here: First, the written or assumed code of chilvalry didn't always match the reality. Second, the written form of the Chilvalric Code, and finally, the time period covered is large (and as I've mentioned the area covered was large as well).

Going back to the earlier discussion of courtly love, there is the idealized version of how things "should be" and the reality of how things are/were. To futher complicate that, our version of chilvalry and the medieval period has suffered a bit of idealized romanticism as well (let's blame the Victorians for much of that, but that's not entirely accurate either).

I believe that the code of Chilvalry and Bushido both arose out of a need to impose some order in an otherwise chaotic and changeable time. The core part of the Arthurian mythos, that I have always thought had a good ring of truth, was that the Knights of the roundtable were created to foster justice and order. If every little feudal idiot with some land could rule as he wanted, there would be a lot of confusion and trouble. I think the Code of Chilvalry (and Bushido) helped to set an even field for all...of course, you always have those who ignore the rules or consider them...suggestions.

That said, I am aware of there being several books/treatises on chilvalry, but I cannot say I have personally read any of them in full. I know that they often varied in their point of view, so I would view them as personal treatises/opinions, not the generally accepted or "official" code of all. From what I've read I think there were generally accepted concepts, but no formalized CODE. If you are interested in looking further, I remember seeing something, somewhere on a French writer...Gautier?, but I'm sure there were others. Sorry I can't be more specific. I'll have to pull out my medieval books and see if I can track down more specifics.

As for the time and regions covered, I think that complicates things. Europe during that 1000 years or so was very diverse with many pockets of cultural difference. I can't speak to whether Bushido developed in such a widely diverse culture, as I look at Oriental culture as more homogeanous...I would love clarication on that point!

Shana, I like your logo, can you tell us something of it?

Thank you! It's a Celtic Tree of Life. It was a common heraldic and illumination tool in the 12th-14th century to do a lot of celtic knotwork that often involved plants and animals. I find this particular symbol to have many layers of meaning, personally.

I believe the style is very medieval; although I cannot confirm 100% that this particular pattern is historical. The Book of Kells does have abstract knotwork of vines and leaves., but I'm not certain the twists of branches/roots in this circular pattern are historical. I beleive it's a more modern interpretation. Most recent interpretations show the tree shown here, which is taken from a pendant I wear, and then the familiar Book of Kells border of leaves/vines around it. This border usually starts from a cauldron or urn, representing the cradle of life, and the twisting vines/leaves representing growth, cycles, and twists/turns, etc.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:19 pm
Yes, as I have some Celtic blood, your logo apeared very attractive to me.

I was interesting to verify the historical existence of Balian of Ibelin and his presence at Hattin.

Richard II treatment of the prisoners at Acre sort of illustrates that his obligagtions and moral 'code" were personal-to his retainers and, if he had any, Overlords.

I believe a great deal of fighting took place because he may have given an "oath of fealty" to Phillipe Auguste of France, and deeply resented it.

By our standards, he was a bad King, but by the standards of the time, he was quite the opposite.

It is difficullt to get information of two of the greatest knights, Le Chevalier Bayard and Sir John Chandos.

But, in the absence ot a true public law and being bound mostly by a complex matrix of oaths of fealty and homage, chivarly prbably did not morph into anything near "chivalry" until the 16th century.

There were public laws, but a Knight probably felt bound first, to his own followers in his own fief, second, by his oath to his oaths as vassal to various overlords, and lastly to a slowly developing code of laws and nation state which did not complete itslef until the 17th Century.

the Dark ages were, perhaps, not so much Dark, as seen different torchlight as opposed to any other type of illumination.

"Courtly love" even in 16th century Spain, required Politeness to the bride to be, depending on her father's power, the dowry, and the general "political"nature of marriage.

Proper behaviour may have continued after marriage, because a knight or other 'gentleperson' (sic') did not want the "damsels" father looking for the dowry back.

Regarding Tristan and Isolde, (early in the development of a nation wide fuedalism in Wales and Ireland and perhaps such matters became more 'structured" as the Norman version of feudalism spread though many countries.

The "King" seems to have little interest in meddling in private feud unless asked to do so by a vassal who had given him fealty.

Wales and Scotland were late in being incorporated into the system of oaths the "English" (a 'bloody Sassenach" after all) King eventually gathered under him.

The Normans conquered Ireland for themselves, something the Romans did not attempt and something the English Crown was not very succesful with.

Norman Irish Lords may may have owed fealty to the King of England, but This oath had nothing to do with matters undertaken on their own behalf. (rage and pillage of land not owned by said King).

So the Normans conquered, in effect, Ireland, Ireland was not necessarily therefore conquered by "a nation state called England".

But Elizabeth De Burgh's father did owe fealty to Edward Longshanks and Edward Caernavon in the 14th Century.

The Bruce could be called a Scottish/Norman King and the Edwards; Anglo Norman Rulers. The Brice held lands inder oath, to the King of England, and "English" border nobility owed fealtty for their land, in many cases, to the throne of Scotland.

So, it all seems crazy to us, I guess.

Longshanks closed the 'lords' of Scotland (on the guise of a meeting") up in a church and did not release them until they had given fealty to him.

But, if nothing else is true, The Bruce truly loved Elizabeth DeBurgh and Christina MacMorrie (his mistress while Elizabeth and Bruce's daughter were in prison, Non Camobatant prisoners of war, it should be noted)

Nigel Trantor alleges Elizabeth gave written leave to Robert to enter into a liason with Christina as "my lord you are a luisty man and to abstain would do you ill. I know you love me and, if i am ever relesed, we will be together again">.

Christina accepted the situation as well, allegedly, and there were no 'cat fights" between Christina and Elizabeth when the latter's release was won,



PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:47 pm
by mikemurphy
Hi John,

I have been extremely busy as of late and haven't checked in for a long time. I love this topic, although I am very rusty on it and hardly an expert (but thanks for the plug).

The word samurai comes from the Japanese very samaru which means to serve. Without getting into too much tangental information, the samurai worked for the shogun or daimyo (lord) or whomever (although there were masterless ones of course - ronin). Most lived by the unwritten code of bushido. It has been written about in modern times, but back in feudal Japan it was not. You were born into Samurai lineage, so you couldn't earn the right to be a samurai.

The Code used in feudal Japan and the warped code utilized in 1920-1940's militaristic Japan were not the same. I think people like to look at the ritualistic suicide (seppaku) from feudal Japan and think it was the same with Kamikaze (divine wind) of WWII Japan. It was not. The pilots picked to be Kamikaze pilots or Kaiten (suicide torpedoes) were for the most part not volunteers rushing off to die for their emperor and the greater good of Japan. They were young conscripts pressured into "volunteering" for these duties. Anyway, I suppose that's another thread for another day.

As for the comparison of Japanese and European feudal periods. That's always a good topic as there is much to compare. There is also much that is different. I believe the biggest difference is who the warrior serves. In feudal Japan (and still today in many cases) there was a hierarchy. The samurai served his lord first and worked its way down. The warrior himself was the last on the list. In Europe and Western societies, it's the other way around. The feudal knight certainly had tremendous loyalites for the lord or king, but when it came down to it, self-preservation/gratification was #1.

Anyway, have to go and do some real work. Good talking to you.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:29 pm
by Shana Moore
Thank you gentlemen for a fascinating discussion. I'm loving this topic but a bit crazy busy to devote much time to it at the moment...once I get my library back in order, I'll see if my resources have anything of worth to add. Meanwhile, thank you for some great ideas to ponder!

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:21 pm
by f.Channell
From the Hagakure

"Merit lies more in dying for ones master than in striking down the enemy."


"If you are slain in battle, you should be resolved to have your corpse facing the enemy."

One more...

In seeking corrections from others, you excel them.

Another Quote

PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:18 pm
"Duty is hard; but death is lighter than a Feather"

Mike is quite right about most Kamikaze Pilots-the Japanese would maybe risk one decent piliot to lead a flight "engaged in special operations" firt undertaked, I think, after the Phillipine invasion.

The Princeton was lost to aircraft, bit it was one a single plane that really got lucky, and was not a part of the special operations group.

After Midway and the Marianas "Turkey Shoot", the Japanese could not and would risked skilled aircrew on special operations.

Many of the "special operations" Planes were obsolete or trainng aircraft and most pilot had few only a hours of training.

Mike Sensei refers to the Hunleys sinking of the Union Frigate "Housatanic"

Frankly the Hunley's crew must have been nuts, but they sure were not attached to any 'ritual" or intended belief is suicide as a way of war.

The Hunley sank at least two times in testing-taking two other crews with her.

I think I posted a picture on another thread.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:59 pm
by mikemurphy

I was not refering to the CSS Hunley of the US Civil War fame. The CSS Hunley was the first combat submarine in history and which succeeded in its maiden voyage by sinking the USS Houstanic, but sank as a result of the blast. The "torpedo" was an explosive placed on the end of spar in front of the submarine in which the Hunley rammed into the side of the Housatanic that was on blockade duty outside Charleston Harbor in 1863. Hunley did not captain the ship as he died on a test mission before that. General PGT Beauregard has been given credit for allowing the mission to go forth and then magnificantly defending Charleston during a Union offensive.

Anyway (I can talk Civil War anytime), what I was referring to was the Japanese program of Kaiten which were vessels that were smaller than regular submarines that were designed to carry one man on a one way trip. When the Japanese sub spotted an Allied vessel, it could launch the Kaiten and the pilot could steer the explosive laden torpedo into the vessel. There was not enough feul to return to the sub. Obviously they were not that successful.