Hayashi Razan (林羅山)

Razan HAYASHI (1583-1657) was the founder of the HAYASHI (or RIN) clan of Neo-Confucianism in the early years of the Edo period. Razan was an adopted name, his real name being Nobukatsu. His azana (courtesy name given to adult males) was Shishin (子信).
He was popularly known as Matasaburo
When he became a Buddhist priest, he took the Buddhist name of Doshun.

Brief personal history

He was adopted by his uncle soon after he was born in Kyoto in 1583. Reputed to be brilliant from an early age, he entered Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto to study Buddhism in 1595, but refused to enter the priesthood and returned to his family.

In his private studies he became increasingly absorbed in neo-Confucianism, and met Seika FUJIWARA in 1604. Razan was greatly influenced both spiritually and academically by his encounter with Seika, and Seika was surprised by Razan's brilliance and introduced Razan to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in the following year, 1605. On Seika's advice, Ieyasu kept Razan close at hand from that point onwards. Singled out by Ieyasu, Razan became the brains behind Ieyasu at the young age of twenty-three.

In 1606, he was involved in "chikyu-ronso (controversy over the Earth)" with Irmao Fabian, a Japanese monk who belonged to the Society of Jesus. Razan HAYASHI refused to accept that the earth was round and revolves around the Sun, advocating instead the theory that the earth was rectangular and sat at the center of the universe. The dispute ended with Razan HAYASHI winning the argument and Fabian would later question and subsequently abandon his faith.

In 1607, Razan went to Edo and taught the second shogun, Hidetada TOKUGAWA (the third son of Ieyasu). In 1624, he was appointed teacher of the third shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA (the eldest son of Hidetada), and subsequently joined the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) government. He was responsible for drafting Laws for the Military Houses in 1635, and managed the ceremony of visiting Ise-jingu Shrine in 1636.

Furthermore, in 1632, he was entrusted with a school in Ueno-Shinobugaoka which he named Senseiden. This school later became Shoheizaka Gakumonjo. Shoheizaka Gakumonjo was a school controlled by the Edo bakufu, and played a central role in propagating Confucianism.

Razan played an important role in the foundation of the newly-fledged bakufu, creating various systems and regulations governing matters such as courtesy. He removed all subjects other than Confucianism and Shintoism from the syllabus, and contributed to the development of neo-Confucianism and the promotion of Confucianism as the learning of government. Razan was not only well-read, but had a number of other interests, including the penning of books on his travels and other subjects.

The Hayashi (or RIN) family provided the Director of the Bureau of Education from the time of Hoko HAYASHI (grandchild of Razan and the third generation of the family), and would later provide officials for the inherited post responsible for education in the bakufu (they were also entrusted with the management of the Suruga library).

Razan was a devoted husband, and, on the death of his wife in 1656, composed twenty-six poems in mourning. The following year (1657), he lost his residence and library in the Great Fire of Meireki, and died four days later. His grave is in Ichigaya Yamabushi-cho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Prefecture.


As a Neo-Confucian Scholar, Razan HAYASHI expounded a dualism in which all things are composed of "ri (reason)" and "ki (body)" and described an ideal by which reason would govern lust in the same way that laws govern phenomena. He also expounded the theory of fixed division between uppers and lowers, and legitimized in Edo society a hierarchy with samurai at the top, followed by farmers, artisans, and merchants.