Lei Shi IAH 204






Traveleraccounts of Engelbert Kaempfer and Francois Bernier shed light onAsians’ lifestyle in the Seventeenth Century. For instance,Kaempfer recounts his experiences during the two years he spent inJapan. He describes the characters of large crowds of people thattraveled across the Japan highways dailies. In addition, he describesthe changing patterns of the highway travelers’ population, as wellthe classes, behaviors, and destination of the travelers. The listsvarious travelers ranging from territorial lord’s procession,junrei, prostitutes, pilgrims, and beggars (Sinor 29). On the otherhand, Bernier describes the leadership lineage of the Indian kings.He outlines the achievements of various kings, their family tree, andachievements, religion, and the size of their territories. Throughtheir travel accounts, Kaempfer and Bernier give a view of the socialhierarchy in Asia.

Kaempferdescribes the Japanese as a hierarchical society since constituted byvarious territories that were governed by greater and lesser boundarylords. He asserts that the administration were also among the peoplewho made the seven Japanese highways occasionally busy because thelords traveled at least twice in a year in large entourages fromtheir residence to courts (Kaempfer and Bodart-Bailey 274). Besides,an individual could estimate the wealth and influence of a given lorddepending on the number of people who went along with them in theirlong journeys. It took the travelers several days to pass anentourage of the wealthy lords because they were longer than that ofpoorer leaders. The entourage included people in charge of carryingcargo, supervising servants, porters that carried the lords in sedanchairs and the officials constituting the advisers of the lordsdealing with court matters (Moranand Gerberding 218).

Thelords received high-class treatment during the journey. They weretransported on a carriage (norimono) supported by six to eightpeople. The lord had servants on each side to give them what theyneeded on the way, as well assist him in getting in and out of thesedan chair. The servants accompanying the lords had very highrespect and discipline. The lord’s son was equally respected, buthis retinue followed that of his father. In addition, it was smallerto reflect that he had a lower rank than his father did. If the sonof a lord were traveling with his father, his entourage wouldimmediately follow his father’s (Sinor 19).

Kaempferalso identifies the vendors who owned the stalls. The work of thisgroup of people was urging the travelers to purchase their poorquality goods. The vendors were mostly merchants and farmers who werehelped by their sons to sell their goods. The gods on sale oftenincluded biscuits, cakes, travel maps, ropes, among others. Therewere also travel services provided by vendors. The travelers cameacross people with ready carriages to carry travelers who hadtravelled long distances on foot. These travel services were providedto the travelers for a small fee (Moranand Gerberding 222).

Anotherclass of people Kaempfer describes includes the Japanese inns bothlarge and small had prostitutes who eyed the travelers when they cameto the towns. Other smaller food kiosks also had prostitutes whoenticed the travelers to eat at particular inns. Competitions ranhigh in areas where there were several inns facing each other as theprostitutes scrambled to have more guests in their inns. A secularleader called Yoritomo introduced this when he carried a large numberof men to campaign out of their homes. To keep the men away fromtheir homes, he encouraged the men to have their desires satisfied bythe local women (Embree 58).

Beggarswere another interesting group in Japan. In contrast to the lords,the beggars were the lowest class in the society. There were varioustypes of beggars. First, there were Kannonbeggarswho wore ordinary clothes and had altars with different pictures. Thepictures in their altars were emotive and would instill some emotionson the travelers to make them part with some of their possessions(Sinor 28). Another group was the silentbeggarswho vowed to be silent for a certain period. Their looks of pity werethe weapon they used to get the travelers to part with theirvaluables. Commonbeggars,on the other hand, would sing and perform some gymnastics in order tobe paid by travelers (Harmatta et al. 117).

Inhis accounts, Bernier gives a hierarchical outline of the Indiankingdoms in terms of size, and military power. For example, heasserts that the Great Mogul Empire also known as Indostan or Asia isvery huge. The author further notes that the people in the kingdomswere ranked depending on their races and ethnic background. Forexample, only the descendants of the royal family could become kings,but the immigrant from other nations such as the Persia and Arabscould take less significant jobs such as junior military.

Theauthor also analyzes the lineage of the Indian royal family in theseventeenth century. He claims that integration between the Indiancommunity and foreigners made the kingdom to have a wide range ofmixed women. This integration stemmed from the intermarriage of theruling family of the Moguls and other people not from the rulingclass. The extent of the integration was so great that the peopleworking in the public offices and the military included people offoreign nations such as Arabians, Persians, and Turks (Bernier andIrving 1905).

Bernieralso wrote of the vastness of the land in India. India had greatfrontiers as seen through the three-month journey Bernier made acrossthe country. The territory is majorly under the authority if theMogul, although some of the parts had their lords and did not pledgeallegiance to Mogul (Bernier and Irving 1905). However, the sovereignstates such as that of the Pathans have small territory. The authorattempts to describe the strength of various territories.

Insummary, the travelers’ accounts are valuable in shedding lightconcerning leadership, economic, and classes of people among otherhierarchical needs of the ancient society. Both authors paint theJapanese and Indian kingdoms as hierarchical societies back in theseventeenth century. Association to the royal family, the level ofwealth, military power, and ability to fight among others are allmajor factors that determined the classification of the societies.


Bernier,François, and Irving Brock. Travelsin the Mogul Empire.London: W. Pickering, 1826. Print.

Kaempfer,Engelbert, and Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey. Kaempfer`sJapan: Tokugawa Culture Observed.Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1999. Print.

Harmatta,János, Baji N. Puri, and G F. Etemadi. Historyof Civilizations of Central Asia.Paris: UNESCO, 1994. Print.

Embree,Ainslie T. Encyclopediaof Asian History.New York: Scribner, 1988. Print.

Sinor,Denis. Studiesin Medieval Inner Asia.Brookfield, Vt: Variorum, 1997. Print.