3.08: Asian Influences

"Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain": According to John Pickett, the quote is an excerpt taken directly from the First Precept of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, written in 1883 during the Meiji Period of Japanese history. David Vogt adds that it was also a popular proverb among Japanese suicide troops during the late stages of combat of the Second World War.

Jearom: The greatest swordsman who ever lived, who suffered his only defeat at the hands of a farmer armed with a quarterstaff. Erin O'Toole suggests that RJ's inspiration for that was Miyamoto Musashi, the kensai (sword saint) of Japan. In the novel Musashi by Eiji Yokohawa, his bout with the farmer is prominently featured, though it is not known if such a duel ever really happened.

In an interesting cross-reference, Ho-Sheng Hsiao notes that Musashi wrote a book a few weeks before he died called Go Rin No Sho, or "A Book of Five Rings". It is divided into the Ground Book, The Water Book, The Fire Book, The Wind Book, and The Book of the Void.


  • Bushido, literally the "Way of the Warrior". Bushi means "Warrior" and Do "the Way". Bushido was the Code, the Way of life of the Samurai. The code of the Bushido was summarized by five main requirements:
    (a) Fidelity - towards master (lord) and Fatherland, respect towards parents, brothers and sisters
    (b) Politeness (reigi) - respect and love, modesty and correct etiquette (formality)
    (c) Virility - valour, courage and bravery, self-control, patience and endurance, readiness to fight
    (d) Truthfulness/Veracity (Makoto) - sincerity and straightforwardness, sense of honour and justice
    (e) Simplicity - simplicity and purity
    [David Chapman]


  • From Scott Bateman: There is another concept in Japanese culture called On and Giri which more closely reflects ji'e'toh as used in the books. "On" translates as: favour, obligation, debt of gratitude. "Giri" translates as: duty, sense of duty, honor, decency, courtesy, debt of gratitude, social obligation. In Japanese, when you feel someone has done something that puts you in their debt, you say "on wo ukete iru" or "I have 'On'". This fits nicely with "I have toh".
    Additional points to note:
    1. Bushido was a code for warriors (the samurai), while On and Giri applies to everyone in Japan. Everyone among the Aiel lives by ji'e'toh, not just the warriors.
    2. The Aiel have difficulty explaining the concept to anyone not Aiel because it is not something they think about. RJ says that to BE Aiel is to follow ji'e'toh. When asked, people in Japan struggled to explain to me the concept of On and Giri. It's a principle of how one should act in relation to society that is only expected of other Japanese and which they understand intuitively. I was never expected to understand it but I scored major points by living by it when I could."

Stones: The game of Stones is based on the Asian game Go.

Sword forms: It's research (books, not doing), and the forms come from Japanese sword fighting and some European fencing, before the advent of well-designed and well-made guns made swords obsolete. [Matthew Hunter at a signing, also mentioned by others]

Tony Ho believes that the sword forms "more closely resemble Chinese Wu Shu fighting forms than Japanese sword forms. The Budoken (Japanese sword fighting) makes use of "forms," but does not name these forms. Wu Shu fighting, be it weapon or weaponless, associates each movement with a poetic title such as: "Mountain Crushing Overhead," Old Ox Charging Forward," and even "Swallows Taking Flight," which is also a sword movement."

Tower of Ghenjei: There is a Japanese novel called The Tale of Genji. It is generally considered the first piece of work which qualifies as a novel, as the genre is defined today. Note the name's similarity to the Tower of Ghenjei in WOT. It was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu in the early 10th century, during the Heian Period of Japanese history. [Jeff Han]

Yin-Yang symbol: The ancient sign of the Aes Sedai. Taoist tradition holds that Yin represents everything that is feminine, dark, withdrawn, receptive and passive, and of movement down and in; Yang represents the masculine, bright, forceful and expansive, and movement out and up. RJ's version inverts the colors of the genders, but the symbolism of opposite forces in balance carries across unmistakably in the saidar/saidin dynamic:

"[RJ] also spoke for quite some time on the splitting of the One Power into male and female halves, and on the disharmony produced when they don't work together.. this came across as one of the core elements in the origin of WOT. (re: Yin/Yang - leaving out the little dots in the symbol is an intentional representation of the lack of harmony between male/female Power in Randland)" [Emmet O'Brien, Dublin talk, 11/93].

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