Short Comparison of Chivalry and Bushido


Japan and Europe did not have any direct contact with one another during the medieval ages, but they still developed very similar feudal systems. Warriors dominated the society and are bound by codes of ethics and obedience to their Lords. The main power of government was lords who controlled small amounts of land with the control of peasants and warriors. The landowners were governed by a distant duke, king or emperor. The the most important class of citizens was the warrior class they were called "samurai" in Japan and "knights" Europe. The warriors served local lords and were bound by code of ethics. Knights code of ethics was chivalry while the samurai was the Bushido. Chivalry and Bushido are very similar in many aspects and different in cultural mindsets.

The Kings and Peasants were bound to the warrior class "A subject peasantry; widespread use of the service tenement (i.e. the fief) instead of a salary … ; supremacy of a class of specialized warriors; ties of obedience and protection which bind man to man and, within the warrior class, assume the distinctive form called vassalage; fragmentation of authority - leading inevitably to disorder; and, in the midst of all this, the survival of other forms of association family and State" (MacRaild, Donald M., and Avram Taylor 106). In Feudal Japan and Europe the landowners needed the warriors to collect the taxes and protect their property including the people. When also the Peasants needed the Knights or Samurai to protect them from criminals or outsider invaders. The warrior class "Samurais and Knights" were needed by all levels of society.

Heraldic Chivalry
Heraldic Chivalry


Chivalry was a code of conduct followed by the European knights. The right reason to become a Knight is do to what is morally right and the wrong reason is for advantage and rank (Selfishness). A proper Knight who follows the code of Chivalry must be able-bodied of good lineage holding enough wealth to support his rank. While having the ability to manage those below his status while being a loyal, courageous and honorable man of his position (Abels, Richard, Dr). Having many ethical duties to defend his Faith “Christianity” and his Lordship. While also protect the weak and to pursue those who would do wrong. While at all times avoiding taking false oaths “lying”, being over prideful and committing treachery (Abels, Richard, Dr). The code of Chivalry helped Lords gain control over the serfs by the code requiring Knights to protect and never abuse the serfs. Knights while protecting the weak they are never to betray the Church and their lords.

What were some of the ideals that were emphasized in chivalry?

Some of the ideals represented by chivalry were the Knights of the Round Table and the fact that knights protected their kingdoms, served their king, and used might to uphold the weak. Chivalry was a code that made knights be heroes in times of danger when there were wars in the kingdom. A knight was obligated by chivalry to defend his king. Women were also to be protected. Women were sometimes living in vulnerable conditions and a knight who followed chivalry was expected to come to a lady’s aid whenever it was required.

While it is difficult to find precise rules laid down for the conduct of a knight, it is clear that a code is recognized, even though, in the stern tests of day to day life, it was rarely, faithfully lived up to. Amid all the treachery, greed, infidelity and cruelty there are to be found shining examples of courage, genteelness, understanding and mercy inspired by those rules that only a perfect man could live up to. Following below is examples of a code of chivalry.

Medieval Knight
Medieval Knight

The Ten Rules of Chivalry

1. Thou shalt follow the dictates of moral conscience.

2. Thou shalt be willing to defend your values.

3. Thou shalt have respect and pity for all weakness and steadfastness in defending them.

4. Thou shalt love thy country.

5. Thou shalt refuse to retreat before the enemy.

6. Thou shalt wage unceasing and merciless war against all that is evil.

7. Thou shalt obey the orders of those appointed above you, as long as those orders do not conflict with what you know to be just.

8. Thou shalt show loyalty to truth and to your pledged word.

9. Thou shalt be generous and giving of ones self.

10.Thou shalt be champion of the right and good at all times, and at all times oppose the forces of evil.

Codes of Chivalry include the following values: duty, honor, honesty, dedication, commitment, fidelity (loyalty), truth, courage, and kindness.


Bushido was the code of the Samurai warrior that was passed down verbally over generations. The Bushido principles focus on courage, honor and loyalty to his master above all else. The ideal samurai was to be immune from the fear of death for there is nothing more honorable than dying for his master (Daimyo). For a samurai’s only motivation is the fear of dishonor and having absolute loyalty to his daimyo. For a samurai would rather commit suicide than dishonor his master “A samurai devotes his entire life to a single moment of perfect honor and loyalty. He is a warrior who kills in ancient ways shrouded in mystery and mysticism but who, ultimately, turns the sword on himself. He is a scholar and priest who searches the meditations of selflessness for the knowledge to kill with inner peace -- and die with inner calm. He is a man with only one lord -- a servant who must kill himself when his master dies. Then, and only then, is he the perfection of mind and body -- the triumph of honor over mortality” (G, Cameron Hurst, III 515). Bushido required the Samurai to be honest, reliable while living a frugal life with material interest. Rather that valor such as honor, duty, compassion and pride, putting the needs before their own. Also the samurai’s concept of death which they held allowed them to fully appreciate life and enjoy the things they love most. Everything was in moment for the essence of one's internal spiritual essence.

Seven Virtues of Bushido

An appreciation and respect of life was also imperative, as it added balance to the warrior character of the true Bushido warrior. He was often very stoic with a deep and strong philosophical passion. He could be deadly in combat and yet so gentle and compassionate with children and the weak.

Rectitude (moral righteousness)



Respect / Politeness


Honor, Glory


Others sometimes added are:

Filial piety


Care for the aged

Bushido Way

The the seven virtues of Bushido is conducting the right action, duty to protect, courage (Fearless), morality or Politeness, truthfulness, honor and loyalty. Absolute loyalty is everything in the Samurai's way of life if they ever dishonor or fail their leader they will take their own lives. While also being an honest human being and speaking only the truth even though a person feelings maybe hurt. They were to protect the workers and properties for their Daimyo and collect taxes just as the European Knights did. But majority of Samurai didn't work for money, but substance just to live and be loyal. For honor and loyalty was held higher than material items such as coin.

European Knight

The European Knight was most concerned about maintaining his position in society and the income he could earn. What he did and how he conducted himself, expenses and the risks he would take in combat. His main focus was to protect his position in society at all means necessary. When a night died he protected what was his even though the code of chivalry states to never focus on advancing one's position because that is unethical. In Medieval Europe the Knights often changed lords for more wealth or status in society betraying their last Lord. The Samurai was most concerned about loyalty to his lord and there is no other. Everything he did in life he did in honor and respect to his lord and various risk he would take was for his lord without asking for anything in return. If a samurai died in service to the Daimyo then he knew his family would be taken care of. While a European Knights family wouldn’t be taken care of back in the Medieval ages. The samurai had no greater honor than to die in service to his lord


In Japan their culture stress filial piety and morality with respect for their superiors and elders. It was the moral duty of the samurai and daimyo to protect the villagers and peasants in their region. The duties of the villagers and peasants was to respect or honor the warriors and pay taxes to them in return to be given to the daimyo. In Feudal Europe the relationship between a lord and his peasants was contractual, lords gave them payment and protection in return for loyalty. While the lords paid the Knights to protect his lands and the peasants who were his vassals. Honor and loyalty were bought with coin with Chivalry controlling the conduct for Knights. Chivalry and Bushido are similar in values of how to treat people, but Knights priority is more their self-interest while Samurai's are more interest in honor something that can’t be bought.

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