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The term samurai was originally used to denote Japan’s aristocratic warriors (bushi). The word samurai has origins in the pre-Heian period. Samurai were the hereditary military nobility of Japan from the late 12th century to their abolition in 1876.
During the Heian period, the samurai came from guards of the imperial palace and private guards clans employed. After seting up a new military government in 1192, led by the shogun, the samurai ruled over Japan for most of the next 700 years. During the Edo Period the samurai were at the top of a social caste system.
Philosophies of Buddhism and Zen influenced the samurai culture. Zen meditation became an important teaching, in purpose to calm warrior's mind. The concepts of reincarnation and rebirth which were used in Buddhism, led samurai to abandon torture and needless killing.
Samurai developed their own cultures that changed and influeced Japanese culture. The practicies as the tea ceremony, monochrome ink painting, rock gardens and poetry were a part of samurai culture, which were adapted from the Chinese arts. In general, samurai had a very high literacy rate in kanji (Logographic script).
The samurai used various weapons. Japanese swords became to be synonymous with the samurai, especially the katana. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the weapons of the samurai is whether samurai ever charged on horseback. The first types of samurai armor were known as ō-yoroi and dō-maru. Also, the samurai were practicing different martial arts.
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