English: Reading Comprehension Set 41

Directions: Read the following passage and answer the questions that follows.

In the eighteenth century, Japan‘s feudal overlords, from the shogun to the humblest samurai, found themselves under financial stress. In part, this stress can be attributed to the overlords‘ failure to adjust to a rapidly expanding economy, but the stress was also due to factors beyond the overlords‘ control. Concentration of the samurai in castle-towns had acted as a stimulus to trade. Commercial efficiency, in turn, had put temptations in the way of buyers. Since most samurai had been reduced to idleness by years of peace, encouraged to engage in scholarship and martial exercises or to perform administrative tasks that took little time, it is not surprising that their tastes and habits grew expensive. Overlords‘ income, despite the increase in rice production among their tenant farmers, failed to keep pace with their expenses. Although shortfalls in overlords‘ income resulted almost as much from laxity among their tax collectors (the nearly inevitable outcome of hereditary office-holding) as from their higher standards of living, a misfortune like a fire or flood, bringing an increase in expenses or a drop in revenue, could put a domain in debt to the city rice-brokers who handled its finances. Once in debt, neither the individual samurai nor the shogun himself found it easy to recover. It was difficult for individual samurai overlords to increase their income because the amount of rice that farmers could be made to pay in taxes was not unlimited, and since the income of Japan‘s central government consisted in part of taxes collected by the shogun from his huge domain, the government too was constrained. Therefore, the Tokugawa shoguns began to look to other sources for revenue. Cash profits from government-owned mines were already on the decline because the most easily worked deposits of silver and gold had been exhausted, although debasement of the coinage had compensated for the loss. Opening up new farmland was a possibility, but most of what was suitable had already been exploited and further reclamation was technically unfeasible. Direct taxation of the samurai themselves would be politically dangerous. This left the shoguns only commerce as a potential source of government income. Most of the country‘s wealth, or so it seemed, was finding its way into the hands of city merchants. It appeared reasonable that they should contribute part of that revenue to ease the shogun‘s burden of financing the state. A means of obtaining such revenue was soon found by levying forced loans, known as goyo-kin; although these were not taxes in the strict sense, since they were irregular in timing and arbitrary in amount, they were high in yield. Unfortunately, they pushed up prices. Thus, regrettably, the Tokugawa shoguns‘ search for solvency for the government made it increasingly difficult for individual Japanese who lived on fixed stipends to make ends meet.

  1. The passage is most probably an excerpt from
    an economic history of Japan
    the memoirs of a samurai warrior
    a modern novel about eighteenth-century Japan
    an essay contrasting Japanese feudalism with its Western counterpart
    an introduction to a collection of Japanese folktales
    Option A


  2. Which of the following financial situations is most analogous to the financial situation in which Japan‟s Tokugawa shoguns found themselves in the eighteenth century?
    A small business borrows heavily to invest in new equipment, but is able to pay off its debt early when it is awarded a lucrative government contract.
    Fire destroys a small business, but insurance covers the cost of rebuilding.
    A small business is turned down for a loan at a local bank because the owners have no credit history.
    A small business has to struggle to meet operating expenses when its profits decrease.
    A small business is able to cut back sharply on spending through greater commercial efficiency and thereby compensate for a loss of revenue.
    Option D


  3. Which of the following best describes the attitude of the author toward the samurai?
    Warmly approving
    Mildly sympathetic
    Bitterly disappointed
    Harshly disdainful
    Profoundly shocked
    Option B


  4. According to the passage, the major reason for the financial problems experienced by Japan‟s feudal overlords in the eighteenth century was that
    spending had outdistanced income
    trade had fallen off
    profits from mining had declined
    the coinage had been sharply debased
    the samurai had concentrated in castle-towns
    Option A


  5. The passage implies that individual samurai did not find it easy to recover from debt for which of the following reasons?
    Agricultural production had increased.
    Taxes were irregular in timing and arbitrary in amount.
    The Japanese government had failed to adjust to the needs of a changing economy.
    The domains of samurai overlords were becoming smaller and poorer as government revenues increased.
    There was a limit to the amount in taxes that farmers could be made to pay.
    Option E


  6. The passage suggests that, in eighteenth-century Japan, the office of tax collector
    was a source of personal profit to the officeholder
    was regarded with derision by many Japanese
    remained within families
    existed only in castle-towns
    took up most of the officeholder‟s time
    Option C


  7. Which of the following could best be substituted for the word “This” in line 47 without changing the meaning of the passage?
    The search of Japan‟s Tokugawa shoguns for solvency
    The importance of commerce in feudal Japan
    The unfairness of the tax structure in eighteenth century Japan
    The difficulty of increasing government income by other means
    The difficulty experienced by both individual samurai and the shogun himself in extricating themselves from debt
    Option D


  8. The passage implies that which of the following was the primary reason why the Tokugawa shoguns turned to city merchants for help in financing the state?
    A series of costly wars had depleted the national treasury.
    Most of the country‟s wealth appeared to be in city merchants‟ hands.
    Japan had suffered a series of economic reversals due to natural disasters such as floods.
    The merchants were already heavily indebted to the shoguns.
    Further reclamation of land would not have been economically advantageous.
    Option B


  9. According to the passage, the actions of the Tokugawa shoguns in their search for solvency for the government were regrettable because those actions
    raised the cost of living by pushing up prices
    resulted in the exhaustion of the most easily worked deposits of silver and gold
    were far lower in yield than had originally been anticipated
    did not succeed in reducing government spending
    acted as a deterrent to trade
    Option A


  10. What, according to the passage, is the most appropriate synonym of “exploited”:
    Option B


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