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Online course

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Learn about the role of books in the relationship between the cultures of Japan and China, with this free online course.


  • Access to the course for its length + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Why join the course?

Books have played a major role in the formation of Japan’s culture, particularly those brought from China. On this course we’ll examine how big an impact these books have had, as well as looking at how books and religion are connected in Japan and East Asia, and the history of publishing in Japan.

Understand more about Chinese books, language and culture

Through the course you’ll discover more about the different types of Chinese books, their characteristics and their history. We’ll also look at books with strong Chinese influences and examine the culture of the area of the world that use the Chinese writing system.

Learn about the development of Japanese culture

We’ll then look at how these books made their way to Japan and how Chinese culture influenced Japanese culture. In particular we’ll focus on the Analects of Confucius and how the book has been received in Japan - from its introduction in the 3rd Century to how it’s considered today.

In addition we’ll look at books on Chinese studies from medieval to early modern Japan, how books from China and Korea were studied and disseminated and how the process created new types of book like commentaries and revised editions.

Explore the connection between books and religion in East Asia

You’ll also learn about the connections between publishing and religion - examining the influence of Zen Buddhism on Japanese culture.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 23 secondsWelcome to Keio University’s Institute of Oriental Classics. My name is HORIKAWA Takashi and I will be the main educator for this course. The Institute houses a large number of pre-19th century texts, more than half of which are in Chinese, traditionally called kanbun in Japan, or, “the writing of the Han”. Japan is located at the eastern end of the Eurasian continent and developed its culture largely by importing the more sophisticated cultures of China and the Korean kingdoms. Texts played an extremely important role in this process, so much so that it would be impossible to truly understand Japanese culture without considering the role played by texts from the Asian mainland.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds In this three-week course, we will explore how Chinese culture was received, absorbed, and adapted in Japan using a number of specific texts from continental Asia as case studies. In the first week, we will cover the period 5th to 14th centuries C.E., paying special attention to the role played by texts from China and Korea, including Buddhist works, at the time of the emergence and consolidation of the early Japanese state and language. In the second week, we will focus on one of the most influential Chinese works of all time, the Analects of Confucius - in Chinese, “Lunyu”, and in Japanese “Rongo”. We will study how it was first introduced to Japan and its impact on Japanese culture.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds In the third and final week, we will cover the period 14th to 19th centuries, focusing in particular on the activities of Zen monks and Confucian scholars who were key players in the reception of books from the continent. Pre-modern Zen temples played a role similar to that of the modern university. We will examine the research activity conducted at these institutions and how it compared in the books that they published. Through this course, you will learn about how Japan, while being profoundly influenced by continental cultures and Chinese culture in particular, was able to adapt and develop these influences to create its own distinctive culture. The course will also provide an excellent opportunity to think about cross-cultural interaction from a world history perspective.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 secondsSo please join us for this exciting journey through books between cultures.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Who is the course for?

There are no special requirements for this course, but an interest in East Asian culture or history might be useful.

Who will you learn with?

Takashi Horikawa

I am a professor at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics. I am studying Sino-Japanese literature. I am the main educator of "Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books" course.

Who developed the course?

Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £24.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.