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This content is taken from the Keio University's online course, 古書から読み解く日本の文化: 漢籍の受容. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Texts have two primary functions: one is to give a stable form to words, which are by nature volatile and transient; we may call this function “giving material form to people’s thoughts.” The other is to give someone’s words wider circulation by reproducing them; we may call this second function “giving a larger audience to ideas.” In other words, texts are one of the mediums that connect people’s thoughts across time and space. In the textual medium, the message―a long and carefully structured segment of text―is encoded in words and images. Text reproduction is not an abstract process. Here I have prepared three books. They are three different editions of the same book, the Shijing which were published during the Edo period (1603-1868).

Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds If we look inside, we can see that they are all woodblock printed editions produced at different points in time, specifically, one in the early, another from the middle, and then late Edo period. Thus, we can say that books not only bridge the geographical gap between different places (China and Japan), but also connect different points in time as well. Since the beginnings of history, people living in different parts of the world have been exchanging ideas through texts and developing their own unique cultures. We are going to define cultures that have placed a high importance on texts as “textual cultures.” East Asia, of which Japan is part, possesses an incredibly rich textual culture with a very long history.


東洋の書籍文化の来し方を振り返る時、大乗仏典 の普及を抜きにして語ることはできません。しかし、本題に入る前に、ビデオをご覧いただき、そもそも本とはどのような役割があるのか?ということについて考えてみましょう。

住吉教授は、 江戸時代 の初期(17世紀)、中期(18世紀)、後期(19世紀)と、200年の時を超えて出版されたまったく同じ内容の本を例に示して、その意味について語りかけます。


Three "Shijing" books 「詩経」 左:江戸時代後期(1865) ・中央:江戸時代中期(1791) ・右:江戸時代初期 (1664)




西暦の紀元前後にインド北西部で発達した大乗仏教は、中央アジアを故郷とするインドのクシャーン王朝と、東方の後漢帝国(25-220 C.E.)との出会いを背景として、インド世界から中国へと伝わります。この現象を「仏法東漸」といい、世界史上の大事件として記憶されています。(fig.2, fig.3)

Old temple in Kucha Fig. 1. クチャ・キジル石窟寺院(EXPEDITION SILK ROAD展図録) [Take a closer look]

Ho-tan Shutsudo Fig. 2. ホータン出土・ロシア科学アカデミー/樺皮写本・法句経(シルクロード文字を辿って展図録)[Take a closer look]


Shukeisou Fig. 3. •取経僧(シルクロード大美術展・EXPEDITION SILK ROAD展図録) [Take a closer look]


Explore more about books

As mentioned in Step 1.1, you can view the images of most books—introduced in this course—in larger size by clicking the links marked Click to take a closer look. The link takes you to an online library where you can enjoy quality images and detailed information but it gives you more than that.


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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 漢籍の受容

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