Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Keio University's online course, Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds A new development in this period was the appearance of provincial presses sponsored by the local daimyo. Although early medieval provincial temples did print books mimicking the large temples of the Kinai area, they did so without any consistency or regularity. The printing undertaken by Gozan monks under the sponsorship of local lords in the late-medieval period differed from these earlier attempts in both form and content. Among the most active presses to thrive in large feudal towns and ports were those sponsored by the Hosokawa in Sakai, the Ōuchi in Yamaguchi, the Shimazu in Satsuma, the Imagawa in Sunpu, and the Asakura in Ichijōdani.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds Sakai was an important center of trade with China, and because of its unique concentration of new professional groups such as merchants, physicians, printing there took a highly distinctive route. Among the most widely published titles by the provincial presses were the anthology of Zen koans Biyan Lu (1), the Analects (2) of Confucius, and the Chinese rhyming dictionary Shūbun inryaku(3). Here is Biyan Lu (1) printed in Muromachi period(). The Biyan lu is the foundational text of the Rinzai sect of Zen. It was printed by temples across Japan for use in religious instruction. The Analects were the cornerstone of secular education. The edition you see was printed in Sakai in 1533 (Tenmon 8) (2) and it is known as the Tenmon-era() Analects.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds The Kamakura-period () Shūbun inryaku (3) provided the pronunciation of Chinese characters and was used as a reference for composing poetry in Chinese. By this point, most printed books were bound in the fukurotoji (bound pocket) style. Like the Gozan temple presses, the Sakai press published secular titles, but its range was wider and included scholarly works by the Kiyohara lineage of court scholars, and particularly the Analects, which were printed several times. In other words, book printing was becoming more and more secularized. Another significant publication was the Ming-dynasty() medical text Yishu Daquan(4), which was printed in the latest format from China.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds Medical texts, which were also printed by the Asakura at Ichijōdani, epitomize the new trend of printing books for practical purposes in addition to religious and philosophical texts. During the Tenshō era (), Ishibe “Ryōsatsu” Nagakiyo, under the pseudonym “The Bookmaker,” printed the Shitai senbun shohō (5)(The One Thousand Character Classic in Four Calligraphic Styles) and dictionaries such as the Setsuyōshū(6). Originally (Nara period ()) the term “bookmaker” (literally, the sutra craftsman) referred to sutras copiers, but in the medieval period it came to be applied to printers and binders working at temple presses. Printing seems to have been a hereditary profession for the Ishibe family. The One Thousand Characters Classic was used to teach basic literacy, as was the Setsuyōshū.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds Neither of them had anything to do with religion, and it is highly likely that they were made to be sold. Thus, from its beginnings in Gozan temples, printing during the Muromachi era(*) spread to the various local daimyo presses, became increasingly secularized, and even began to show the first signs of commercialization. The early experiments with secular texts by the Gozan-ban editions paved the way for the spread of kangaku (Chinese studies) to a wider section of society and also brought an increase in literacy rates. This is but one of the many ways in which the activity of the Gozan-ban influenced Japanese culture at large. However, it would take the influx of new technology from outside Japan for commercial printing to truly thrive.

The activity of the local daimyo presses

In Muromachi period, publishing books becomes popular in other cities besides Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) with a variety of content. Watch Prof. Sumiyoshi introduce some of the important books illustrates the trend in Muromachi period.

Period names in China and Japan that appeared in the video

(*) in the English subtitle indicates the name of the period. Please refer to the following Chinese period names appeared in the video as well as Step1.3 “East Asian History at a Glance”.

Books introduced in the video

  1. Biyan Lu(Blue Cliff Record, J. Hekiganroku), Muromachi period
    Click to see the image and information
  2. Two books of Analects (J. Rongo), both are Tenmon edition, published in 1533
    Click to see the image and information [book#1][book#2]
  3. Shūbun inryaku, by Kokanshiren (1278 - 1346, Zen prist in late Kamakura), Gozan-ban edition
  4. Yishu Daquan (J. Isho taizen), Ming-dynasty medical text
    Click to see the image
  5. Shitai senbun shohō (The One Thousand Character Classic in Four Calligraphic Styles),published by Ishibe ““Ryōsatsu” Nagakiyo, Tenshō era
  6. Setsuyōshū, dictionary, published by Ishibe “Ryōsatsu” Nagakiyo, Tenshō era

Here is another example of publishing by Daimyo, Imagawa family of Sunpu (Shizuoka prefecture in current Japan).

Keywords introduced in the video

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Keio University