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Summary of Week 4

In Week 4, we have taken a broad look at the reception of Chinese-language texts in early modern Japan (approx. 1600s to the early 1900s).

The most notable difference with the medieval period is the role of commercial publishing, which affected the work of scholars of Chinese studies (kangaku) in many ways. Not only did scholars come to rely almost exclusively on published works for their research, but they also actively disseminated their findings and opinions through print.

In Steps 4.4 to 4.7, we discussed the Kobunji-ha poets’ tendency to impersonate poets of the distant past. However, adopting a literary persona is a very common gesture in Japanese literature as a whole. In waka, for instance, poets often posed as someone else in their poems, and haiku poets signed their works with a “haiku name” (haigō) instead of their actual name. The literary impersonations of the Kobunji-ha poets, therefore, reflect a larger cultural taste for such literary theatrics.

In Steps 4.8 to 4.10, we covered our topic up to the activity of the Rivers and Lakes poetry group in the early 19th c. Poetry in Chinese did not cease to be popular with the beginning of the modern period (1868). In fact, the opening of official travel routes between China and Japan made travelling to China easier than it had ever been, and ushered in a new age of cultural interaction. These developments, however, fall outside the scope of this course.

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Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Keio University