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The Analects as a book for the masses

As the country now entered an era of peace, the Four Books came to be read not only by the shogun and the elite but also by the rest of the populace.

They formed the basic curriculum at both state schools where government officials were trained and at private academies. From early childhood, students began their studies by memorizing the famous opening of the Analects: “To study and, at due times, to practice what one has learned, isn’t this a pleasure?” Government schools and commercial printers put out one edition after another.

At the same time, scholars competed in developing new ways of marking the text in order to read it in Japanese. Hayashi Razan’s marking style (known as Dōshun-ten, fig. 1), which had dominated in the early Edo period, was challenged by newer marking styles, and by the second half of the period (mid.1700s onwards), the “Gotō markings” of the Sanuki-born Gotō Shizan, the official scholar of the Takamatsu domain, replaced Razan’s style as the most common variety (fig. 2).

Old Book Fig.1 Doshun-ten Rongo『道春点論語』
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Old Book Fig.2 Goto-ten Rongo 『後藤点論語』
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Also popular were the “Ansai-ten”(Ansai’s marking style, fig.3) of Yamazaki Ansai in the first part of the period, and the “Issai-ten” (Issai’s marking style, fig.4) of Sato Issai during the late Edo period.

Old Book Fig.3 Ansai-ten Rongo 『闇斎点論語』
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Old Book Fig.4 Issai-ten Rongo 『一斎点論語』
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Among the marking styles used by the domain schools (hankō), we can mention the Kyōritsu-ten (Kyōritsu markings) in use in the Toyama domain (fig.5), to name but one example. Many texts of the Analects like these still probably lie undiscovered in public libraries across Japan.

Old Book Fig.5 Kyoritu-ten Rongo (Toyama domain) 『藩版論語』富山藩
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This article is from the free online course:

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Keio University

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