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The Kanpan

In the 70 years between Kansei 11 (1799) and Keiō 3 (1867), the Shōheizaka Gakumonjo published some 210 Chinese-language titles, which are known in Japanese as kanpan (“government publications”).

Although the label “kanpan” can be and sometimes is applied to all governmental publications, including post-Meiji restoration ones, as a technical term, it is more commonly used to refer to the books published by the Shōheizaka gakumonjo.

Since the purpose of the center was to promote Neo-Confucianism, a large percentage of the center’s publications dealt with Neo-Confucianism. However, more than 60 of the books published are literary works. One example:

Chengzhai shihua (J. Seisai shiwa),

Old Book Fig.1 Chengzhai shihua (J. Seisai shiwa), Kyōwa 2 (1809) edition
Click to see the image and information Full text can be viewed through National Library of Japan Digital Collection (See Also[1]).

(This is from a Meiji 42 (1908) reprint (marketed as Shōhei sōsho, or, “Shōhei Library”) made using the original blocks).

The Chengzhai shihua (Poetic Criticism from the Sincerity Studio) is a collection of miscellaneous essays on poetry by the Song-period poet Yang Wanli (1127–1206). It was never published as an independent work, in China or in Japan, but always as part of larger series, such as the Siku quanshu (J. Shiko zensho, “Complete Library in Four Sections”). The book shown here is also derived from the Siku quanshu (more on this below).

The Siku quanshu was a monumental collection of writing compiled during the Qing dynasty at the order of Emperor Qianlong (reigned from 1735 to 1795). In order to gather the materials for the project, scholars were dispatched to the four corners of China to locate, catalogue, and copy a huge number of texts.

Over time, a selection of previously unpublished works from the Siku quanshu entitled Siku quanshu wu banben (Previously Unpublished Works in the Siku quanshu) made its way to Japan through the port of Nagasaki. It is an extremely rare book (only 3 are known to exist in Japan), and one was owned by the Shōheizaka gakumonjo (currently in the collection of the Kokuritsu Kōbunshokan).

It is highly likely that this book was used as the master copy for our edition of the Chengzhai shihua. What is puzzling, however, is that records say that the manuscript was only added to the collection of the Shōheizaka Gakumonjo in Bunka 4 (1807), that is, after the book was published. Was a different text used as the master copy? Did someone at the center own a copy before it was officially added to the collection? Future research will have to answer the question.

[The book opens with a summary of its content by a Chinese scholar.]

Although we have only looked at one example, it should suffice to show how attuned with the latest publishing developments from China the editors of the kanpan were. Their choice of titles also reflect the popularity of Yang Wanli and other Song-dynasty poets at the time.

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This article is from the free online course:

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Keio University

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