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Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Learn about the role of books in the relationship between the cultures of Japan and China, with this free online course.

8,346 enrolled on this course

The copy of the Analects of Confucius (Rongo in Japanese) formerly owned by Katsu Kaishu.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Books have played a major role in the formation of Japan’s culture, particularly those brought from China. On this course we’ll examine how big an impact these books have had, as well as looking at how books and religion are connected in Japan and East Asia, and the history of publishing in Japan.

Understand more about Chinese books, language and culture

Through the course you’ll discover more about the different types of Chinese books, their characteristics and their history. We’ll also look at books with strong Chinese influences and examine the culture of the area of the world that use the Chinese writing system.

Learn about the development of Japanese culture

We’ll then look at how these books made their way to Japan and how Chinese culture influenced Japanese culture. In particular we’ll focus on the Analects of Confucius and how the book has been received in Japan - from its introduction in the 3rd Century to how it’s considered today.

In addition we’ll look at books on Chinese studies from medieval to early modern Japan, how books from China and Korea were studied and disseminated and how the process created new types of book like commentaries and revised editions.

Explore the connection between books and religion in East Asia

You’ll also learn about the connections between publishing and religion - examining the influence of Zen Buddhism on Japanese culture.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds Welcome to Keio University’s Institute of Oriental Classics. My name is HORIKAWA Takashi and I will be the main educator for this course. The Institute houses a large number of pre-19th century texts, more than half of which are in Chinese, traditionally called kanbun in Japan, or, “the writing of the Han”. Japan is located at the eastern end of the Eurasian continent and developed its culture largely by importing the more sophisticated cultures of China and the Korean kingdoms. Texts played an extremely important role in this process, so much so that it would be impossible to truly understand Japanese culture without considering the role played by texts from the Asian mainland.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds In this course, we will explore how Chinese culture was received, absorbed, and adapted in Japan using a number of specific texts from continental Asia as case studies. In the first week, we will cover the period 5th to 14th centuries C.E., paying special attention to the role played by texts from China and Korea, including Buddhist works, at the time of the emergence and consolidation of the early Japanese state and language. In the second week, we will focus on one of the most influential Chinese works of all time, the Analects of Confucius - in Chinese, “Lunyu”, and in Japanese “Rongo”. We will study how it was first introduced to Japan and its impact on Japanese culture.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds In the third and final week, we will cover the period 14th to 19th centuries, focusing in particular on the activities of Zen monks and Confucian scholars who were key players in the reception of books from the continent. Pre-modern Zen temples played a role similar to that of the modern university. We will examine the research activity conducted at these institutions and how it compared in the books that they published. Through this course, you will learn about how Japan, while being profoundly influenced by continental cultures and Chinese culture in particular, was able to adapt and develop these influences to create its own distinctive culture. The course will also provide an excellent opportunity to think about cross-cultural interaction from a world history perspective.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds So please join us for this exciting journey through books between cultures.

What topics will you cover?

  • History of textual culture in East Asia and Japan.
  • Evolution of printing technology in Japan and its relationship with religion.
  • Influence of China and Korea on Japanese book culture.
  • Publishing activity by Zen temples in the medieval Japan.
  • Publishing activity by scholars in pre-modern Japanese society.
  • Publishing activity by local and central governments for education.
  • Variety of types of books in Chinese studies.
  • Brief introduction of well-known Chinese poem collections: Santishi and Tangshi xuan.
  • Analects of Confucius, its reception, transition and influence on Japanese society.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the relationship between books and religion in East Asian history.
  • Describe the role of Pre-modern Zen temples in book culture and printing technology.
  • Describe the role of Confucian scholars in book culture and their research activity.
  • Discuss the contribution of China and Korea to Japanese book culture and the development of printing technology.
  • Classify the types of books in Chinese studies.
  • Discuss the impact of Analects of Confucius in pre-modern Japanese society.
  • Explore the value of Analects of Confucius in modern Japanese society.
  • Explain how the books in Chinese studies incorporated and influenced on Japanese culture.

Who is the course for?

There are no special requirements for this course, but an interest in East Asian culture or history might be useful.

The Educators/Hosts will facilitate this course for about three times a year. Our next facilitation period is 1 June - 21 June, 2020. While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.

Who will you learn with?

I specialise in Chinese and Japanese literature at Keio's Institute of
Oriental Classics and I am the lead educator of the "Sino-Japanese
Interactions Through Rare Books" course.

I am a professor at the Keio Institute of Oriental Classics. I am interested in East Asian book culture and the transmission of Chinese scholarship in Japan.

I am a professor at Keio University's Faculty of Letters. I specialize in Sino-Japanese literature and I am one of the educators of the "Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books" course.

Who developed the course?

Keio University

Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.

  • Established

  • Location

    Tokyo, Japan
  • World ranking

    Top 200Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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