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Buddhism and manuscript culture spread through China during the Northern and Southern (#) and Sui (#) dynasties. It was also around this time that the inhabitants of Yamato first began to use writing. Immigrants from the Korean peninsula and monks returning from official embassies to China brought back with them written scrolls which, by this point, had already reached a considerable degree of sophistication. One of the very first written works to be authored in Japan is a commentary on the Lotus Sutra attributed to Prince Shōtoku (*). With its synthesis of Indian and Chinese intellectual traditions, this work is clearly the product of a “pan-East Asian” textual culture.
Thus, from its origins up to the end of the Nara period (#), Japan’s book culture moved its first steps largely by absorbing and responding to the texts of Mahayana Buddhism. Here we have a Buddhist text in scroll format. It was made in Japan during the Nara period, precisely in 740 (Tempyō 12), as part of a complete copy of the Buddhist canon made at the behest of Fujiwara Kōmyōshi (), a consort of Emperor Shōmu (). The book is the Vinaya in Four Parts (Dharmagupta vinaya), which gives the rules for life in a Buddhist monastery. It is not a Mahayana text, but a text of one of the schools of the so-called Theravāda (monastic) Buddhism.
The format is that of Chinese books of the Tang period(#), which was standard in all of East Asia in the 8th century. From India and through China, the ideas contained in this scroll reached Yamato Japan and captivated the minds of its inhabitants. After the Tang, Chinese textual culture entered a new phase with the introduction of printing and the spread of printed books. Since printing made it possible to disseminate texts on a mass scale, it was quickly embraced by Mahayana Buddhism, which, as mentioned earlier, placed great importance on the dissemination of its sacred books. Nara and post-Nara Japan were also affected by the new trend.
In the first week, we will explore the early history of Japanese textual culture, centuries before the publishing boom of the Edo period (#), paying special attention to the role played by the movement of people between the various regions of East Asia.

中国の書籍文化はどのようにして ヤマト (日本の古代の名前)に伝来したのでしょうか?初めの書物はだれがどのように日本の社会で受け止めたのでしょうか?住吉教授の解説を聞きましょう。


A scroll Fig. 1. 四分律 (740) 詳しい書籍情報と高画質画像は特設サイトでご覧ください。
Take a closer look


英語字幕では時代名に(*)マークをつけてあります。 詳細は Step1.3「 東アジアの歴史年表」をご覧ください。


英語字幕では人名に(#)マークをつけてあります。 Step 1.4「用語集(第1週)」も合わせてご覧ください。

Keywords introduced in the video


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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 漢籍の受容

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