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From monk-scholars to kangakusha

From monk-scholars to kangakusha
As we have seen, during the medieval period it was primarily Zen monks who read, studied, annotated, and taught texts in Chinese. The Edo period(#), however, saw the rise of a class of professional lay scholars, who run their own academies and were sometimes employed by the central government and local administrations. They are known in Japanese as kangakusha (scholars of Chinese studies) or jugakusha (Confucian scholars). The change had political as well as social reasons. Gozan (“Five-Mountain”) Zen temples enjoyed the protection of the Muromachi shogunate as the leading gateway of scholarship, art, and culture from China. Monks also used their learning to contribute to diplomacy and foreign trade.
Their strategic importance was recognized by the country’s leader in the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi(). However, when Hideyoshi’s vanquisher, Tokugawa Ieyasu(), transferred the seat of power to Edo (modern Tokyo), he engaged the services of a lay scholar named Hayashi Razan (1583-1657). With the support of the shogunate, Razan’s school gradually became the country’s leading center of scholarship. Among scholars, Razan and his descendants were known as the “Rinke,” or, “Hayashi family [of scholars].” In Week 1, we introduced the Kenninji temple in Kyoto. The name has also crept up numerous times in Week 3. Indeed, perhaps no other Gozan temple made as great a contribution to scholarship and the arts as the Kenninji.
Razan, who was a native of Kyoto, began his studies at the Kenninji. However, he did not continue his religious career, preferring to open his own private academy and to make a living by teaching. It was another scholar with a similar experience of temple study, Fujiwara Seika (1561-1619), who first introduced him to Ieyasu(*). In the following Steps, we will look at the life and works of Razan and his descendants and learn more about the development of scholarship during the Edo period(#), after the end of the golden age of temple scholarship.

In Week 4, we will learn more about the development of scholarship during the Edo period, after the end of the golden age of temple scholarship, by looking at some Japanese scholars.

Some words and names that may be unfamiliar to learners are listed in the glossary for each week. For Week 4, it’s located in the last step of this week. The PDF version is also available.

Keywords introduced in the video

The PDF version of the course handout for Week 4 is available in the DOWNLOADS section below.

Historical figures in the video

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