The Heritage of Japanese Civilization

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9780135766125: The Heritage of Japanese Civilization
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This short survey of the rich and long history of Japan provides an overall framework from its origins to today. It presents traditions in every field of the arts and literature, political changes, economic advancements, and developments in society, commerce, and culture. Five chapters cover distinct eras: Japan's origins to the twelfth century; medieval Japan, Tokugawa Rule, modern Japan: 1853-1945, and from war's end to the new millenium. For anyone interested in the civilization of Asia and Japan.

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About the Author:

Albert M. Craig is the Harvard-Yenching Research Professor of History at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1959. A graduate of Northwestern University, he took his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Professor Craig has studied at Strasbourg University and Kyoto, Keio, and Tokyo Universities in Japan. He is the author of Choshu in the Meiji Restoration (1961), The Heritage of Chinese Civilization (2001), and, with others, East Asia, Tradition and Transformation (1989). He is the editor of Japan: A Comparative View (1973) and co-editor of Personality in Japanese History (1970). At present he is engaged in research on the thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi. For eleven years (1976-1987) Professor Craig was the director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. He has also been a visiting professor at Kyoto and Tokyo Universities. He has received Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Japan Foundation Fellowships. In 1988 Professor Craig was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government.

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The long and rich history of Japan was marked by three major transitions, each initiated by contact with a more advanced technology and different culture.

The first transition was from a hunting and gathering society that had been in place for thousands of years to an agricultural and metal-working society of villagers and local aristocrats. The transition began in about 300 BCE, when northeast Asian peoples, crossing from the Korean peninsula to Japan, introduced the new technologies and their accompanying culture.

In the second transition the Japanese actively reached out for the technologies, writing system, and culture of China, and changed from a pre-literate to a historical East Asian society. Developments within this society between the seventh and nineteenth centuries constitute the longest span of recorded Japanese history.

In the mid-nineteenth century, massive contacts with the West led to the rapid development of modern industries and the acceptance of new ideas and values. Japan transformed itself and became the first non-Western modern nation.

Within the long time span in which Japan developed its unique and brilliant variant of continental East Asian civilization, three periods must be further distinguished. First was the classical era of the Nara and Heian courts that extended from the seventh to the twelfth century. The second, the medieval period of rule by military houses, began in the thirteenth and continued into the sixteenth century. The third was the Tokugawa era, which extended from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. During this last peaceful era, military houses still ruled but were incorporated within a framework of centralized government. Modern Japan, though brief in comparison, may be divided into two phases: the first, from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of World War 11; the second, from 1945 to the present day.

This volume consists in the main of the Japan chapters of The Heritage of World Civilization, extensively revised and expanded. It provides a chronological framework and a narrative of Japan's history. It highlights periods of rule but also addresses social, economic, and cultural developments which were continuous and cut across rule-periods. There are, to be sure, excellent thick histories of Japan, particularly of the modern era. Their principal drawback is that length precludes the assignment of other readings. For the instructor who wishes to approach Japanese history topically or assign collections of original documents, monographs, novels and films, it is hoped that the brevity of this text will prove an advantage.

Brevity being the goal, the author asserts with seeming confidence many things that may be true only in the balance. Proper qualifications would take up many pages. Also, in telling the story of Japan's past the author has emphasized key historical variables, but in doing so has inevitably left out minor themes that merit attention. Reading assignments from the Suggested Readings at the end of each chapter may provide a counterpoint to the interpretations in the text.

Geography helps us to understand Japanese history. The climate varies widely, from the northern island of Hokkaido, where ice and snow may last into the spring, to the southern island of Kyushu, where palm trees dot the shores of Miyazaki and Kagoshima. But the central axis of the Japanese economy, culture, and polity has always been the temperate zone that stretches from western Honshu, through Osaka and Kyoto, to the Kanto plain and Tokyo in the east. Also of historical salience is the mountainous spine that runs through the length of the country and breaks up the country into regions. When central authority was weak, the regions often became politically autonomous. Maps identify most of the places mentioned in the text.

Even in studying the West—our own civilization—we catch only glimpses of what it meant, say, to be a merchant in late medieval Paris. What family, society, and nature looked like to a Japanese monk or merchant is yet more difficult to know. But some inkling may be gained from original sources. To this end, many translations of poems, philosophical essays, and passages from novels are included in the narrative and in boxed quotations. The immediacy of these writings provides windows onto the actual thought and feelings of actors in Japan's history. We find that Japanese living a thousand years ago had many of the same hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows that we do today. We recognize these shared feelings despite the powerful shaping of human experience by different cultural modalities and social institutions.

The final section of each chapter reviews chapter materials in a larger comparative context. The comparisons point out that similar processes occur in widely divergent societies. But it should be remembered that such similarities are always embedded in dense structures that are quite dissimilar. Each chapter is followed by review questions, which may help elucidate the main themes of the chapter.

Japanese names in the text are given in the Japanese fashion, with the family name first. Thus Ito Hirobumi is Mr. Ito, his given name, Hirobumi. Artists and writers, however, are often known by their "pen names." Natsume Soseki, for example, was Natsume Kinnosuke as a youth, but later on, as an established novelist, was known as Natsume Soseki or simply by his pen name as Soseki. Japanese long vowels are indicated by a macron. Thus, Ito is pronounced I-toh, not Ito, and Soseki as Soh-seki, not So-seki. Long vowels are omitted from familiar words treated as English terms. Osaka is just Osaka, Tokyo is Tokyo, and shogun, except in the full Japanese title of Seii Tai Shogun, is just shogun.

In writing this book, I have drawn on many fine studies; my intellectual debts are legion and, as usual in a text of this nature, largely unacknowledged. But I would like to mention those to whom I owe a particular and personal debt, those whose ideas I have absorbed so completely as to think of as my own. Edwin O. Reischauer was first a mentor and then a colleague; Benjamin I. Schwartz was the colleague with whom I first taught a course on modern Japanese history; others with whom I have taught are Robert Bellah, Harold Bolitho, Peter Duus, Steve Ericson, Carol Gluck, Andrew Gordon, Howard Hibbett, Akira Iriye, Kate Nakai, Henry Rosovsky, Donald Shively, William Steele, and Ezra Vogel. I owe special thanks to my wife, Teruko Craig, who has tirelessly read and proofread the manuscript and made valuable suggestions. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the staff at Prentice Hall, to Judy Winthrop for her project management, and to Professor Chong-kun Yoon, who read the manuscript for the publisher and made numerous suggestions. All errors made are my own.

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