Books and Boats: Sino-Japanese Relations and Cultural Transmission in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

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9781937385125: Books and Boats: Sino-Japanese Relations and Cultural Transmission in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
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This volume looks in detail at trade between the Qing dynasty and the Edo shogunate primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While touching on all manner of items traded, from where, to where, and the like, Oba Osamu particularly focuses on the importation of Chinese books to Japan. This entails a detailed discussion and analysis of the censorship procedures for detecting works with any sort of Christian content―strictly forbidden―and the punishments meted out to the guilty importers. Ōba also looks at the families responsible for inspecting books―it became a hereditary post―and the Chinese interpreters attached to the Nagasaki Magistrates office.

According to Professor Fogel, “[Oba] . . . asks: How did Japanese of the late-Tokugawa and early-Meiji eras learn about the West? In fact, with certain exceptions, their major texts on Western affairs were classical Chinese texts (Kanbun), often translations of Western books made by European missionaries together with their Qing collaborators. Oba’s attention to this central importance of classical Chinese texts was the crowning achievement of his career, and it has earned him extraordinary praise from both Japanese and Chinese historians.”

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About the Author:

Oba Osamu (1927-2002) taught for many years at Kansai University. Widely viewed as a scholarly polymath, he had two basic specialties: Sino-Japanese relations (especially, the book trade during the 17th-19th centuries) and the Han-era wood strips.

Review:

ba Osamu s book is a long-lost classic. Undergraduates and general readers in English will, to their huge delight, discover much about little-known trans-cultural links in pre-modern East Asia, especially the China-to-Japan book trade, Tokugawa censorship of it in order to shut out Christianity, the flow of exotic animals such as elephants, and the role that Chinese Learning played in forming Meiji views on international relations. Equally important, ba s trenchant caveat against gullibly accepting conventional wisdom in history remains cogent even today in our internet age. --Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Professor Emeritus, York University

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Oba Osamu
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Osamu, Oba
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