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Essays on Politics, Thought and Education in the Meiji Era
Detailed and diverse, Proliferating Talent challenges us to rethink a crucial period in Japanese history. The eight essays translated here broadly cover the eventful half century that witnessed the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the rise of the modern Japanese state to the position of an international power. Edited by J.S.A. Elisonas and Richard Rubinger, professors of East Asian languages and cultures at Indiana University, Proliferating Talent is full of nuances and carefully textured readings in which local developments are carefully balanced against major national events.
White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire
Japan’s lightning march across Asia during World War II was swift and brutal. Nation after nation fell to Japanese soldiers. How were the Japanese able to justify their occupation of so many Asian nations? And how did they find supporters in countries they subdued and exploited? Race War! delves into submerged and forgotten history to reveal how European racism and colonialism were deftly exploited by the Japanese to create allies among formerly colonized people of color. Through interviews and original archival research on five continents, Gerald Horne shows how race played a key—and hitherto ignored—;role in each phase of the war.
During the conflict, the Japanese turned white racism on its head portraying the war as a defense against white domination in the Pacific. We learn about the reverse racial hierarchy practiced by the Japanese internment camps, in which whites were placed at the bottom of the totem pole, under the supervision of Chinese, Korean, and Indian guards—an embarrassing example of racial payback that was downplayed by the defeated Japanese and the humiliated Europeans and Euro-Americans.
Focusing on the microcosmic example of Hong Kong but ranging from colonial India to New Zealand and the shores of the U.S., Gerald Horne radically retells the story of the war. From racist U.S. propaganda to Black Nationalist open support of Imperial Japan, information about the effect of race on U.S. and British policy is revealed for the first time. This revisionist account of the war draws connections between General Tojo, Malaysian freedom fighters, and Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and shows how white racism encouraged and enabled Japanese imperialism. In sum, Horne demonstrates that the retreat of white supremacy was not only driven by the impact of the Cold War and the energized militancy of Africans and African-Americans but by the impact of the Pacific War as well, as a chastened U.S. and U.K. moved vigorously after this conflict to remove the conditions that made Japan's success possible.
The Linji lu (Record of Linji) has been an essential text of Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. A compilation of sermons, statements, and acts attributed to the great Chinese Zen master Linji Yixuan (d. 866), it serves as both an authoritative statement of Zen’s basic standpoint and a central source of material for Zen koan practice. Scholars study the text for its importance in understanding both Zen thought and East Asian Mahayana doctrine, while Zen practitioners cherish it for its unusual simplicity, directness, and ability to inspire. One of the earliest attempts to translate this important work into English was by Sasaki Shigetsu (1882–1945), a pioneer Zen master in the U.S. and the founder of the First Zen Institute of America. At the time of his death, he entrusted the project to his wife, Ruth Fuller Sasaki, who in 1949 moved to Japan and there founded a branch of the First Zen Institute at Daitoku-ji. Mrs. Sasaki, determined to produce a definitive translation, assembled a team of talented young scholars, both Japanese and Western, who in the following years retranslated the text in accordance with modern research on Tang-dynasty colloquial Chinese. As they worked on the translation, they compiled hundreds of detailed notes explaining every technical term, vernacular expression, and literary reference. One of the team, Yanagida Seizan (later Japan’s preeminent Zen historian), produced a lengthy introduction that outlined the emergence of Chinese Zen, presented a biography of Linji, and traced the textual development of the Linji lu. The sudden death of Mrs. Sasaki in 1967 brought the nearly completed project to a halt. An abbreviated version of the book was published in 1975, but neither this nor any other English translations that subsequently appeared contain the type of detailed historical, linguistic, and doctrinal annotation that was central to Mrs. Sasaki’s plan. The materials assembled by Mrs. Sasaki and her team are finally available in the present edition of the Record of Linji. Chinese readings have been changed to Pinyin and the translation itself has been revised in line with subsequent research by Iriya Yoshitaka and Yanagida Seizan, the scholars who advised Mrs. Sasaki. The notes, nearly six hundred in all, are almost entirely based on primary sources and thus retain their value despite the nearly forty years since their preparation. They provide a rich context for Linji’s teachings, supplying a wealth of information on Tang colloquial expressions, Buddhist thought, and Zen history, much of which is unavailable anywhere else in English. This revised edition of the Record of Linji is certain to be of great value to Buddhist scholars, Zen practitioners, and readers interested in Asian Buddhism.
Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941–46
Red Star over Malaya is an account of the inter-racial relations between Malays and Chinese during the final stages and the aftermath of the Japanese occupation. As Japanese forces retreated into the big cities, the Chinese guerrillas of the communist-led resistance movement, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), emerged from the jungle and took control of some 70 per cent of the country's smaller towns and villages. The ensuing conflict involving the Malayan Communist Party, the Malay population, and the British Military Administration marked a crucial stage in the history of Malaya. Based on extensive archival research in Malaysia, Great Britain, Japan and the United States, Red Star Over Malaya provides a riveting account of the way the Japanese occupation reshaped colonial Malaya, and of the tension-filled months that followed surrender. This book is fundamental to an understanding of social and political developments in Malaysia during the second half of the 20th century.
Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing
This work offers the first systematic analysis of writings on modern Chinese history by historians in China from the early twentieth century to the present. It traces the construction of major interpretive schemes, the evolution of dominant historical narratives, and the unfolding of debates on the most controversial issues in different periods. Placing history-writing in the context of political rivalry and ideological contestation, Huaiyin Li explicates how the historians’ dedication to faithfully reconstructing the past was compromised by their commitment to an imagined trajectory of history that fit their present-day agenda and served their needs of political legitimation.
Beginning with an examination of the contrasting narratives of revolution and modernization in the Republican period, the book scrutinizes changes in the revolutionary historiography after 1949, including its disciplinization in the 1950s and early 1960s and radicalization in the rest of the Mao era. It further investigates the rise of the modernization paradigm in the reform era, the crises of master narratives since the late 1990s, and the latest development of the field. Central to the author’s analysis is the issue of truth and falsehood in historical representation. Li contends that both the revolutionary and modernization historiographies before 1949 reflected historians’ lived experiences and contained a degree of authenticity in mirroring the historical processes of their own times. In sharp contrast, both the revolutionary historiography of the Maoist era and the modernization historiography of the reform era were primarily products of historians’ ideological commitment, which distorted and concealed the past no less than revealed it.
In search of a more effective approach to rewriting modern Chinese history, Reinventing Modern China proposes a within-time, open-ended perspective, which allows for different directions in interpreting the events in modern China and views modern Chinese history as an unfinished process remaining to be defined as the country entered the twenty-first century.
Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women explores the world of thirteenth-century Japan through the life of a prolific noblewoman known as Nun Abutsu (1225–1283). Abutsu crossed gender and genre barriers by writing the first career guide for Japanese noblewomen, the first female-authored poetry treatise, and the first poetic travelogue by a woman—all despite the increasingly limited social mobility for women during the Kamakura era (1185–1336). Capitalizing on her literary talent and political prowess, Abutsu rose from middling origins and single-motherhood to a prestigious marriage and membership in an esteemed literary lineage.
Abutsu’s life is well documented in her own letters, diaries, and commentaries, as well as in critiques written by rivals, records of poetry events, and legal documents. Drawing on these and other literary and historiographical sources, including The Tale of Genji, author Christina Laffin demonstrates how medieval women responded to institutional changes that transformed their lives as court attendants, wives, and nuns. Despite increased professionalization of the arts, competition over sources of patronage, and rivaling claims to literary expertise, Abutsu proved her poetic capabilities through her work and often used patriarchal ideals of femininity to lay claim to political and literary authority.
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women effectively challenges notions that literary salons in Japan were a phenomenon limited to the Heian period (794–1185) and that literary writing and scholarship were the domain of men during the Kamakura era. Its analysis of literary works within the context of women’s history makes clear the important role that medieval women and their cultural contributions continued to play in Japanese history.
Issues on the Historical Archaeology of Ancient Japan
The Japanese have long sought inspiration and legitimacy from the written record of their ancient past. The shaping of bygone eras to contemporary agendas began at least by the early eighth century, when the first court histories, namely the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki, were compiled. Since the late nineteenth century, historians have extensively mined these texts and other written evidence and by the late 1970s had nearly exhausted their meager sources. Fortunately for all those interested in uncovering the origins of Japanese civilization, archaeologists have been hard at work. Today, thanks to this postwar "archaeology boom," Japan historians have never been closer to recreating the lives of prehistoric peasants, ancient princes, and medieval samurai. Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures offers substantial new insights into early Japanese history (A.D. 100-800) through an integrated discussion of historical texts and archaeological artifacts. It contends that the rich archaeological discoveries of the past few decades permit scholars to develop far more satisfactory interpretations of ancient Japan than was possible when they were heavily dependent on written sources.
The Women’s Liberation Movement in Japan
More than forty years ago a women’s liberation movement called ūman ribu was born in Japan amid conditions of radicalism, violence, and imperialist aggression. Setsu Shigematsu’s book is the first to present a sustained history of ūman ribu’s formation, its political philosophy, and its contributions to feminist politics across and beyond Japan. Through an in-depth analysis of ūman ribu, Shigematsu furthers our understanding of Japan’s gender-based modernity and imperialism and expands our perspective on transnational liberation and feminist movements worldwide.
In Scream from the Shadows, Shigematsu engages with political philosophy while also contextualizing the movement in relation to the Japanese left and New Left as well as the anti–Vietnam War and radical student movements. She examines the controversial figure Tanaka Mitsu, ūman ribu’s most influential activist, and the movement’s internal dynamics. Shigematsu highlights ūman ribu’s distinctive approach to the relationship of women—and women’s liberation—to violence: specifically, the movement’s embrace of violent women who were often at the margins of society and its recognition of women’s complicity in violence against other women.
Scream from the Shadows provides a powerful case study of a complex and contradictory movement with a radical vision of women’s liberation. It offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the blind spots within our contemporary and dominant views of feminism across their liberal, marxist, radical, Euro-American, postcolonial, and racial boundaries.
Covert Shin Buddhists in Japan and Contradictions of Concealment
Shin has long been one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Japan. As a devotional tradition that emphasizes gratitude and trust in Amida Buddha, it is thought to have little to do with secrecy. Yet for centuries, Shin Buddhists met on secluded mountains, in homes, and in the backrooms of stores to teach their hidden doctrines and hold clandestine rites. Among their adherents was D. T. Suzuki’s mother, who took her son to covert Shin meetings when he was a boy. Even among Shin experts, covert followers were relatively unknown; historians who studied them claimed they had disappeared more than a century ago. A serendipitous encounter, however, led to author Clark Chilson’s introduction to the leader of a covert Shin Buddhist group—one of several that to this day conceal the very existence of their beliefs and practices. In Secrecy’s Power Chilson explains how and why they have remained hidden. Drawing on historical and ethnographic sources, as well as fieldwork among covert Shin Buddhists in central Japan, Secrecy’s Power introduces the histories, doctrines, and practices of different covert Shin Buddhists. It shows how, despite assumptions to the contrary, secrecy has been a significant part of Shin’s history since the thirteenth century, when Shinran disowned his eldest son for claiming secret knowledge. The work also demonstrates how secrecy in Shin has long been both a source of conflict and a response to it. Some covert Shin Buddhists were persecuted because of their secrecy, while others used it to protect themselves from persecution under rulers hostile to Shin. Secrecy’s Power is a groundbreaking work that makes an important contribution to our knowledge on secrecy and Shin Buddhism. Organized around the various consequences concealment has had for covert Shin Buddhists, it provides new insights into the power of secrecy to produce multiple effects—even polar opposite ones. It also sheds light on ignored corners of Shin Buddhism to reveal a much richer, more diverse, and more contested tradition than commonly is understood.
The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake
What are we to make of contemporary newspapers in Japan speculating about the possible connection between aquatic creatures and earthquakes? Of a city council deciding to issue evacuation advice based on observed animal behavior? Why, between 1977 and 1993, did Japan’s government spend taxpayer money to observe catfish in aquariums as part of its mandate to fund earthquake prediction research? All of these actions are direct legacies of the 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake, one of the major natural disasters of the period. In his investigation of the science, politics, and lore of seismic events in Japan, Gregory Smits examines this earthquake in a broad historical context.
The Ansei Edo earthquake shook the shogun’s capital during a year of special religious significance and at a time of particularly vigorous seismic activity. It was also a turning point because, according to the prevailing understanding of earthquakes at the time, it should never have happened. Many Japanese, therefore, became receptive to new ideas about the causes of earthquakes as well as to the notion that by observing some phenomena—for example, the behavior of catfish—one might determine when an earthquake would strike. All subsequent major earthquakes in Japan resulted in claims, always made after the fact, that certain phenomena had been signs of the impending catastrophe. Indeed, earthquake prediction in Japan from 1855 to the present has largely consisted of amassing collections of alleged or possible precursor phenomena. In addition, the Ansei Edo earthquake served as a catalyst accelerating socio-political trends already underway. It revealed bakufu military weaknesses and enhanced the prestige of the imperial deity Amaterasu at the expense of the bakufu deity Kashima.
Anyone interested in Japan, earthquakes, and natural disasters will benefit from Seismic Japan. The work also serves as essential background for understanding the peculiar history of earthquake prediction in modern and contemporary Japan.
Gregory Smits is associate professor of history and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University.