- Te-ch'uan Jih-ben Lun-yü ch'üan-shih shih-lun
Interpreters of Confucian thought in Japan find themselves inevitably addressing the question of whether the study of Confucianism by Japanese scholars is fundamentally different from the study of Confucianism by Chinese scholars. At issue is whether there are significant variances in conceptual orientations, sociopolitical contexts, historical circumstances, or hermeneutic tendencies that make Chinese and Japanese understandings of what seem to be the same texts profoundly different in interpretive outcome.
Bob Wakabayashi has characterized two diametrically opposed positions related to this question in terms of what he calls the "gyōza-manjū controversy." Wakabayashi notes how some Japanese believe that just as gyōza and jiaozi (fried dumplings) are written with the same characters , they refer, naturally enough, to essentially the same dish, whether cooked in Taipei or in Kyoto, Tokyo, or Beijing. Along similar lines, scholars such as Maruyama Masao (1914–1996), at least in his early writings, have supposed that Confucian texts and philosophical notions have essentially the same meanings, and their interpreters the same consciousness of philosophical problems, regardless of their national identity, whether Japanese or Chinese. However, other Japanese call attention to the fact that although the words manjū and mantou are written with the same characters , they refer to profoundly different things: manjū are buns filled with sweet beans, while mantou are a kind of steamed bread. Similarly, interpreters of Japanese Confucianism such as Tsuda Sōkichi (1873–1961) have claimed that Chinese Confucian notions as such were simply inappropriate to Japan and the Japanese mentality.1
Wakabayashi's purpose in describing the gyōza-manjū controversy was to set the stage for his review of Watanabe Hiroshi's (1946– ) important study, Kinsei Nihon shakai to Sōgaku (Early-Modern Japanese society and Song learning), a work that suggests that Chinese Confucianism, while not initially appropriate to Japanese social and political realities, was eventually formulated in ways that not only matched Japanese sensibilities and their historical predicament, but also contributed to the transformation of Japan. The controversies that Wakabayashi outlined are equally appropriate to the important new study by Huang Chun-chieh (1946– ), Distinguished Professor of History and Dean of the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences at National Taiwan [End Page 233] University. Huang's book, Te-ch'uan Jih-ben Lun-yü ch'üan-shih shih-lun (Tokugawa Japanese interpretations of the Analects: A historical inquiry; Japanese reading: Tokugawa Nihon Rongo senshaku shiron), addresses the question mentioned at the opening of this review, but does so with the clear assumption that, at the very least, there are differences of one kind or another between Chinese interpretations of Confucian literature, Korean interpretations, and Japanese understandings of the same texts. Without suggesting that there are profoundly different epistemological assumptions dividing Chinese, Korean, and Japanese hermeneutics of Confucian texts, Huang explains that his book examines the interpretive alterations and even transformations that occurred in the wake of the transmission of Confucianism eastward into Japan. More particularly, Huang's present study explores this problem from the angle of transformations in Tokugawa Japanese (1600–1868) understandings of the Confucian Analects. As he notes, Huang has been researching this topic for the last thirty years, although largely as it applied to interpretations of the Mencius. Over the last decade, however, his attention has shifted to the Analects.2
Huang has undoubtedly been one of the most prolific scholars in the field of Confucian studies over the last two decades. While space does not allow a complete recitation of his many works here, mention of a few will give an indication of the breadth of his work. In 2006 alone, along with the book under review, Huang published several other studies, including Taiwan in Transformation, 1895–2005: The Challenge of a New Democracy to an Old Civilization (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers). In addition to several studies in...