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  • Uncharted Waters: Intellectual Life in the Edo Period: Essays in Honour of W. J. Boot Edited by Anna Beerens and Mark Teeuwen
  • Kōichirō Matsuda (bio)
Uncharted Waters: Intellectual Life in the Edo Period: Essays in Honour of W. J. Boot. Edited by Anna Beerens and Mark Teeuwen. Brill, Leiden, 2012. xii, 259 pages. €105.00.

This book is a Festschrift honoring W. J. Boot. The contributors are his former Ph.D. students and colleagues at Leiden or in academic projects. Boot is highly respected for his refined studies of Tokugawa litterateurs and his precise decipherment of original documents containing kuzushiji (cursive characters) or kanbun (classical Chinese style). However, although Boot explains that “by training I am a philologist” (p. xi), the scope of his work has presented a broad picture of the social and political life of Tokugawa-period intellectuals.1 All the contributors to this volume respect Boot’s methodology which made them focus on primary sources never printed in modern editions or explore topics which had generally drawn only limited attention. The contents are divided into three thematic parts: the first is on the social networks of Tokugawa intellectuals, the second treats the ideologies that legitimated Tokugawa rule, and the third part examines Western views of the Japanese linguistic system and Japanese adoption of Western knowledge.

The first part includes two chapters. Margarita Winkel examines a circle called Tankikai (Society of Curiosity Lovers) for which Yamazaki Yoshinari, a medicine ingredient merchant, and Takizawa Bakin, a famous gesaku writer, took turns hosting monthly meetings in 1824 and 1825. Tankikai participants presented a variety of curious things such as old tools, crafts, paintings, and musical instruments, and they discussed the use of these objects, their previous owners, and their origins or curious legends associated with them. Tankikai was a serious scholarly group rather than a casual hobby circle, and no sake or sakana (snacks) was served during the meetings (p. 30). In a similar association, Toenkai, participants presented and examined historical documents. Members came from various social backgrounds, a fact that lent a free and egalitarian atmosphere to the group.2 To present a comparative view, Winkel refers to Peter Burke’s hypothesis that, in Europe, antiquarianism gained broader popularity in the eighteenth century but also turned into a serious inquiry [End Page 391] of historical evidence.3 Winkel seems to suggest that a parallelism may be found in Tankikai. The influence from Ogyū Sorai’s method of classical studies and curiosity about historical objects are combined in the activities of Tankikai (which included Ogyū Korenori, the adopted son of Sorai’s grandson).

Anna Beerens explores a network of artists and scholars in which Myōhō-in no miya Shinnin Hōshinnō (1768–1805), an imperial prince, played a pivotal role. Beeren’s main interest rests in the prosopographical sketches of the circle including famous painters such as Maruyama Ōkyo and Matsumura Goshun. From the field of literature, the network included Itō Tōsho (grandson of Itō Jinsai), Minagawa Kien, and Motoori Norinaga. The details are very interesting but the work relies perhaps a little too much on the eminent research in Munemasa Isoo’s Nihonkinsei bun’en no kenkyū (1977), but does not use Shinninhō nikki, even though it is available in a convenient, modern edition.4

The second part is comprised of chapters that deal with the political thinkers and ideologies concerned with the political and moral legitimacy of Tokugawa shogunate rule. Kate Wildman Nakai’s chapter is a close examination of the arguments among Tokugawa intellectuals on the evaluation of King Wu, who destroyed the tyrant King Zhou of the Shang dynasty. The key point was how to interpret the comment on the music associated with King Wu by Confucius, “not perfectly good” (imada zen o tsukusazu) in Analects 3:25. Nakai introduces the dispute between two of Yamazaki Ansai’s disciples, Asami Keisai and Satō Naokata, on the evaluation of a poem by the Tang poet Han Yu titled Juoucao (Kōyūsō), which described the feelings of Wen (King Wu’s father) at the time of his imprisonment by King Zhou. Wen never lost his loyalty to King Zhou even when the...


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