restricted access "Petition to Establish a School"
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Part Three Views on Scholarship 244 “PETITION TO ESTABLISH A SCHOOL” Kada no Azumamaro | ca. 1728 [While few modern scholars believe this to be the actual work of Azumamaro, many do at least admit that it represents his basic thoughts. The petition was apparently written near the end of his life, as Azumamaro wanted a school from which to broaden his teachings. The petition, written in classical Chinese, quotes from a variety of Chinese sources, because literary Chinese was the official language of the shogun’s court. A deeper desire for the establishment of a school, likely, was to let the public know that there was a place they could come to study things that were uniquely Japanese. ] Respectfully begging your honorable favor, I humbly submit this request to establish a school for Kokugaku. With trembling in my heart, I reverently submit my offer. Pondering upon the past in awe, we see that the divine lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu, came from Mikawa, and after he had united the country, he ruled the land in tranquility. As the wind drives the grass hither and thither, where is there a person who stands in defiance of Lord Ieyasu? He initiated a reformation in the country, and for the first time established Kōbun no Kan.1 This established school has flourished and prospered, and there remains nothing to add to it. Wise shoguns have come to power successively, and our literary culture has only brightened. The splendor of military skill has continued to improve until it is now complete. How can the frugality that the Kamakura rulers were fond of surpass the appearance of talented samurai of our day? How can we mention in the same breath the literary arts supported by the Muromachi rulers compared to the literary achievements of our period? As is fitting for this era of peace, heaven has sent us a magnanimous and benevolent lord endowed with heaven-­ sent virtues. Our lord rules without stern force, leading us by example. Among the commoners, he surrounds 1. Also known as Shōheikō or Shōheizaka Gakumonjo. It was a school of learning originally established in 1630 when Tokugawa Iemitsu granted land in Ueno to Hayashi Razan, allowing him to open a private school. In 1690 Tokugawa Tsunayoshi had the school removed to Kanda, and the school was expanded. It then became known as Shōheikō. AZUMAMARO | “Petition to establish a school” 245 himself with wise men, like the Yao Dynasty in China, when the government put out a drum for petitions against the government. In the same vein, there are none who have complained against our ruler. There are many honest servants in the government, reminiscent of the Zhou Dynasty when one hundred officials remonstrated with the king. Our ruler pays respect to the emperor above him, conducting affairs in all honesty. Below, the feudal lords pay obeisance, sending tribute of locally produced articles. The system of the government is well in order, and when our ruler has leisure, he turns to the study of ancient learning. When education in the world is lacking, he researches deeply into the worthy methods of government from our ancient sovereigns. He purchases rare manuscripts at high prices.2 Famous and talented men willingly offer him their allegiance. These talented men search for valuable works hidden away. Gifted men in the provinces come to see him and partake of his virtue. When I had occasion to travel to Edo, I was fortunate to have you grant me, a person full of fear, lacking any scholarly merit, permission to organize and collate the books in the library. You lavished such favor on me that I almost forgot what a common citizen I am. There is much we can learn from the words of lamentation of Sima Qian,3 “For whom do you do this? To whom will these things be spoken? There is no one.” Also, there is deep meaning in the words of Mencius of Zou, who said, “A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like waiting for the right season.”4 Now at this time, under the glory of the Bakufu, if I have received the grace of the shogun in establishing a school of national learning, I wish to voice my heartfelt desires. Nevertheless, I have pondered in my heart why I have as yet been unable to fulfill this desire. If I do not fail in my progress, though I am a lame turtle, I could...


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