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Part Four Views on Japan/Religion 336 KOKUIKŌ1 Kamo no Mabuchi | 1765 [Mabuchi wrote this essay based on what may have been an imaginary conversation with someone representing Confucian learning, though it is clear that he had Bendōsho, written by Dazai Shundai (1735), in mind, as his questions parallel those in the earlier work.2 Mabuchi appealed to what he thought Japanese culture should be based on his concept, through his reading of ancient texts—mainly Man’yōshū— of what the ancient culture had been. He sees the ancient, pristine culture of Japan as being in harmony with Nature and heaven, but with the introduction of Chinese culture a fundamental change occurred. His claim is based on what he sees as a lack of spontaneity in later culture, where ancient culture was replete with natural phenomena . He asserts that through careful study of the past, it was possible to change this condition back to what it had been.] A person once said, “I have no interest in something frivolous like poetry , but I do have great interest in the Chinese system of ruling the country.” Hearing this, I just smiled, not responding to what he had said. Later, when I met the same man again, he said to me, “Why were you simply smiling at me last time, even though I was discussing the reasoning of various things?” I replied, “Were you referring to Confucianism, which came from China? Confucianism is a man-­ made idea that is trivial when compared to the heart of heaven and earth.” Hearing this, the man became very angry, “How can you call this great Way trivial?” I then said, “So, I would like to know if a country has ever been governed effectively by Confucianism?” Having asked this, he answered me that the reigns of the Yao, Shun, Xia, Yin, and Zhou dynasties are examples of China being effectively governed. To this I replied, “And there have not been any after that?” He answered that there have been none since. I again asked, “How many reigns does China’s tradition claim that it has had?” He replied that from the Yao 1. One manuscript has 国乃許々呂 kuni no kokoro “the heart of the state.” Most other manuscripts have 国意考 “thoughts on the meaning of the state.” I have followed the latter, since it is most commonly known by this title. 2. See Flueckiger (2008:213). MABUCHI | Kokuikō337­ Dynasty down to the present there have been numerous reigns (for thousands of years). I further inquired, “If it is true that the state was governed effectively from the reigns of the Yao down to the Zhou, then what happened afterward? In other words, you are saying that a tradition that has existed for thousands of years only governed the very ancient times well? However, these are just tales from antiquity. You see, the world cannot be governed simply by Confucian logic.” After I said this, this man became all the more flustered, and explained all the events in ancient history. I retorted, “You are biased towards Confucianism . Do you believe that Yao conceded the throne to that despicable Shun? You make it sound as if this event was for the welfare of the country, but in this, the imperial country, we call this ‘ablutions to invite good events’3 and is viewed as very worthy. Therefore, in China there appeared vile men who refused to concede the throne, stole control of the government , and assassinated the ruler. This is ‘ablutions to rid one of evil.’4 Thus, when something good is abundant, it turns out to be abundant in evil. Also, a man known as Mencius said, ‘People who lived in the Yao and Shun eras were all virtuous because of the influence of the virtuous ruler, so some of them were given land and made feudal lords.’5 Taking this into consideration, was the father of Emperor Shun called an obstinate man6 because he pretended not to see the virtue in his son [and tried to kill him]? Shun’s father was one of the people of the Yao era, so how could he have been given territory and made a feudal lord? After Shun came Emperor Yu. And was not Yu’s father an evil man, and banished to a far-­ off province? He was a person from the reign of Shun, and though he was the father of Yu, was he someone to whom territory could have been [rightly] given? Now...


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