Sino-Japanese Intellectual Exchange in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Thursday, 9:00-11:00, 502






On the Authenticity of the 'Gold Seal' from the Han Dynasty: Japanese Debates in the Late-18th and early 19th Centuries

The famous "gold seal" awarded in the year 57 C.E., according to the Hou Han shu, to an emissary from what is now Japan was discovered by a farmer in Kyushu in 1784 while repairing an irrigation ditch. And, ever since then, it has been a source of heated debate--although only in Japan--with well over 300 books an article dedicated in part or in full to it. In the immediate years after its discovery, numerous scholars of all proclivities offered their views on it: who accepted it in 57, what its inscription means, and countless other questions. Interestingly, it would not be until 1836 that someone suggested that it was an outright fake. This presentation will look at the range of views in the first few decades after the gold seal's unearthing and touch as well on the question of why only the Japanese seem interested in it.


Chinese Kepler in Japanese Sky: The Role of Chinese Writings in Eighteenth Century Japanese Astronomy

When comparing introduction of Western sciences to Japan and China, it is often pointed out that while China relied on the somewhat misleading Jesuit teaching, Japan received a first-hand guidance from the Dutch, who were not bound by any religious or ideological constrains. Consequently, while Chinese scholars were quick to learn the basics, they could not break through the ceiling posed by the Jesuits' rejection of heliocentric theory; Japanese, on the other hand, were late to acquire the basic theoretical notions, but quicker to adopt and to apply Western knowledge in the actual practice. While this standpoint contains undeniably valid arguments, it nevertheless mistakenly compares different kind of sciences: astronomy in the case of China, and medicine, or natural history, in the case of Japan. This image seem to take a different shape when we turn our gaze to Japanese astronomy. In this talk I will explore the role of Jesuit-inspired Chinese astronomical texts, such as Tianjing huowen, Chongzhen lishu, Lingtai yixiangzhi, and Lixiang kaocheng, in Japanese astronomy of the late seventeenth and the eighteenth century. I will claim that prior to the Japanese partial translation of Lalande's astronomy in the first decades of the nineteenth century, Japanese astronomers learned the so-called Western astronomy from the imported Chinese texts. Consequently, although the actual application of astronomical theories differed form what was done in China, Japanese astronomical practice could not have advanced without the solid theoretical basis provided by Jesuit-inspired Chinese texts.


Dai Zhen and Ito Jinsai: The Plagiarism Debate Contextualized

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Dai Zhen (1724-77) has been accused by some scholars of plagiarizing Itō Jinsai's (1627-1705) Gomō jigi (Meaning of Terms in the Lun Yu and Mengzi) in his late eighteenth-century Mengzi ziyi shuzheng (Analysis of the Meaning of Terms in the Mengzi). Other scholars refuted the accusations, and a debate has been raging on this subject. In this paper I aim to explore, first, the similarities between the two texts that prompted scholars to claim their resemblance. Further, to historicize the debate itself: who, when, and why, accused Dai Zhen of plagiarism. And, lastly, to analyze the ways in which Dai could have seen and utilize Itō Jinsai's text, and the possibility of him using the text. In doing so I also consider the actualities of Sino-Japanese exchange, how texts travelled, and how scholars from each country perceived those across the sea.