ASIA212Varley

From 1641 on only the dutch among europeans were

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Unformatted text preview: Turning to the character of Genji in The Tale of Genji, Norinaga notes that, from the standpoint of Confucianism and Buddhism, Genji—the womanizer par excellence—is guilty of “acts of extraordinary iniquity and immorality.” But The Tale of Genji, rather than developing this theme, instead stresses Genji’s “goodness” as one who is profoundly aware of the sorrow of human existence: The purpose of the Tale of Genji may be likened to the man who, loving the lotus flower, must collect and store muddy and foul water in order to plant and cultivate the flower. The impure mud of illicit love affairs described in the Tale is there not for the purpose of being admired but for the purpose of nurturing the flower of the awareness of the sorrow of human existence. Prince Genji’s conduct is like the lotus flower which is happy and fragrant but which has its roots in filthy muddy water. But the Tale does not dwell on the impurity of the water; it dwells on those who are sympathetically kind and who are aware of the sorrow of human existence, and it holds these feelings to be the basis of the good man.15 In an effort to get to the origins of the Japanese tradition, Norinaga also went back beyond Mabuchi’s much-esteemed Man’yòshû to undertake research on the oldest extant Japanese book, the Kojiki. Whereas the Nihon Shoki was composed in Chinese and had been studied by courtier 218 Heterodox Trends scholars through the centuries, the Kojiki was so complexly written by means of Chinese characters to reproduce Japanese sounds that it had long been regarded as almost indecipherable. In what was one of the greatest achievements of scholarship in Japanese history, Norinaga devoted nearly thirty-five years to an analysis and annotated translation of the Kojiki. The end result is a testament to the exceptionally high standards of scholarly work that had been cultivated in Japan by the eighteenth century. Although Norinaga approached his translation of the Kojiki with an attit...
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