ASIA212Varley

In all of his scholarly work hakuseki exhibited a

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Unformatted text preview: ve been slaughtered, the Asano house’s hopes would have been dashed, but the forty-seven would, through their death frenzy, have preserved their personal, entirely selfish honor. Let us return to Yamaga Sokò. In addition to his writings on the way of the warrior, Sokò is also remembered for his stress on another theme, the greatness of Japan, that was to endear him to later nationalists of the modern period. The study of Confucianism naturally imbued Japanese scholars with a greater or lesser degree of enthusiasm for the civilization of China: some became outright Sinophiles, and although other Confucian scholars of the early Tokugawa period, including Hayashi Razan, had gone beyond their study of Chinese philosophy to investigate Shinto and the Japanese tradition, Yamaga Sokò was the first thinker of stature to claim the superiority of Japanese culture and ethical values over those of China. By exalting the sacred origins of Japan and by claiming that Japan, rather than China, should be regarded as the Middle Kingdom of the world, Sokò gave early voice to an attitude that was to gain wide acceptance after the rise to prominence in the eighteenth century of the Neo-Shintoist School of National Learning (kokugaku-ha). Another outstanding scholar of the Ancient Studies school was Ogyû Sorai (1666–1728), who went even farther back into Chinese history than Sokò to find the “true” Confucian way in the age of ancient sages who lived before Confucius. Yamaga Sokò had criticized the abstract NeoConfucian stress on cultivating man’s inherently moral nature and had urged the inculcation of more practical, “fundamental” ethics as a means for maintaining social order in Tokugawa Japan. But both Sokò and the Neo-Confucianists were, in the best Confucian tradition, interested chiefly in the subject of morality. Ogyû Sorai, on the other hand, paid less attention to morality than to the legal and institutional controls necessary for governing society. Although there were antecedents for it in Confucianism, Sorai’s greater 214 Heterodox Trends emphasis on controlling men than on tr ying to elevate them to the utopian state wh...
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