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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
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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- Spring '13