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Unformatted text preview: of the Confucian tradition. The Neo-Confucianists
in China had started out to do the very same thing and had ended in
producing intellectual syntheses that were far removed from the down-toearth humanism of Confucianism and the sages of early China. The
Ancient Studies scholars of Tokugawa Japan also differed widely in their
interpretations of what constituted the original teachings of Confucianism
and how they should be applied to the conditions of their own country
The first major figure of the Ancient Studies school was Yamaga Sokò
(1622–85). Of samurai origin, Sokò earned a reputation as a brilliant
scholar, delving into such varied subjects as Shinto, Buddhism, and Japanese poetry, as well as Confucianism, which he studied in Edo under
Hayashi Razan. Sokò was also greatly interested in military science, and
it was probably this interest as much as anything that eventually led him
to attack the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy as irrelevant to Japan in the
seventeenth century. He observed that Confucius had lived during an age
when conditions in China were far closer to the feudal system of Tokugawa Japan than to the centralized bureaucratic state for which the NeoConfucianists of the Sung dynasty had shaped their doctrines. Sokò
accordingly believed that, rather than the metaphysically based and overly
idealistic tenets of orthodox Neo-Confucianism, the practical ethics for
everyday living that Confucius had preached should be used for the moral
training of the Japanese of his time.
Sokò was also one of the first thinkers of the Tokugawa period to
address himself to the problem of justifying the existence of the samurai 208 Heterodox Trends as a largely idle, stipendiary class. After the founding of the Tokugawa
shogunate in 1600, there had been little opportunity for the samurai to
pursue their principal calling, and it became a historical anomaly that a
class of fighting men should preside over Japan during its longest age of
peace. Some samurai became bureaucratic administrators of the shogunate and han governments, but others had very little in th...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13