ASIA212Varley

Nevertheless by the late eighteenth century the

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Unformatted text preview: he early Chinese had, was that they had been inherently virtuous and had felt no need consciously to identify and preach virtue. Second, Atsutane contended that the Japanese failure to develop the art of medicine independently stemmed from the fact that, unlike China and Heterodox Trends 219 the Western countries, Japan had originally been pure and without disease and hence did not need medicines. Only after contact with the outside world were the Japanese also afflicted with diseases and obliged to seek remedies for them. Atsutane possessed a wide knowledge of many subjects, including the Western learning of the scholars of Dutch Studies (rangaku); in fact, his remarks about medicine were made in spite of (or because of?) a considerable familiarity with Western advances in the field of medicine. Atsutane’s religious views may also have been influenced by Christianity, even though that foreign creed had been rigorously proscribed throughout the Tokugawa period. With the rise of Dutch Studies in the eighteenth century, some knowledge of Christianity inevitably filtered once again into Japan despite efforts by the authorities to prevent it. Atsutane’s stress on the central importance of a Shinto god of creativity and his belief in a rather pleasant sounding, if vaguely defined, Shinto afterworld may both have been partly or wholly derived from Christianity. His positing of an afterworld was in particular an innovation for Shinto, which had always been notably deficient in such speculation. The last major movement of heterodox learning in the Tokugawa period was the school of Dutch Studies. We have seen that, although the Japanese had engaged in a century of intercourse with Europeans, particularly the Portuguese, from the 1540s until the late 1630s, much of the Western knowledge they acquired in that period was lost during the anti-Christian persecutions that accompanied implementation of the national seclusion policy. From 1641 on, only the Dutch among Europeans were permitted to trade with Japan; and the Dutch, who shared the limited Japanese foreign trade at Nagasaki with the Chinese, were virtually quarantined f...
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