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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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- Spring '13