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Unformatted text preview: h Studies in
medical and other scientific matters is attributable not only to the fact
that these subjects were practical and safe (that is, unlikely to be connected directly with Christianity), but also, it appears, to the general temperament of the men drawn to study them. The rangaku scholars were of
a type who had an insatiable curiosity about all manner of things, who
loved to experiment simply for the sake of experimenting and, because of
their instinctively pragmatic approach to life, were not especially attracted
to questions of social or political ideology. Most of the early rangaku
scholars dabbled in many fields, including medicine, botany, astronomy,
and geography. As we shall see, they also practiced painting in the Western
style by employing the techniques of realistic perspective and chiaroscuro;
but their interest in Western ideas and philosophy was conspicuously
slight, even allowing for their wish to avoid the topic of Christianity.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the
nineteenth, however, there appeared a number of scholars of Western
learning who devoted their attention increasingly to questions of military
preparedness, economics, and foreign affairs, and who also advocated
programs of action. Among the reasons for this were the perennial, although ever more pressing, problems of the Tokugawa period: the disequilibrium caused by the growth of commercial markets and a complex
monetary system in a state still theoretically based on a natural economy;
the inability, because of the seclusion policy, to alleviate domestic economic difficulties by increasing foreign trade; and continuance of the
samurai as a largely idle class separated from their main source of income,
The shogunate attempted to deal with these and other problems by
undertaking a series of great reforms, the first of which was conducted
by the shogun Yoshimune in the second quarter of the eighteenth century.
But apart from some worthwhile programs, such as the encouragement
of land reclamation, diversification of crops, and the adoption of more
equitable and human penal laws, these reforms were largely traditionalistic and ill-suited to solving difficulties created chiefly by...
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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 UBC.
- Spring '13