The great confucian rationalist and shogunate adviser

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Unformatted text preview: ude of strict scholarly neutrality, his personal interest in the work went beyond the cultural to the religious. He sought, in fact, to establish the Kojiki as a basic scripture of Shinto. Norinaga’s own theology was founded on absolute faith in the native kami of Japan. Rejecting the various Shinto schools that had emerged in the medieval age and that had absorbed varying amounts of Buddhism, Confucianism, and sundry Chinese lore, Norinaga insisted that the ways of the kami were inscrutable and that the accounts of them in such writings as the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki must be accepted as gospel. Enriched by the great contribution of Motoori Norinaga, the National Learning movement evolved in several directions during the late Tokugawa period. Some scholars continued to devote themselves to Japanese literature and history; others gave their attention chiefly to the Shintoist elements in National Learning; and still others moved into the field of political activism and became advocates of imperial restoration. By far the most influential member of the National Learning (or NeoShintoist) movement of the early nineteenth century was Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843). Atsutane never had the opportunity to meet Motoori Norinaga, but he deeply venerated the work of the older master and always claimed that he was Norinaga’s true successor. Nevertheless, Atsutane was of a very different temperament and outlook from Norinaga. He was, for one thing, a fiery Shintoist and Japanophile, who reviled alien teachings and foreign countries in order to glorify the superiority of Japan and its native learning. Norinaga had combined impeccable scholarship with an abiding religious faith (even though we may regard as excessively naive his acceptance of the mythical accounts of the age of the gods as literally true); Atsutane, on the other hand, seems never to have hesitated to interpret and even to distort things to suit his purposes. Two examples may be given to illustrate Atsutane’s penchant for specious argument. First, he asserted that the reason the ancient Japanese had not articulated a Way of virtuous behavior (that is, a Way like Confucianism), as t...
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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.

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