Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 17
Confucian Discourse as Conceptual Framework"--The role played by Confucian Discourse as Form in pre-modern Japanese Philosophical and Literary Thought
Organizer: Kiri Paramore, University of Tokyo.

The presentations on this panel are tied together by a common interest in the way Confucian discourse has been used as a conceptual framework or form through which objects such as literary, religious, and philosophical texts are constituted and understood.
The subject matter of the papers ranges from the Jesuit use of Neo-Confucian discourse in Japanese didactic texts of the late 16th and early 17th century, to late 17th and early 18th century Japanese commentaries on the Analects, to 18th century Confucian commentaries on Heian literary texts.

It is the presenters' hope that the panel will spark lively debate, not just on the role played by Confucian discourse as conceptual framework in Japan, but on the wider issue of the ways differing philosophical and literary traditions interact in a given linguistic and cultural space.

1) Peter Flueckiger, Columbia University. "No Warped Thoughts": Sincerity, Ethics and the Book of Odes in Tokugawa Confucianism"

The claim that "The Book of Odes contains no warped thoughts" (Analects II.2) is one of the canonical statements on poetry in the Confucian tradition. My paper explores the different significances attributed to this statement in Ito Jinsai's (1627-1705) Ancient Meanings of the Analects (Rongo kogi) and Ogyu Sorai's (1666-1728) Clarification of the Analects (Rongocho), and situates these in relation to Zhu Xi's (1130-1200) Collected Commentaries on the Analects (Lunyu jizhu).

The approach I take to these commentaries is to read them as essentially constructive, in that I read them less for what light they may shed on the original meaning of the Analects than for how they reflect the philosophical outlooks of the commentators. For Zhu Xi, "no warped thoughts" refers to the responses of the reader of the Odes; even though there are immoral poems in the Odes, he argues, all people possess an a priori faculty of moral judgment that allows them to distinguish the moral from the immoral. Jinsai, on the other hand, sees "no warped thoughts" as referring to the directness of expression in the Odes, reflecting his idea that ethical cultivation involves actively exercising the emotional nature of humans. Sorai then argues that "no warped thoughts" refers to the heart of Confucius (the supposed editor of the Odes), and has nothing to do with the content of the Odes themselves, an interpretation related to his rejection of the idea that the Confucian Way has to do with personal moral cultivation.

2) Jamie Newhard, Columbia University. "Rehabilitating the Amorous Man: Goi Ranshû's Confucian repackaging of Ise monogatari"

Under the stewardship of Goi Ranshû (1697-1762), the curriculum of the Kaitokudô, an academy in Osaka dedicated to the education and moral cultivation of merchant commoners, expanded beyond the Confucian classics to include works of Japanese literature. One trace of this project is the Seigo tsû (1751), a commentary on the Ise monogatari which Ranshû himself purportedly wrote for the edification of his daughter. While the work is in many respects a perfectly ordinary commentary, extending the insights of earlier commentaries such as Hosokawa Yûsai's Ise monogatari ketsugishô (1596) and Keichû's Seigo okudan (1693) with new philological research to explicate the base text, Ranshû's desire to extract sound moral lessons from the Ise leads him to take the extraordinary step of dividing its 125 sections into a volume of putatively truthful sections, designated "inner" (nai), and another of putatively fictional ones, designated "outer" (gai). The image of Ariwara no Narihira, the 9th century courtier and poet traditionally taken to be the protagonist of the tale, that remains in the "inner" volume (which amounts to little more than a third of the original text) is a radical departure from the prototypical "amorous man" that dominated contemporary popular representations. Ranshû's Narihira is rather a serious, principled man, who embodied Confucian virtues and was quietly indignant at political developments in his time that he was powerless to change. I will contextualize Ranshû's reading of the Ise in order to place his methods, both stated and implicit, within the framework of his larger intellectual project.

3) Kiri Paramore, University of Tokyo. "Your Term, My Message: The Conceptual Framework of Jesuit and Confucian Japanese texts in the late 16th early 17th centuries"

The claim in Mencius that human nature is good underpins much of the theoretical framework of Neo-Confucian philosophy. This paper will look at the explication of terms relating to human nature in Japanese Confucian and Jesuit texts of the late 16th early 17th centuries. At this time both the "new philosophies" of Jesuit Christianity and school of principle Confucianism were being seriously studied on a large scale, as thought systems in their own right, for the first time in Japan. In the Japanese context of the late 16th early 17th centuries we are given an opportunity to see both these thought systems in the early stages of contact with the same language and culture, in a polarized relationship with each other, using common terms (if not always common meanings).

Concentrating particularly on didactic Neo-Confucian and Jesuit texts which often deal directly with each other's arguments, this paper will look at the way Jesuit texts both on occasions adopt and employ Confucian terms for their own ends, and on others reconstruct Confucian terminology or bring directly into Japanese European Christian terminology in opposition to the Neo-Confucian theoretical system. Neo-Confucian texts of the period that deal with Christianity use the Jesuits to assert their own place as "non-foreign", as well as their position as representing rationality and order. Yet they rarely put the Christian theoretical system to full use in their own cause. One of the main aims of this paper is to show that both when dealing directly with Confucian terms and when not, Japanese Jesuit texts show an understanding of the Neo-Confucian theoretical framework which allows the texts to position themselves both linguistically (in Japanese/Chinese) and intellectually (as both spiritual and social philosophy).

Discussant: Kate Wildman Nakai, Sophia University


list of panels