Organizer. David Lurie, Columbia University
Chair: Haruo Shirane, Columbia University
Discussant: Ivo Smits, Leiden University
Premodern Japanese culture contained multiple Chinas, each of them constructed by particular groups of scholars, artists, or authors for historically bounded purposes. Once the fundamental framework for these Chinas was provided by an interlocking network of texts and writing/reading practices, it continued to change and develop, but it also made possible the generation of new Chinas, often spurredbut not limited bythe importation of new written material. From the outset, this textual framework was also the location of multiple Japans, some developing with relative autonomy, and others interacting closely with one or more of the Chinas.
Relying on perspectives and methodologies from the study of writing systems, art, and literature, our panel will investigate three moments in the history of this framework. Its initial construction took place by the 7th century, as diplomacy, immigration, and internal politics spurred the development of system for reading and writing character texts as Chinese or Japanese. In the 15th through the 17th centuries, the dissemination of connoisseurial manuals of Chinese painting gave rise to a mostly textual painting canon, catalogued first, and imaged only later. In the 18th century, scholars and intellectuals used a new vernacular China to raise the social position of pre-existing literary texts and to create a space for the production of new works. By examining these linguistic, artistic, and literary Chinas, we hope to complicate notions of written language, Chinese painting, and vernacular literature, and spur new discussion of this central aspect of Japanese cultural history.
Writing and Reading Intertwined: From Chinese to Japanese Inscription
David Lurie, Columbia University
The origins of Japanese writing are inseparable from the origins of Japanese reading (of Chinese texts). Although much has been made of the development of the phonetic kana scripts, the use of characters to write words rather than syllables was and is central to most forms of inscription used within the Japanese archipelago. That form of writing originated in reading techniques imported by Korean scribes and refined and extended by their descendants and pupils; in the Nara period it culminated in the prose of the Kojiki (712) and much of the poetry of the Manyôshû (late-8th century).
The 7th century development of this system can be traced through inscriptions on statues, stelae, grave markers, and wooden tablets (mokkan). Initially, such inscriptions were in Chinese, but as a system of interpreting texts by vocalizing them in a Sino-Japanese creole (kanbun kundoku) developed, it became possible to write a text with the expectation that it would be read as Japanese rather than Chinese. Eventually, texts composed in this way departed from Chinese syntax so completely that they could no longer be construed as being written in that language, although they embodied a newly-created written creole rather than a transcribed oral tongue.
Because the reception of Chinese texts and the inception of Japanese texts are so thoroughly intertwined, neither can be understood without considering the other. In the 7th century, a single complex of reading and writing practices allowed both the internalization of the old and the creation of the new; which of these is Japanese and which is Chinese?
From Catalogue to Image: The Kundaikan Sôchôki and the Reception of Chinese Painting in Japan from the 15th to the 17th Centuries
Yukio Lippit, Princeton University
The reception of Chinese painting in Japan from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries was structured largely according to the categories contained in imported Chinese compendia of painters biographies. Especially the Tuhui baojian (1365) by Xia Wenyan proved to be the source for much of the information concerning Chinese painters circulating in Japan during this period. The very format of its entries, which listed the painter, his various names, the region from which he hailed, and the subjects in which he specialized was followed closely by the section on painting in the Kundaikan sôchôki, an influential connoisseurial manual for Chinese luxury items (karamono) authored in the fifteenth century.
Though the Kundaikan does not list specific titles of paintings, it served as a kind of "catalogue" of anecdotal, itemized, and onomastic knowledge of Chinese painting history that was then applied to the body of Chinese paintings dispersed in private and temple collections in premodern Japan. The Kundaikan circulated widely and took on a life of its own, engendering a field of subterranean connoisseurial knowledge that influenced both authentication and artistic practice as well as the discourse on painting in the early Edo period. This influence reached one extreme in the 1660s with the emergence of painting albums that visualized almost the whole of the manual, each leaf of the album representing the style or mode of each top-ranking painter listed therein. The repository of an imaginary, historically and geographically parcelized Chinese painting "narrative," the Kundaikan had by this point become a text to be illustrated in its own right.
The Visible Vernacular: Sawada Issai and the Status of Vernacular Chinese in Tokugawa Japan
Emanuel Pastreich, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
During the first half of the 18th century, Sawada Issai, a Kyoto publisher, Confucian scholar, and bibliophile, wrote Engi Kyogiden (The Vernacular Tale of the Courageous Courtesan), a translation of the contemporary Joruri drama Yaegasumi hamaogi into vernacular Chinese. This translation was not for a Chinese audience, but rather for Japanese intellectuals who took an active interest in the contemporary Chinese language.
Because vernacular Chinese was contiguous with the standard intellectual language of literary Chinese, such a translation raised a works status and placed it within the general category of literature. As a result of Sawada Issais translation and similar playful works rewriting popular works of joruri and kabuki, a critical discourse on previously marginal vernacular narratives and plays emerged in Japan during the 18th century.
This specialized use of the Chinese vernacular language must be seen in the context of Ogyu Sorais insistence that in order to write and read Chinese correctly, a sophisticated knowledge of the spoken Chinese language was required. Following this conferral of an aura of authenticity onto vernacular Chinese, intellectuals such as Issai made it into an experimental intermediate language which could defamiliarize vernacular Japanese while simultaneously rendering it into a form of written Chinese without sacrificing its markers of orality.
Issais experiment was part of a more general reevaluation of indigenous popular literature among scholars who were well versed in the Chinese Confucian tradition. This later led to the involvement of sophisticated scholars, like Kyokutei Bakin, in the production of vernacular narrative.