Benjamin A. Elman -- Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures "Undoing/Redoing Modern Sino-Japanese Cultural and Intellectual History"


Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 4:15pm to Friday, April 15, 2011, 6:00pm

Undoing/Redoing Modern Sino-Japanese Cultural and Intellectual History, Benjamin A. Elman
Reception follows each lecture
Co-sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Great Reversal: The “Rise of Japan” and the “Fall of China” after 1895 as Historical Fables
The “rise of Japan” and the “fall of China” in the late nineteenth century are story lines that dominated Sinology and Japanology in the twentieth century. In the first lecture, Benjamin Elman will use a 2006 website controversy concerning Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 to indicate that in the twenty-first century we are entering new historical terrain vis-à-vis “modern” China and Japan. Wars and cultural history are inseparable. The competing/complementary narratives constructed by the victors and the losers of wars on the ground and at sea enshroud the past in a thick ideological fog. Seeing through the fog created by the "First" (or was it the "Second"? the "Third"?) Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95 allows us to place Sino-Japanese cultural interactions before 1894 in a new light with less teleology and fewer blind spots. The Meiji “rise of Japan” as event and narrative empowered uniquely “modernist” critiques of the “decadence” of Chinese art, traditional Chinese history, and conveniently provided Chinese revolutionaries with a “failed China” in a post-war East Asian world.

Discussant: John Dower, Ford International Professor of History, MIT
Video: The Great Reversal: The “Rise of Japan” and the “Fall of China” after 1895 as Historical Fables

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Philologists as Rogues:Puzzles Concerning the Japanese Recovery of Huang Kan’s (488-545) Subcommentary
Professor Elman will build on his critique of the historiography of modern Japan and China to try to reopen a new, if fractured, historiographical path back to the vibrancy of pre-1894 Sino-Japanese intellectual exchanges. He will present the unprecedented cultural authority and linguistic prestige that Kanbun scholarship imparted to Japanese scholars, physicians, and urbanites in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In particular he will address the Japanese discovery in the 1740s of a native manuscript version of the medieval Chinese Huang Kan’s 皇侃 (488-545) subcommentary known in Japan as the Rongo giso 論語義疏 (C: Lunyu yishu; “Subcommentary for the meanings in the Analects”), its Tokugawa publication, and transmission to late Qianlong China.
     Collated and published in 1750 by Nemoto Sonshi 根本遜志 (1699–1764), Huang Kan’s subcommentary was welcomed by Qing scholars because it had disappeared as an integral work in China during the Southern Song (1127–1279). It not only provided information about pre-Song traditions of classical learning, but its preface also recommended a philological approach to the study of texts compatible with the evidential approach favored by prominent Qing scholars. Professor Elman will explore the various ironies that accompanied this restoration via Tokugawa Japan of a long lost text in Qing China. Why in this exchange did classical scholars in both China and Japan behave like rogue philologists? Why were the domains of classical learning and philology in China and Japan susceptible to rogue scholarly behavior?

Discussant: Wiebke Denecke, Assistant Professor of Chinese, Japanese and Comparative Literature, Boston University
Video: Philologists as Rogues:Puzzles Concerning the Japanese Recovery of Huang Kan’s (488-545) Subcommentary

Friday, April 15, 2011
Medical Philology in the “Second Rome”: Ancient Learning and the Attack on “Traditional Chinese Medicine” in Tokugawa Japan
In his final lecture, Benjamin Elman will reintegrate the history of “traditional Chinese medicine” with other themes associated with the intellectual history of classical learning in East Asia from 1600 to 1800 mentioned in the second lecture. This was a time when classical learning enabled rising social statuses for the classically literate. Normally these fields are studied separately as “Confucianism” (儒學) or “medicine” (醫學), with little effort to integrate them thematically in light of the history of ideas or according to the cultural geography of classical learning in East Asia.
    Doctors, mathematicians, and philologists shared the same classical texts known in East Asia as the Confucian “classics,” mathematical “classics,” and medical “classics.”  Physicians and mathematicians throughout East Asia were as classically literate as Mandarin scholar-officials who passed civil examinations. In the late eighteenth century, in particular, Japanese scholars and physicians interested in Chinese classical studies adapted Chinese philological research techniques of paleography, etymology, and phonology. Why did newly emerging Japanese elites prioritize classical Chinese as a language of learning and focus on Chinese medical texts for medical studies? Why did “medical philology” in Japan produce a divisive cleavage between Sinophobes and Sinophiles, and what was at stake?

Discussant: Federico Marcon, Assistant Professor of Japanese History, University of Virginia

Benjamin Elman is professor of East Asian studies and history at Princeton University. His teaching and research fields include: Chinese intellectual and cultural history, 1000-1900; history of science in China, 1600-1930; history of education in late imperial China; Sino-Japanese cultural history, 1600-1850. Before joining Princeton, he was on the faculty of the University of California from 1986 to 2002. He received his PhD in Oriental studies from the University of Pennsylvania. From 1999 to 2001 he was the Mellon Visiting Professor in Traditional Chinese Civilization at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ). His publications include: From Philosophy to Philology (1984, 1990, 2001); Classicism, Politics, and Kinship (1990); A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (2000). He has recently completed two book projects: On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900 (2005), and A Cultural History of Modern Science in Late Imperial China (2006). He is currently working on a project entitled "The Intellectual Impact of Late Imperial Chinese Classicism, Medicine, and Science in Tokugawa Japan, 1700-1850.”

Location: CGIS South, Room S010 - Tsai Auditorium
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Video: Medical Philology in the “Second Rome”: Ancient Learning and the Attack on “Traditional Chinese Medicine” in Tokugawa Japan