Japanese Literati: Chinese Themes in the Development of Scholarly Life Style in Edo-period Japan
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Department of East Asian Studies
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
Although both China and Japan had a tradition of four categories of people, it has been commonly believed that Japan, unlike China, did not have a literati class. However, by carefully analyzing the influence Chinese culture had on Japanese culture, we can see that Japanese people from various classes were profoundly familiar with the literati culture of China. The literati culture that was adopted in Japan includes Confucianism, Daoism, eremitic culture, and poetry. It was spread in Japan as indigenous literature culture and pictorialized Chinese themes. The literati culture, especially the Confucian doctrine, was tightly associated with politics under the reign of the warrior class particularly the Tokugawa shogunate. In addition, the patronage from the warrior class contributed to the development of Japanese indigenous literati culture. Kano school, the appointed official school served as a promulgator for the Tokugawa shogunate, supporting the legitimacy of its rule. Moreover, the school and its students became the educators and gradually disseminated the literati culture throughout Japan. The profound relationship between China and Japan in terms of literature and arts had developed over centuries. This relationship became the factor which inspired the prosperity of literati culture in Edo-period Japan. It also became the basis of knowledge when literati school flourished in the mid and late Edo-period. The literati culture that was accepted in Japan was more an ideology and a lifestyle and less a transmission of skills and techniques. Therefore, regardless of the significant difference in terms of techniques and styles between the Kano school and literati painters, we can conclude that a literati culture developed in Japan and was accepted by both amateur and professional artists in the Edo-period.
Yanrong Chen was a Bryn Mawr College student.