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Workshop: Transcultural Dimensions of Edo Japan

Jul 13, 2018 03:00 pm to 06:00 pm
Organiser: Cultural Economic History

“Transcultural Dimensions of Edo Japan: Flower Arrangement and Tea Ceremony”
Yoshitaka Yamamoto (Osaka University); DAAD Visiting Professor at Heidelberg University

Flower arrangement (ikebana) and tea ceremony (sadō) are often touted as quintessentially Japanese cultural activities, both in and outside of Japan. While it is true that they have developed characteristics and styles which may be understood as different from their Chinese and Buddhist origins, they did so partly as a result of renewed interest in texts and artwork by Ming and Qing-dynasty Chinese literati during the mid to late Edo and Meiji periods (18-19 C.). This presentation will focus on a classical Chinese prose piece on flower arrangement titled “Heiwa” (Vase Talks), published in Edo in Tenmei 5 (1785), by a Japanese physician in service of Daishōji Domain (in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) named Kashida Hokugan (1758-1794), and examine the ways in which it draws from, and responds to, Chinese and Japanese source texts: namely, a late Ming-dynasty prose piece on flower arrangement titled “Pingshi” (A History of the Vase) by Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610), and a contemporaneous Japanese textbook on flower arrangement titled Chisuji no fumoto (At the Base of Thousand Lines) by a Senke tea master based in Edo named Irie Gyokusen (dates unknown), published in Osaka in Meiwa 5 (1768). Hokugan negotiates between Japanese and Chinese elements of tea and floral art, but instead of identifying them as such (i.e. Japanese or Chinese), he measures and recombines them according to a holistic cultural scale that values elegant, refined cultural practices regardless of their origins. The presentation will conclude with a discussion on the broader significance of Hokugan’s text in Japan's long history of voluntarily importing foreign cultures while resisting foreign political influence, and how the concept of “transculturation” may be understood in the context of premodern and modern Japan.

"The concepts of wealth and the Ainu-Japanese trade (uymam) in Ainu oral literature"
Dominik Wallner (Heidelberg University)

Throughout the Edo period (1603-1868), the Ainu, an indigenous people of Hokkaidō, Southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, became more and more dependent on the trade with the Japanese. The trade relations between these two peoples had a great impact on the daily life of the Ainu as well as on their performance of rituals. Everyday items like iron kettles, lacquerware, and saké imported from the Japanese were revalued in the Ainu society and became important components of the various religious rituals and other forms of interaction with the kamuy, the spiritual beings inhabiting the lands of the Ainu. The Ainu society, which understood wealth as a natural consequence of moral behavior, integrated the concept of uymam (trade between Ainu and the Japanese) into their oral literature. The presentation will focus on the role and function of wealth and uymam within the traditional genres of God Songs (kamuy yukar), Heroic Epics (yukar) and Folktales (uepeker). It aims for a deeper understanding of how the contact with the Japanese shaped the ritualistic and societal world of the Ainu as depicted in their mythology and literature.

"Diplomatic Ceremonial in the Last Decade of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1857-1867): A Study of Transcultural Encounter"
Mayuko Sano (Kyoto University);

When Townsend Harris, the first American Consul-General and the first resident representative of a Western nation arrived in Japan in 1856, the Tokugawa shogunate had to prepare a ceremonial order for a Western diplomat’s audience with the shogun for the first time. However, shogunal retainers did not treat it as an unprecedented occasion.

They referred to the records of past ceremonies in which the prior shoguns had received Korean envoys and, based on that existing framework, prepared a ceremony for Harris. This reference to previous ceremonies was not only for convenience in preparing the ceremony, but also reflected their understanding of the new relationship with the United States as an extension to the official, friendly relationship with Korea, which had been maintained throughout the reign of Tokugawa.

Simultaneously, the retainers discussed the ceremonial order with Harris and accepted some of his input, as Harris also made concessions. In the end, Harris reported that the ceremony on 7 December 1857, which he attended in order to present the American President’s letter to the shogun, was satisfactorily conducted “after our Western fashion”.

By the end of the Tokugawa regime in 1867, seventeen such ceremonies took place to receive American, Dutch, Russian, British, and French representatives at the shogun’s castle. The protocol was improved with each ceremony, and the diplomats who were received in the last ceremonies of 1867 spoke particularly well of them.

Though it is not possible in this presentation to explain all of the details of the ceremonial elements, I hope to shed light on the important fact that these efforts by the Tokugawa shogunate, deeply rooted in the tradition of inter-Asiatic relationship, successfully prepared Japan’s foundation for modern diplomacy, contrary to the general understanding that such foundation was brought about only after the Meiji Restoration (1868) under the pressures of Westernisation.


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