New Light on Early and Medieval Japanese Historiography: Two Translations and an Introduction

New Light on Early and Medieval Japanese Historiography: Two Translations and an Introduction

New Light on Early and Medieval Japanese Historiography: Two Translations and an Introduction

New Light on Early and Medieval Japanese Historiography: Two Translations and an Introduction

Excerpt

Japan from the sixth to the thirteenth century was a vital and dynamic civilization which encompassed, at one and the same time, the aboriginal and the highly sophisticated, the life of letters and the life of the sword, Shamanism and contemplative Buddhism, the blood feud and elaborate legal codes. The study of this era had barely entered its infancy in the Western world when our grasp on these matters was made all the more tenuous by the application to them, in Japan, of new historical, archeological, and anthropological methods and viewpoints after World War II. It is in an effort to help our understanding of the Japanese past and to keep abreast of Japanese scholarship in that area that I offer these translations. Each of them is a fresh and penetrating analysis of the historiography of an era and each provides us with new insights into the moving forces of Japanese history. These two studies are from the Nihon Rekishi Kōza (Lectures in Japanese History) Vol. VIII (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1957) and are part of a series of new studies of Japanese historiography by distinguished Japanese scholars. This re-examination of the past is a postwar phenomenon in Japan. The Japanese have been indefatigable historians in the modern era, but in the past generation they were trapped intellectually, by the tide of fanatic nationalism, into an unreasonable circumspection concerning their past, particularly with reference to the Imperial House, national origins, military government, and other matters, and even the best of them had to go along with the national myth. Freed of these restrictions by defeat in war, Japanese historians began to take an uninhibited look at their own history, and since they were now free to write and publish as they pleased they have come up with reinterpretations of the Japanese past, some of which are excellent for their being compact, lucid, authoritative, and "new" in the sense of being critical as well as interpretive. Among these are the two articles herein translated. Professor Kawasaki insists on the pragmatism of Japanese historiography from its very inception and cleverly demonstrates through apposite quotations the motivations of the old chronicles. Professor Kuroda places the Gukanshō and the Jinnō Shōtōki, two monuments of . . .

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