The Six National Histories of Japan

The Six National Histories of Japan

The Six National Histories of Japan

The Six National Histories of Japan

Synopsis

Sakamoto Taro's The six national histories of Japan (Rikkokushi), a modern classic originally published in Japan in 1970, is now available in English for the first time. The six national histories were the earliest scholarly products of the Japanese imperial state. Written in classical Chinese, they consist of: Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720), Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan Continued, 797), Nihon Koki (Later Chronicles of Japan, 840), Shoku Nihon Koki (Later Chronicles of Japan Continued, 869), Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku (Veritable Records of Emperor Montoku of Japan, 879), and Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (Veritable Records of the Three Reigns of Japan, 901). Together they cover the history of Japan from its origins in the Age of the Gods to AD 887. All were accepted as authoritative histories until the late nineteenth century, including Nihon Shoki, which chronicles the Age of the Gods and the early mythical period; thus they exercised a profound influence on Japanese thought for well over a millenium. Twentieth-century scholars focused on Nihon Shoki, rejecting its authenticity and examining all aspects of its provenance and expression.Following 1945, when academic freedom was established after a period of state censorship, the re-evaluation of Nihon Shoki was completed. Sakamoto's work combines a synthesis of the best scholarship with the author's own views, which, rather than dismissing Nihon Shoki on general grounds, hold that each entry must be evaluated for authenticity. The remaining five works form a sub-group called The five national histories. Sakamoto's study is the only one that surveys all of them, identifying common features and pointing out special characteristics of each work. As well as being a valuable study of the works, The six national histories of Japan provides insight into the methods of contemporary Japanese historians. Sakamoto Taro (1901--87) was Professor of Ancient History at Tokyo University and Japan's leading scholar in early Japanese history. John S. Brownlee is an Associate Professor of Japanese History at the University of Toronto..
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