The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China, 1862-1945

By Joshua A. Fogel | Go to book overview

Preface

Like the epic, like history, like the novel, the literature of travel has evolved through the centuries. Like them it has existed since the beginnings of oral and written literature. As with them some of its authors have been bad, others have delighted and informed their readers, and many, from the earliest times, have been popular, influential, even brilliant. As with other forms of literature its quantity and nature have varied because of political, religious, economic and other social and human factors. And like them it includes countless subtypes that continually approach each other, separate, join, overlap, and consistently defy neat classification. 1

In this way, Percy Adams, one of the formidable scholars of the travel narrative in modern European and American history, characterizes the immense volume of travel writing in the West. Similar characterizations can be made of East Asian travel writing, as we shall demonstrate below, albeit, of course, with important cultural and historical differences. Although an occasional East Asian traveler has been discussed, even translated, in the past--the monk Ennin during the later years of the Tang dynasty, the unlucky Korean official Ch'oe Pu during the Ming period--an examination of the larger tradition of travel within East Asia remains to be done.

After discussing this larger tradition throughout the centuries in East Asia, I analyze more closely Japanese travelers to China from 1862. It was at this time, following the lifting of the Tokugawa shogunate's ban of over two centuries on overseas contacts, that the first vessel with Japanese visitors docked in the port of Shanghai. I carry the discussion through the conclusion of World War II. I have specifically focused on published book- or pamphlet- length accounts, excluding guidebooks, diaries, and daily journalistic reports carried solely in the serial press.

-xi-

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