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Books in the service of politics: Tokugawa Ieyasu as custodian of the books of Japan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2007


Since the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate underwent a form of apotheosis after his death, it is not surprising that a hagiographic tradition was quick to establish itself. This tradition attributed superhuman qualities to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616), and its lingering influence is still to be seen. His admirers paid particular attention to his supposed bookishness, the object being to demonstrate that his sinological learning rendered him fit to rule according to the Chinese construction of the desired attributes of a ruler. For those who came later, this bookishness served in retrospect to mark him out from his successors, but for his contemporaries it detached questions of legitimacy and fitness to rule from his recent successes on the battlefield and it defined fitness to rule in accordance with the sinological leanings of the new samurai élite.

Research Article
Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 2008

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1 Sorai, Ken'en dan'yo, in (Shōnen hitsudoku) Nihon bunko, ed. Kishigami Misao (Hakubunkan, 1891–2), iv, pp. 279–280; on the authorship of this work, see ibid., p. 262; translation from Ryusaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary and Donald Keene, comp., Sources of Japanese tradition (New York, 1964), i, pp. 333–334. It should be noted that the word translated as ‘China’ above is ikoku, ‘a foreign country’.

2 Asaka's Resso seiseki as cited by Ōta Kinjō in his Gosō manpitsu: see Dainihon shiryō [hereafter DNS], Part 12, xxiv (Tokyo, 1923), pp. 442–443. The Tokugawa jikki, compiled in the early nineteenth century, includes extracts from writings by Ieyasu's contemporaries on his literary and cultural pursuits: Tōshōgū gojikki, in Kuroita Katsumi, ed, (Shintei zōho) Kokushi taikei [hereafter KT], xxxviii (Tokyo, 1929), pp. 339–349. For Kondō Seisai's views, see Kondō Seisai zenshū [hereafter KSZ], 3 vols. (Tokyo, 1905–6), iii, pp. 8, 21.

3 I briefly discussed Ieyasu and his books in The book in Japan; a Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 1998), pp. 15, 129–131, 143–144, 377. I stated there that, “there is no sense that [Ieyasu's] régime depended on its treatment of books, or that his ambitions came remotely close to those of the Qianlong emperor in China’” (p. 15), but, using additional sources to offer an integrated and more substantial account of what books meant to Ieyasu, I seek here to revise that negative judgment.

4 For the kanbun text of Sunpuki, see Shiseki zassan, ii (Tokyo, 1911), pp. 215–319; a yomikudashi version of the Tokugawa family text is contained in Ono Shinji, ed., Ieyasu shiryōshū [hereafter ISS] (Tokyo, 1965), pp. 7–229. The textual tradition of Sunpuki is yet to be studied; suffice it to say that variant texts exist, some of which will be referred to below.

5 Honkō kokushi nikki is contained in Dainihon bukkyō zensho [hereafter DBZ], cxxxviii–cxxxxii (Tokyo, 1915–22).

6 Insatsu Hakubutsukan Gakugei Kikakushitsu, ed., Edo jidai no insatsu bunka – Ieyasu wa katsuji ningen datta!! (Tokyo, 2000). The English version of the title renders katsuji ningen ‘typographic man’.

7 Dainihon shiryô, Part 12, vol. 24, pp. 438–439. The translation in Tsunoda, de Barry and Keene, i, p. 331, reads “had little time to pursue learning” instead of the deliberate hyperbole ‘illiterate’ in the text. This text is an extract from Iwabuchi yawa besshū, which was written by Daidōji Yūzan and is still only available in manuscript; Yūzan's father, Shigehisa, had been in service to Matsudaira Tadateru, Ieyasu's sixth son.

8 This passage from Itasaka Bokusai oboegaki, which is thought to have been written originally in the Kan'ei era (1624–44), appears in the revised version of the text prepared in the 1720s under the direction of Tokugawa Yoshimune; it is not clear what changes were made to the text at that time. Kaitei shiseki shūran, xxvi (Tokyo, 1932), p. 74.

9 KT, xxxviii, pp. 132, 339; translation in Tsunoda, de Barry and Keene, i, p. 332.

10 See Hayashi Razan's biography of Seika in Nihon shisō taikei, xxviii (Tokyo, 1975), p. 189ff; Razan's preface to his Jōgan seiyō genkai (1669) is cited in KSZ, iii, p. 8; see also KSZ, iii, pp. 9–12, where Seisai quotes passages missing from the Tokugawa family text of Sunpuki; KT xxxviii, p. 343; ISS, pp. 15, 45, 60, 100–101, 218–220.

11 Extracts from Honda Tadakatsu kikigaki contained in DNS, Part 12, xxiv (1923), pp. 437, 440; full text in Shiseki zassan (1911), ii, pp. 450–451.

12 Razan's Heishin kikō, p. 23, in Nihon jurin sōsho, iii (Tokyo, 1928).

13 Owada Tetsuo, ‘Imagawa bunka no naka de sodatta Ieyasu’, Edo jidai no insatsu bunka, pp. 32–33 and illustrations 4 and 6 on pp. 36–37. Kenneth B. Gardner, Descriptive Catalogue of Japanese Books in the British Library Printed before 1700 (London, 1993), pp. 48–49, 287–288; Shūbun inryaku had already been printed many times before 1554.

14 Kawase Kazuma, (Zōho) Kokatujiban no kenkyū, 3 vols (Tokyo, 1967), i, pp. 152–154.

15 Ibid., i, pp. 177–197, 255–328, 329–336.

16 Ibid, i, pp. 211–217.

17 ISS, pp. 126, 185, 200; see illustration no. 49 in Edo jidai no insatsu bunka, p. 99.

18 Entry for 838.6 in Shoku nihonkōki referring to Qun shu zhi yao, in KT, iii (1934), p. 77; DBZ, cxxxviii, p. 16.

19 DNS, Part 12, xxiv, p. 438.

20 KT, xxxviii, p. 339.

21 DNS, Part 12, xxii (1920), p. 161. The choice of texts and the reference to ‘rulers’ indicates that at this stage Ieyasu did not in fact intend to exclude the court aristocracy from government; see Lee A. Butler, ‘Tokugawa Ieyasu's Regulations for the Court: A Reappraisal’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, liv (1994), pp. 509–551.

22 On the whole question of the collection and preservation of ancient books in the Edo period, see Fujizane Kumiko, “Edo jidai shiryō shūshū to hozon – Momijiyama Bunko o chūshin ni”, in Konnichi no komonjogaku, vol. 12, “Shiryō hozon to monjokan”, ed. Matsuo Masato (Tokyo, 2000), pp. 31–47.

23 Mori Junzaburō, Momoijiyama Bunko to shomotsu bugyō (Tokyo, 1933), pp. 9–12; Fukui Tamotsu, Momijiyama Bunko – Edo Bakufu no sankō toshokan (Tokyo, 1980).

24 Kawase Kazuma, “Suruga oyuzuribon no kenkyū”, Shoshigaku, iii, 4 (1934), p. 4; Kawase cites as evidence a manuscript in private hands.

25 I Jungil, Chosŏn sidae ilbon kwa sŏjŏk koryu yŏngu (Seoul, 1986), pp. 181–193; Kawase, “Suruga oyuzuribon no kenkyū”, p. 5–9; Sugiura Toyoji, Hōsa bunko tenseki sōroku – Suruga oyuzuribon (Nagoya, 1975). Kondō Seisai investigated the records of Ieyasu's book ownership and gives lists of titles, but the lists give only titles and numbers of volumes: KSZ, iii, pp. 267–272.

26 Kawase, “Wagakuni ni okeru shoseki shūzō no rekishi (zenpen)”, Kagami, special issue (1987), pp. 30–49.

27 See, for example, NBZ, cxxxix, pp. 501–502.

28 Udaka Yoshiaki,Tokugawa Ieyasu to Kantō bukkyōdan (Tokyo, 1987), pp. 165, 284–285; Zōjōji shiryōshū, bekkan ‘Zōjōji sandaizōkyō mokuroku’, p. 397, and ‘Kaisetsu’, passim (Tokyo, 1981).

29 (Koki kinen) Ono Noriaki toshokangaku ronbunshū (Kyoto, 1978), pp. 160–161.

30 NBZ, cxxxix, pp. 626–627, 776; ISS, pp. 148, 152, 174, 203. For details of which aristocrats submitted what books for copying, see Yoshida Hiroko, “Edo jidai ni okeru chōtei no sonzai keitai to yakuwari – Kinchū narabi ni kugechū shohatto no kitei kara”, Nihonshi kenkyū, ccccxcv (2003), p. 17. See also KT xxxviii, p. 342; here the nineteenth-century editors cite Sunpuki, but the passage cited does not appear in the available versions of the text. See also Butler, ‘Tokugawa Ieyasu's Regulations for the Court’, pp. 526–536.

31 For further details of this process and for translations of some of the key documents, see Lee Butler, Emperor and Aristocracy in Japan 1467–1680: Resilience and Renewal (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), pp. 198–211. Butler characterises Ieyasu's attitude as one of ‘benevolence and paternalism’ and notes that the political force of these regulations lay in the fact the Bakufu was giving the court instructions on how to conduct itself, and doing so based upon its own records and precedents: pp. 204, 210–211.

32 Yoshida, “Edo jidai ni okeru chōtei no sonzai keitai”, p. 15ff; DNS, Part 12, xxii, p. 161; ISS, pp. 101–104, 212ff.

33 The only treatment of Ieyasu's various involvement with books and texts is Ono Noriaki's ‘Tokugawa Ieyasu no bunken seisaku to sono eikyō’, in Ono Noriaki toshokangaku ronbunshū, pp. 151–194, but he does not consider precedents, motives or significance.

34 KT xxxviii, p. 341, citing Sunpuki and Keichō kenbunroku anshi.

35 R. Kent Guy, The Emperor's Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Ch'ien-lung Era (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), pp. 2, 12.

36 Mark Edward Lewis, Writing and Authority in Early China (Albany, NY, 1999), p. 239.

37 See John H. Winkelman, “The Imperial Library in Southern Sung China, 1127–1279: a Study of the Organization and Operation of the Scholarly Agencies of the Central Government”, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 64.8 (1974), pp. 1–61, and Jean-Pierre Drège, Les bibliothèques en Chine au temps des manuscripts (jusq'au Xe siècle) (Paris, 1991).

38 Kornicki, The book in Japan, p. 365.

39 I Jungil, Chosŏn sidae, pp. 307–322; Sugiura, Hōsa bunko, p. 170. On the dispersal of Ieyasu's books, see Kawase, “Suruga oyuzuribon no kenkyū”, Sugiura, Hōsa bunko tenseki sōroku, and KSZ, iii, pp. 165ff. The Kii books were dispersed, hence the difficulty of ascertaining what books Ieyasu owned. The figures given here are those of the extant books; Sugiura gives details of other books now lost, including both Chinese and Korean imprints.

40 Sugiura, p. 168, and I Jungil, Chosŏn sidae, p. 316.

41 I Jungil, Chosŏn sidae, pp. 259–262. Razan's books mostly perished in the great fire of Edo of 1657.

42 Son Bogi, Hanguk e kohwalja (revised edition; Seoul, 1987) pp. 128–129, 148–149; Cheon Hye Bong, Hanguk sŏjihak (revised edition; Seoul, 1997), pp. 177–195, 268–347, 386–387, 392.

43 Johannes Laures, Kirishitan Bunko: a Manual of Books and Documents on the Early Christian Missions in Japan, 3 vols (Tokyo, 1940, 1941 and 1951).

44 Shōnen hitsudoku Nihon bunko, iv, p. 280; translation from Sources of Japanese tradition, i, p. 442.

45 See, for example, Jahyun Kim Haboush, ‘Constructing the Center: The Ritual Controversy and the Search for a New Identity in Seventeenth-Century Korea’, in Culture and the State in Choson Korea, ed. Haboush and Martina Deuchler (Boston, Mass., 1999), pp. 69–70.

46 Fukui Tamotsu, Edo Bakufu kankōbutsu (Tokyo, 1985), pp. 58–96; Seidan, in Ogyū Sorai zenshū, vi (Tokyo, 1973), p. 137.

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