Books and Boats: Sino-Japanese Relations and Cultural Transmission in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
200pp. December 2011
Books and Boats: Sino-Japanese Relations and Cultural Transmission in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Author: Oba Osamu; Translator: Fogel, Joshua A.;
This volume looks in detail at trade between the Qing dynasty and the Edo shogunate primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While touching on all manner of items traded, from where, to where, and the like, Oba Osamu particularly focuses on the importation of Chinese books to Japan. This entails a detailed discussion and analysis of the censorship procedures for detecting works with any sort of Christian content—strictly forbidden—and the punishments meted out to the guilty importers. Ōba also looks at the families responsible for inspecting books—it became a hereditary post—and the Chinese interpreters attached to the Nagasaki Magistrates office.

According to Professor Fogel, “[Oba] . . . asks: How did Japanese of the late-Tokugawa and early-Meiji eras learn about the West? In fact, with certain exceptions, their major texts on Western affairs were classical Chinese texts (Kanbun), often translations of Western books made by European missionaries together with their Qing collaborators. Oba’s attention to this central importance of classical Chinese texts was the crowning achievement of his career, and it has earned him extraordinary praise from both Japanese and Chinese historians.”

Distributed for MerwinAsia
“. . . The long needed English translation of Ōba Osumu’s Edo jidai no Nitichūhiwa is a captivating read, which weaves personal angles and anecdotes together with an array on invaluable primary sources. It makes an extremely important argument concerning Edo period intellectual history by exploring the material realities surrounding it. This is an invaluable piece of research for both scholars and educators, and, in conjunction with other sources, should find a place on any syllabus that introduces students to Edo period cultural and economic trends.” —The Journal of Northeast Asian History
Author: Oba Osamu; Translator: Fogel, Joshua A.;
Oba Osamu (1927–2002) taught for many years at Kansai University. Widely viewed as a scholarly polymath, he had two basic specialties: Sino-Japanese relations (especially, the book trade during the 17th–19th centuries) and the Han-era wood strips. He wrote voluminously, held numerous visiting appointments at Chinese universities, and visited numerous places around the globe to do the kind of painstaking, detailed, primary research which became synonymous with his every endeavor.