Cherry blossoms have just bloomed at Wuhan University, while snow was falling here in Boston.


Cherry blossoms at Wuhan University -

Photo shone on my laptop screen

Snow outside the window.

This week’s discussion is a big step that leads us into Japan’s modern era, with fascism lurking ahead. In the context of the Japanese’s realization of its place “in the world” of competing empires, Japan quickly turned to “learn from the barbarian” and allow the modern transcendental order, progress, to take charge, whereas the contemporaneous Chinese, despite some who came up with similar slogans, were much slower to react (Lecture 03/06, Inouye 110-113.) As I come to think of it, it may in fact be true that the “Japanese appreciation of change actually helped it embrace necessary reforms,” whereas the overall Chinese value seems to appreciate “middleness,” or inaction (Inouye 104.) Then, as Japan began to assert its place on the imperial food chain, several scholars, essentially “nostalgic” toward the “golden age” of Tokugawa Japan, each attempted to discover and re-establish an essence of the Japanese culture and people: thus came Bushidō, Sadō, and Iki (Inouye 120.) The tension that underlies all three theorizations, namely one “between Japan the unique and Japan the universal,” appears to be particularly noteworthy to me (Inouye 114.) It appears to me that, while all three scholars aimed at celebrating the traditional Japan, the impulse they feel to boast it as universal is essentially modern, in its assertion of unipolar correctness. This might be, again, a Japanese response to the imperial assertions from Western countries, once again more rapid than the Chinese’s because of the Japanese readiness for change, and the Chinese belief in “middleness” (as far as my limited knowledge is concerned, no work was done to boast about “the Chinese essence” during the period; this, however, could also be the result of a dragged modern development in the first place.)

- Zesheng Xiong (George)

This entry was posted in Week 1: Shell of the Cicada, Week 7: Bushido and the Transcendental Order. Bookmark the permalink.

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