5 Zhang Jiabin

I came out of Olin and walked downhill, noticing the snow melt and water flowing along the road.

Ice gone

Snow melted–

Spring?

ukiyo-e

This week’s classes introduced the start of Japan’s modern period. Unlike Europe where Enlightenment and Renaissance gave rise to individualism, Japan began the search of the “self” in a quite different way. Tokugawa unified Japan in the 17th century and established an extremely hierarchical and formal society according to the Neo-Confucian model in which merchants were at the bottom. (Inouye,81) Under such system without  any social mobility, merchants had “no hope.” (Momokawa, 9) “Mono no aware” emerged under such context and became “a salvation for the urban citizens” who “have dropped out of a reality in which they can change nothing of their own power.” (Momokawa, 11) Since the world is evanescent and we are all inferior, the lives themselves are meaningless. To avoid that and to establish “存在感,” a sense of existence or “self,” it follows naturally that people want to spend their money, the only thing they are left with. One place people entertained themselves was the brothels where modern consciousness was born. Prostitutes like the heroine in Saikaku’s Woman Who Loved Love encountered numerous strangers in their lives and interacted with them extensively which raised greater self-awareness than most their contemporaries because the nature of the occupation cut the link with the localities and the interaction promoted questions of identities, hence more modern.

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One Response to 5 Zhang Jiabin

  1. Avatar of Hoang  Le Hoang Le says:

    Hi Jiabin,

    The contrast between Western and Japanese approaches to reach the “self” is quite interesting. I agree with your analysis on the reason pleasure-seeking became prominent in the Tokugawa period when prostitution was seen as a modern movement. Aside from creating fantastical realities or “leaving for a more enlightened world”, the formal structure of Tokugawa has elevated the power of money. I would love to see you expand on a particular example from “Woman Who Loved Love” and how it particularly relates identity to Japanese culture at the time.

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