Transmutations of the Confucian Academy in Japan: Private Academies of Chinese Learning (kangaku juku漢学塾) in Late Tokugawa and Meiji Japan as a Reflection and Motor of Epistemic Change

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Japan is well-known for having adopted and adapted Chinese culture on a large scale in the course of its history. However, although the term 書院 (Japanese shoin) can be found in Japan, the type of institution it describes in China and Korea never really took root there. On the other hand, Confucian texts and Confucian approaches to learning formed the basis of education in Japan from ancient times. This article describes what is arguably the most important and enduring educational institution: the juku, commonly described as “private academy” in English. The juku were of particular importance in the 19th century, spanning the revolutionary transition from the Tokugawa into the Meiji era. But the juku’s main characteristics, an individual scholar teaching a small number of students in his own home in a particular brand of learning, are to varying degrees typical of all Japanese educational institutions before the modern era. By the end of the Tokugawa era, when their diversity had increased, most juku nevertheless still specialized in Chinese learning (kangaku). Even after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and after the Education Law of 1872 provided the basis for a compulsory school system of public schools with a curriculum derived almost entirely from Western models, the kangaku juku continued to play a significant role. This was not only due to the gaps in the provision of education under the new system, but also because the social order changed only slowly, so that kangaku continued to be perceived as relevant. When the kangaku juku declined in the late 19th century, this was the result of both the increasingly effective modern school system, and the new approach to knowledge based on the Western concept of science (in the broad sense of Wissenschaft). “China” had ceased be the normative reference and kangaku ceased to be regarded as the hallmark of true learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConfucian Academies in East Asia
EditorsVladimír Glomb, Eun-Jeung Lee, Martin Gehlmann
Number of pages30
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9789004424067
ISBN (Electronic)9789004424074
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesScience and Religion in East Asia

ID: 239263626