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Chinese Legal Studies in Early 18th Century Japan: Scholars and Sources

Dan Fenno Henderson
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Nov., 1970), pp. 21-56
DOI: 10.2307/2942722
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2942722
Page Count: 36
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Chinese Legal Studies in Early 18th Century Japan: Scholars and Sources
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Abstract

In the pre-modern Chinese codes, Yoshimune (8th Tokugawa Shogun, 1716-1745) found much of use to him in his attempt to reform the administration of justice in early eighteenth century Japan. Building on an interest kindled by studies of Ming law in his native han, Wakayama, Yoshimune gathered about him a cluster of confucianists, including Ogyu Sorai and his brother Hokkei (Kan), and they in turn developed a new Chinese-based jurisprudence with new legislative concepts and roles for law generally. Hokkei did a recension of the Ming penal code supplied with diacritics, and Sorai did a commentary to the code, explaining its meaning in simple Japanese; together these two works vastly increased the accessibility of Ming law to Japanese scholars especially after these works came out in a wood-block publication. Also, Yoshimune put several other groups of scholars to work on other Chinese legal sources--the T'ang codes, the Ch'ing codes and the eighth century T'ang-derivative, Japanese codes (ritsuryo). At the same time the largest daimyo, Maeda Tsunanori, built up his own extensive collection of Chinese legal sources and encouraged their study in Kanazawa han. Similar studies and uses of Chinese law are found in several han later, notably Kumamoto, Wakayama, Aizu and Hirosaki. Thus a minor reception of Chinese law in Tokugawa Japan has been heretofore largely overlooked between the major eighth century reception of T'ang law and the massive nineteenth century reception of European law a millenium later.

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