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Oka Senjin

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  • Birth: 1833
  • Death: 1914

Oka Senjin was a Confucian scholar known for his writings which parallel Fukuzawa Yukichi's Datsu A ron ("On De-Asianizing"), advocating that Japan should distance itself from China as a civilizational model.

Oka studied at the Shôheizaka gakumonjo, the Tokugawa shogunate's official top Confucian academy. He was later imprisoned by his lord for his political activities in support of the Meiji Restoration, and after being freed became a teacher and librarian in Tokyo.

In 1884-1885, Oka spent nearly a year in China, publishing an account of his experiences in 1892. The text, written in kanbun, expresses his shock and disappointment, as a Confucian scholar who had so idolized Chinese culture, at the state of Chinese society. He writes that the country is "poisoned" by its addiction to opium - even some of the Chinese scholars for whom he had had the highest esteem, and was so eager to meet were indisposed due to their opium habit - and by its addition to Confucian tradition. He argues that the Way of the Sages needed to be open to reform and reinterpretation in modern times, and that far too many Chinese were simply trapped in the past, allowing a cultural conservatism to trap them in the past; among the examples he cites are families who possess an extraordinary number of family members, and who practice great inefficiency and wastefulness, in the name of observing "filial piety." In the end, he concludes that Japan must separate itself from this Chinese heritage, in order to be successful and prosperous in the modern world.

References

  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 109.
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