蘭学(Dutch learning)Part 1

The Chinese characters (kanji) for "Rangaku". The first character "ran" is an abbreviation of the ateji for "Holland" (阿蘭陀, or with 2 Kanji 和蘭), o-ran-da, abbreviated to "ran" – because it is the emphasized syllable; cf. List of foreign place names in Japanese). The second character "gaku" means "study" and "learning".

Rangaku (Kyūjitai: /Shinjitai: 蘭学, literally "Dutch learning", and by extension "Western learning") is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate's policy of national isolation (sakoku).
A meeting of Japan, China, and the West, Shiba Kōkan, late 18th century.

Through Rangaku, some people in Japan learned many aspects of the scientific and technological revolution occurring in Europe at that time, helping the country build up the beginnings of a theoretical and technological scientific base, which helps to explain Japan’s success in its radical and speedy modernization following the forced American opening of the country to foreign trade in 1854.

[original research?]


Account of Foreign Countries (増補華夷通商考, Zōho Kaitsū Shōkō), Nishikawa Joken, 1708. Tokyo National Museum.

The Dutch traders at Dejima in Nagasaki were the only European foreigners tolerated in Japan from 1639 till 1853 (the Dutch had a trading post in Hirado from 1609 till 1641 before they had to move to Dejima), and their movements were carefully watched and strictly controlled, being limited initially to one yearly trip to give their homage to the Shogun in Edo. They became instrumental, however, in transmitting to Japan some knowledge of the industrial and scientific revolution that was occurring in Europe: the Japanese purchased and translated scientific books from the Dutch, obtained from them Western curiosities and manufactures (such as clocks, medical instruments, celestial and terrestrial globes, maps, plant seeds), and received demonstrations of Western innovations, such as the demonstrations of electric phenomena, and the flight of a hot air balloon in the early 19th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch were the most economically wealthy and scientifically advanced of all European nations, which put them in a privileged position to transfer Western knowledge to Japan.[citation needed] While other European countries faced ideological and political battles associated with the Protestant Reformation, the Netherlands were a free state, attracting leading thinkers such as René Descartes.

Altogether, thousands of such books were published, printed, and circulated. Japan had one of the largest urban populations in the world, with more than one million inhabitants in Edo, and many other large cities such as Osaka and Kyoto, offering a large, literate market to such novelties. In the large cities some shops, open to the general public, specialized in foreign curiosities.

Beginnings (1640–1720)[edit]

Painting by Kawahara Keiga: Arrival of a Dutch Ship. Philipp Franz von Siebold at Dejima with his Japanese wife Otaki and their baby daughter Ine observing a VOC ship in Nagasaki Bay using a teresukoppu (telescope).

The first phase of Rangaku was quite limited and highly controlled. After the relocation of the Dutch trading post to Dejima, trade as well as the exchange of information and the activities of the remaining Westerners (dubbed "Red-Heads" (kōmōjin)) were restricted considerably. Western books were prohibited, with the exemption of books on nautical and medical matters. Initially, a small group of hereditary Japanese–Dutch translators labored in Nagasaki to smooth communication with the foreigners and transmit bits of Western novelties.

The Dutch were requested to give updates of world events and to supply novelties to the Shogun every year on their trips to Edo. Finally, the Dutch factories in Nagasaki, in addition to their official trade work in silk and deer hides, were allowed to engage in some level of "private trade". A small, lucrative market for Western curiosities thus developed, focused on the Nagasaki area. With the establishment of a permanent post for a surgeon at the Dutch trading post Dejima, high-ranking Japanese officials started to ask for treatment in cases when local doctors were of no help. One of the most important surgeons was Caspar Schamberger, who induced a continuing interest in medical books, instruments, pharmaceuticals, treatment methods etc. During the second half of the 17th century high-ranking officials ordered telescopes, clocks, oil paintings, microscopes, spectacles, maps, globes, birds, dogs, donkeys, and other 'rarities' for their personal entertainment and for scientific studies.[1]

Liberalization of Western knowledge (1720–)[edit]

Description of a microscope in Various stories about the Dutch (紅毛雑話), 1787.

Although most Western books were forbidden from 1640, rules were relaxed under Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune in 1720, which started an influx of Dutch books and their translations into Japanese. One example is the 1787 publication of Morishima Chūryō’s Sayings of the Dutch (紅毛雑話, Kōmō Zatsuwa, lit. "Red Hair Chitchat"), recording much knowledge received from the Dutch. The book details a vast array of topics: it includes objects such as microscopes and hot air balloons; discusses Western hospitals and the state of knowledge of illness and disease; outlines techniques for painting and printing with copper plates; it describes the makeup of static electricity generators and large ships; and it relates updated geographical knowledge.

Between 1804 and 1829, schools opened throughout the country by the Bakufu as well as terakoya (temple schools) helped spread the new ideas further.

By that time, Dutch emissaries and scientists were allowed much more free access to Japanese society. The German physician Philipp Franz von Siebold, attached to the Dutch delegation, established exchanges with Japanese students. He invited Japanese scientists to show them the marvels of Western science, learning, in return, much about the Japanese and their customs. In 1824, von Siebold began a medical school in the outskirts of Nagasaki. Soon this Narutaki-juku (鳴滝塾) grew into a meeting place for about fifty students from all over the country. While receiving a thorough medical education they helped with the naturalistic studies of von Siebold.

Expansion and politicization (1839–)[edit]

The Myriad year clock, a Japanese-made perpetual clock-watch (wadokei), made by Tanaka Hisashige in 1851 (National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo).

The Rangaku movement became increasingly involved in Japan's political debate over foreign isolation, arguing that the imitating of Western culture would strengthen rather than harm Japan. The Rangaku increasingly disseminated contemporary Western innovations.

In 1839, scholars of Western studies (called 蘭学者 "rangaku-sha") briefly suffered repression by the Edo Shogunate in the Bansha no goku (蛮社の獄, roughly "imprisonment of the society for barbarian studies") incident, due to their opposition to the introduction of the death penalty against foreigners (other than Dutch) coming ashore, recently enacted by the Bakufu. The incident was provoked by actions such as the Morrison Incident, in which an unarmed American merchant ship was fired upon under the Edict to Repel Foreign Ships. The edict was eventually repealed in 1842.

Rangaku ultimately became obsolete when Japan opened up during the last decades of the Tokugawa regime (1853–67). Students were sent abroad, and foreign employees (o-yatoi gaikokujin) came to Japan to teach and advise in large numbers, leading to an unprecedented and rapid modernization of the country.

It is often argued that Rangaku kept Japan from being completely uninformed about the critical phase of Western scientific advancement during the 18th and 19th century, allowing Japan to build up the beginnings of a theoretical and technological scientific base. This openness could partly explain Japan’s success in its radical and speedy modernization following the opening of the country to foreign trade in 1854.

by kabu_kachan | 2018-01-17 21:30 | 歴史 | Comments(0)
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