Episode 91 – The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 1

This week, we’re going to start our exploration of the Sino-Japanese relationship with a quick recap of the history of China’s last imperial dynasty. How did China find itself in such desperate straits by the turn of the twentieth century that they were being surpassed by a chain of islands that had been irrelevant for centuries? Tune in to find out!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Perdue, Peter C. China Marches West.

The Cambridge History of China, Vol 9-10.

Spencer, Jonathan. The Search for Modern China. 

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Nurhaci, the Manchu warlord who instigated the conquest of the Ming Dynasty, and whose descendants would go on to found the last imperial dynasty of China.
Nurhaci, the Manchu warlord who instigated the conquest of the Ming Dynasty, and whose descendants would go on to found the last imperial dynasty of China.
The Ming-Qing Wars took decades to play out before the Ming were finally defeated. In this battle -- the battle of Ningyuan -- Nurhaci, the man who instigated the conquest of China, was fatally wounded. His grandson would be the one to finally take Beijing.
The Ming-Qing Wars took decades to play out before the Ming were finally defeated. In this battle — the battle of Ningyuan — Nurhaci, the man who instigated the conquest of China, was fatally wounded. His grandson would be the one to finally take Beijing.
This map shows the various mongol principalities from the 14th to 18th centuries. The Dzunghar Khanate is in the center.
This map shows the various mongol principalities from the 14th to 18th centuries. The Dzunghar Khanate is in the center.
A map of "Chinese Tartary," China, and Tibet by a French cartographer, dated 1734.
A map of “Chinese Tartary,” China, and Tibet by a French cartographer, dated 1734.
The Battle of Oroi-Jalatu, the final battle in toe conquest of the Dzunghar Khanate to the northwest of China (modern Xinjiang). After the battle, a huge massacre of civilians took place, and even then the region remained a hotbed of anti-Chinese separatism (a reputation it retains to this day).
The Battle of Oroi-Jalatu, the final battle in toe conquest of the Dzunghar Khanate to the northwest of China (modern Xinjiang). After the battle, a huge massacre of civilians took place, and even then the region remained a hotbed of anti-Chinese separatism (a reputation it retains to this day).
The HMS Nemesis destroying Chinese war junks during the First Opium War (1839-42). The utter superiority of Western weaponry and military training undermined the authority of the Qing Dynasty, starting it on a slow death spiral.
The HMS Nemesis destroying Chinese war junks during the First Opium War (1839-42). The utter superiority of Western weaponry and military training undermined the authority of the Qing Dynasty, starting it on a slow death spiral.
The recapture of Nanjing from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. The Taiping Rebellion is the largest civil war in human history, and it lasted almost two decades.
The recapture of Nanjing from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. The Taiping Rebellion is the largest civil war in human history, and it lasted almost two decades.
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Episode 90 – Fifty Shades of Wordplay

In the late 17th century, the popular writer Ihara Saikaku produced literature for mass entertainment and consumption. He became immensely popular, and remains widely read even centuries after his heyday. We’ll explore his life, career, and legacy as we ask, “just how did a man making entertainment to pay his bills become one of Japan’s most celebrated authors?”

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Callahan, Carl. “Tales of Samurai Honor: Saikaku’s Buke Giri Monogatari.” Monumenta Nipponica 34, No. 1 (Spring 1979).

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Keene, Donald. The Pleasures of Japanese Poetry.

Ihara Saikaku. Life of an Amorous Man.

Ihara Saikaku. Life of an Amorous Woman. (good translations of both works are out there)

Images

A statue of Ihara Saikaku in his home city of Osaka -- specifically Ikukunitama Shrine. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A statue of Ihara Saikaku in his home city of Osaka — specifically Ikukunitama Shrine. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Yonosuke, the protagonist of Life of an Amorous Man, spies on a bathing woman in this illustrated scene from the novel. Courtesy of Yale University.
Yonosuke, the protagonist of Life of an Amorous Man, spies on a bathing woman in this illustrated scene from the novel. Courtesy of Yale University.
A scene from Life of an Amorous Man -- the reading of Yonosuke's father's will. Yonosuke famously shows no displeasure at his father's death and instead promises to blow all the inheritance on prostitutes. Courtesy of Waseda University.
A scene from Life of an Amorous Man — the reading of Yonosuke’s father’s will. Yonosuke famously shows no displeasure at his father’s death and instead promises to blow all the inheritance on prostitutes. Courtesy of Waseda University.
An illustrated scene from Life of an Amorous Woman with yet more spying on people from balconies (this time the main character is the one being spied on). Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
An illustrated scene from Life of an Amorous Woman with yet more spying on people from balconies (this time the main character is the one being spied on). Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
Life of an Amorous Woman was adapted into a movie by the Japanese director Mizoguchi Kenji, called Life of Oharu. This is one screen from the movie. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Life of an Amorous Woman was adapted into a movie by the Japanese director Mizoguchi Kenji, called Life of Oharu. This is one screen from the movie. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Episode 89 – A Day in the Life of Meiji Japan

This week we’ll be going through the basics of daily life for children, women, and men during the Meiji Period. How did the tremendous changes of the Meiji Era change the way people lived and worked? This week, we’ll try to sketch an outline of an answer for that question, as we cover themes as varied as compulsory educations and fistfights over the rights of prostitutes

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Crawcour, E. Sydney. “Economic Change in the Nineteenth Century”, in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 5.

Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds: State and Society in Japan.

Smith, Thomas C. Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization.

A copy of the Imperial Rescript on Education can be found in English here and in Japanese here (Wikisource has both the original and a gendaigo version if you cannot read classical Japanese).

Images 

A street scene in Yokohama, c. 1880.
A street scene in Yokohama, c. 1880.
An elementary school class in Kudoyama City in Wakayama Prefecture during the Meiji Era. Courtesy of Wakayama Prefecture.
An elementary school class in Kudoyama City in Wakayama Prefecture during the Meiji Era. Courtesy of Wakayama Prefecture.
The Imperial Rescript on Education, the guiding document of Imperial-era education. It was to be memorized and treated with reverence by students, though some simply used it as an excuse for competitive games of memorization. Courtesy of Meiji Shrine.
The Imperial Rescript on Education, the guiding document of Imperial-era education. It was to be memorized and treated with reverence by students, though some simply used it as an excuse for competitive games of memorization. Courtesy of Meiji Shrine.
Tsuda Umeko, who participated in the Iwakura Mission and founded Japan's first women's college (now Tsuda University).
Tsuda Umeko, who participated in the Iwakura Mission and founded Japan’s first women’s college (now Tsuda University).
Factories like this one would have extremely harsh working conditions, with some running shifts as long as 14 hours a day. Women dominated textile plants like this one, providing around 3/4ths of the workforce. Courtesy of Kyoto Prefecture.
Factories like this one would have extremely harsh working conditions, with some running shifts as long as 14 hours a day. Women dominated textile plants like this one, providing around 3/4ths of the workforce. Courtesy of Kyoto Prefecture.
Harimise, the practice of displaying prostitutes for potential customers, was eventually outlawed -- ostensibly because it encouraged a practice which was merely supposed to be tolerated, but in practice because the optics of the whole thing were (rightly) pretty awful.
Harimise, the practice of displaying prostitutes for potential customers, was eventually outlawed — ostensibly because it encouraged a practice which was merely supposed to be tolerated, but in practice because the optics of the whole thing were (rightly) pretty awful.
This image of a Meiji Period movie theater gives you some idea how one would be laid out. A pit orchestra sits below the scene; the benshi, or narrator, is to the left. Courtesy of Matsuda Film.
This image of a Meiji Period movie theater gives you some idea how one would be laid out. A pit orchestra sits below the scene; the benshi, or narrator, is to the left. Courtesy of Matsuda Film.

Episode 88 – The Quest for Immortality

This week; a mad emperor on a quest to live forever, and the sorcerer who led an expedition to make it happen and may just have founded Japanese civilization in the process (but probably not). It’s the likely untrue but still fun and interesting story of Xu Fu!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Tsingsheng Wei, Xu Fu Yu Riben [Xu Fu and Japan]

Yuning Li, The First Emperor of China.

The Cambridge History of China, Vol 1.

Mie Prefecture has a nice piece about the history of Jofuku Shrine here. The Japan National Tourism Office has another here.

This article by the Japan Times covers some of the DNA evidence used to suggest the Xu Fu-Yayoi Japan link.

Qin Shi Huang, the mad emperor whose quest for immortality sparked Xu Fu's sea voyages.
Qin Shi Huang, the mad emperor whose quest for immortality sparked Xu Fu’s sea voyages.
Mount Penglai (Horai in Japanese), the mystical island supposedly home to the elixir of immortality.
Mount Penglai (Horai in Japanese), the mystical island supposedly home to the elixir of immortality.
Xu Fu's fleet on its second expedition. This later rendering is from the Qing Dynasty.
Xu Fu’s fleet on its second expedition. This later rendering is from the Qing Dynasty.
A statue of Xu Fu in modern Weihai, Shandong.
A statue of Xu Fu in modern Weihai, Shandong.
Jofuku Shrine, where Xu Fu (Jofuku in Japanese) was enshrined as a kami by Tokugawa Yorinobu in the 1630s. Courtesy of the Mie Prefecture Tourism Bureau.
Jofuku Shrine, where Xu Fu (Jofuku in Japanese) was enshrined as a kami by Tokugawa Yorinobu in the 1630s. Courtesy of the Mie Prefecture Tourism Bureau.