|Novikova A. A. Vision of European countries and people...|
Vision of European countries and people in Edo period in Nishikawa Joken works (1648 - 1724)Novikova A. A. (Higher School of Economics/ IAAS, MSU)
This study focuses on the analysis of a vision of European countries and people in Edo period (1603 - 1867) in Nishikawa Joken's writing «Zo:ho: kai tsu:sho: ko:» («Supplemented thoughts on trade and communication with China and barbarians», 1708). This work is revised version of an earlier «Kai tsu:sho: ko:» («Thoughts on trade with China and barbarians», 1695) and was quite popular in XVIII century and therefore can serve as a data source for reconstruction of the widespread information about Europe. Apart from China and Europe Nishikawa mentions many countries of Asia and America mostly real yet some imaginary. It seems that the author was trying to create an accurate description of the countries and did not flatter facts in order to attract readers.
European countries are not grouped inside the text and are mixed up with other parts of the world. The text is accompanied by World map that shows only four states on the territory of Europe: Spain, England (one island), Holland and Muscovy. Scandinavian Peninsula is significantly reduced in size. Shapes of Apennine Peninsula, Iberian Peninsula and Balkan Peninsula are also far from real.
Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Muscovy, Spain, Norway, Germany, Italy, Greece, Ireland and England and some other countries are mentioned in «Zo:ho: kai tsu:sho: ko:». Joken used a single pattern to describe various countries regardless of data amount he had. First he indicated distance from Japan to a describing country. Holland is often used as an extra anchor. Then the author gives description of the climate using such parameters as the four seasons, «hot» and «cold». He sometimes mentions some other features: daylight hours, fall-outs, terrain, seismic activity and sources of water. If related information is applicable Nishikawa gives description of folkways. Frequently we can see only a simple comparison of European nation to the Dutch. Yet the manners of the Netherlands itself are portrayed in details in a relevant chapter. Craftworks of every country were an indispensable part: in this Jokan showed most complete awareness. Besides the author sometimes mentioned significant cultural achievements of some countries such as «way of doctrine» in Greece or Italian's success in natural science especially astronomy.
The largest amount of information Nishikawa possessed about Holland: he even explains the origin of the country's name that came from one of the Netherland provinces. Other provinces are also listed: it is the only country, except from China, which administrative division is given in work. Dutch East India company description given in the text but in slightly mutilated form. When describing Java Island the author tells about local colonial forms of government. The Dutch are said to be great sailors and are good at natural science. Their outfit and costume is displayed thoroughly, their written language, which to the authors' mind «resembles iroha», is also mentioned. Moreover as Nishikawa mainly got information from the Dutch who lived at Dejima island - trading station in Nagasaki, the Dutch were mentioned in the description of almost each country while Nishikawa indicated whether the country carried on trade with the Netherlands or not and how intense trading volume is.
In some cases the reliability of description are doubtful. Apart from a lot of straight information mistakes do happen. For instance France, Denmark and some other countries appear twice under various names. Muscovy and Italy are portrayed with grotesque. It is obvious that Dutchmen, who were the general informants of Nishikawa, had not accurate information themselves mentioning that in Muscovy nobody but a Zar and his prelacy could study.
In addition to «Zo:ho: kai tsu:sho: ko:» in Edo period also received the popularity illustrated edition based on the upper one and called «Shiju:ni koku jimbutsu zutsu» («Illustrated description of people of 42 countries» 1724), it used a short version of the text of «Kai tsu:sho: ko:» and illustrations were based on Europeans drawings. The images did not always match with real prototypes. Portraits of the Europeans did not display anthropological features accurately yet the costumes were displayed quite accurately. The work was reissued with some text corrections and colored illustrations by Yamamura Saisuke's (1770-1807), another author who wrote about western countries under the name «Teisei shiju:ni koku jimbutsu zutsu» («Corrected description of people of 42 countries ») .
In general reviewing Jokens works we can consider that during Edo period the Japanese had a relatively vast knowledge about western countries. This knowledge consisted of geographical location, distance from Japan, climate, looks, habits and culture of its people. There were certain mistakes which was a result of limited information provided. There is no surprise that the Japanese were aware of the Dutch better than of the others. The awareness of Dutch international relation is however quite impressive.
For full text see: IOCS Works («Orientalia et Classica» Series) History and culture of traditional Japan. 7 / Ed. A.N.Mesheryakov, RSUH. Moscow, 2014.
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