PFJ Colloquium, 2015-16

PFJ Colloquium, 2015-16

Discovering the Early Modern Through Tokugawa Japan

Thursday, October 1, 2015
“From Herbals to Natural History: The Case of Tokugawa Japan”
W. F. Vande Walle, Professor of Japanese Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
4:30–6:00 PM, Amado Recital Hall, Irvine Auditorium (Reception to follow in Cafe 58)

Before the sixteenth century, herbalists and phytographers relied on Greek and Roman texts, notably Dioscorides’ De materia medica, rather than on empirical observation. When Renaissance botanists tried to correlate Dioscorides’ plant descriptions to the reality of their native floras, they found many discrepancies. Thus they realized that their compass was not reliable, and classical authority had to be supplanted by empirical scrutiny. German botanists were the first to initiate this paradigm shift, followed by their colleagues in the Low Countries, among others Rembert Dodoens (1516/17-1585). The herbals they produced gradually shifted their focus from healing to inventorying, thus helping to lay the foundation for the development of natural history.

Herbal studies in Japan, like many other fields of science, were based on knowledge transmitted from China. Some polymaths, including Kaibara Ekiken (1630-1714) and 平賀源内 (1728-1779), to some extent inspired by Dodoens’ herbal and Jan Jonsten’s (1603-1675) works on natural history, started questioning this classical authority and stressed the need for empirical study, thus generating a paradigm shift that was analogous to the one made in the West. However, while in the West the herbal tradition represented by Dodoens was superseded by natural history, in Japan both traditions co-existed for a long time. While in the 1820’s the integral translation of Dodoens’ herbal was under way, Itô Keisuke (1803-1901) was preparing the first introduction of the Linnaean system in Japan. His comprehensive presentation of the Linnaean system, Nihon sanbutsushi 日本産物志 was only published in 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration.

* Co-sponsored by the Penn Global Engagement Fund and the Center for East Asian Studies Humanities Colloquium

Thursday, November 12, 2015
“The Edo Man and the Satsuma Sweet Potato: Early Modern Travel through a Japanese Prism”
Constantine Vaporis, Professor of History, Director, Asian Studies Program, UMBC
4:30–6:00 PM, Kislak Center, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, 6th Floor

Travel in Japan in the early modern era (1600-1868) involved religious zeal, recreation, a search for therapeutic healing, and a desire for discovery, but also elements of political obligation and coercion. It connected commoners with the state in a way that few other institutions of the time did, while elites became engaged in it in an unparalleled fashion. This talk will explore the contours of some of these elements that defined travel in Japan in the early modern era, with an eye to their global context.

This event is part of the Penn Year of Discovery Series, with the Center for the Integrated Study of Japan Colloquium, Discovering the Early Modern through Tokugawa Japan and is co-sponsored by the Penn Global Engagement Fund and the Center for East Asian Studies.

Co-sponsored by the Penn Global Engagement Fund and the Center for East Asian Studies

Monday, February 29, 2016
“Where Time Begins: Time Measurement and the Establishment of the Prime Meridian in Tokugawa Japan”
Yulia Frumer, Assistant Professor of History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University
4:30–6:00 PM, Terrace Room, Claudia Cohen Hall

The ability to claim the prime meridian is a matter of political prestige. After all, the prime meridian marks the central line on the face of the earth, the place where time begins. It is thus not surprising that the late 19th century saw several European countries vying for the privilege of serving as a reference point for the rest of the world. Japan was not one of these contenders, yet prior to the Meiji reformation of 1868 Japanese scholars aspired to see the world centered — geographically and temporally — around Kyoto. Nevertheless, despite the political implications of establishing the prime meridian, the surveying enterprise that eventually located Kyoto at the zero longitude on Japanese maps was not motivated by politics. Rather, this enterprise began with attempts by Japanese astronomers to solve astronomical puzzles, and only later acquired political dimensions. This talk will explore the interplay between astronomical time measurement practices and political intentions in the process of establishing the prime meridian on late Tokugawa-period Japanese maps.

Co-sponsored by the Penn Global Engagement Fund, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the Department of the History and Sociology of Science

Thursday, March 17, 2016
“Virtuous Consumption versus Iron Thrift: Market Trouble in Early Modern Japan (and Beyond)”
Mary Elizabeth Berry, Class of 1944 Professor of History, University of California at Berkeley
4:30–6:00 PM, Amado Recital Hall, Irvine Auditorium

Domestic consumption is vital to all market economies but became particularly important in Tokugawa Japan (1600-1868), given the heavy constraints on foreign trade and real estate transactions and capital formation. Nonetheless, both sumptuary laws and household ethics discouraged anything more than strictly utilitarian spending as damaging both to the social order and the family’s security. So, how do we account for the prodigious consumption, across the social spectrum, that sustained the Tokugawa economy?

* Co-sponsored by the Penn Global Engagement Fund and the Center for East Asian Studies Humanities Colloquium

Saturday, March 19, 2016
“Early Modern Print Culture through a Japanese Prism: A Celebration”
Lea Library Exhibit and Symposium
10:00AM–5:00 PM, Lea Library & Kislak Center, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

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