Books and Boats
Sino-Japanese Relations in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Translated with an Introduction by Joshua A. Fogel
2012, 335 pages • illustrations • glossary • index
ISBN 978-1-937385-12-5 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-13-2 Cloth $65.00
"Ōba Osamu's book is a long-lost classic. Undergraduates and general readers in English will, to their huge delight, discover much about little-known trans-cultural links in pre-modern East Asia, especially the China-to-Japan book trade, Tokugawa censorship of it in order to shut out Christianity, the flow of exotic animals such as elephants, and the role that Chinese Learning played in forming Meiji views on international relations. Equally important, Ōba's trenchant caveat against gullibly accepting conventional wisdom in history remains cogent even today in our internet age."
—Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Professor Emeritus, York University
This volume looks in detail at trade between the Qing dynasty and the Edo shogunate primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While touching on all manner of items traded, from where, to where, and the like, Professor Ōba particularly focuses on the importation of Chinese books to Japan. This entails a detailed discussion and analysis of the censorship procedures for detecting works with any sort of Christian content—strictly forbidden—and the punishments meted out to the guilty importers. Professor Ōba also looks at the families responsible for inspecting books—it became a hereditary post—and the Chinese interpreters attached to the Nagasaki Magistrate's office.
Ōba Osamu (1927-2002) taught for many years at Kansai University. Widely viewed as a scholarly polymath, he had two basic specialties: Sino-Japanese relations (especially, the book trade during the 17th-19th centuries) and the Han-era wood strips.
Joshua A. Fogel is Canada Research Chair Professor, York University. He specializes in the history of relations between China and Japan and, more generally, the history of relations among the major states of East Asia, and has published many books on these subjects.