Research of Daoism in Japan

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The First Stage of Research on Daoism(from late 19th century to early 20th century)

In the early stage of research on Daoism, researchers of Daoism were almost all Sinologists. After the Meiji Restoration, the capitalist economy was developing rapidly in Japan. The politicians of Japan focused on the resources and the markets in China beyond the sea. Under such circumstance, Japan began to attach importance to the research on the society, the economy, culture, and religion of China. At the time, it was generally thought that there was much in common essentially between Japan and China and that Chinese culture was the source of many aspects of Japanese culture. The representative works are:

  1. Origin of Laozi (Laozi and his works) (Takeuchi Yoshio)
  2. Daoist Ideology and its Development (Tsuda Sokichi)
  3. Daoist Ideology (Koda Rohan)
  4. Research on Japanese Ideology (Oyanagi Shigeta)
  5. Annals of the White Cloud Temple with an appendix: Annals of the Temple of Mt. East (Oyanagi Shigeta)
  6. Supplementary Study of Japanese Ideology (Oyanagi Shigeta)
  7. Daoism and the Thoughts of Laozi and Zhuangzi (Oyanagi Shigeta)

Oyanagi Shigeta (1870-1940)

A Japanese monk of Buddhism. He graduated from the Department of Sinology of the Institute of Human Sciences of the Imperial University of Tokyo in 1894 and obtained his doctoral degree of literature with his dissertation Zhu Xi's Philosophy in 1921. During the time of his investigation in China, he stayed in the White Cloud Temple ---- the largest Daoist monastery of the Dragon Gate Sect of the Complete Perfection Tradition, where he obtained the first-hand information about the priests' life in the Daoist temples. In 1923, He completed his book A Survey of Daoism based on his teaching materials. Soon after his book was published, the Publishing House of Commerce introduced its Chinese version into China. His major contribution was his collection of information on Daoism as well as arrangement of the related historic materials. In addition, he began his study of Daoism in a comparatively scientific approach without any prejudice he had as he studied some other religions. He pointed out that Daoism originated from the union of immortality cults, ancient religious belief, and folk religion. He also thought that the developmental history of Daoism could be divided into several stages: the stage of foundation, the stage of completion, the Tang and Song period, the stage of separation, and the stage of decline. His view on the history of Daoism is still influential today. We have to admit that there were some apparent weak points in his research, that is, he limited his research within Daoism itself rather than studied Daoism as a social phenomenon connected to other aspects of society. Therefore he did not track down the relations between Daoism and other phenomena such as social politics, science, culture, and other religions as well.

Daoist Studies for Political and Military Purposes (from 1920s to 1940s)

Since the 1930s, the militaristic Japanese government sped up its invasion of China, and the research of Daoism in Japan was associated with the war against China. The Railway Cooperation of Southern Manchuria in Shenyang and the Institute of East Asia in Shanghai studied China in all aspects, including its politics, economy, society, culture, history, customs, and religions. At the same time they collected a lot of information that was needed in the war against China. The findings of their investigations are embodied in the book A Survey of the Customs in Rural China, which was published after the war. Of course we must admit that some of the scholars still took a conscientious attitude at the time towards the study of religions, including the study of Daoism. Their representative works are as follows:

  1. The Daoist Classics (Girano Yoshitaro)
  2. The Ledger of Merits and Demerits (Girano Yoshitaro)
  3. The History of the Temple of Supreme Clarity (Igarashi Toshitaka)
  4. A Research on Chinese Ideology (Tachibana Shiraki)
  5. Daoism and Mythology (Tachibana Shiraki)
  6. A Textual Research: The Book of Supreme Peace (Fukui Koujun)
  7. The Foundamental Research on Daoism (Fukui Koujun)
  8. A Study of the Japanese History of Ideology (Fukui Koujun)
  9. The Actual Daoism (Yoshioka Yoshitoyo)
  10. A Research on Daoism (Yoshioka Yoshitoyo)
  11. On the History of Daoist Classics (Yoshioka Yoshitoyo)
  12. Daoism and Buddhism (Yoshioka Yoshitoyo)

Some of the books mentioned above were published after the war.

Fukui Koujun (1898 - 1991)

A Japanese Buddhist monk. He majored in philosophy and graduated from the Department of Literature of Waseda University. After graduation, he came to China as a student (an apprentice) of Tsuda Sokichi. At the time Tsuda Sokichi worked as a researcher in the Department of Manchurian Railways and Academic Investigation of Japanese Association. Later he was found guilty because he was framed by a false accusation of insulting the dignity of the imperial family. The real reason why he was framed was that he elaborated on the ancient history of Japan in an objective way.

As a result, some of his books about ancient history were not published. His views on history and his manner of pursuing his studies deeply influenced Fukui Koujun. Fukui obtained his doctoral degree with his dissertation A Research on Daoism. His academic books included A Research on "the Books of Numinous Treasure", A Textual Research on "Biographies of Various Immortals" ( 《列仙傳》 Liexian Zhuan ), and The Formation of "the Formula of the Preface of the Book of the Dao and its Virtue". His Complete Works of Fukui Koujun with six volumes was published in 1987. His son Fukui Fmimasa is one of the representatives of Daoism studies in Japan, but Yoshioka Yoshitoyo was the best successor of Fukui's way of pursuing the studies.

Yoshioka Yoshitoyo (1916 - 1981)

He graduated from the Chizan College (today's Taisyo University). When he was studying in China, he once lived in the White Cloud Temple in Beijing like Oyanagi Shigeta. His descriptions about his memories of his religious life at the Daoist temple were generally acknowledged as the precious personal experience with great value. Both Fukui and Yoshioka changed thoroughly the traditional views in which Daoism was regarded as something attached to Confucianism and Buddhism. Instead they studied Daoism as an independent religion. And their study of Daoism had been developed into a sort of comprehensive research. In other words, the field of their research had been expanded to history, archeology, literature, local chronicles, and chronological tables. They were strict with their research, apparently influenced by the Qianjia School of China in their methods of pursuing their studies. Their research on the history of the Daoist Canon, on the Books of the Numinous Treasure, the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes ( 《周易參同契》 Zhouyi Cantongqi ), and the Biographies of Various Immortals was done by quoting copiously from many sources, referring to each other, and making comprehensive comparisons. Their arguments were always based on the evidence with careful textual research and novel understanding. Nevertheless, their research was chained to the texts and what they saw or experienced at the Daoist temple, for they attached excessive importance to the texts so that they failed to look into Daoism as a social phenomenon in their research. And the other chances might be that they did not have enough time to go deeply into the position and the functions of Daoism in the Chinese society, culture and customs as well as science and technology.

Research on Daoism in the Period of Restoration after the War (1945 -1972)

Owing to the foundation of the People's Republic of China and the outbreak of the Korean War, the study of China was reinforced around the world during this period. In the mean time, the research on Daoism was soon restored and greatly developed in Japan because of the development of theories of social sciences and sciences of humanities and the emphasis on the comprehensive studies after the war. The symbol of it was the foundation of the Society for the Research on Daoism of Japan in 1950. In its pronouncement it declared:

Daoism is considered as a religion that is immersed in the whole life of the Chinese people. As for all the experts of East Asia, especially Sinologists, the importance of Daoism is self-evident. Judging by the development of the tendency of systematic study of China, the research on Daoism cannot be neglected anymore. Therefore, we set up the Society of the Research on Daoism. The society is faced with a very tough job for it to complete, for Daoism itself is a very complicated field for us to study. However, without comprehensive research on other religions in East Asia and the corresponding research involved in the other disciplines, it is impossible for us to get a better understanding of Daoism. After making a detailed observation of the present situation of Daoism, we have decided to take an approach in which all the aspects will be united as one.

Since its founding, the Society for the Research on Daoism has admitted the scholars who originally belonged to the Society for the Research of Chinese Buddhism. It is reported that at present there are over 600 scholars in the society. In the following year after its establishment, the society had issued its magazine Oriental Religions, which it has continued to publish up to the present. Since 1989, the society began to award the prize of the Society of the Research on Daoism of Japan once every two years so as to reward the scholars of the younger generations.

In addition to the works of Fukui and Yoshioka, there are other representative works:

  1. The World of Laozi and Zhuangzi ----- Ideology of Huainanzi (Kanaya Osamu)
  2. The Culture and Thoughts of Chinese Masses (Kimura Eichi)
  3. Research on the History of the Six Dynasties--- Section of Religion (Miyakawa Hisayuki)
  4. The Religious History of the Six Dynasties (Miyakawa Hisayuki)
  5. The Research on the History of Daoism (Ofuchi Ninji)
  6. The Contents of the Daoist Scriptures in Dunhuang Manuscripts (Ofuchi Ninji)
  7. The Research on Religious Associations or Societies in Modern China (Sakai Tadao)
  8. The Research on the Moralistic Storybooks in China (Sakai Tadao)
  9. A Study of Supplementary Precious Scrolls (Sawada Mizuho)
  10. Detailed Discourse on the Refutation of Heresy (Sawada Mizuho)
  11. The Book of Zhuangzi (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  12. Laozi (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  13. Ideology of the Vital Breath (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  14. Daoism and Japanese Culture (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  15. Daoism and Japanese Ideology (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  16. Daoism and Ancient Japan (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  17. Mirrors and Swords in Daoism (Fukunaga Mitsuji)
  18. The Research on the Belief in Gengshen (Kubo Noritada)
  19. The Research on the Belief in Gengshen ---- Section of Island (Kubo Noritada)
  20. The History of Daoism (Kubo Noritada)

Based on the research done by the Japanese scholars we can easily find the new characteristics of the research on Daoism in Japan in the period of restoration after the war.

Firstly, research on the history of Daoism has been converted from the perspective of cultural history to that of politics and society. For example, Prof. Miyakawa, the expert of the history of the six dynasties, studied the Tradition of Five Pecks of Rice and the Supreme Peace Tradition in this way. So did Prof. Ofuchi Ninji in the Rebellion of the Yellow Turbans and the Tradition of Five Pecks of Rice. Prof. Kubo Noritada wrote about the Religious Reforms in China from the perspective of the society, in which he looked into the political and social contents embodied in the Complete Perfection Tradition. Other authors also focused on the social and political factors in their articles on unofficial religion and secret societies as well. They discussed Daoism as a sort of social movement of rebellious farmers and scholar-bureaucrats so that they analyzed the mass movement covered with religion. Prof. Miyagawa pointed out that it was because most of the preachers of Daoism in the six dynasties were of humble origins that Daoism was called the religion of the common people. The rebels of the lower classes claimed to be the emperor by taking advantage of the Daoist magic figures. So did the Daoist organizations led by Zhang Ling, Zhang Lu, and Zhang Jiao. Prof. Miyagawa shares his views on the significance with those who think highly of the social functions of Daoism.

Secondly, research on the history of Daoism has shifted from focusing on the written documents (literature or texts) to the connections between Daoism and the beliefs of the common people, Daoism and superstition, Daoism and customs, and Daoism and festivals. For example, Prof. Kubo made a lot of interesting observations of the folk beliefs of China, such as the beliefs in the Kitchen Spirit, the City God, the Local God of Land, God of Earth and so on. His research deepened our understanding of the religious beliefs and customs of Chinese people, especially the farmers. Kubo Noritada (1913 - ), graduated from the Department of Literature of Tokyo University. After the war, he worked as a professor and head of the Institute of Japanese Culture there. After his retirement, he became professor of Taisyo University. His book The Belief of Gengshen which had been reprinted seven times made comparative studies on the custom of "guarding for Gengshen" popular in Japan and southern Korea by making comprehensive observations. He pointed out in his book that it came from Chinese Daoism. His works did not only study Daoism from the perspective of the folklore, but studied Daoism in Northeast and Southeast Asia.

Thirdly, there are more scholars involved in the study of Daoism. After the restoration of the diplomatic relations between China and Japan, the Japanese people became more concerned about Chinese history and society. As a result, more and more young scholars were interested in Daoism. At the 35th anniversary, there were seven speakers under 50 years old, and four of them under 40 years old. The youngest one was only 32 years old. In recent years, some new associations have been set up in various places in Japan to study Daoism. For example, the Daoist Conference of Taisyo University, the Institute of Ideology of Nourishing Life in Ancient China in Kansai District, and the Institute of Daoist Culture in Kanto District.

Fourthly, Daoist Studies became independent during this period. Daoist study in Japan had long been attached to the study of Chinese philosophy and Buddhism. In 1974, Prof. Fukunaga Mitsuji was empoyed by Kyoto University as a lecturer of Daoism in the Department of Chinese Philosophy and Chinese Literature. He was the first in history to teach Daoist Study as one of the major courses and he developed a group of scholars of the younger generation. In 1983, at the 31st international conference of the Society of Japan, Confucianism and Daoism were independent as the fourth department. In 1985, the French and Japanese Academic Conference on Daoism and Japanese Culture was held at Paris University and an International Conference of Daoist Rituals and Music was held in Hong Kong. It indicated that the Daoist Study as a branch of sciences has become independent from other sciences in Japan or in the world.

Fifthly, new materials were discovered. The Daoist Canon, the Supplementary Daoist Canon, and the Essential Collections of the Daoist Canon ( 《道藏輯要》 Daozang Jiyao ) have been reprinted many times, which provide important conditions for the Daoist study. The contents of the written materials and pictures in Dunhuang Manuscripts have been published. The Daodejing and other texts copied on silk were discovered in the tomb of the Han dynasty at Mawangdui of Changsha, and they have been published, which has deeply influenced Daoist study.

Sixthly, there is an expansion in the research field. The research on Daoism in Japan attached much importance to the classics and history. In this period, Daoism in the Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore has become the objective of their research. Meanwhile they began to pay more attention to the research on the Daoist rituals. The representative figures and works in the period are:

  1. The Research on Chinese Ideology and its Present Situation (Fukui Fumimasa)
  2. The Oriental Studies in Europe and America with Comparisons (Fukui Fumimasa)
  3. The History and Structure of Daoism (Fukui Fumimasa)
  4. The Research on Sacrifice Offerings in Rural China
  5. The Clans and Drama in China
  6. The Research on Witchery Drama in China
  7. The Present Situation of Chinese Daoism ---- Daoists, its Associations and Temples (Hachiya Kunio)
  8. Chinese Daoism ---- Its Activities and the Present Situation of its Temples (Hachiya Kunio)
  9. The Research on the Daoism in the Jin Dynasty (Hachiya Kunio)
  10. The Vital Breath in Philosophical and Religious Daoism (Mugitani Kunio)
  11. The Thirty-nine Chapters of the Perfect Book of the Great Grotto ( 《大洞真經》 Dadong Zhenjing ) and Others (Mugitani Kunio)
  12. The Index of Xiang'er's Commentary on Laozi( 《老子想爾注索引》 Laozi Xianger Zhu Suoyin ) (Mugitani Kunio)
  13. The Index of Declarations of the Perfected ( 《真誥索引》 Zhengao Suoyin ) (Mugitani Kunio)

Hachiya Kunio (1938 - )

Graduated from the Department of Education of Tokyo University in 1963 with a Doctorate of literature. Before his retirement he was the professor of the Institute of Japanese Culture of Tokyo University and after his retirement he was the professor of College of Culture. He focused on the history of Chinese ideology originally with the following works published:

  1. Annotations of the Ritual of Adulthood
  2. Annotations of the Ritual of Wedding
  3. On the Formula of the Golden Gate and Jade Lock of the Perfect Man Wang Chongyang ( 《金關玉鎖訣》 Jinguan Yusuo Jue )
  4. Understanding of Laozi and Zhuangzi

Since the 1980s, he visited China many times and saw the restorations of Daoism in Mainland China by himself so that he became more confident about the situation of Daoism. In 1987 and 1988, he came to China twice to make investigations, and had his book The Present Situation of Chinese Daoism ---- Daoists, its Associations and Temples published in 1990. He published another book Chinese Daoism ---- Its Activities and the Present Situation of its Temples published in 1995 after his investigations in China four times since 1990. He thinks that compared to the Buddhist monasteries, Daoism takes on more varieties of its appearance. As far as the arrangement of the halls in the temples, the implications of the couplets, and the arrangement of worshiping the deities, each one of the eighty Daoist temples he has observed has its own characteristic. Thus he can see the concretization of Chinese culture. As for the religious belief of the Daoists and their daily life within the Daoist temples, it does not seem to have apparent different characteristic as what can be seen through the appearance of the temples. However, as far as the local characteristic of the gods' personalities, the scope of worship, and the situation of paying the religious homage to temples, and the life of the Daoists are concerned, the different Daoist temples have different characteristics.

Mugitani Kunio (1948 -- )

Graduated from Department of Chinese Philosophy of Tokyo University in 1972, he is professor of the Institute of Human Sciences in Kyoto University. He majors in the history of Chinese ideology, and has been focusing on the ideology of Chinese Daoism. His major works are

  1. A Brief Textual Research on the Chronicle of Tao Hongjing's Life
  2. The Thought of Relief in Early Daoism
  3. Brief Ideas on the Daoist Doctrine from the South and North Dynsaties to the Sui and Tang
  4. Different Theories on Heaven in Daoism
  5. The Vital Breath in Philosophical and Religious Daoism

Since 1974, he applied the techniques of computer to compile the index of the Daoist scriptures. His books the Index of Xiang'er's Commentary on Laozi and the Index of Declarations of the Perfected have been published, and are both quite helpful to the research work in all the other countries.

Maruyama Hiroshi (1959 ---)

Graduated from Department of Comparative Culture of Tsukuba University, he took the courses for the doctor's degree in Department of History and Anthropology in Tsukuba University. At present he is the associate professor of the Research Center of Northeast Asia in Northeast Asia University. He went to Taiwan many times to investigate the Daoist rituals there. Moreover he is an excellent linguist, capable of speaking Mandarin and Minnan dialect as well as English, and is also able to read French. Due to his outstanding linguistic ability, he has a broad view in his research on Daoism and he tries to adopt in his research the latest approach of anthropology as well as the good points of the traditional approaches. Among the scholars of the younger generation, Maruyama Hiroshi is remarkably rich in his works with safe arguments. His essay A Textual Research of the Jade Altar Ritual for Petition ( 玉壇發表科儀 Yutan Fabiao Keyi )---- A Exploration Probe of the Historical Pedigree of the Daoist Rituals at Tainan was published in 1991 when he was only 32 years old. It was awarded with the first prize of the Society of Daoism of Japan. And it is thought that the essay tracks down the techniques of rituals back to the Eastern Jin dynasty after the author's accurate investigations on the Jade Altar Ritual for Petition performed by the Daoists of Orthodox Oneness Tradition in some places of Taiwan. Moreover the author studies the Technique of Obtaining the Heavenly Vital Breath by Pacing the Big Dipper ( 取天氣罡法 Qu Tianqi Gangfa ), which is typical of the Jade Altar Ritual, and confirms that it accords with the Orthodox Technique of the Heavenly Heart ( 天心正法 Tianxin Zhengfa ) that started in the Song dynasty. In other words his essay is a sort of combination of on-the-spot investigation and the textual research. Thus he introduces a new approach to Daoist studies. The research on Daoism in Japan has accumulated for nearly one hundred years. Based on the characteristic of the Daoist culture, the independent Daoist studies have formed ten branches.

  1. Works on Daoism
  2. History of Daoism
  3. Daoism and folklore, Daoism and conviction, Daoism and calendar, Daoism and literature
  4. Daoism and sciences
  5. Daoism and Confucianism and Buddhism
  6. Daoist ideology and philosophy
  7. Research on the classics and literature Daoism
  8. Transmission of Daoism
  9. Daoist temples, Daoists, Daoist rituals, and Daoist festivals
  10. Academic tendency

In the field of the history of Daoist ideology, the Japanese scholars are interested in the relations of the three religions (Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism), the vital breath (qi), and the definition of Daoism. In the field of the Daoist classics, they focus on the research on the Daoist Canon and other Daoist literature as well as the written documents unearthed in Dunhuang. Moreover, they pay close attention to the historic materials as well as the compilation of the contents of the Daoist Canon and the new edition of the Daoist Canon. In the relation of Daoism and the literary works, they are trying to fix the area to be studied and regularize the methods for doing their research. In the field of Daoist folklore, they attach great importance to the investigations about the customs and Daoist rituals in the mainland of China in order to make comparison between the literature and the practice of the rituals. In the field of Daoism and the history of science and technology in China, they pay more attention to the study of alchemy and skills of nourishing life. As a result, in this period there has been an increase in the amount of the research that has been done on a larger scale than that in the past.

In 1983, the Hirakawa Publishing House of Japan published the three volumes of the Daoist Canon edited by Fukui Koujun. It can be seen as the summary of the past Daoist research done in Japan as well as the starting point in the new era. In 1994, after 20 years of preparation, it turned out the Daoist Dictionary compiled by Noguchi Tesuro, Sakade Yoshinobu, Fukui Fumimasa, and Yamada Toshiaki. 132 scholars in the world were involved in the writing of it. It can be regarded as the historical summary of the Daoist study in the 20th century as well as the foundation for it in the 21th century.