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In Search of the WayThought and Religion in Early—Modern Japan, 1582-1860$
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Richard Bowring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.001.0001

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(p.304) 20 Retrospect
In Search of the Way

Richard Bowring

Oxford University Press

This retrospect is a short appraisal of the narrative told in this book, emphasizing the degree to which Song–Ming Neo-Confucianism acted as a constant sounding board throughout the period, a period which in European terms stretched from Queen Elizabeth I of England to the Communist manifesto. It is this remarkable consistency that ties someone like Hayashi Razan at the beginning of the period to Aizawa Seishisai at the end and makes sense of the term ‘Tokugawa period’. Not that Neo-Confucianism ruled supreme; it remained an élite concern. On the ground, Buddhism, somewhat ironically, increased its hold over the population and Shintō grew in ways that would eventually allow it to play the major role in Japan’s modern period. The narrative has taken us from the unification of the country to the cusp of the modern, when alien, outside forces were needed to bring about change.

Keywords:   Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Shintō, role of Chinese culture, differences between Japan and China

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