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Illustration as the Intersection of Culture and Information 
Shoji Yamada (NICHIBUNKEN)
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Jieling Li (Hainan Normal University)
Pre-modern Literature
Wednesday 25 August, 8:00-9:30 (UTC+2)

Short Abstract:

How did illustrated books connect information from the West, China, and Japan? Referencing historical works, encyclopedias, and Christian readers from early modern to modern Japan, this panel will discuss the roles of illustrations that have conveyed knowledge across time, age, and social strata.

Long Abstract

This panel will discuss the roles that illustrated books have served in cultural exchange between Japan, China, and the West, and how such books conveyed knowledge and information across time, age, and social strata.

Illustrated books are generally practical in nature, playing an important part in understanding and establishing knowledge and information, and also benefiting children and the people in general—who recognize but may not be aware of the names of things. The images in such books also contribute to understanding things of other countries. Focusing on such illustrations allows a new perspective on Japan's culture of books created in the early modern and modern times.

In the early modern period illustrations provided a way for the general populace to supplement and understand information that they could not obtain from texts alone. Today, the illustrations in old books help us learn about the intentions of the editors and publishers as well as the interests of readers. The novelty of Kinmōzui [1666], the early modern illustrated encyclopedia, was in integrating illustrations into the Chinese educational book format; the work is cited even in Engelbert Kämpfer's Geschichte und Beschreibung von Japan [1779]. We can also observe the interesting cultural misunderstandings that crop up in these illustrated books. Children's books on Christianity published in the Meiji era featured many reproductions of different kinds of pictures. These illustrations provide insights into how Christians of the time perceived their religion as well as about the fusion of Eastern and Western civilizations that was going on at the time.

So how did illustrated books broaden the foundations of knowledge from early modern to modern Japan, and in what way did they connect information from the West, China, and Japan? Referencing historical works, illustrated encyclopedias, and Christian readers, in this panel scholars of Japanese early modern cultural history, Heian and medieval literature, comparative literature, monogatari literature, and information science gather to discuss the exchange of knowledge that took place through illustrations.

Accepted papers: