Understanding Cosmopolitanism within the context of reformation.

Ban Wang engages with the idea of Cosmopolitanism in China by primarily focusing on Confucian ideals. Cosmopolitanism according to Bang Wang can only be established through Aesthetic interests, which would enable the population to become less fixated on categories such as race, class or nation and instead could form connections world wide by focusing on their shared human qualities. Wang is able to strengthen this idea by engaging with other like-minded scholars. The main focus of this is on K’ang You-wei, which therefore, allowed Wang to delve further into Confucianist ideals, revealing how these can help to shape a world centred around Cosmopolitan values. ‘By this widening gyre of sympathy, imagination, and obligation, K’ang You-wei suggests that a member of the local community could become a citizen of the world’.[1]  Therefore, by using K’ang You-wei’s ideal vison of the world, Wang is able to grasp the human qualities which would be essential to creating universal values. However, these humanistic values which Ban Wang highlights within K’ang You-wei’s writings are somewhat misleading. Confucianism was a large focus with K’ang’s writing work, but Ban Wang depicts K’ang’s life and ideals to be idealistic and a form of utopia. Instead, these Confucianism ideals were used to initiate reformation within China’s sovereignty and politics.

K’ang believed that the best hope for China was to bring about reforms within the framework of the traditional systems, with the modification of the absolute monarchy in a constitutional monarchy.’[2]

This, therefore, leads onto how and why K’ang You-wei and his Confucianist writings can be used to understand Cosmopolitanism and its role within Eastern Asia. Perhaps Aesthetics and Confucianist values could be used to create a formation of a universal community, but for K’ang You-wei, according to historians such as Chen Jianhua[3] and Laurence Thompson was primarily focused on reforming China within the context of its traditions, therefore, to ensure that China would not fall into disaster. Jianhua and Thompson, although have written up separate texts focus on this historical figure manage to somehow tag team and cover the groundwork of K’ang’s motivations for reformation. Furthermore, they both focus on a broader scale to understand K’ang’s timeline and the connection to the wider context outside of China. Thompson primarily focuses on K’ang’s education, which later in life transitions into a curiosity towards western society and politics, enabling him to adapt this to his reformist writings. Therefore, this brings more context to the idea of cosmopolitanism because it promotes this idea of shared education and adapting them to reshaping politics and customs. However, it is not surprising that this revolutionary form of ideas leads to K’ang living a life on the run.

Chen Jianhua gives little time for K’ang’s timeline and instead uses his ideas of reformation and rebellion to connect it to a wider context relating to translation. The primary focus on their text it to understand reformation through different terms and how they can be connected in a universal context. Jianhua picks apart K’ang’s use of the term ‘geming’ which has caused debates surrounding its meaning. Whether it be revolution, rebellion or reformation, it can perhaps be better understood by attaching it to K’angs goal for change. To strengthen this, Jianhua uses other terms which K’ang had placed alongside ‘geming’ that were linked to the same meaning and goal. Bianfa, which is a term used that translates to ‘change the rules’ and another which is weixin which translates to ‘keep the newness’. This, therefore, establishes another idea of a universal understanding of reformation. K’ang was aware of these shared ideas for change and used revolutions such as the French revolution and the British glorious revolution to understand western politics. Furthermore, in the context of cosmopolitanism it does not have to be only applied to one shared community, but instead it can be linked through universal understandings of politics and how this form of education can be used to create change.

[1] Ban Wang, Chinese visions of world order: tianxia, culture, and world politics (Duke University Press, 2017) p.97.

[2] Laurence G. Thompson, Ta t’ung shu: the one-world philosophy of K’ang Yu-wei (Routledge, 2005) p.18.

[3] Chen Jianhua, World revolution knocking at the heavenly gate: Kang Youwei and his use of in 1898 (Routledge, 2011).

Korean Buddhism: Understanding the Key Factors of its Survival.

‘Korean Buddhism was already considered ‘half dead, half alive’, representing ‘nothing more than other-worldly hermits in the mountains.’[1]

There are multiple factors to consider regarding Buddhism within Chosŏn Korea and its fight for modernisation. Darwinism, socialism, the Tonghak uprisings and Japan all influenced Buddhism to reconsider its mechanisms in order to survive this new social demand. However, depending on the historian these factors differ in value. Jin Park[2] and Vladimir Tikhonov[3] both focus on one important historical figure which enabled Buddhism to modernise in a way that would ensure its survival. Han Yongun had a variety of education which differed in forms which was essential to understanding what exactly a modern Korea should look like, and how Buddhism might be able to keep its place within the country’s future.

Jin Park does not give much context regarding why Han Yongun was influential within the modernising of Buddhism other than his open-minded ideas regarding the freedom to marry for monks and nuns, however this does give insight to the influence in which Japan had on Korean Buddhism. In the areas which Jin Park has been unable to highlight Han Yongun’s importance, Tikhonov has been able assess the different factors which enabled Han Yongun to understand how society was beginning to function under Darwin’s concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. With his collaborated text of ‘Selected Writings on Han Yongun: From social Darwinism to Socialism with a Buddhist Face[4], Tikhonov is able to highlight other factors such as the Tonghak uprisings and the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese war, which Han Yongun was able to witness, enabling him to better understand what survival meant for Korea and how the modernising world around Korea may influence it.

Another factor that Tikhonov highlights is the influence of Laing Qichao upon Han Yongun, which is mentioned within both of his texts. Through this Han Yongun was able to obtain a better understanding of Social Darwinism and how it can be used to ensure the survival of Buddhism. ‘The main lesson the Korean nationalists were keen to learn from Liang was the Social Darwinist understanding of evolution as a competitive dog-eat-dog ‘struggle for survival, where the downfall of the ‘weaker devoured by the stronger’ was blamed only on the victims’ ‘failure to strengthen themselves’.[5] Although Buddhism was and is strictly non-nationalist, there were monks like Han Yongun, who were able to disassociate it with Social Darwinism and take the relevant information from it to create the necessary means for strengthening Buddhism’s place within a modernising Korea. This is perhaps why there is such an emphasis on Han Yongun within Tikhonovs texts because through this Buddhist figure there is a variety of factors which all connect to the modernisation of Korea. Han Yongun was educated on nationalism through his experience of the Tonghak uprising and his travels to Russia, however, he was also educated through Confucian and Buddhist teachings. Therefore, he was able to use this knowledge to understand which areas of Buddhism could be changed to adapt better to Korean society which would attract a bigger following and ensure its capability to compete against other religions.

Tikhonov highlights why Buddhism would perhaps struggle to finds its place within the religious competition, especially within Korea. These were factors such as the lack of European language skills which the majority of the Korean Buddhist shared, the isolation which the monks and nuns experienced as a result of Confucianism being more favoured, which therefore lead to Buddhism lacking any form of solid ground within Korea. The result of this meant that toward the late nineteenth century Buddhism within Korea was beginning to experience a decline in followers. However, Yong-u Han, Vladimir Tikhonov and Owen Miller focus their argument on supporting Buddhism and why it could be deemed more suitable to creating progress within the modern world in comparison to  Christianity and Confucianism. The main strength of their argument comes from using figures such as Han Yongun and Laing Qichao to highlight that those who followed the belief were capable of comprehending the modernisation of Buddhism and the route it must take to establish that. By focusing on the inner workings of Buddhism and the influence of Laing and Yongun the argument focuses on the qualities of Buddhism which places it above Confucianism and Christianity. These qualities are the ability to reject self-righteousness and ignorance, which would therefore, ensure progression for those who followed the belief because they would not be swept up by a world based on capital and survival.

[1] Vladimir M. Tikhonov, Social Darwinism and Nationalism in Korea: The Beginnings (1800s-1920s): “Survival” as an Ideology of Korean Modernity (Brill, 2010) p.117.

[2] Jin Y. Park, Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism (SUNY Press, 2010).

[3] Vladimir M. Tikhonov, Social Darwinism and Nationalism in Korea: The Beginnings (1800s-1920s): “Survival” as an Ideology of Korean Modernity (Brill, 2010).

[4] Yong-un Han, Vladimir Tikhonov, Owen Miller, Selected Writings on Han Yongun: From social Darwinism to Socialism with a Buddhist Face (Global Oriental, 2008).

[5] Yong-un Han, Vladimir Tikhonov , Owen Miller, Selected Writings on Han Yongun: From social Darwinism to Socialism with a Buddhist Face (Global Oriental, 2008) p.5.

Understanding the rules of the ‘Gender Game’.

‘The study of gender has contributed greatly to our knowledge of history while challenging preconceived notions of sociocultural phenomena and processes in Japan and elsewhere’[1]

Sabine Frühstück’s ‘Recreating Japanese Men’[2]analyses the contrast between sex and gender, while shedding light on how gender has formed masculine and feminine ideals within Japanese history. However, Anne Walthall who has written the first chapter ‘Do Guns Have Gender’ manages to differentiate these gender ideals of masculinity and femininity through Japan’s history of weaponry.

Whether it be a samurai’s sword or a solders gun, there has always been a sense of masculinity attached to the objects. Through this a formation of social hierarchy was created which enabled men to establish their status and class depending on the craftmanship of the gun. Anne Walthall gives a balanced analysis of both men and women and their relationships with weapons, allowing a more in depth understanding of how masculinity affected both genders.

Although swords were considered the soul of a samurai, guns co-existed with the blade as a means of aiding in battle and for hunting. However, for women guns were used as further attempt to isolate them from warfare. Walthall explains further insisting that women within Japanese history were able to learn to wield daggers, but this was used more as a cautionary purpose rather than establishing a fairer groundwork between men and women in warfare. This becomes more evident regarding guns and the lack of involvement of women. They could hold one, but shooting one was considered too masculine for them. This was also attached to gift giving, which men were more likely to receive a weapon as a gift, whereas women would be gifted art and literature.

Wielding of guns was considered a further development to a man’s maturity and masculinity. This, therefore, connects back to the introduction within the text, which is co-authored by Sabine Frühstück and Anne Walthall in which they highlight the connection between maturity and masculinity, which added to the masculine hierarchy within society. ‘Rural social mechanisms were hierarchically structured to produce men whose superior masculinity was based on their maturity’[3].  By pursuing skills and activities which would better themselves, while boosting this sense of masculinity, this was considered further developing their masculinity. This was applied to all men no matter their status or class. Therefore, not being able to wield a gun was considered a lack of development and their roles could be put into question.

‘Not all shoguns mastered this weapon, proof that their gender identities had to be constructed and remained unstable’[4]

This attachment of masculinity to objects and mannerisms was one of the root causes of excluding women from society and forming a stronger sense of control over feminine roles. This masculine attachment to guns was also added to the functions of family’s, which meant that fathers were likely to hand down their guns to the sons. This perhaps was not the same as a Samurai handing their son the family sword in hopes that they would take on the same route, but to push them further into a masculine role. Walthall draws upon historian Amy Ann Cox analysis on the values of masculinity to better understand why Japanese men associated their masculinity with guns. This was because guns represented the same values such as freedom, independence and liberty.

Therefore, what Walthall is trying to argue is what defines masculinity and how it can be manipulated into society to ensure it’s hierarchy. By attaching masculine values onto weaponry and behaviours that allow them to display power, it creates an unbalanced platform between men and women. Although Walthall highlights her intentions to focus on guns and status within the Tokugawa period, there is more that can be uncovered regarding Japan and its depictions of femininity and masculinity, which therefore, paved the lives of men and women. By just looking at guns Walthall has managed to breakdown the foundations of masculinity because the weapon became ingrained within the masculine etiquette, allowing it to manipulate Confucian teachings and Japanese culture.

Furthermore, although guns provided a variety of new skill to Japanese men and enabled them to use this within battle, what Walthall really does is present an underlying argument which highlights to absence of women in many areas of Japans society during the Tokugawa period. Her focus on guns enabled her to uncover Japans Confucian education, politics and warfare, therefore, Walthall has perhaps unintentionally brought a new understanding of how masculinity had been crafted and branded on to mannerisms and objects to ensure the silence and absence of  Japanese women within important areas of their society.

[1] Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.3.

[2] Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011).

[3] Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.6.

[4] Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.21.


The Motivations of Koreas Peasantry and its connection to the Tonghak Uprisings

‘The Tonghak Peasant Uprising had once been depicted as a spontaneous rebellion of disgruntled peasants that broke out suddenly in reaction to harsh exploitation by the notorious Venal.’[1]

Young Ick Lew and his article: The Conservative Character of the 1894 Tonghak Peasant Uprising: A Reappraisal with Emphasis on Chŏn Pong-jun’s Background and Motivation, puts into perspective the diversity of historiographical thought regarding the motivation behind the Tonghak uprising (1894). It is diverse because according to Young Ick Lew, many historians argue that the uprising was not fully motivated by Tonghak, instead it was formed under the groundings of a divided and corrupt society. This argument holds more strength because of the factors that put Korea into such a weak state, which left the governing system in chaos. One of these factors is the influence in which China and Japan had over Korea, which caused the country to essentially fight to keep its identity and culture in place. This desperation to reclaim Korea from the grasp of China and Japan has created different arguments on what caused the peasants to follow Tonghak and to form a class consciousness. One factor that should be highlighted is the absence of information regarding how these peasants became aware of the corrupt system in which they lived in.

When comparing this to the Russian Revolution the peasantry formed a class consciousness through education, which enabled them to understand their rights and place in society[2]. However, Young Ick Lew does not go into depth regarding why the peasants became highly aware of the injustice they faced. Young Ick Lew, instead uses other forms of debates surrounding class consciousness to explain why the peasants were eager to follow Tonghak religious group. There is an understanding that through more peasants joining the movement, they were becoming more aware of the corrupt politics within Korea.

Furthermore, what also strengthens Young Ick Lew’s argument of the peasantry motivations is what the Tonghak revolt represented to them. The leadership of the movement was also made up of peasant born individuals which perhaps symbolised a sense of hope for the peasantry, allowing them to feel more involved with the revolt and the political system with Korea. However, there are other motivations which are pointed out, which also coincide with other historians’ views within Sources of Korean tradition[3]. The motivations could be argued to be less of a movement and more of a revolution. This was as both articles state, due to the demands that the revolt made, which was arguably fair to all and would diminish all injustices by scraping the class system, but it would also mean strengthening this anti-foreigner state which the Tonghak followers had promoted.[4]

[1] Young Ick Lew, The Conservative Character of the 1894 Tonghak Peasant Uprising: A Reappraisal with Emphasis on Chŏn Pong-jun’s Background and Motivation (Duke University Press, 1990) p.159.

[2] Orlando Figes, The Russian Revolution of 1917 and Its Language in the Village (The Russian Review, 1997) p.324.

[3] Peter H. Lee; William Theodore De Bary; Yŏng-ho Ch’oe, Sources of Korean tradition (Columbia University Press, 2000) p.265.

[4] Young Ick Lew, The Conservative Character of the 1894 Tonghak Peasant Uprising: A Reappraisal with Emphasis on Chŏn Pong-jun’s Background and Motivation (Duke University Press, 1990) pp. 165-166.