Banner Image Source Original image held by the Harvard-Yenching Library
of the Harvard College Library, Harvard University

June 2012

Editorial Preface & In Memoriam


Woman, Man, Abacus

A Tale of Enlightenment

Hansun Hsiung

Hansun Hsiung examines the hitherto neglected role of bookkeeping in the work of Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901). Focusing on the concepts of number and balance, he argues that the practice of double-entry bookkeeping was closely related to Fukuzawa’s unique articulation of Victorian liberalism. Numbers provided Fukuzawa with a suprahistorical mode of argumentation, whereas bookkeeping provided a normative framework of balance for dealing with numbers. The combination of these terms allowed Fukuzawa to move beyond the main mode of numerical reasoning in politics at the time: the discipline of statistics. After establishing this claim, Hsiung proceeds to trace the history of bookkeeping within the development of university curricula in Japan. He concludes that the institutionalization of modern disciplines and their hierarchies of knowledge resulted in the exclusion of bookkeeping from political thought.

Sympathetic Response

Vocal Arts and the Erotics of Persuasion in the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan

Charlotte Eubanks

Charlotte Eubanks explores the conundrum posed by the confluence of piety and eros in the oratory of monastics in medieval Japan. Other scholars have tried to explain this by pointing to the itinerant, socially unstable outcasts who both sold sex and appropriated Buddhist oratory in order to beg for a living. Eubanks instead unravels the connections between performance arts and Buddhist oratory to argue that the erotic elements stemmed from the doctrine of “sympathetic response” (kannō 感応), which called for an emotional and sensual exchange, or mystical union, between believer and divine being, devotee and buddha. The marked association of the verbal arts with sexual favors was an elaboration of doctrine that evolved out of a pietistic desire for union with the divine as much as out of economic realities.

Vocabularies of Pleasure

Categorizing Female Entertainers in the Late Tang Dynasty

Beverly Bossler

Examining changing terminology for female entertainers from early imperial times through the Tang dynasty, Beverly Bossler argues that the so-called “Tang courtesan culture” emerged only in the very late Tang. She shows that well into the Tang commercially available female entertainers (chang 娼) were socially distinct from the private entertainers (ji 妓) found in elite households. With the expansion of markets and entertainments during the late eighth and ninth centuries, new categories of female entertainers—including courtesan-entertainers maintained by the government to perform at official banquets—proliferated, and the social distinctions between commercial and household entertainers blurred. By the late Tang, relationships with entertainers became an important aspect of literati culture and were to remain so into the Song dynasty and beyond.

Howling Plants and Animals

Kim Suyŏng’s Sovereign Language and Rereading “Grasses”

Young-Jun Lee

Young Jun Lee analyzes the poetry of the modern Korean writer Kim Suyŏng (1921-1968) in the context of the turbulent social-historical transformations involving Korea’s loss of sovereignty, threats to individual life, and the disruption of a sense of belonging to the larger secular and sacred orders. Lee argues that Kim, in response to his times, questioned, and reduced to a state of silence the received meanings of language, and that from this liminal state of silence, or “speechless words,” he produced new meanings. Kim Suyŏng located the lyric self in liminal positions, between the North and the South, night and day, transcendental heaven and immanent earth. Through his poetry he thus tried to transcend the sorrowful reality of a confrontational world and to retrieve the sovereign subjectivity of the modern Korean language.

Review essays

Book reviews

Reproducing Women: Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China, by Yi-li Wu

Carol A. Benedict

Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity, by Keith McMahon

Alexander Des Forges

Ancestral Leaves: A Family Journey through Chinese History, by Joseph W. Esherick

Henrietta Harrison

Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800, by Herman Ooms

Samuel C. Morse

Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan, by Lori Meeks

Fabio Rambelli

The Transport of Reading: Text and Understanding in the World of Tao Qian (365-427), by Robert Ashmore

Paul Rouzer

Songs of Contentment and Transgression: Discharged Officials and Literati Communities in Sixteenth-Century North China, by Tian Yuan Tan

Patricia Sieber

Tropics of Savagery: The Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame, by Robert Thomas Tierney

Emma J. Teng

Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora, by Jing Tsu

Karen Thornber

Playwrights and Literary Games in Seventeenth-Century China: Plays by Tang Xianzu, Mei Dingzuo, Wu Bing, Li Yu, and Kong Shangren, by Jing Shen

Sophie Volpp

Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1640-1868, by Robert I. Hellyer

Brett L. Walker