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Itō Jinsai (1627–1705)

ITŌ JINSAI
(16271705)

Itō Jinsai, a Japanese Confucianist of the kogakuha ("school of ancient learning"), was born in Kyoto, the son of a poor merchant, and spent his life there as an educator. After studying the official Zhu Xi Confucianist doctrine, he rediscovered ancient Confucianism and became its systematizer and, through the Kogidō, a school he founded in 1680, its propagator. The novelty of his teaching aroused the suspicion of the central government in Edo (Tokyo). However, it was not suppressed although his kogigaku, or "learning-of-the-ancient-meaning," was gaining a large following. Through the able guidance of his scholarly son, Tōgai, and of his grandson the school was operated until 1871, when all Confucianist schools were abolished in favor of the new Western system.

Itō's philosophy, stemming from a great admiration for Confucius and Mencius, is quite contrary to the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi. Itō is clearly a monist in the sense that he does not admit any priority of ri, the principle (reason), over ki, the material force, which for him is material energy. A primordial material energy (ichi genki ), having neither beginning nor end, is the root of everything. Ri is but a pattern of ki; ki, through the motion of the yin-yang, or passive-active, elements, forms the great living organism (dai-katsubutsu ), the universe itself.

Itō holds with Mencius that human nature is originally good, and he does not make the usual Zhu Xi distinction between physical and original nature, which he treats as a spurious Daoist influence. Evil in physical nature need not be explained as if it arose from lack of cultivation of the potentialities of human nature. The four sources of virtue (in Chinese, ssu tuan ; in Japanese, shitan ) according to Itō are righteousness, humaneness, ritual or propriety, and wisdom. Righteousness is the pivotal virtue of Itō's ethics. Humaneness is benevolent love, or condescension from the superior to the inferior, for in Confucianism universal equalitarian love is practically nonexistent. Morality, the natural Way of things, has a cosmological meaning in addition to the ethical one. The material energy of the universe is manifested in humankind through humaneness or love. Itō's principles of education centered on forming moral character rather than on imparting knowledge; will is above the intellect.

Itō did not make much of astronomy and mathematics, but he was very fond of history. However, unlike most other Confucianists of the "ancient learning" school, he did not become a nationalist through the study of history. For him China remained the fountainhead of culture. Itō's outstanding merits as a Sinologist were the result of painstaking research in ancient texts, yet he patiently bore the faultfinding of his gifted son and the criticisms of his best pupil, Namikawa Temmin (16791718).

See also Chinese Philosophy; Confucius; Human Nature; Mencius; Wisdom; Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi).

Bibliography

Itō's chief works can be found in collections in Japanese, including Inoue Tetsujirō, ed., Nihon rinri ihen (Library on Japanese ethics; Tokyo: Ikuseikai, 1901), Vol. V, pp. 11181, and Dai Nihon shisō zenshū (Collected works on the thought of great Japan; Tokyo, 1934), Vol. XLI, pp. 7249. See also Ishida Ichirō, Itō Jinsai (Tokyo, 1964), which is in Japanese.

For works in English see J. J. Spae, Itō Jinsai: A Philosopher, Educator and Sinologist of the Tokugawa Period (Beijing: Catholic University of Beijing, 1948), and W. T. de Bary, Ryusaku Tsunoda, and Donald Keene, eds., Sources of Japanese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp. 410422. The second work contains selections in translation with introductions.

Gino K. Piovesana, S.J. (1967)

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Itō Jinsai

Itō Jinsai (1627–1705). A Japanese Confucian scholar from the movement called Ancient Learning (kokugaku). He opened his school in Kyo̱ where he taught that the true message of the Confucian sages could only be apprehended by reading their ancient writings directly, without reliance upon the later Neo-Confucian commentaries of Chu Hsi (1130–1200) and others. His school, known as the Kogidō or ‘Hall of Ancient Meanings’, was continued by his son, Itō Tōgai (1670–1736), with students drawn from all over Japan. See also Ogyū Sorai.

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