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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Among these schools was the Ashikaga gakko


text-book, the Doji-kyo, was compiled by a priest, Annen, who lived in the second half of the ninth century. Its origin belongs, therefore, to a much more remote era than that of the Muromachi shoguns, but, in common with the other text-books enumerated above, its extensive use is first mentioned in the Ashikaga epoch. The Five Temples of Kyoto--to be spoken of presently--were seats of learning; and many names of the litterateurs that flourished there have been handed down. Not the least celebrated were Gido and Zekkai, who paid several visits to China, the fountain-head of ideographic lore. But these conditions were not permanent. The Onin War created a serious interruption. Kyoto was laid in ruins, and rare books lay on the roadside, no one caring to pick them up.


Throughout the Ashikaga period the Kyoto university existed in name only, and students of Japanese literature in the provinces disappeared. A few courtiers, as Nakahara, Dye, Sugawara, Miyoshi, etc., still kept up the form of lecturing but they did not receive students at large. Nevertheless, a few military magnates, retaining some appreciation of the value of erudition, established schools and libraries. Among these, the Kanazawa-bunko and the Ashikaga-gakko were the most famous. The former had its origin in the closing years of the Kamakura Bakufu. It was founded during the reign of Kameyama (1260-1274) by Sanetoki,

grandson of Hojo Yoshitoki. A large collection of Chinese and Japanese works filled its shelves, and all desirous of studying had free access. Akitoki, son of Sanetoki, adopted Kanazawa as his family name and added largely to the library. He caused the ideographs Kanazawa-bunko to be stamped in black on all Confucian works, and in red on Buddhist.

It is recorded in the Hojo Kudaiki that men of all classes, laymen and priests alike, were shut up daily in this library where they studied gratis, and that Akitoki's son, Sadaaki, was as ardent a student as his father, so that men spoke of him as well fitted to be regent (shikken), thus showing that literary skill was counted a qualification for high office. Fire, the destroyer of so many fine relics of Japanese civilization, visited this library more than once, but during the reign of Go-Hanazono (1429-1464) it was restored and extended by the Uesugi family, who also rebuilt and endowed schools for the study of Japanese literature in the province of Kotsuke. Among these schools was the Ashikaga-gakko, under the presidency of a priest, Kaigen, in the day of whose ninth successor, Kyuka, the pupils attending the schools totalled three thousand. A few great families patronized literature without recourse to priests. This was notably the case with the Ouchi, whose tradal connexions gave them special access to Chinese books. Ouchi Yoshitaka, in particular, distinguished himself as an author. He established a library which remained for many generations; he sent officials to China to procure rare volumes, and it is incidentally mentioned that he had several manuscripts printed in the Middle Kingdom, although the art of block-printing had been practised in Japan since the close of the eighth century. A composition which had its origin at this epoch was the yokyoku, a special kind of libretto for mimetic dances. Books on art also were inspired by the Higashiyama craze for choice specimens of painting, porcelain, and lacquer. Commentaries, too, made their appearance, as did some histories, romances, and anthologies.


As Japan during the Ashikaga period sat at the feet of the Sung masters in philosophy and literature, so it was in the realm of art. There is, indeed, a much closer relation between literature and pictorial art in China than in any Occidental country, for the two pursuits have a common starting-point--calligraphy. The ideograph is a picture, and to trace it in such a manner as to satisfy the highest canons is a veritably artistic achievement. It has been shown above that in the Muromachi era the priests of Buddha were the channels through which the literature and the philosophy of Sung reached Japan, and it will presently be seen that the particular priests who imported and interpreted this culture were those of the Zen sect. There is natural sequence, therefore, in the facts that these same priests excelled in calligraphy and introduced Japan to the pictorial art of the immortal Sung painters.

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