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Early Japanese Cosmological Thought?

 
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Sima Qian
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 3:48 am    Post subject: Early Japanese Cosmological Thought? Reply with quote
Hi everybody, had a question to raise to you all.

Recently i've been helping a friend out with a personal project when i came across an interesting passage in a book translating segments of the Huainanzi - 淮南子, a 2nd Century BCE work compiled during the Han Dynasty by Liu An, the uncle of the celebrated Han Wudi, the Martial emperor.

On a passage regarding the Creation of the Universe, the translator asserted:

Quote:
This is the same account of creation that was taken over by the Japanese and prefaced to their native mythology in the Nihongi


Unfortunately i do not have a copy of the Nihongi on hand to verify - but this did provoke a number of questions regarding the state of early Japanese cosmological thought.

1.) In ancient Japan, who would find such matters to be important - if anyone?

2.) What alterations were made to this importation of an essentially proto-scientific (natural philosophy is perhaps the better term) viewpoint?

3.) Did it encounter any indigenous systems of applied thought - ie: Astrological/Astronomical etc.


For those interested (or might have a copy of the Nihongi!), I have extracted the passage from the Huainanzi below:

Quote:
Before heaven and earth had taken form all was vague and amorphous. Therefore it was called the Great Beginning. The Great Beginning prodcued emptiness and emptiness produced the universe. The universe produced material-force (chi or qi) which had limits. That which was clear and light drifted up to become heaven, while that which was heavy and turbid solidified to become earth. It was very easy for the pure, fine material to come together but extremely difficult for the heavy, turbid material to solidify. Therefore heaven was completed first and earth assumed shape after.

The combined essences of heaven and earth became the yin and yang, the concentrated essences of yin and yang became the four seasons, and the scattered essences of the four seasons became the myriad creatures of the world. After a long time the hot force of the accumulated yang produced fire and the essence of the fire force became the sun; the cold force of the accumulated yin became water and the essence of the water force became the moon. The essence of the excess force of the sun and moon became stars and planets. Heaven received the sun, moon, and stars while earth received water and soil.
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/jhti/cgi-bin/jhti/select.cgi?honname=1

Check this out for the text of the Nihongi.

It does match fairly well with the Huainanzi (out of curiosity, where are you getting your translation?), and many others have commented about this. However, it should also be noted that the Nihongi has many additional creation stories, which I would guess are closer to the indigenous cosmology, mostly dealing with a reed shoot coming up from the sea.

By the time that the Nihongi is written, Japan is in the midst of assimilating Chinese culture. They instituted the office of the 'onmyoji' (literally 'yin-yang master') from a similar Chinese and Korean office, it seems. First record I can find of it is in the era of Temmu Tenno, and are consulting divination to determine auspicious days, etc.

Geomancy (what we would call feng-shui) seems to come over straight from China, and pervades everything as the 'science' of Japanese thought. But the deities seem to be indigenous, even if they are explained in Chinese terms.

However, I think that what you are asking for will require going through Chinese, Japanese and Korean thought. Probably want to look at the various norito, etc.


-Josh
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Sima Qian
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Oh, i believe this particular rendition came from John S. Major's
Quote:
Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought: Chapters 3,4,5 of the Huainanzi.


Thank you very much for the website - having a searchable copy of the Nihongi is quite handy!

Unfortunately my attempts to find anything written in English about Onmyodo seems rather a futile effort, actually i believe i asked about that very subject a while back. I've always wanted to do a comparison between the types of Daoism flourishing in China during the era of importation in Japan.

What was kept? What was sliced off at the knees, etc.

But what i'm most interested, in regards to this philosophic topic, is what cosmological viewpoint existed in Japan prior to Chinese acculturation (those "additional" creation stories sound like just the thing Very Happy) and how were these integrated into what was brought over.

Although i think you've already alluded to that:

Quote:
But the deities seem to be indigenous, even if they are explained in Chinese terms.
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Unfortunately, you're right.

"Kataimi et Katatagae" has been helpful. Likewise the norito (many of which have been translated) and sections of the Engi Shiki... but I may have mentioned that before.

Discerning what the view was before Chinese thought: well, the problem is that people weren't keeping great records back then (or else they don't exist). In 645 we lost the first history written, it seems. So before the Nihongi we are looking at things like the Wei chronicles. The pre-7th century Chinese sources are probably your best bet (I don't know if there are any extant Korean sources from that period--that might be an invaluable resource if it exists. Does anyone know?)

Regarding what got 'cut off at the knees', well, Japan seems to have taken a 'shallow' version of some traditions. For instance, they took the calendar-making tradition of China, but didn't keep nearly as accurate a calendar as China did. They were taking what was being brought back by ambassadors, but that meant they had bits and pieces of different traditions, it seems.

Unfortunately, I can't really give you too much in specifics, for the very reasons you noted.

-Josh
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Bethetsu
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Kojiki,古事記, written about the same time (712) as the Nihon Shoki, is much less influenced by Chinese, so it would probably be the best Japanese source. A lot of it is written in Japanese, even, while the Nihon Shoki is written in Chinese. I found Donald L. Phillipi's translation easier than Chamberlin's.


天地(アメツチ)初めて発(ヒラ)けし時、高天(タカマ)の原に成れる神の名は、天之御中主(アメノミナカヌシノ)神。次に高御産巣日(タカミムスヒノ)神。次に神産巣日(カミムスヒノ)神。此の三柱の神は、並(ミナ)独神(ヒトリガミ)と成り坐(マ)して、身を隠したまひき。
次に国稚(ワカ)く浮きし脂の如くして、久羅下那州多陀用弊流(クラゲナスタダヨエル)時、葦牙(アシカビ)の如く萌え騰(アガ)る物に因りて成れる神の名は、宇摩志阿斯訶備比古遅(ウマシアシカビヒコジノ)神。次に天之常立(アメノトコタチノ)神。此の二柱の神も亦、独神と成り坐して、身を隠したまひき。

[株式会社岩波書店 広辞苑第五版]

The first paragraph goes something like this:
When Heaven and Earth first came into being, the name of the first god in the field of High Heaven was Central-Lord-of-Heaven, and the next was High-Producing-Nest-Day, and the next was God-Producing-Nest-Day. These three gods were all solitary gods, and they hid themselves.
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