2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Wu Taibo in Early Tokugawa Thought

Wai-ming Ng

Department of Japanese Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Whether Taibo was the ancestor of the Japanese imperial family or merely an ancient Chinese sage became a point of controversy among Japanese intellectuals of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). In particular, in the seventeenth century, three major intellectual schools—the Hayashi school, the Kimon school and the Mito school—actively participated in an intellectual discussion regarding this issue. This article examines the controversy surrounding Taibo among early Tokugawa scholars and discusses its political and intellectual significance through a textual analysis of Tokugawa writings about him. It aims to deepen our understanding of issues related to national and cultural identity, the adaptation of Chinese Confucianism in the context of Japanese society and politics, and the vitality and creativity of thought and culture in the early Tokugawa period. On a more profound level, advocates and critics of the Taibo legend in Japan represented conflicting attitudes toward the relationship between Chinese and Japanese traditions. Advocates of the Taibo legend attempted to accommodate Chinese Confucianism within the Japanese tradition, whereas critics of the legend upheld Japanese political orthodoxy and cultural integrity in the face of unwanted Chinese influence.


Keywords: Wu Taibo legend, localization of Confucianism, Sino-Japanese cultural exchange, Shinto-Confucian relations