Lin Shaoyang. The “Chinese World Order” Encounters the “East Asian World Order”— Post-War Japanese Historians’ Debates on the Tribute System[J]. Front. Hist. China, 2020, 15(2): 198-233.
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Abstract: In this paper, I trace the post-war Japanese genealogy of studies on China’s tribute system (imperial China’s relatively tolerant approach to its foreign relations) in relation to the English-language work of historian John King Fairbank (1907–91). I emphasize that, together with the sporadic Chinese studies into China’s tribute system prior to the 1950s, it was the post-war research of Japanese historians that inspired Fairbank, who, in turn, further stimulated critical debates on the topic in Japan. I first concentrate on post-war Japanese debates concerning an “East Asian world order” based on a “system of investiture/tribute.” This notion, developed by the Japanese historian Nishijima Sadao in 1962, precisely corresponds to Fairbank’s 1941 understanding of the “tribute system” or “Confucian world-order,” but contrasts with Fairbank’s later, controversial understanding of a “Chinese world order” as proposed in 1968. In the second part of this paper, I introduce Japanese historian Hamashita Takeshi’s 1980s and 1990s arguments on the “tribute trade system” as representative of the younger generation within this genealogy, contrasting it with the work of Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank. In the third part, I locate this Japanese genealogy within the wider historical context of post-war Japanese intellectual cultural politics. This means that I examine Japanese historians’ arguments both from the angle of historiography and from the perspective of post-war Japanese intellectual history.
Keywords: tribute (trade) system East Asian world order John King Fairbank Nishijima Sadao Hamashita Takeshi China as method post-war Japanese Sinology
Issue Date: 09 July 2020
Lin Shaoyang, Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong S. A. R., China