Much research has already been done on the Tokugawa Confucianism, predominantly on Shushigaku scholarship and its interpretive commentarial (or ‘exegetical’) approach to texts, and its role in developing modern academic methodology. However, inadequate attention has so far been paid by intellectual historians to an important element of Japanese Confucianism; an aspect of scholarly development that may be termed ‘evidential research’.
No Western scholarship has yet to examine the methodological details of Tokugawa philology, nor has it been comparatively examined in conjunction with the philologie of Friedrich August Wolf and August Boeckh of the c.19th Europe, the chief figures of philological studies in Germany.
What could we identify in the early-modern scholarly development in East Asia in the light of these findings and methodological developments? What are the parallels and differences? What are the peculiar methodological developments in early-modern Japan when compared with the ‘scientific’ methods developed in the West?
The assumption that has long prevailed the historians was that the methodological core of historical research in East Asia was ‘imported’ from Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Rankean methods were adopted by Japanese historians of the era. Was that really so? Has the two-millennia long tradition of historical study in China vanished completely upon the arrival of the historiography of the West?