Friday, August 31, 2012

Lurie: 3 - one good trope deserves another

Although I intend to print this out and proof read it, I won't get around to that this weekend, so here it be in somewhat rough form. 

I have checked it a couple of times during the stages of its creation, but there are so many holes in Lurie's text that it just keeps growing, so I've decided that this is enough. In fact, this is a rather long post, but there is a diffuse amount of material that needs to be covered to adequately address the shortcomings of this piece of sophistry published by Harvard.

I'm not actually doing research in this field. I have only taken this up because he is part of a three-member group of dubious scholars associated with Columbia University and Bernard Faure that I am exposing as part of some secret society network that is in all likelihood connected to the intelligence operatives I have exposed here whose publications include similar patterns of false attribution of cultural contributions by Koreans, etc.

I don't know if these cretins are Freemasons, or maybe members of some Columbia University Skull & Bones type secret society, but there is no question that they are pseudo-scholars, and that extends the question to their publishers, because none of the three books I've looked at thus far demonstrates that a reasonable degree of fact checking was even performed. 

I will take this issue up again at the end of the post I am going to do on Prince Shotoku.

On p. 198 Lurie writes:

..numerous inscriptions…support the foregoing outline of written culture in the peninsula from the fifth through seventh centuries. Some of these inscriptions show signs of reading and writing ‘in’ Korean rather than ‘in’ Chinese: that is, they strongly suggest the existence of Korean kundoku.

Here, in order to put the overall concept of kundoku into perspective, I'd like to point out that Lurie mentions toward the end of his book a couple of things about the adoption of Chinese characters by the Vietnamese, in respect of which at least one of the features I have discussed in terms of general observation about kundoku above would seem to be apparent. 

On p. 343-344:

…the first direct evidence for the adaptation for Chinese characters to write Vietnamese is from the twelfth century. The chu Nom system used some characters for their sound and others to write Vietnamese words; there was also formal innovation, in which characters were combined to form new graphs (Nguyen 1959; DeFrancis 1977).

A simple Internet search reveals, however, that Lurie short shrifts the Vietnamese with respect to having developed basically the same set of practices that were developed in Japan and Korea There are several websites that discuss the chu Nom system, and Wikipedia cites works that directly draw analogies between Japanese and Vietnamese. Perhaps Assistant Professor Lurie wasn’t aware of the work of the researchers cited.

Wikipedia page:

The Wikipedia contains a number of relevant passages, as follows:

Usually only the elite had knowledge of chu Nom, which was used as a tool for teaching Chinese characters (DeFrancis 1977:30).

…Zhou (1998:223) gives some examples of kun reading in chu Nom.

Note that Lurie does cite the book by DeFrancis (1977), but not the point about chu Nom's role "as a tool for teaching Chinese characters". Given his emphasis on kundoku, that would seem to be a conspicuous oversight; meanwhile it's importance is demonstrated by the fact that it is included on a much more general reference such as the Wikipedia page. Perhaps Assistant Professor Lurie simply didn't read the whole book. Incidentally, the book "DeFrancis 1977" does not appear in Lurie's bibliography however, but that was probably just an oversight, as two other titles by the author do appear.

According to Wikipedia the title is, Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam, and it is out-of-print. Here is the amazon link: 

Lurie does not cite the book by Zhou, but that book does appear to be in Chinese:
Zhou Youguang 周有光 (1998). Bijiao wenzi xue chutan (比較文字学初探 "A Comparative Study of Writing Systems"). Beijing: Yuwen chubanshe.

Fortunately I have found a resource to help readers that aren't literate in Japanese understand the somewhat recondite concept of "kun reading" mentioned above in relation to chu Nom as well. When you read the information on the following webpage, bear in mind that Lurie has stated the following in the above-quoted passage, which I take to be an implicit acknowledgement of kun reading:

        The chu Nom system used some [Chinese] characters for 
        their sound and others to write Vietnamese words...

Here is the link to a webpage that has a brief and easy to understand section that introduces the aspect of modern Japanese called kunyomi (literally, "kun readings"). The section introduces characters and their corresponding Japanese vocabulary and pronunciations. The more archaic phenomenon of kundoku also comprised sentence level syntactical aspects of reading. Refer to the section called "Kun readings":

Back to p. 198 of Lurie’s book:

    The best known of the sources that shows such signs of influence by Korean languages is…cut into once face of a …stone tablet that was found in Kyongju (the former capital of Silla) in 1935. The cyclical date of this inscription could correspond to dates between the mid-sixth and late eighth centuries. As in the case in the Japanese sources surveyed in the preceding section, the primary signs are reversal of Chinese Verb-Object order and employment of grammatical markers in way contrary to literary Chinese usage.
    It is clear that this text was written, and presumably read, in an early Korean language (probably that of Silla) with pronounced syntactical differences from literary Chinese. Object-Verb order is present…

In a footnote on p. 199 Lurie specifies that the cyclical date of the above-described Kyongju inscription:

…could correspond to 552, 612, 672, 732, or 792.

Lurie, however, seems intent on dating it to the “early Silla” period, as per his statement on p. 199:

… non-Chinese syntax of this inscription is powerful evidence of the use of kundoku in early Silla [my emphasis], although unfortunately it is impossible to specify when in the sixth through eighth centuries CE it was written.

The early period of Silla, however, ends in 667, and the late period ("Unified Silla") ran from 668 to 935. In other words, he cannot both claim an "early Silla" date and then declare in the same sentence that it is not possible to definitively date the artifact to a year that falls within the time frame of "early Silla". 

The text of the inscription itself sets forth vows of loyalty to protect the state and achieve the Confucian Way, so it is highly probable that this stone tablet was engraved following the unification of the peninsula after Silla defeated Paekche in 660 and Koguryo in 668. Moreover, though Lurie asserts that writing didn’t arrive in Silla until relatively late,  he does not question when Confucian texts would have received a lot of attention, as per the emphasis in the inscription.

Lurie quotes from the text of the inscription as follows, also on p. 199:

“…we made a great vow to obtain the way of the Book of Odes, the Book of History, the Book of Rites, and the Zuo commentary…”

Those are all works from the Confucian canon. Once again, to refute Lurie’s paper thin arguments, one only has to go as far as Wikipedia for a little basic fact checking.
The Wikipedia page on Silla is at:
The pages states:

With Silla unification Buddhism came to play a less perceptible role in politics as the monarchy attempted to adopt Chinese Confucian institutions of statecraft to govern an enlarged state and to curb the power of the aristocratic families.

The Wikipedia page on Unified Silla is at:
The pages states:

    A national Confucian college was established in 682, and around 750 it was renamed the National Confucian University.

Perhaps the stone tablet bearing the Kyongju inscription was inscribed by some students about to enter the college. Or perhaps it was inscribed to commemorate the establishment of the college to motivate students, or alternatively, at the time that the college became the National Confucian University; if such circumstances are taken into consideration, the respective dates of 672 and 732 would seem most plausible. In any case, the circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that the inscription dates to Unified Silla (i.e., late Silla), not to “early Silla”, as Lurie asserts in a somewhat surreptitious manner. 

It is fair to take this opportunity to call attention to the possibility that Lurie appears to have attempted to employ a number of such rhetorical devices that might confuse or mislead the reader as to what is actually at stake in the text. With respect to the above-describe passage, it could be seen as an attempt to lend support to the overblown assertions about contributions to the development of the Japanese writing system by Koreans.

On pp. 196, Lurie writes:

    Comparatively little written material remains from early Korea. But extant inscriptions, unearthed artifacts, Chinese historical sources, and later Korean works make it possible to see the roots of early Japanese writing in the Korean peninsula, especially the ‘Three Kingdoms’ of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla during the sixth and seventh centuries. Evaluating the role of Korean practices in the development of early Japanese writing and literacy means taking into account: (1) plentiful evidence of involvement of scribes and refugees from the peninsula, from the age of the Sakitama-inari and Eta-Funayama swords, though to the seventh century transition to widespread written communication; (2) limited by nonetheless convincing evidence of Korean use of kundoku for writing and reading in the sixth and seventh centuries, predating the Japanese evidence of the practice; and (3) later evidence from the ninth century onward , in the form of Korean annotations of equivalent transpositions, and mixed use of logographs and phonographs.

I've already looked at the question of the early sword inscriptions with respect to Lurie’s unsubstantiated assertions relating to those scribes, and it seems to me that the question of the role of scribes is less significant than asserted by Lurie, and was perhaps somewhat more varied than Lurie's implies. 

Of the other two “points” Lurie asserts, the second is also unsubstantiated and simply does not hold up under even provisional scrutiny, and the third seems absolutely ludicrous when considered in light of the fact that the Japanese had developed a full-scale phonetic writing system by the ninth century. 

It is interesting in this passage that Lurie places the “involvement of scribes” at the top of his list. While it is clear that scribes were employed by the Yamato court, Lurie provides no substantial account of the activities of even a single scribe upon which to base his claim; furthermore, he makes dubious assertions about others, as I have shown in the first post on this book in relation to the Chinese name inscribed on the Eta-Funayama sword.

Moreover, he would also seem to attribute work to scribes that might be taken to insinuate that the contemporary aristocrats of Yamato Japan were illiterate; more specifically, he seems to imply that maybe some of them were unable to write down their own poetry, of the vernacular sort no less.

Next, he talks of “convincing evidence of Korean use of kundoku…predating the Japanese evidence of the practice”; however, on the basis of the evidence he presents, as I have examined above, there is not a single piece of such evidence that can be reliably dated to precede the corresponding usage in Japan. Even the somewhat advanced forms of study tools found in the Kita-Otsu and Kannonji-Temple mokkan date to the latter part of the 7th century.

With regard to the topic of scribes in general, I will point out one example where Lurie would seem to assign the status of scribe to an individual referred using the characters representing a title of something akin to “scholar”. This begs the question of whether or not scholars served in the capacity as both teachers and scribes, for example, and further as to how long there was an actual need for scribes in Japan with the increase of literacy.

In reference to a mokkan discussed on p. 190 in relation to kundoku, an endnote (4.13) on p. 394 states:

… Tono Haruyuki argues that the characters 博士 in the concluding “house of Tanba no Fubito” 旦波博士家, which also appear in a 694 Horyuji inscription (K1 7), do not literally denote “scholar”, but rather a kabana title equivalent to, and probably read as, the later fubito (Tono 1996a, 287-95). This title was primarily used by scribal lineage groups (though not all of them) and other lineage groups claiming descent from immigrant scribes.

The above-suggested reading for those characters gave me reason for pause, and the first impression I had after a little searching was that the word “fubito” 「史人」evolved from the term “fumibito” 「文人」. I have found no other reference to a reading for the first character of the compound that could be construed as even close to “fu”, including the Nelson character dictionary. Etymologically, there could be a correspondence between the compounds 「文人(史人)」and 「博士」 but that would rely on an extension of the meaning of the first beyond the scope of “scribe” taken in the strict sense. That is a feasible scenario, given the evolution to “fubito” 「史人」 from “fumibito” 「文人」, but would call into question Lurie’s construal of the role of scribes and literacy in general. 

By that I simply mean that the aforementioned evolution from "fumibito" to "fubito" can be construed as an evolution from a more narrowly defined occupational title to a title reflecting a more broadly defined occupational scope. Etymologically, the Nelson gives the definition of the character 「文」 when read as "fumi" to mean "letter, note". Accordingly,  「文人」 would translate to something like "one who composes letters".  The the Nelson gives the definition of the character「史」 when used with respect to a person as "historian" with the reading "fu" being archaic, apparently. Accordingly, the occupational title 「史人」 as "historian" would seem to be of a higher order than "one who composes letters". At any rate, the variegation of related nomenclature itself would seem to be an indication of a corresponding differentiation of occupational status and type with respect to "scribes".

The reading Lurie translates, on the basis of the suggestion by Tono, as "house of Tanba no Fubito" might be translated more literally as simply “the house of Tanba, the scholar”. If we take the suggestion literally that the reading was indeed fubito and indicated rank, then it would follow that the mode of address on the mokkan was made in terms of  rank. That would presume that there was only one scribe with the surname Tanba in the specified locale. On the other hand, if it was made in terms of occupation, then it would translate more literally to something like "the house of Tanba the scribe". Bearing in mind that the mokkan relates to the collection of rice sheaves in relation to taxation, and that the communication is a letter between officials, it would seem that the notion of an occupational status of scribe being conflated with a court rank is somewhat incongruous. They were obviously all capable of reading and writing, so were they all scribes? And if there were more than one "lineage group" using this title, it would seem to be prone to cause confusion.

On the basis of the characters used, the compound 「博士」 would seem to represent an even more exalted title than 「史人)」, indicated broader learning than simply history, for example. On the other hand, if it is a kabane rank title then it would likely simply be a matter of convention during the period in question. It is clear that one of the highest ranking  courtiers took the title of Fuhito during the Nara period (i.e., Fujiwara no Fuhito), although the characters used to write the homonym were different 「不比等」. With this "spelling", however, though there may a degree of resonance with the nuance of the homonym of the above-described two-character compounds meaning something like "man of letters", were I to venture a more literal translation of the three characters, it would be  something like "of incomparable rank", or perhaps "incomparable among equals". The final character can be meshed with the other two to produce a similar homonym with two different nuances, so it is a somewhat sophisticated "spelling", as it were, but it is not related to a scribal lineage or occupation, and I'm not sure whether it would be considered a kabane rank in this case. But I digress.

Here are some web-based references (Japanese) for the term fubito and relating to actual scribes:

In all fairness, after some further searching, I found a several Japanese web-based references relating to the mokkan in question. One such valuable reference also includes the reading described in the above-quoted endnote, but the author is not Tono, but Inukai (appears on last page in series).  Here is the amazon link to his most recent book (2011).

The following Japanese webpage dates the mokkan to the year 680, incidentally. My reason for bringing this up is simply that I find Lurie's continual referring to scribes to be somewhat superfluous and distracting. At least it has led me to the work of someone who appears to be a substantial amount of work in this field.

At any rate, it also discusses the Kyongju inscription with reference to kundoku. The author does not attempt to date the inscription, choosing instead to restrict the scope of the point he makes. He points out that the text on Japanese mokkan from the 7th centuries employ more kundoku type Japanese syntactical arrangement, whereas the 8th century mokkan demonstrate a more proper Chinese syntax in terms of "kanbun" (see the passage I quote from Ishigami toward the end of this post). He then asserts that the reason more kundoku was used in the 7th century was because Japanese first imported Chinese characters and writing via Korea, and that the reason Japanese less kundoku appears in the 8th century is due to the fact that the Japanese had in the interim learned to write in proper (Chinese style) kanbun directly from the Chinese. 

However, the example of Korean use of kundoku he sites is the Kyongju description, which cannot be accurately dated at present. It is significant that the scholar in question does not date that inscription, because that is indicative of the problematic with respect to that date as addressed above. 

Moreover, Inukai points out that the writing in Paekche appears to have been much more faithful to standard Chinese, and indicates that no stone stele inscriptions have been found in Paekche that show an influence of kundoku. This further problematizes the scenario, which should be apparent from the earlier discussion in relation to the transmission of Chinese character based writing to Japan from Paekche, etc. 

At any rate, I'm being drawn further into researching this subject matter than was my intent, so I'm going to leave Inukai's theories, interesting nonetheless, without further comment. I will say that at least Inukai provides his readers with a clear line of reasoning upon which he bases his assertions, whether we agree with them or not. Below I have provided more links to the webpages (which appear to be under the umbrella of the government of Shiga Prefecture) presenting some of his findings, followed by a link to an English article regarding a fairly recently discovery mokkan that contains a poem included in the Manyoshu anthology and dates to the later part of the 7th century. 

One further reader-resource related quote before moving on, however, I've decided to restructure this post a little by introducing a passage by Eiichi Ishigami (Tokyo University). I had this passage integrated toward the very end of the post, but seeing as it relates to the present discussion and will help the uninitiated further understand what is at stake in these inscriptions on the syntactical level with respect to kundoku, I've decided to put it here.

This passage is from the book Centrality and Marginality of Ancient Documents, entitled, “The World of Ancient Japanese Documents”, and it sets forth in a very concise and succinct manner categories of Japanese text that evolved through the course of the adoption and adaption of Chinese characters in Japan until the full-blown Japanese system was developed. On p. 43:

1.2.2 Kanbun, hentai kanbun and wabun
    In simple terms, the ancient written language of Japan embraced three partial systems.
1.    Kanbun or Chinese writing. This consists of its grammar, characters (Chinese characters – henceforth to be referred to, according to Japanese practice as kanji – and their Chinese pronunciations), and vocabulary.
2.    Hentai kanbun or modified Chinese writing (otherwise Japanized Chinese writing). This consists of its grammar, kanji (including kokuji [Chinese characters conceived in Japan], the Japanese method of using characters, and Japanese pronunciations), and vocabulary (including the Japanese method of using words).
3.    Wabun or Japanese writing. This consists of its grammar, kanji, the katakana and hiragana syllabaries, and its vocabulary (both Chinese and Japanese words).

The government of Yamato Japan definitely included scribes, but it would appear that they held various statuses, ranging from those who were highly literate and worked closely in connection with the inner circle of the court, such as O Shinni, whose exploits are described and praised directly in the Nihon shoki, to those that were dispatched to lesser administrative posts in the provinces. The Nihon shoki mentions scribes being dispatched to regional outposts to record local sayings and happenings, etc. Lurie calls attention to the anachronistic quality of some exaggerated claims of the Nihon shoki relating to emperors whose reigns occurred before the advent of literacy, but literacy did spread far and wide and relatively rapidly, so the claims probably do reflect the reality of later periods to a certain degree.

At any rate, the two-character compound 「博士」 that he has cited someone else as arguing for a reading of ‘fubito’ as a kabane (type of rank) name, and not the literal meaning of scholar is a compound that is still widely used today (pronounced “haka-se”), and is most commonly seen as the title for someone with a PhD. Even if such a person may have been a descendent of a scribe lineage, the title of “scholar” could possibly suggest a degree of social mobility, in line with the Caps-ranks meritocracy-based system. 


The first paper from the book Centrality and Marginality of Ancient Documents that I would like to quote from below is by Tokio Shinkawa, entitled “Culture and Ideas Carried by Chinese Characters in Ancient East Asia, the Japanese Viewpoint”.

On pp.67-9 Shinkawa writes:

    The site as a whole, and thus the wooden tablets, dates approximately to the late seventh and early eighth centuries AD, largely to the reign of emperor Tenmu. It consists of the ruins of the Asukaji temple and its annex, south-eastern Zen-In. The temple is known to be one of the oldest in Japan, and its sanctuary the most extensive, while the annex was founded by Do-sho (629-700) and other scholars who returned to Japan after completing their studies in China under Gen-jo (?-664), one of the most famous scholar-monks of the Tang dynasty. Thus we may expect to find a strong Chinese cultural influence on the Asian periphery where these temples were located.

    I begin with three passages written in sumi, ‘Indian’ ink, on three faces of four of a long wooden block.
    1) is obviously a reference to the Kanzeon-bosatsu sutra, the chapter of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy within the Lotus sutra, one of Buddhism’s most important and popular texts. 2) is difficult to interpret, but may be based on a phrase typical of Buddhist sutras… 3) contains a phrase often used in the Analects, the most important Confucian text. …we think they belong to writing exercises in Chinese characters, but it should also be noted that the writer did not hesitate to inscribe the name of a Buddhist sutra and a common Confucian phrase on the same wooden material.

And on pp. 74-5:

    Let us return to the Asukaji-Ike tablets. They contain many medical allusions, for example…
Text 3) is a note of how to pronounce a series of medical terms, the first word [Chinese character] being pronounced as the next [two Chinese characters] ‘ha-i’… This indicates the process of learning how to pronounce Chinese characters, in other words, how the Japanese first responded to the use of unfamiliar Chinese characters…

The points made by Shinkawa in relation to pronunciation are relative to the discussion of kundoku.

Ishigami makes a concise statement that relates to the question I have briefly touched on relating to Lurie’s attempt to assert “realms of literacy” in terms of “multiple literacies”, “diverse literacies” or the like. On p. 42:

1.2 The diversity and plurality of written language
1.2.1 Analytical approaches
    In general terms, when written source material is to be used as evidence of the culture of a particular region or society, we must consider the following methods and analytical approaches.
1. The diversity and pluralism of different phases of language within a certain region or society (i.e., class, occupation, gender, age, place, and space).

Ishigami goes on to list a total of seven such approaches, but the point that I would like to emphasize from his list is the above, as it relates to degrees of literacy rather than segmented “literacies”, and implicitly recognizes the learning process that facilitates the transition between degrees of literacy among members of a particular region or society. There is a contrast with what appears to me to be a certain hypostacized Balkanization of individuals and groups within society, with no learning process that connects to mobility within that society.

The last passage I would like to quote in this post is another from Borgen’s above mentioned essay, in light of the foregoing discussion by Shinkawa, and in consideration of a thought that occurred in relation to mokkan after considering this passage in the overall context of mokkan usage.

On pp. 203-4, Borgen writes:
… In 600, when the Japanese court was dominated by the sinophile Prince Shotoku (574-622), it sent its first formal diplomatic mission to China, subsequently, perhaps as many as twenty missions went first to the Sui and then to the Tang court; the last Japanese envoys returned home in 839. These missions contributed to Japan’s ever increasing knowledge of Chinese culture. The Japanese took advantage of the opportunities offered, selecting as their representatives, men trained in the Chinese classics who could make a good impression on their Chinese hosts and who also had the background needed to appreciate what they saw and gather useful information. In particular, these representatives brought back books. By the ninth century, Japan possessed excellent collections of Chinese writings, including literary works. Popular texts were introduced with remarkable speed.

First of all, in light of the fact that so many of the mokkan that have been found have been of the “commodity tag” variety used to label packages and cargo, it dawned on me that there might have been a connection with trade. Considering that the use of mokkan in Japan doesn’t seem to occur until after the advent of interchange with t Sui dynasty China by Prince Shotoku, as described above by Borgen, it might be the case that goods brough back to Japan from China had been labeled with mokkan as packing tags, and that the Japanese subsequently adopted the practice. 

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