MJHW (In-Person) on Social Gatherings for Literati - Thursday, June 8th

Joelle Nazzicone Discussion

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Thursday, June 8th at 17:00 JST.  Our presenter this month will be Jingyi Li (University of Arizona), who will present her work on social gatherings for literati (details below).

We will meet in Room 304 at the Tōbunken (Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties) (map available here).

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Nazzicone at joelle.nazzicone@gmail.com.  We hope to see you there!


Shogakai: A Vulgar History of Japanese Literati in the Long Nineteenth Century

Jingyi Li (University of Arizona)

Shogakai, literally translated as calligraphy and painting gathering, was a popular form of social gathering for literati of early modern Japan. Beginning as exclusive events for educated intellectuals and art collectors in the late eighteenth century, shogakai became more open to a public audience in the mid-nineteenth century. From the late-nineteenth century onward, however, it was absorbed by exhibitions and auctions. The complexities of shogakai gatherings reflect, on the one hand, a transforming cultural hierarchy disturbed by the expansion of literacy and popular culture, and on the other, an emerging ideology of art and value as shogakai became a vehicle of fostering aesthetic taste for the common audience.

Building upon previous scholarship that discusses the commercial aspect of shogakai, in this presentation I analyze the dynamics of shogakai gatherings in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For producers of popular culture, shogakai provided various ways to harvest fame and profit. For consumers, the easy access to some of such gatherings encouraged them to join in the cultural production. For the Tokugawa bakufu and the Meiji government, however, shogakai was a moral degeneration that then became a convenient device to cultivate national identity through “Japanese art.” Drawing on primary sources about shogakai from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this presentation reevaluates the social significance of cultural gatherings and their creators–the literati.