Category Archives: Christianity

Uchimura Kanzō’s “Consolations”

One of the texts I am working through for my dissertation is Uchimura Kanzō’s Consolations of a Christian. It has never  been translated into English before, outside of the two chapters I have translated recently (and a few bits here and there by John Howes and others.)

One of the things I have discovered is just how well read Uchimura was. For instance, in his discussion of failure in his vocation, he devotes a few pages to the story of Henry of Navarre, the “prince of the blood” who came into conflict with the French throne due to his protestant (Huguenot) faith. Uchimura provides many historical details, and even creates an interior monologue for Henry, who was agonizing over whether to end hostilities and bow to the Papacy, or keep fighting for the freedom of the Huguenots. As he ended hostilities, France flourished, and Henry’s Edict of Nantes proclaimed religious freedom throughout France. But, after he died, through the actions of Cardinal Richelieu and others, Roman Catholicism regained its supremacy in the land, and later kings, according to Uchimura, failed in their duties to keep order and peace in France as they did not regard the people and continued to enrich themselves. The ultimate result was the French Revolution. Uchimura concludes that Henry never really loved France since he capitulated, and his capitulation led to the disasters that culminated in Napoleon. Later in the chapter, Uchimura quips that Cromwell may have failed in his attempts to create a more just society, but after his death, the foundation that the unwavering Cromwell laid for democracy and equality shows his actual success. Through his work, Cromwell prevented the revolutions of the 18th century Europe from rocking England.

What were Uchimura’s sources? In my archival work at the Uchimura Kanzō collection at Hokkaido University, I was able to track down what Uchimura was reading and garner much from his marginalia in his Carlyle collection and his Dante. He often quotes Carlyle, (and in the case of Chapter 5 of the Consolations, that makes sense when it comes to his ideas about Cromwell, whom Carlyle praised mightily), but why did he think Henry of Navarre was a failure and that his capitulation caused the downfall of France? This is somewhat unusual in terms of how we think of history…after doing a little digging, I discovered Samuel Smiles’ The Huguenots: Their Settlements, Churches & Industries in England and Ireland

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Taiyō, 1896 discussing Uchimura’s Bunmeiron

Smiles–ever the promoter of Protestantism, ever the English patriot–had similar ideas to Carlyle about the role and heritage of English politics in the world. Smile’s narration of events and their outcomes certainly prefigures Uchimura’s. How many contemporary readers have much experience with Carlyle or Smiles? Thanks to digital texts, we can enjoy them now!

But what fascinates me is how Uchimura used these English texts to discuss his own failures vis-a-vis his work and how society viewed his legacy. He brought them to a Japanese audience, then used them to discuss his Christian worldview. Then he communicates his sense of what Japan’s mission in the world should be (bringing culture and enlightenment after social reform). Uchimura, like these faithful figures of old, wanted to hold fast to his sense of conviction and bring his ideas into the future as an inheritance. In addition, he connects the faith of Cromwell, Huss, and others, to Kusunoki Masashige, the faithful retainer who would give his life in the service of the restoration of Godaigo. Late Edo and early Meiji thinkers, as Varley tells us, pointed to Kusunoki as a paragon of loyalty and a key figure in restorationist ideas. He died in service of his conscience. Though Fukuzawa Yukichi called him a failure, others who came after Kusunoki following his example, were latter-day Kusunokis, true patriots, true supporters of the imperial line. Uchimura ties himself to this love of country, and love of his God: being faithful despite failure is actually success.

Indiginization

Ok…so while I am getting ready to discuss post-modern Japanese societal trends in the Otaku world next week, I have another project that has also captured my imagination. I’ve been helping prepare the He Qi exhibit coming to Saint Louis at Concordia Seminary in mid-October. Since it’s to be housed in the Concordia Historical Institute, we wanted to see what kind of artifacts were on had that might enhance the He Qi exhibit and give some more background on China and its encounter with Christianity. Take a look:

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The posters included in this video are examples of how the Christian message was portrayed in China in 1926-1928. The Christian message of the new self and the new man is shown on the first poster, where one man, on the right, is wearing tattered clothes with all sorts of evil things and sinful behaviors written on them. On the left is a man wearing new clothes that are radiant and covered in clean characters that denote Christian virtues and outcomes of the Christian life, such as love, (It is interesting that 愛 [ai], love, and 仁 [ren], the Confucian value that equates to lovingkindness or “human-hearted compassion” are combined in one of the circles–right over the heart of the man) joy, patience, peace, etc. Between the two men is a cross, and at the foot of the cross is the discarded clothing representing the old self of the joyful man wearing the new clothes.

In the second poster, a man is hard at work in the fields. Except, instead of farming the soil, he is raking earthly possessions and all sorts of junk. A heavenly hand is proffering a crown, and the text on the poster says, “A raised (crowned) head is a blessing/wealth” accompanied by the text “Set your mind on heavenly things, do not set your mind on earthly things.” It is striking to see familiar Christian messages wearing indigenous Chinese clothes in such a folk-art style.

Historically, this was a period of transition from the republican government under Sun Yat-Sen’s leadership (he died in 1925) to the new government of the Guomindang, lead by Chiang Kai-Shek. Communists were soon to be on the run as GMD forces attacked them and pushed them out in 1927. By 1928, China was “unified” nominally under Chiang’s regime. This was still a period of uncertainty and turmoil…yet the Christian presence was there, sharing the peaceful message…the same message that He Qi wants to share with the world today.