chapter  1
23 Pages

China in the Tokugawa and early Meiji period

The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and its aftermath led to a fundamental reversal of power relations in East Asia and lastingly changed Japan’s attitude toward China and the world. The energies that fuelled the shock-like transformation did not spring up spontaneously, but had accumulated over centuries in a gradual and complex process, the beginnings of which reach back into the pre-modern condition of Sino-Japanese relations. On the Japanese side, the relations betray an ambiguous and complex attitude towards China, in both its cultural and its political dimension. Already during the Tokugawa period (1603-1867), the two dimensions were separate, and the gap became even wider during the frist decades of the Meiji period (18681912), when Japan modernized along Western lines and openly challenged China’s political role in East Asia. This chapter gives a brief outline of SinoJapanese relations from the Tokugawa period until the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, and describes the complex and ambiguous process by which Chinese culture could maintain a high social status in Japan, while China’s political role gradually changed from studiously ignored neighbor-empire to Japan’s open rival in the East and enemy of civilization per se.