UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Imagining the Japanese nation : the politics of Mt. Fuji, 1760-1825 Butterlin, Julien F.


The Edo period (1603-1868) saw the dawn of commercial publishing and the appearance of a Japanese mass market. Amidst these developments, a growing number of intellectuals, from all walks of life, started a cultural and political debate seeking to define the boundaries and center of their nation. A wide variety of schools of thought contributed their particular views to the question but two scholars of Dutch studies, or rangaku, offered one of the most drastic and creative solutions to define “Japaneseness.” The writer-scientist Hiraga Gennai (1728-1779) and the painter-geographer Shiba Kôkan (1747-1818) attempted to articulate Mt. Fuji as the symbol of a culturally and politically integrated Japan through their written and visual works. This thesis attempts to show the various forces contributing to and the process by which these two polymaths came to conceive and then propagate the idea of Mt. Fuji as a national symbol of their country. In order to do so, we will first focus on the life of Hiraga Gennai and the ideas contained in his most famous work of fiction, the Fûryû Shidôken Den (published in 1763), then move to the visual and scholarly output of his spiritual successor, Shiba Kôkan.

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