UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Popular educational books for women as cultural commodities in early modern Japan : a case study of Takara-bako and Oshie-gusa Suzuki, Saeko


This project examines joshiyō ōrai-mono (popular educational publications for women in early modern Japan) as cultural commodities in the transmission of knowledge in relation to three areas: texts/illustrations, commercial publishers, and readers as clients. It also seeks to understand that woodblock prints have the characteristics of repeatable commodities. The project focuses on two encyclopaedia-type joshiyō ōrai-mono books: the 1814 edition of Onna daigaku takara-bako or The Treasure Box of the Women’s Greater Learning, and the second edition of Onna daigaku oshie-gusa or The Elementary Textbook of the Women’s Greater Learning, published in the mid-1840s. Comparing the two books reveals some notable issues. First, the commonality of the contents and physical characteristics of the two books shows that their publisher, Izumiya Ichibē, reused the texts, and copied the design of Takara-bako, a best-selling ōrai-mono, to produce his new book Oshie-gusa. Second, previous scholarship that has developed the literary genre framework for early modern print books cannot always explain the encyclopaedia type of popular educational materials because of their cross-genre characteristics. Third, Takara-bako emphasizes knowledge of waka poetry for female readers as well as providing the list of major female occupation catalogue in that period. Fourth, Oshie-gusa increased the practical contents such as Yin-yang divination and male-female compatibility as a handbook of marriage and family. Fifth, both books stress clothing-related matters, advocating not only household responsibilities but also female virtue based on neo-Confucianist ideology. The comparative analysis of Takara-bako and Oshie-gusa as cultural commodities has demonstrated the commercialization of knowledge in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Understanding the mechanisms of commercialization of printed knowledge can help us understand knowledge transmission that is de-commercialized or commercialized in different ways in electronic environments.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International