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Translating Western Legal Concepts in Japan and China in the 1860s and 1870s

Centre for Translation (February 25, 2010)

SEMINAR SERIES : Translation Seminar Series

MAJOR SPEAKER : Steben, Barry D
LENGTH : 113 min.
ACCESS : Open to all
SUMMARY : After the U.S. forced the opening of Japan in 1854, the Japanese government was in desperate need of knowledge of Western countries, particularly their system of international law, which was the basis of the treaties that Japan was being forced to sign. Thus they began to send young Japanese scholars abroad who had been trained in Dutch learning and thus knew the Dutch language, hitherto Japan's only window on the West. Enrolled in the best Dutch universities, the students soon found that there was a sophisticated philosophical foundation for the system of international law, and that by studying that foundation they could come to understand the political and economic philosophy that lay behind the strength of modern European nation-states as well as the their systems of academic learning. On returning to Japan, these scholars and their students set to work translating the whole world of modern European academic concepts into Chinese character-compounds, making it possible for young students educated in Confucianism to quickly delve deeply into the world of Western political and scientific theory. The achievements of Japanese scholars in translating Western concepts into Chinese were soon picked up by the tens of thousands of Chinese students in Japan, and in turn they became the basis for establishing modern academic disciplines in China.  [Go to the full record in the library's catalogue]

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