The Six National Histories of Japan
The Six National Histories of Japan (Rikkokushi) was written in 1970 by one of Japan's foremost historical scholars. Sakamoto Taro. An authoritative study of Japan's first scholarly works and a modern classic, it is now translated into English for the first time. The Six National Histories chronicle the history of Japan from its origins in the 'Age of the Gods' to A.D. 887. Written in Classical Chinese, they were compiled in the imperial court during the eighth and ninth centuries by leading scholars and officials of the day. Until the late nineteenth-century each of the Six National Histories was accepted as an authoritative work containing the absolute truth about the past. They have therefore exerted a profound effect on Japanese thought for well over a millenium. In the twentieth-century, particularly since 1945 when state censorship ended, scholars have focused on the first of the Six National Histories, Nihon Shoki, rejecting its authenticity. In his book, Sakamoto interpreted modern scholarly findings, as well as presenting his own views, thus completing the modern re-evaluation of this controversial first work. The remaining five works form a subgroup. Sakamoto's study has been the only one to survey all of them, identifying common features and pointing out the special characteristics of each. John Brownlee's meticulous translation of Sakamoto's seminal work is supplemented by an informative introduction, notes, appendices, and an index. The translation makes available to English readers a valuable study of the Six National Histories which also provides insights into the methods of contemporary Japanese historians.
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