Shogunal Politics: Arai Hakuseki and the Premises of Tokugawa Rule

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Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1988 - Confucianists - 427 pages

Arai Hakuseki, advisor to the sixth and seventh Tokugawa shogun, played an important role in politics between 1709 and 1716, during an era of large changes in the bakufu. He participated in major policy decisions on currency, foreign trade, and local administration, while simultaneously trying to enhance the shogun's authority both within the bakufu and as a national ruler. The following shogun retained Hakuseki's fiscal and trade policies, but promptly reversed those measures designed to make the shogun a king-like figure.

Nakai examines these successes and failures against the background of the time, especially the bifurcated and ambiguous distribution of authority between the Tokugawa shogun and the tenno in Kyoto. She also traces the influence of Confucian political theory on Hakuseki's program and on his defense of that program in the face of criticism. Nakai draws upon Hakuseki's autobiography anddiary and the reportorial letters of a contemporary for Hakuseki's political activities, and on Hakuseki's historical works and memorials for the theoretical basis for his programs, rooted in Confucianism.

Illustrative and lively translations from Hakuseki enrich the book, helping to portray a multi-faceted personality who managed to blend practical politics and Confucian idealism within the complicated and dynamic environment of the early-eighteenth-century bakufu.

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