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The First Appearance Of Aristotelian Cosmology In Japan, Kenkon Bensetsu

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Chapter Summary

On the trail of the Jesuits' cosmological influence in Japan, Kenkon bensetsu ([Western] cosmography with critical commentaries, ca. 1650) is an exceedingly interesting example of the confrontation of Eastern and Western ideas. In 1643, a shipwrecked Western vessel drifted onto an island in the westmost part of Japan. The passengers, all Jesuit missionaries, were arrested and imprisoned for illegal entry under the seclusion policy of the time. The historical situation, conditioned by the anti-Christian sentiment of the first few decades of seclusion, put the commentator in a position of general hostility towards Western learning. By the early part of the eighteenth century, Aristotelian cosmology was introduced in a fairly satisfactory manner. It did not, however, replace the traditional cosmology, which was largely incompatible with it. At best, the Aristotelian theory was accepted as a facet of European learning, and merely juxtaposed with the Eastern theory.

Keywords: Aristotelian cosmology; Jesuits' cosmological influence; Kenkon bensetsu



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