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Editors’ Introduction

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Chapter Summary

This is the introduction chapter of this book, which describes a prominent feature of early modern Japanese culture: the fact that a growing number of men and women of that time were engaged in some form or other of study. It provides insights into the different learning practices and media developed in a variety of contexts during the Edo period in order to reach the largest number of people. From a historical perspective, popular learning from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century can be broadly understood as the result of the gradual disclosure of elite knowledge to a more popular audience. The book describes numerous examples of Chinese books translated into the vernacular language or Japanese books inspired by Chinese models but adapted to suit the needs and tastes of a popular audience.

Keywords: Chinese books; early modern Japanese culture; Edo period; elite knowledge; popular learning



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