Kokushi Dialogue in SGRA

Peng Hao “Approach to “Common Knowledge” and “Common Wisdom” in East Asia “

We had the forum “The Mongol Invasions of Japan and the Globalization of the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century” in the city of Kita-Kyushu in the early part of August 2017, sponsored by the Atsumi International Foundation. It was the second forum of the series “Possibilities of Conversations among National Historians”. Historians from Japan, China, Korea and Mongolia got together and discussed about the history of the Mongol Empire, especially about its impact on East Asia.  As, I, a researcher of histories, participated in the planning of this project, I had a lot of impressions which cover various things. Taking this opportunity of writing this essay, I like to briefly organize my impressions.


First of all, the forum, this time, was not merely an international conference based on a key topic “The Mongol Invasions of Japan”. I would like to emphasize again the following points. We like to describe a history of mankind, first, from a viewpoint different from the historical description of the nation state. Next, we would like to correct mistaken perceptions of histories, which dominate through the influence of national history view, so as to improve relations among countries or people, which have been hindered by the problem of politicized historical recognitions which come from political confusion of means and objects. 


Actually, there have been various recent conversations of histories among those three or two countries, Japan, China and Korea, as several participants of the forum referred.

Some conversations were well known being led by government. Or some show high specialties in methods of researches or themes or the way of usage of historical records.

Each direction or goal is not always the same. As Prof. Hiroshi Mitani pointed out, if we think of relationship, after the conversations, becoming friendly or unfriendly, we have to say that conversation based on private interaction is easier to proceed.


On the other hand, private-based conversations are easy to result in deepening discussion on individual theme or technical knowledge. However, as those researchers have their own “habits” or proceed by force of habit, they are completely absorbed in discussing their interesting theme. As a result, they tend to neglect important points such as how to promote common recognition of histories from their technical discussion without thinking of social meanings of the theme. There are quite a few “conversations” which ended halfway because the participants could not continue their researches due to financial difficulties, though they got subsidy for their researches.


Concerning such problems, there is a key concept: “Common Space for Wisdom” or “Platform of Wisdom”, which Prof. Liu Jie proposed as an object of the forum. The meaning of the word “Wisdom” is very broad and we can say it contains the meaning of “Knowledge” also. Through technical researches, it creates reliable historical “Knowledge” and also creates “Wisdom” which benefits to overcome adverse effects of the national historical perspective. .

I dare to add this point here because we tend to forget when we proceed with our technical discussion.   


I like to add my impression based on the point in dispute. One is an evaluation of the so-called “Impact of Mongolia”. Prof. Yasuhoro Yokkaichi reported an invasion to East Asia by Mongolia in perspective.  A Mongolian element, as part of the impact of the advance of Mongolia, spread to whole of East Asia including China. But, as Mongolia has ruled China and extended their influence throughout China, we can say that some areas have been affected also by Chinese culture. I was very interested in the three-dimensional report about “Mongol Impact”.


In the discussion of the history of the Qing Dynasty (1616–1912), we could get a historical image that a ruler of the Dynasty had various faces besides being an emperor of China. He has built various ways of dominance depending on areas or races under his rule. Comparing the history of Qing Dynasty with that of Mongol Empire, historical documents written in Mongolian language were very limited. Especially, the history of East Asia was written mainly by classical Chinese and most of the existing historical documents are written by classical Chinese.

Due to this, an image of the Yuan Dynasty, one of the Chinese dynasties, is easy to establish. But, on the contrary, we cannot distinguish an identity or independence of Mongol or plurality of Mongolian Dynasty. Recently, an image of a rich Mongol Empire became distinct by an effort of Prof. Masaaki Sugiyama.  Listening to the reports of this forum, a historical image of Mongol Empire became clearer in my mind and I was very impressed.


Having related to the above, there is a problem to be solved. As Prof. Liu Jie pointed out when he summarized the whole discussion, there are double meanings in China under rule of Mongolia and China, a part of Mongol Empire. How to handle this problem when we discuss as “Common Knowledge” or “Common Wisdom”?  There are many opinions. We can take up “Yuan Dynasty” as a part of Chinese history as in the past. But, as  Prof. Ge Zhaogung pointed out, there is a way of multiple layered description, in the context of the histories of East Asia or of Eurasia.  Now, the so-called “Nation-state” has a lot of problems, which have no sign of being solved soon. But, it is not realistic to neglect their historical views about such “Nation-states”. Or rather, through such multi-layered descriptions about histories, if we can integrate various historical images, which we could not see until now, into text books, it would be useful to build “Common Knowledge” and “Common Wisdom” in the long run.


I was also interested in how researchers of Mongolian histories made conversations with “the past” despite of the situations that the first historical sources were scarce. Through various reports, this time, I could understand well that reporters have strived for their creative and original studies by criticizing compiled historical books, using an approach that is not based on written datand by inference based on “common sense” in human societies and their historical background. Through the conversations of historians who handle different eras and areas, they stimulated each other in their methodology. But, I thought such conversations, in another sense, make a connection with an approach to “Common Wisdom”.


SGRA Kawaraban 550 in Japanese (Original)



( Associate professor, Graduate School of Economics, Osaka City University )




 Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

 Checked by Max Maquito