Kokushi Dialogue in SGRA

  • MITANI, Hiroshi “Re-opening of the Dialogue of Histories in East Asia ― The Mongol Invasions Conference in Kita-Kyushu”

    “The Dialogue of National Histories of East Asia” started. This was the second time, but we had met for preparations last year, this conference was the first real dialogue. Each country in East Asia has its own “National History” and there is a gap which cannot be overcome among the countries. Can we build a bridge to have something in common? This is a meaning of “Dialogue of National Histories” which Ms. Junko Imanishi, SGRA Representative, has named.Hereafter four times, we will have discussions on historical issues relating to international relations in East Asia, inviting historians from each country. The theme, this year, was so-called “The Mongol Invasions of East Asia (in the 13th century)” and we will take up other issues of more recent centuries in the next conferences. When we take up subjects, which should relate to all the concerned countries in East Asia, i.e. Japan, China and Korea, participants are mainly historians who are specialized in international relations. Specialists of domestic histories from Japan and Korea were also invited this time and we set up important points such as:How do they, who usually show no interest in histories of international relations nor political meaning behind, respond?  Do they recognize the aim of the conference?To solve these points, we had simultaneous interpretation between Japanese-Chinese, Japanese-Korean and Chinese-Korean. Interpreters were awfully busy because there were a lot of technical terms about the remote past, but I believe they did their work very well. I deeply appreciated their work. Our theme “The Mongol Invasions and the Globalization of the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century” was set up purposely to let people who come from East Asian countries sit down at the same table. At the beginning of the 21st century, many people in East Asia tried to have joint studies on histories of East Asia. But, if they take up issues of the modern period, Japan had to sit at the defendant’s seat. It was impossible to have dialogue on an equal footing. As territorial issues became radicalized, there was no Japanese who would like to participate in such conversations. Whereas, “The Mongol Invasions in East Asia” was easy to deal with psychologically as the events happened in the remote past. Also, all the people from those three East Asian countries were victims of the Mongolian Empire. The Goryeo Dynasty (of Korea) was set under the severe rule of Mongolia. In China, the Mongol Dynasty was established. Japan had to offer a lot of sacrifices for defenses against Mongolia, though Japan escaped from Mongolian invasion.The parties could have calm dialogue on an equal footing because all of them were victims. Although we invited three Mongol historians, we did not treat them as the descendants of wrongdoers. Japan has already accepted many Mongolian “Yokozuna” champions of Japanese Sumo wrestling and never associate Yokozuna with the Mongol Invasions. Korean researchers also never used accusatory words this time. Nevertheless, I do not say that our historical dialogues were made without touching on political backgrounds. There were hot discussions among historians who came from three different origins: one from the Mongolian People’s Republic, and the other from Inner Mongolia in China. They argued whether the Yuan Dynasty is a part of the Mongol Ulus or one of the Chinese Dynasties. I could not catch clearly what they discussed, but it seems, as Dr. Ge Zhaoguang pointed out, there are a few specialists who think of both of the interpretations are simultaneously possible. In the historians’ societies around the world, anachronism (understand the past based on the present national political framework) is criticized. But, governments or public opinions in East Asia sometimes conduct themselves in the way of anachronism. Is it clever for ourselves to be ridiculed by the world? A few presentations were impressive for me. One was by Mr. Yasuhiro Yokkaichi. According to him, Kublai Khan has prepared the third invasion to Japan, but he could not execute his plan because of his death. Vietnam and Java sent tributary envoys toward Yuan dynasty immediately after having succeeded in repelling Kubilai’s invasion. This diplomatic turn is very interesting because Japan made no efforts to prevent another invasion after having repelled the Mongols, although it reopened trade with them. I think Japan has been unaccustomed to international relations and there had been an isolationism background. On the other hand, the Kogryo Dynasty under Mongolian occupation was also interesting. If Japan had surrendered to the Mongol like Kogryo, what would have happened? The Emperor system of Japan might have become extinct. Or, as Dr. Lee Myung-Mihas narrated about the Kogryo Dynasty, a part of the Emperor family of Japan might have been subordinated to the Yuan Dynasty and might have engaged a princess of the Yuan Dynasty as an empress. Such a “thought experiment” was useful for me when we try to understand the Japanese Emperor System, which is one of the most difficult questions in the Japanese history. I was interested in a change of food cultures, which Dr. Cho Won took up. In the Kogryo Dynasty, meat eating had been prohibited by Buddhism, but under the Mongol rule, meat eating was practiced and maintained after the end of invasion. This means that life styles can be changed into durable culture beyond political changes. When we look at histories on a long-term basis, the history of a life style would become more important than a political history. Would structure of families or relations between male and female, both are one of the pillars of social structures, be changed by conquests? In the case of the Korean history, children were brought up in the mothers’ house until the beginning of the 19th century. If so, where were the children of the Mongol royal families brought up? In the Imperial court, or out of the court? Where were children of Mongolian empress in Kogryo brought up, in the house of wife or of husband? Such questions came into my mind one after another. When we notice such changes of the whole Asia, the reports at the conference showed us a key to understand not only international relations but also nations or societies themselves. How did the historians of national histories from Japan and South Korea feel? I am sure they have listened carefully, but if they had questioned without reserve, the conference would have become more exciting. I urged them to speak up, quoting a saying of certain doctor: “it will be a penalty, if you do not ask any question when attending international conferences”.I should have told them of the above saying at the beginning of this conference. I regret that I forgot to tell them. But once they spoke, their indications were meaningful and interesting. I hope they will speak up from the beginning at the next conferences. The conference continued for three days. On the second day, presentations continued very tightly from morning to evening. I was exhausted in the following morning when discussions for the summaries started. I appreciate Professor Liu Jie, a chairman of the wrapping up discussions, who showed a framework for putting various opinions in order. My thanks also go to Professor Cho Kwan, a representative of Korean delegation, who showed us a starting point of our discussion by summing up each presentation precisely and simply. He kindly came over to the conference from his busy schedules of official duties. I believe the next conference in Seoul would be more enjoyable and stimulating.  SGRA Kawaraban 547 in Japanese  (Original)  (Emeritus Professor, Doctor of Literature, The University of Tokyo)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Max Maquito 
  • 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 )  English: Translated by Kazuo Kawamura Checked by Max Maquito