Tokugawa Confucian Education

The Kangien Academy of Hirose Tansō (1782-1856)

By Marleen Kassel

Subjects: Asian Literature
Paperback : 9780791428085, 250 pages, February 1996
Hardcover : 9780791428078, 250 pages, March 1996

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Table of contents


Explanatory Notes

1. Introduction: Tanso's Mission

Part I Tanso's Japan

2. Tokugawa Historical Setting

3. Tokugawa Educational Setting
Development of Kangien

4. Intellectual Setting
The Neo-Confucian Stage in China
The Neo-Confucian Stage in Tokugawa Japan
Hirose Tanso's Philosophical Formulation

Part II Nurturing Men of Talent at Kangien

5. Reverencing Heaven

6. Tanso as Educator
Educational Theory
Practical Education at Kangien

7. Conclusion: Tanso's Legacy

Part III Translations

8. Roundabout Words (Ugen) Section 5, Educational System

9. Essential Teachings (Yakugen)




Studies of the East Asian Institute

Presents the philosophy and values of Hirose Tanso, a scholar, educator, and poet whose well-articulated educational program was partly responsible for the relative ease with which Japan emerged from hundreds of years of self-imposed isolation and became a powerful modern nation.


This book presents the world of Hirose Tansō, a late Tokugawa period (1603-1868) educator whose goal was to train men of talent in practical learning for the benefit of the country. Tansō founded a private academy called Kangien in Hita City of present-day Oita prefecture. Some 3,000 young men from 64 of the then total 68 provinces of Japan were educated at Kangien during Tansō's 50-year career as educator and administrator.

Firm in his conviction that the problems he and others faced in contemporary society would be solved by setting right the moral priorities of the people, Tansō established an educational program at Kangien based on the Neo-Confucian philosophical construct of reverence for Heaven. Tansō's educational program taught students reverence for Heaven by engaging in moral self-cultivation in the practice of actions of day-to-day behavior. Students were required to adhere to stringent school regulations governing every aspect of daily life at the school and to engage in a systematic study of a Confucian educational curriculum with concomitant, rigorous testing exercises. Tansō believed that an educational program supported by the twin pillars of regulations and curriculum would, by its very nature, accomplish social reform.

The microcosm of society Tansō created at Kangien provides a window through which the reader can glimpse the confluence of three important components of late Tokugawa society, institutional development; philosophical trends; and social structure. The values that Tansō stressed, study; hard work; frugality; and promotion based on merit, were, in many ways, responsible for the relative ease with which Japan emerged from hundreds of years of self-imposed isolation and became a powerful modern nation.

Marleen Kassel is currently in the Education Department of the Asia Society and was formerly Assistant Professor of History at State University of New York at New Paltz.