In Search of the Way: Thought and Religion in Early-Modern Japan, 1582-1860

ISBN : 9780198795230

Richard Bowring
352 ページ
156 x 234 mm
  • The first volume to take a broad overview of religious and cultural exchange in early-modern Japan
  • Offers insights into the histories of Christianity, Buddhism, Shinto, and particularly Neo-Confucianism
  • Examines themes of ritual, pilgrimage, religion in practice, ideological debate, disagreement, and consensus


In Search of the Way is a history of intellectual and religious developments in Japan during the Tokugawa period, covering the years 1582-1860. It begins with an explanation of the fate of Christianity, and proceeds to cover the changing nature of the relationship between Buddhism and secular authority, new developments in Shinto, and the growth of 'Japanese studies'. The main emphasis, however, is on the process by which Neo-Confucianism captured the imagination of the intellectual class and informed debate throughout the period. This process was expressed in terms of a never-ending search for the Way, a mode and pattern of existence that could provide not only order for society at large, but self-fulfilment for the individual. The narrative traces how ideas and attitudes changed through time, and is based on the premise that the Tokugawa period is important in and of itself, not merely as a backdrop to the Meiji Restoration of 1868.


Part I: 1582-1680
1: From Hideyoshi to Ietsuna
2: The fate of Christianity
3: Creating a new order
4: The Confucian turn
5: Two individualists
6: The Way of the Kami
7: The Way of the Warrior
8: The Way of Man

Part II: 1680-1786
9: From Tsunayoshi to Ieharu
10: The encouragement of learning
11: Recasting the Chinese mould
12: Matters of faith
13: The Way of the Former Kings
14: Contesting Confucian values

Part III: 1786-1860
15: From Ienari to Iemochi
16: Competing visions of the future
17: In search of times past
18: A new kind of Shinto
19: A time for action
20: Retrospect


Richard Bowring, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies, University of Cambridge
Richard Bowring graduated from the University of Cambridge with first class honours in Japanese in 1968, and a PhD in 1973. He has taught at Monash University, Columbia University, Princeton University, and the University of Cambridge, taking retirement in 2013. He was made an Honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge in 2013, and was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by the Japanese Government in 2013.

"recommended reading to all." - Lehel Balogh, Religious Studies Review

"Richard Bowring's summa will surely help many of us, scholars and students alike, to navigate through all these different "Ways" without losing our heads." - Journal of Japanese Studies

"[The book] provides an excellent introduction for students who want to orientate themselves in this field. For the specialist, too, it contains a number of ideas, comments, and hints that could serve as points of departure for future research. The book also contains a great many quotations from the original sources." - W. J. Boot, Japonica Humboldtiana

"The erudition and precision of Bowring's scholarship in this volume is exemplary. There are few volumes (if any) in English which give such a broad, yet detailed, overview of the ideas of major thinkers of early modern Japan. As a reference work in English for those wanting to understand or study early modern Japanese intellectual history, this volume is therefore invaluable." - Kiri Paramore, English Historical Review

"Richard Bowring's summa will surely help many of us, scholars and students alike, to navigate through all these different "Ways" without losing our heads" - Matthias Hayek, The Journal of Japanese Studies

"One of the most impressive contributions of this work is its treatment of the intersections of Shinto-based and Sung Confucian-based idea structures. Bowring brings new insights into the roles of Hayashi Razan and Fujiwara Seika, at the outset of this period, and Aizawa Seishisai towards its conclusion (and numerous others throughout the work), as he demonstrates with great acumen and perspicacity the "intellectual gymnastics" (p. 306) needed to draw these clearly distinct thought structures together." - James E. Ketelaar, Japan Review

"While there have been works published since then that would qualify as such, Bowring's volume is the latest, and perhaps the best, among them so far... His narrative style is lucid, and he provides sometimes rather detailed historical backgrounds for the ideas and figures he examines." - Mark T. McNally (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Monumenta Nipponica 72:2

"Bowring delivers on what he promises to do in his book and showcases the vitality of Tokugawa intellectual and religious history. The conceptual lens of the "Way" works effectively and allows a variety of voices to be introduced with a certain sense of coherence. Most importantly, Bowring's book is an invaluable testament to the importance of taking Tokugawa religion and intellectual history seriously and on their own terms." - Takashi Miura, Journal of Religion in Japan

"Professor Bowring's book is packed with information and insight, and will be revisited again and again by those who want to understand Japanese intellectual tradition." - Joseph S. O'Leary, H-Buddhism