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The Kojiki, translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain, [1919], at


Of all the mass of Japanese literature, which lies before us as the result of nearly twelve centuries of book-making, the most important Monument is the work entitled "Ko-ji-ki1 or "Records of Ancient Matters," which was completed in A. D. 712. It is the most important because it has preserved for us more faithfully than any other book the mythology, the manners, the language,

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[paragraph continues] [2] and the traditional history of Ancient Japan. Indeed it is the earliest authentic connected literary product of that large division of the human race which, has been variously denominated Turanian, Scythian and Altaic, and it even precedes by at least a century the most ancient extant literary compositions of non-Aryan India. Soon after the date of its compilation, most of the salient features of distinctive Japanese nationality were buried under a superincumbent mass of Chinese culture, and it is to these "Records" and to a very small number of other ancient works, such as the poems of the "Collection of a Myriad Leaves" and the Shintō Rituals, that the investigator must look, if he would not at every step be misled in attributing originality to modern customs and ideas, which have simply been borrowed wholesale from the neighbouring continent.

It is of course not pretended that even these "Records" are untouched by Chinese influence: that influence is patent in the very characters with which the text is written. But the influence is less, and of another kind. If in the traditions preserved and in the customs alluded to we detect the Early Japanese in the act of borrowing from China and perhaps even from India, there is at least on our author's part no ostentatious decking out in Chinese trappings of what he believed to be original matter, after the fashion of the writers who immediately succeeded him. It is true that this abstinence on his part makes his compilation less pleasant to the ordinary native taste than that of subsequent historians, who put fine Chinese phrases into the mouths of emperors and heroes supposed to have lived before the time when .intercourse with China began. But the European student,

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who reads all such books, not as a pastime but in order to search for facts, will prefer the more genuine composition. It is also accorded the first place by the most learned of the native literati.

Of late years this paramount importance of the "Records of Ancient Matters" to investigators of Japanese subjects generally has become well-known to European scholars; and even versions of a few passages are to be found scattered through the pages of their writings. Thus Mr. Aston has given us, in the Chrestomathy appended to his "Grammar of the Japanese Written Language," a couple of interesting extracts; Mr. Satow has illustrated by occasional extracts his elaborate papers on the Shintō Rituals printed in these "Transactions," and a remarkable essay by Mr. Kempermann published in the Fourth [3] Number of the "Mittheilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Natur und Völkerkunde Ostasiens," though containing no actual translations, bases on the account given in the "Records" some conjectures regarding the origines of Japanese civilization which are fully substantiated by more minute research. All that has yet appeared in any European language does not, however, amount to one-twentieth part of the whole, and the most erroneous views of the style and scope of the book and its contents have found their way into popular works on Japan. It is hoped that the true nature of the book, and also the true nature of the traditions, customs, and ideas of the Early Japanese, will be made clearer by the present translation the object of which is to give the entire work in a continuous English version, and thus to furnish the European student with a text to quote from, or at least to use as a guide in consulting the original. The only object aimed

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at has been a rigid and literal conformity with the Japanese text. Fortunately for this endeavour (though less fortunately for the student), one of the difficulties which often beset the translator of an Oriental classic is absent in the present case. There is no beauty of style, to preserve some trace of which he may be tempted to sacrifice a certain amount of accuracy. The "Records" sound queer and bald in Japanese, as will be noticed further on, and it is therefore right, even from a stylistic point of view, that they should sound bald and queer in English. The only portions of the text which, from obvious reasons, refuse to lend themselves to translation into English after this fashion are the indecent portions. But it has been thought that there could be no objection to rendering them into Latin,—Latin as rigidly literal as is the English of the greater part.

After these preliminary remarks, it will be most convenient to take the several points which a study of the "Records" and the turning of them into English suggest, and to consider the same one by one. These points are:

I.—Authenticity and Nature of the Text, together with Bibliographical Notes.
II.—Details concerning the Method of Translation.
III.—The "Nihon-Gi" or "Chronicles of Japan"
IV.—Manners and Customs of the Early Japanese.
[4] V.—Religious and Political Ideas of the Early Japanese.
Beginnings of the Japanese Nation, and Credibility of the National Traditions.



i:1 Should the claim of Accadian to be considered an Altaic language be substantiated, then Archaic Japanese will have to be content with the second place in the Altaic family. Taking the word Altaic in its usual acceptation, viz., as the generic name of all the languages belonging to the Mantchu, Mongolia, Turkish and Finnish groups, not only the Archaic, but the Classical, literature of Japan carries us back several centuries beyond the earliest extant documents of any other Altaic tongue.—For a discussion of the age of the most ancient Tamil documents see the Introduction to Bishop Caldwell's "Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages," p. 91 et seq.

Next: I. The Text and its Authenticity, Together with Bibliographical Notes