Department of Japanese Literature
Matsumiya Kanzan, Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, The Three-teaching ideology, Zhongyong, The law of ancient sages
This essay is an attempt to analyze the structure of Matsumiya Kanzan’s Shintoist Theory of Three Teachings, by studying the role of Tou (way or nature) and Kyou (teaching) in his theory.
First, we take a look at Matsumiya’s life, his Theory of Three Teachings, and former research conducted on him. One of the proponents of a Three Teachings approach, Matsumiya lived in the Edo era and was an expert in military matters, Confucianism, surveying, poetry and the Chinese language. He advocated his main ideas in his book Sankyouyouron (‘The Basis of the Theory of Three Teachings’). Second, we focus on the connection between Tou and Kyou in Matsumiya’s ideology. In the beginning of The Basis of the Theory of Three Teachings he wrote, “What is the definition of Tou? It is the practice of Kyou.” The following sentence is taken from the Chinese classic Zhongyong (The Doctrine of Mean, trans. James Legge): “What heaven has conferred is called the Nature (Tou), an accordance with this Nature is the Path of duty (Sei), the regulation of this path is called Instruction (Kyou).” It seems that it was the influence of the Zhongyong that led Matsumiya to place Kyou last of his Three Teachings, in the order Tou-Sei-Kyou. Meanwhile, emphasizing the connection between Tou and Kyou, Matsumiya declared Kyou to be determined by Tou, which is based on the law of nature. This is the fundamental principle of his Theory of Three Teachings.
Matsumiya criticized Ogyu Sorai’s theory for its insistence on defining Tou as the law of ancient sages, and also he disagreed with Motoori Norinaga’s Japan-centralist approach. Matsumiya applied the 12 earthly branch conception in comparing India, China and Japan, asserting the vitality of Japan, and emphasizing the excellence of Shintoism. He also applied the concept of the Three Geniuses (Heaven, Earth and Men), in order to advocate a position of everything being one when seen holistically, in order to support his combining teachings from different sources.
Thus, his construction of his Theory of the Three Teachings, which revolved mainly around Shintoism but also contained Confucian and Buddhist elements, was finally completed. In the period that Matsumiya lived, China was ruled by Qing Dynasty, formed of Manchus, who the people of the time termed “savages.” The fact that such “savages” had become the leaders of the East Asian world had great influence on China’s neighbouring nations, with Korea and Japan’s national consciousness gradually increased through their hatred of “savages.” Matsumiya’s emphasis on a Japanese form of Tou, different from the Chinese Tao, may be a product of increased national consciousness. However, Japan at this time had not separated itself from Confucianism-based Chinese culture, and Buddhism served as the basis of much of Japanese society, which means we can also see Matsumiya’s Theory of Three Teachings as motivated by a form of conservatism.