Course of History

Associate Professor ABE Soichiro (East Asian History)

[Theme] The Three Kingdoms Period and the Study of History

The history of China is not "our history." This of course refers to who the "our" is assigned to in this situation; however, when viewed from the familiar categories of Japanese or world history, we can at least say that the history of China is part world history or, in other words, foreign history.

I am sure that more than a few of you out there reading this now have some interest in Chinese history. Why is it that everyone is interested in the history of foreign history? In most cases, there is something that served as some sort of catalyst. For example, it could be a novel, comic, game, or even the influence of a high school world history teacher, but I am sure there are those of you who got their start after reading "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as well. The truth is that I am also one of those people.

My research focuses mainly on the Three Kingdoms period. In particular, my main objectives are to analyze and cross-compare historical records related to the Later Han Dynasty that were compiled between the Three Kingdoms and Northern and Southern Dynasty periods, and in doing so, to clarify the image the people of those periods held of the Later Han. This information will then be used to reveal the actual conditions of the Later Han Dynasty, and thus investigate the nature of society during the Later Han. Put simply, however, my research can be classified as pertaining to that of the Three Kingdoms period as stated previously.

Although the Three Kingdoms period is best known for its wars, in actuality, it is a very important era for the study of history. A strong interest in historical records has been observed in China since ancient times; however, this becomes especially apparent during this period with the emergence of 史学 "shi-xue" (historiography) as a new field of learning specializing in history.

A man known as Qiao Zhou appears toward the end of the "The Records of the Three Kingdoms" and advises Liu Shan to surrender when Shu falls. Qiao Zhou was a gifted scholar who left behind many writings, one of which is the text 古史考 "Gushi-kao" (Investigations of Ancient History), which is often considered as a forerunner of the forthcoming ascent of historical studies. Qiao Zhou lived during the time just before the fall of the long-reigning Han Dynasty where upheavals were leading up into the Three Kingdoms period and Jin Dynasty. That is to say, he lived in an era where the values and nature of society up to that point were beginning to collapse and there was an earnest call to freshly rebuild the social order. That fact that Qiao Zhou and his contemporaries became so deeply interested in history amidst such times of crisis was no coincidence. Instead, we should probably think of it as an attempt at overcoming the perils facing them. It was also during this period when the term 史 "shi" first came to refer explicitly to "history" with the title of Qiao Zhou's commentary being one of its first examples.

Examining the manner in which people approached history during those times and then using my findings to create a clear model of the period lies at the core of my aforementioned objectives. My specific research theme is the investigation of politics and society as well as the people referred to as aristocrats.

It just so happens that to approach and examine the history of past people leads me back to the question of why I have chosen to investigate history.Surely everyone asks themselves this question when selecting their area of specialty. Please confirm just what it is that you wish to focus upon through various lectures in order to help you when this time comes. No matter what the opportunity may be, this is what really matters in the end.

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