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Article: why Japan's Confucians supported the conquest of the homeland of Confucius


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
At the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-48), convened to try Japanese military and civilian leaders for war crimes, one defendant delivered a puzzling explanation for Japan's 1937-45 war against China. The aim of the struggle, he said, had been to make 'the Chinese undergo self-reflection', adding: 'It is just the same as in a family when an older brother has taken all that he can stand from his ill-behaved younger brother and has to chastise him to make him behave properly. That defendant was General Matsui Iwane, commander of the army that devastated Shanghai before perpetrating the Nanjing Massacre in December 1937.

Shaun O'Dwyer, a professor in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures at Kyushu University, takes a closer look at why Japanese Confucianism, which underwent a Tokugawa-era renaissance stimulated by late-16th- to 17th-century transmissions of Neo-Confucian learning from Korea and China and was further developed by the Shibunkai (斯文会), a Chinese and Confucian studies organisation of particular importance, had no qualms about conquering the homeland of Confucianism.

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