SHIHEI, Hayashi (1738-1793). Sangoku tsuran zusetsu. (Illustrated General Survey of the Three Countries). Edo: Suharaya Ichibei, 5th of Temnei .
Text volume: 4° (261 x 188 mm). Printed text including 22 single-page hand-colored wood-block illustrations and 5 double-page illustrations, two of which are printed verso to recto. Bound Japanese style, sewn with green thread over blue Japanese tissue wrappers; modern cloth folding box.
“Atlas” containing 5 folded manuscript maps in ink and color wash (some repairs with minor loss):
1. Japan overview. 730 x 518 mm (on heavier paper), bound between slate-colored diamond-patterned Japanese boards; boxed separately in modern cloth folding box.
2. Eight Roads of Korea. 490 x 672 mm (laid down on heavier paper).
3. Ryukyu Islands. 538 x 725 mm (thin paper).
4. Islands North of Japan. 540 x 890 mm (thin paper).
5. Islands South of Tokyo. 280 x 550 mm (thin paper); boxed together with above three maps in modern cloth folding box; accompanied with original(?) oblong portfolio of red patterned-silk over boards with green silk ribbon ties.
EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION of Shihei's famous Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu (Illustrated General Survey of the Three Countries), which describes Joseon Korea, the Ryukyu Kingdom, and Hokkaido—considered the most important geopolitical treatise of the period. It was one of the first Japanese works to relate Japan to its neighbors and as such was banned by the Edo government in 1792. It is considered one of the first modern attempts to define Japan compared to foreign nations, raising the question of external borders and the claim of some islands.
Hayashi Shihei (August 6, 1738 - July 28, 1793) was a Japanese military scholar, political theorist, and retainer of the Sendai Domain. His name is sometimes misread (according to the Sino-Japanese reading) as Rin Shihei. Shihei was deeply concerned with the rise of western military and naval power. In particular he saw Russia's expansion into East Asia as a long term threat to Japanese sovereignty. He lobbied the Tokugawa Shogunate for a strengthening of Japan's defenses and advocated supplementing traditional Samurai training with courses in Western military science. In particular he expressed concerns with the traditional role of the samurai as an independent warrior and stressed teamwork exercises, or choren. He published several important books, including the 1791 Kaikoku Heidan (i.e. Discussion concerning military matters of a maritime nation and the 1786 Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu (Illustrated Description of Three Countries). This later work included five important maps illustrating Japan, Korea, and the Ryukyu Islands, including Taiwan. Since his work was published without authorization from the bakufu (government), and criticized the Shogun's commerce with foreign powers, Hayashi fell out of favor. Most of his works were subsequently seized and, along with their original woodblock printing plates, destroyed. Consequently, most surviving examples of the five Shihei Maps are manuscript, copied by hand and handed down in secret from generation to generation. Eventually a copy of Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu was taken to Siberia, translated into French, and published in Paris in 1832. Hayashi's legacy was thus preserved and, together with Takayama Hikokuro and Gamo Sanbei, he is remembered as one of the "Three Excelling Men of the Kansei Period" (Kansei no san-kijin).
The 1792 ban resulted in destruction of copies and printing blocks, however some manuscript copies survive, of which this is one. Only one or two of the five original engraved maps are recorded in public libraries (including three in the BNF), and there is no recorded surviving complete printed copy. A copy of Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu was brought to Europe by Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812). In Paris, the text represented the first appearance of Korean han'gul in Europe. After Titsingh's death, the printed original and Titsingh's translation were purchased by Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat (1788-1832) at the Collège de France. Following Rémusat's death, Julius Klaproth (1783-1835) at the Institut Royal in Paris published his version of Titsingh's work. In 1832, the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland supported the posthumous abridged publication of Titsingh's French translation.
The present example is the pre-Klaproth Japanese manuscript issue, complete with five manuscripts maps in color, representing Ezo (Hokkaido), the Three Kingdoms, the Ryukyu Islands, the Kuril and Korea; and the illustrations of the text volumes are hand-colored (not always the case).