More countries for kids

By popular demand (1 being greater than 0), I bring you more countries from Kanagaki and Utagawa's Illustrated guide for children to the nations of the world.

Let's start with England:

此国は欧羅巴洲西の方の海中にある大島国なり 中興版図大いにひろがり女王安那の世に當りて思可齋亜島意而蘭土島を併有總称して大蒲利丹尼亜といふ 其都府は蘭頓とて爹模河の上にあり 地を分ちて五十二州となす

This country is a great island nation in the sea off the west of Europe. After a restoration, in the reign of Queen Anna its territory expanded greatly to include Scotia and Ireland, and it became known as Great Brittania. Its capital is London, over the Thames River, and its land is divided into fifty-two counties.

I'm not sure what that first character in Queen Anne's name is supposed to be, so I substituted 安 (since the intended sound is obviously /aN/). Also, I finally figured out that word I had trouble with in the Russian text: it's not 中奥 or a write-o for 中欧, it's 中興, "restoration." (I updated the old post, too.)

Next, France:

此国は阿蘭陀英吉利に隣れる大国にて都を巴里斯といひセイネ河の畔にあり 古暦はボウルボン家統領せしが一度王家ほろび共和合衆国となる後又変じて帝国となり 那波列翁自立して一世帝と号す そののち同盟の諸国那波列翁を亡して故の王国とす

This country is a great nation next to Holland and England. Its capital is called Paris and is on the banks of the Seine River. In ancient times it was ruled by the Bourbon family, but that royal house collapsed and the country briefly became a republic before changing again, into an imperial nation. Napoleon gained independence and was called the one-generation emperor, but was then defeated by an alliance of nations and now the country is a monarchy.

"Nations of Europe" was a much more interesting topic in those days. They're all just liberal democracies these days, and I don't think many kids are interested in the extents to which and reasons why the various socialist movements of each country have been able to influence policy.

Now for "America":

此国は元来欧羅巴人の開拓地にして季候大抵我朝におなじ 都府を華盛頓といふ その国の海口カリホルニヤより船を出し萬国に往還して専貿易の道を盛んにし通商を以て家産とすといへり

Federation, and republican in governance
This country was originally a European colony and its climate is largely the same as ours. Its capital is called Washington. It sends ships from its port California out to visit countries all over the world, and makes much of the way of commerce, so that it is said to have made its fortune by trading.

And, finally, Holland:


The people of this country have a marvelous ingenuity, a taste for trading, an understanding of astronomy and geography, and a mastery of the natural sciences. They collect rare and unusual objects, and trade them to other countries for the greatest profit possible.

Note that to the left of the Hollander there is a picture of a man from Nanking (大清國南京人). Turns out the world has a few Asian nations as well.

Next up, on Thursday, by additional popular request: an excerpt from the main body on the saucy and scandalous political structure of Victorian Great Britannia!

Popularity factor: 18

Paul D.:

Out of curiosity, why translate 州 as "states" instead of provinces or counties?


"Through <i>trading</i> have mastered astronomy, geography and the natural sciences."

Er. Hm. Hrm.

I'm having a bit of a time trying to figure out how much of this is hyperbole (or bias, considering the vector for the importation of a lot of Western science) and how much of it is a reasonable approximation. Yes, the Dutch certainly were rather active in the whole early naturalists scene. But as far as astronomy goes, you hear a lot more about the English and French when it comes to observation, discovery of new planets, calculating the orbits of comets, etc.


Wow thanks.
Indeed, any Asian countries available? What about China and Korea especially?


Paul: Basically, I have no idea what there are supposed to be 12 of in "Great Brittania" and I figured "states" was safest since it didn't seem to correspond to any actual UK political jargon. E.g. if I had said "12 counties" it might sound like the author knew what a county in the UK was, but not how many there were; with "states" it's clearer that I have no idea what he was actually thinking of.

MMS: Oh dear, I transcribed and translated that part wrong, now that I look at it again. I have fixed it. The Dutch are basically superhuman as far as this book goes, and I think it really is due to the rangaku scene in the period leading up to when this book was published, as you say. Everything came through them, and I don't imagine they were very meticulous with attributing credit to other nations ("Here's a book of astronomy, but don't forget that Newton was actually English").

Danielho: There are more volumes in the series (check this out) and I haven't read them all, but a quick skim through doesn't find much about Asia. I think that this is intentional, with the idea being that Japan needed to start emulating the powerful imperialist nations of Europe and America.

language hat:

This is fascinating stuff; someone should put together an anthology of Nations Look at Each Other: The Nineteenth Century. The collected prejudices and misunderstandings should be both enlightening and entertaining.

And yeah, why talk about Asia? The only important Asian country other than Japan (in their eyes, of course) was China, and they knew way too much about China already. They needed to get out from under China's shadow and get to where they could kick Russia's ass in 1904-05.


52 counties, almost certainly: 39 historic counties in England and 13 in Wales, which was administratively part of England at that time.


Mm, not to deny the importance of China in the Edo-period Japanese imaginary, language hat, but it was Korea that participated in large Japanese diplomatic ceremonies on home soil. And that was a balancing act, since the shogun was "Oh hay thar vassal state!" and Korea was "... No." To turn everything into a lolcat macro, which is the natural entropy of the world.

Ryukyu was also weird for Japanese politics, particularly because of Satsuma. But you can't say that these countries weren't important to Edo. Or even to modernization, since they were less the Fallen Great, and more Who We Shall Lead Into the Future.

Plus, Korea grew the best ginseng. (Although I think Kaibara Ekken might have said that weaker ginseng was better for the constitutionally weak Japanese digestive tract; not sure, however. And yes, that's earlier than this book.)

I know the Dutch brought in a lot of goods from Indonesia etc, but I don't know how much people cared to learn about Indonesia, even those natural philosophers.

language hat:

Fair point about Korea, and I plead guilty to the usual Western tendency to sweep that ancient country under the rug.


Matt: Ah, and here I thought it might be a bizarre antecedent for those "capitalism equals scientific progress!" arguments.

Yes, scholars were not that great in citing their sources, in either place, unless you were 古学 and that was more philosophy and literary studies besides. (And although the 国学者 have some intellectual debt to 古学 philological techniques, where they went with it, whew....)

I don't know the influence or circulation of Rangaku (and people debate and argue about this), but some Jesuit material got into some things in 近世科学思想, if I understood the description of winds and the notes correctly.


Hat: And that tendency is partially why when I helped teach Korean history I dealt with students with huge chips on their shoulders.... (Although not the only reason.)

To be fair, it's not like there's that much information out there in English, or in circulation either. (Although I have to wonder about Russian, since they did have rather significant interests in the peninsula for a while.)


Counties it is! I always forget Wales. Must be the Prince. Thanks Brian.

Re the Korea/Indonesia/etc. thing -- ginseng and regular diplomatic relations are certainly a vital part of a proper historical understanding of Japan and its place in the region, but I don't think Kanagaki's trying to explain so much as proselytize: hey kids, these are the countries worth knowing about, the ones with gunboats and proper medicine (there, I said it). That Chinese guy standing while the Dutch guy sits is not a subtle image.

I like your point that these were important to modernization because otherwise who else was Japan going to lead into the glorious future? Maybe this only made them less worth studying because it was assumed they'd come along for the ride once Japan had gotten to grips with the real players.

(Getting some really great comments on these posts. I should read kids' books more often.)


Also, you helped to teach Korean history? Who to? Got any good overview-style book recommendations? I, too, have a serious hole in my Korea knowledge.


To college undergrads, of which at least 30% were <i>from</i> Korea. It was not easy.

There are English translations of some overview histories, but I've heard that they're pretty biased. (I don't have enough knowledge to really check) <i>Korea: A Short History</i> is one of those. The earlier Western scholar ones, however, are supposed to be worse... and it's hard to start straight off with specialized studies, but that's what I had to do. (Starting with the <i>Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng</i> and <i>Culture and the State in Late Chosŏn Korea</i>, but those are very in medias res, as it were.)

Maybe the best thing would be to read the introductory essays in <i>Sources of Korean Tradition</i>. That's what we ended up teaching off of. Well that, and K-drama. Lots of K-drama.


To clarify a bit (maybe these calligraphy errors are making me a bit loopy--who on earth makes a portmanteau character out of 頭 and 兼?). The old 1970s and earlier overview histories, the equivalent of Sir Samson for Japan, by Western historians are supposed to be inaccurate at best, an Insult to the Korean Nation at worst. I haven't actually read any of them, so I can't say.

The modern historical work by scholars in the US etc. isn't supposed to have those problems. But it has the problems of being specialized and assuming that you're familiar with, say, the difference between your 高句麗 and your 高麗.

language hat:

Those Sources of X Tradition books are really good -- I haven't seen the Korean one (of course), but I used the Chinese and Indian ones in college.


I'm sure that that first character in Queen Anne's name is 盎, a character so rare that it's definitely not used in Japanese these days, and usually used to transcribe /aʊn/ of ounce in Chinese (as in 盎斯) only.

I've looked up an online dictionary, and it meant a kind of jar with a big belly, or that of fulfillment (so if you're of literary bent and want to say the spring is everywhere you can use that character).


and I made the common transcription of ounce wrong too, it's 盎司 rather than 盎斯, even though the latter might also be used.


Aha! Thanks 28481k, that makes sense. I must have scrolled past this looking at the list of 皿 characters... (I've collapsed your comments a bit to make them clearer)

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