An Individual’s Endeavour to Save Sino-Japanese Relations. A Discussion of Wang Tao’s (1828-1897) Travel to Japan based on his Travel Diary

in Ming Qing Yanjiu
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In the spring of 1879, while the relations between Japan and China was deteriorated by a series of disputes in Korea, Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands, Wang Tao 王韜 (1828-1897), a Chinese scholar, was invited by a group of prominent Japanese intellectuals, including Kurimoto Joun 栗本鋤雲 (1822-1897), Shigeno Yasutsugu 重野安繹 (1827-1910), Nakamura Masanao 中村正直 (1832-1890), and Oka Senjin 岡千仭 (1833-1914), to travel to Japan, exchanging ideas of reform and discussing the crises of Asian countries with increasing Western invasions. Wang Tao was warmly welcomed as an expert of both Chinese Classics and international affairs. Having the objectives of finding out more about the Meiji Japan and promoting friendship and strategic relations between the two countries, Wang and his hosts inevitably started a discussion on modernization, Westernization and future development of the two neighbouring countries. This was a significant intellectual exchange among Chinese and Japanese men of letters in modern history. During his visit, Wang recorded his journey in Fusang youji 扶桑遊記 (A Travel to Japan). Upon returning to China, Wang presented his diary to Kurimoto Joun and the book was published by Yūbin Hōchi, a leading news printing press in Japan.

Although there are research outlining Wang Tao’s travel to Japan, its significance, especially Wang’s vision of the future development of Sino-Japanese relation has not been fully analysed. His travel diary, an important source to reveal Wang’s thought, has only been seen as a record of travel itinerary and personal romance. In fact, his senses of history and knowledge in current affairs have reminded him the threat of an ambitious Japan. He, therefore, endeavoured to rebuild and maintain the link between the two countries from historic, cultural and strategic aspects during his journey. This paper aims to examine how Wang Tao conveyed his messages in inoffensive but effective ways in his travel diary.

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