Vol. 22 (2015)

“All Men Within the Four Seas are Brothers:” Transnational Kanshi Exchange in Meiji Japan


Previous studies of Sino-Japanese literary interaction during the 1870s and 1880s have generally tended to focus on Sinitic poetry (kanshi) within the diplomatic arena, particularly the activities of members of the Qing legation such as Huang Zunxian 黃遵憲 (1848-1905). This article considerably expands this focus, drawing attention to exchanges during this period among private citizens in both countries. Exploring the poetic interaction between three as-yet largely unstudied Chinese nationals (Ye Songshi 葉松石 (1839-1903), Li Zihu 李子虎 (1813-1877), and Ou Hunan 歐湖南 (n.d.)) and their Japanese counterparts, the article devotes particular attention to the resonances within these exchanges of the notion that China and Japan shared the “same writing (Ch. tongwen, J. dōbun).” Through close reading of the poetry itself and the circumstances surrounding each exchange, I argue for “same writing” and the exchange of kanshi as enabling both discourses of friendship and competing claims to cultural pre-eminence in East Asia.