Hayashi Razan

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Hayashi Razan
Hayashi Razan was head of the early seidō
Born 1583
Died March 7, 1657
Occupation Neo-Confucian scholar, academic, administrator, writer
Subject Japanese history, literature
Children Hayashi Gahō, son

Hayashi Razan (林 羅山?, 1583 – March 7, 1657), also known as Hayashi Dōshun,[1] was a Japanese Neo-Confucian philosopher, serving as a tutor and an advisor to the first four shoguns of the Tokugawa bakufu. He is also attributed with first listing the Three Views of Japan. Razan was the founder of the Hayashi clan of Confucian scholars.

Razan was an influential scholar, teacher and administrator. Together with his sons and grandsons, he is credited with establishing the official neo-Confucian doctrine of the Tokugawa shogunate. Razan's emphasis on the values inherent in a static conservative perspective provided the intellectual underpinnings for the Edo bakufu. Razan also reinterpreted Shinto, and thus created a foundation for the development of Confucianised Shinto which developed in the 20th century.

The intellectual foundation of Razan's life's work was based on early studies with Fujiwara Seika (1561–1619), the first Japanese scholar who is known for a close study of Confucius and the Confucian commentators. This kuge noble had become a Buddhist priest; but Seika's dissatisfaction with the philosophy and doctrines of Buddhism led him to a study of Confucianism. In due course, Seika drew other similarly motivated scholars to join him in studies which were greatly influenced by the work of Chinese Neo-Confucianist Zhu Xi (or Chu Hsi), a Sung period savant.[2] Zhu Xi and Seika emphasized the role of the individual as a functionary of a society which naturally settles into a certain hierarchical form. He separated people into four distinct classes: samurai (ruling class), farmers, artisans and merchants.


Razan developed a practical blending of Shinto and Confucian beliefs and practices. This coherent construct of inter-related ideas lent themselves to a well-accepted program of samurai and bureaucrat educational, training and testing protocols. In 1607, Hayashi was accepted as a political adviser to the second shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada.

Razan became the rector of Edo’s Confucian Academy, the Shōhei-kō (afterwards known at the Yushima Seidō) which was built on land provided by the shogun. This institution stood at the apex of the country-wide educational and training system which was created and maintained by the Tokugawa shogunate. Razan had the honorific title Daigaku-no kami, which became hereditary in his family. It also happened that the position as head of the Seidō became hereditary in the Hayashi family. Daigaku-no-kami, in the context of the Tokugawa shogunate hierarchy, effectively translates as "Head of the State University.[3]

In the elevated context his father engendered, Hayashi Gahō (formerly Harukatsu), worked on editing a chronicle of Japanese emperors compiled in conformance with his father's principles. Nihon Ōdai Ichiran grew into a seven-volume text which was completed in 1650. Gahō himself was accepted as a noteworthy scholar in that period; but the Hayashi and the Shōhei-kō links to the work’s circulation are part of the explanation for this work's 18th and 19th century popularity. Contemporary readers must have found some degree of usefulness in this summary drawn from historical records.

The narrative of Nihon Ōdai Ichiran stops around 1600, most likely in deference to the sensibilities of the Tokugawa regime. Gahō's text did not continue up through his present day; but rather, he terminated the chronicles just before the last pre-Tokugawa ruler. This book was published in the mid-17th century and it was reissued in 1803, "perhaps because it was a necessary reference work for officials."[4]

Razan's successor as the Tokugawa's chief scholar was his third son, Gahō. After Razan's death, Gahō finished work his father had begun, including a number of other works designed to help readers learn from Japan's history. In 1670, the Hayashi family's scholarly reputation was burnished when Gahō published the 310 volumes of The Comprehensive History of Japan (本朝通鑑/ほんちょうつがん,Honchō-tsugan).[5]

Razan's writings were compiled, edited and posthumously published by Hayashi Gahō and his younger brother, Hayashi Dokkōsai (formerly Morikatsu):

  • Hayashi Razan bunshū (The Collected Works of Hayashi Razan), reissued in 1918
  • Razan sensei isshū (Master Razan's Poems), reissued in 1921

Razan's grandson, Hayashi Hōkō (formerly Nobuatsu) would head the Yushima Seidō and he would bear the inherited title Daigaku-no kami. Hōkō's progeny would continue the work begun in the 18th century by the scholarly Hayashi patriarch.

Political Theorist

As a political theorist, Hayashi Daigaku-no-kami Razan lived to witness his philosophical and pragmatic reasoning become a foundation for the dominant ideology of the bakufu until the end of the 18th century. This evolution developed in part from Razan's equating samurai with the cultured governing class. Razan helped to legitimize the role of the militaristic bakufu at the beginning of its existence. His philosophy is also important in that it encouraged the samurai class to cultivate themselves, a trend which would become increasingly widespread over the course of his lifetime and beyond. Razan's aphorism encapsulates this view:

"No true learning without arms and no true arms without learning."[6]

Hayashi Razan and his family would have played a significant role is helping to crystallize the theoretical underpinnings of the Tokugawa regime.

In January 1858, it would be Hayashi Akira, the hereditary Daigaku-no-kami descendant of Hayashi Razan who would head the bakufu delegation that sought advice from the emperor in deciding how to deal with newly assertive foreign powers.[7] This would have been the first time the Emperor's counsel was actively sought since the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate. The most easily identified consequence of this transitional overture would be the increased numbers of messengers which were constantly streaming back and forth between Tokyo and Kyoto during the next decade. There is no small irony in the fact that this 19th-century scholar/bureaucrat would find himself at a crucial nexus of managing political change—moving arguably "by the book" through uncharted waters with well-settled theories as the only guide.[8]


  1. Ponsonby-Fane, Richard A.B. (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869, p. 418.
  2. Ponsonby-Fane, R. (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869, p. 418.
  3. Ponsonby-Fane, p. 418.
  4. Screech, Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. p. 65.
  5. Brownlee, John. (1999). Political Thought in Japanese Historical Writing, p. 120
  6. Blomberg, Catherina. (1999). The Heart of the Warrior, p. 158.
  7. Cullen, L.M. (2003). A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, p. 178 n11.
  8. Ponsonby-Fane, p. 324.

See also


Flags mark the entrance to the reconstructed Yushima Seidō (Tokyo).

External links

Preceded by
(Head of the state educational system)
Succeeded by
Hayashi Gahō