Tokugawa Yoshimune and the Sponsorship of Honzōgaku in Eighteenth-Century Japan
This chapter examines the organizational effort behind the honzōgaku surveys under the aegis of Tokugawa Yoshimune in eighteenth-century Japan. Yoshimune enlisted scholars to produce a complete survey of all species of plants and animals that could be found in Japan. The survey campaign was led by the pharmacologist Niwa Shōhaku. State sponsorship of specialized scholars affected in particular the structure and stakes of the field of honzōgaku, usually translated as “pharmacology” or “materia medica.” This chapter considers early attempts to give a comprehensive classification of all existing species of plants and animals, with particular emphasis on Shobutsu ruisan by Inō Jakusui. It also discusses the impact of the honzōgaku surveys on the field of nature studies. It shows that honzōgaku practitioners and the study of plants and animals both acquired cultural value due to natural history's connection to matters of economic livelihood and national prosperity.
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