The HKU Museum Society is pleased to present a lecture on the Tokugawa Period. This serves as a pre-trip lecture for our tour of Japan in March, but all are welcome. The lecture will be presented by Prof. Edwin Michielsen and Prof. Puay-peng Ho.
Lecture on Culture and Political Events
The Edo period or Tokugawa Period (1603 – 1868) was an enormous rich and transformative period out of which the modern nation-state Japan eventually emerged. The period witnessed the establishment of a new capital in Edo where shoguns together with the bakufu administration and daimyo ruled large parts of the archipelago. Their rule brought peace and stability, which allowed urban centres such Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka to grow rapidly and trade and culture to flourish across the islands. This talk will provide an overview of major political and cultural events throughout the Edo period by examining domestic and international affairs under the bakufu government as well as several notable political and culture figures.
Professor Edwin Michielsen obtained an MA in Japanese Studies from Leiden University in the Netherlands and a PhD in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto in Canada. He joined the Department of Japanese Studies at HKU in July 2022, where he researches and teaches modern Japanese and East Asian literature and culture. His book manuscript tentatively titled “Symbiotic Solidarity: Proletarian Arts and the Assembling of a Global Movement in East Asia” examines theories and practices of international solidarity during the 1920s and 1930s in East Asia found in various proletarian literary writings and cultural activities.
Lecture on Art and Architecture
Culture thrives in stable political and economic environments. Coming out of the long conflicting and insecure situation during the Sengoku (Warring States) period, Edo period ushered in 265 years of stability under the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868). And Edo city (present-day Tokyo) was the centre of the united country and the seats of fifteen generations of Tokugawa shogunate. While the society had been placed under the policy of sakoku (chained/locked nation) with minimum contacts with foreign countries, many forms of culture flourished within the country with the peaceful atmosphere ensued by the long Tokugawa rule. As the society was strictly hierarchical, different forms of culture were popular among different classes of the society. The aesthetic of the ruling class is certainly for the ostentatious and the flamboyance. While most of Edo architecture in Tokyo had been destroyed in great many natural and manmade disasters, there are buildings outside of Tokyo remaining to showcase the achievement of Tokugawa ruling aesthetics, such as the sacred complexes at Nikko serving as mausolea for the Tokugawa shogun and supporting shrines and temples with the decorative expressions contained within. Such spirit of ornateness can be seen too in the culture of the lower classes, the samurai, commoners and merchants. The formalization of kimono, kabuki, garden art, sumo-wrestling, and the beginning of ukiyo-e, and advancement of lacquer art and technique are some examples of the bourgeoning Edo culture. At the same time, there were art and architecture schools that respected the Japanese tradition of simplicity and the spirit of wabi. The monochromatic paintings of the Kanō school, the rustic pottery bowls for tea ceremony and even simple Shōin style architecture. This lecture will string together different art and architectural forms that will showcase the multiplicity of the splendor of Edo Japan.
Professor Puay-peng Ho is currently the Head of the Department of Architecture, College of Design and Engineering at the National University of Singapore. Previously, he was Professor of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his First Class Honours degree in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh and Ph.D. degree in Art History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.