Nihon gaishi goes global: A translation history of a nineteenth-century blockbuster

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Rai San'yō's Nihon gaishi, sometimes credited as a possible source of inspiration for the Meiji Restoration, is a grand, sweeping history of the rise of Japan's warrior class from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. Gaishi was a massive best seller in nineteenth-century Japan, had become a national classic by the century's end, and continued to be popular well into the century that followed. Focusing on the period 1870-1915, this article explores several previously unstudied translations of Gaishi into English, French, and Russian; its promotion in the United States; and its printing and circulation in China. As the article shows, Gaishi was translated earlier and more broadly than other Japanese texts, including the celebrated Tale of Genji; moreover, its various translations and their reception also reveal a globe-spanning debate over differing concepts of literary value and whether effective literary translation was actually possible between “Asia” and the "West".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-115
Number of pages47
JournalMonumenta Nipponica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • B. H. Chamberlain
  • Ernest Satow
  • François Turrettini
  • Gu Hongming
  • Kanbun
  • Nihon gaishi
  • Ogura emon (Umayahara Jirō)
  • Qian Yi
  • Rai San'yō
  • Tan Xian
  • V. M. Mendrin
  • W. E. Griffis
  • W. G. Aston

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History


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