Hoashi Banri (帆足万里)

Banri HOASHI (February 11, 1778 - July 30, 1852) was a Confucianist and Keiseiron (written treatment of events, which was drafted for governing Japan in the Edo period) scholar, who lived during the late Edo period.
His father was the chief retainer of Hiji Domain, Bungo Province
His azana (Chinese courtesy name which was, historically, the name formerly given to adult Chinese men, used in place of their given name in formal situations; scholars and the literati of Japan adopted this custom of courtesy name) was Hokyo. His pseudonyms were Gutei and others. Together with Baien MIURA and Tanso HIROSE, it is said that he was one of the Bungo San-kenjin (three virtuous positions in Bungo Province).

Brief biography

In 1791, when Banri was 14 years old, he studied under Guzan WAKI, and at the age of 21, he also took lessons of Chikuzan NAKAI in Osaka and Kien MINAGAWA in Kyoto. Afterwards, he became a full-fledged scholar at around 30 and held the position of professor to hanko (domain school) of Hiji Domain, and in 1832 he was appointed as the chief retainer of Hiji Domain to carry out the domain's financial reform.
Although the lord of domain implored him to take moderate approach but he did not listen to the lord's pleading, saying that he accepted the charge under the words that 'once having entrusted, nobody would interfere in the affaire afterwards,' and he brushed off the chief retainer in service
And he appointed those whom he recognized capable and fair the important positions, carried out the policy of austerity, and revealed the corruption of officials, checking the account books of the domain by moving beads on an abacus by himself.
Three yeas later after the reform, he rendered a great achievement, and the clan was able to have a clear idea how to return the money borrowed from Osaka merchants

After he retired from the post, he founded his private school Seienseisha to be engaged in the younger people's education. In 1847, Banri suddenly went up to Kyoto leading several disciples and stayed there until next year. It is said that he did this because he was planning to strengthen the prestige of the Imperial Court by establishing a school in Kyoto. He died at the age of 75. It is said that although he was rather delicate in health, he took care of himself by extremely valuing the hygiene and paying attention to what he ate, he enjoyed a long life.


It is said that Banri focused his learnings in the studies of Confucianism (learning of Keisho that is the general term for most important literature in Confucianism; keigaku), history and Keiseigaku. But on the other hand, he was interested in Kyurigaku (learning of plumbing the scientific principles), influenced by a nature philosopher Baien MIURA, and at around 40, he learned Dutch using "Yakken" (Nederduitsche Taal, Japanese first Dutch-Japanese dictionary literally named 'key to translation') written by Fuzan FUJIBAYASHI to learn the natural science in Europe. The areas of Western learning he studied includes astronomy, physics, natural history, medical science and geography. Following him many of his disciples began studying about the Western world without narrow-mindness, while they maintained the respect to the Imperial family.

Banri's book "Kyuritsu" is an epoch-making literature of natural science history in Japan. It is said during the Meiji period when Guido Herman Fridolin Verbeek from the Netherlands came to know the theory of "Kyuritsu," he was surprised at the advanced level of the science in the Edo period.

Even before his death, there had been an established view that 'Banri's forte exists in his writing. He advocated the ancient writings and taught them to younger scholars, and his style of ancient writings was different from that of Sorai OGYU and he not only applied the classic letters but also classic literary styles in his writing. That is to say, he modeled the writings after those of the periods of Qin-Han or before, and he did not appreciated the styles of Tang-Sung or later periods, saying that they were weak.
For example, his book "Seio sanbun" is praised as 'it is concise but transmits a firm power.'

Other literary works

"Tosenpuron" (a critical commentary on the economic policies)
"Kanako" (a study of the Japanese syllabary)
"Shisho hyouchu" (notes on the Four Chinese Books of Confucianism)
"Junshi hyochu" (notes on Xun Zi)
"Shujitsu" (a rhetorical study)
"Igyoyoko" (a record of Banri HOASHI's lectures written in classical Chinese)
"Nyugakushinron" (a comprehensive piece of Banri HOASHI's Confucian work)
"Gokyo-hyochu" (notes on the Five Classics texts of Confucianism)
"Seien iko" (a collection of Banri HOASHI's posthumous writings)

[Original Japanese]