Naito Konan (内藤湖南)

Konan NAITO (born on August 27, 1866 and passed away on June 26, 1934) was one of the Japanese outstanding historians. His given name was Torajiro. 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 Heikei. Konan was his pen name. He had another pen name, Kokuto Sonja. He was a representative scholar of eastern history, together with Kurakichi SHIRATORI, before the war; their dispute on Yamatai-Koku kingdom and periodization theory about Chinese history divided the academic society into two.


Konan was born as the second son of Choichi NAITO (1832-1908, his pen name was Juwan), a warrior of the Nanbu Domain, and his wife, Yoko, in Kemanai Village, Mutsu Province (present day, Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture). His father, Juwan, belonged to the eclectic school (of Japanese Confucianism). It is said that Konan read through the "Nihon Gaishi" (historical book on Japan) at the age of thirteen. After graduating from Akita Normal School, Konan started working as the major Kundo (virtuallly, the headmaster) of Tsuzureko Elementary School in 1885, and came up to the capital, Tokyo in 1887.

In Tokyo, he worked as a journalist for a Buddhism magazine, 'Meikyoshinshi,' supervised by Seigaku OUCHI; afterwards Konan became famous by editing such magazines and papers as 'Mikawa Shinbun,' 'the Japanese,' 'Osaka Asahi Shinbun,' 'Taiwan Nippo' and 'Yorozuchoho.'
Before the Japanese-Russo War, Naito presented an argument for the war and in 1907, he was invited by Kyoto Imperial University (present day, Kyoto University) to be a lecturer at the Department of East Asian History (the course of East Asian History). Naito became a professor in 1909 and a Doctor of Literature in 1910 at the recommendation of the president of Kyoto University; Konan taught East Asian History for twenty years, established 'Study on Chinese history by Kyoto University,' together with his colleagues, Naoki KANO and Jitsuzo KUWABARA, and was called a treasure of the university.

Naito's representative theories included the periodization of Chinese history based on his unique viewpoint of cultural history; he divided Chinese history between the Tang Dynasty and the Northern Song Dynasty. He defined Qin and Former Han periods as ancient times, the time from Later Han through West Jin as the first transitional stage, and the time from the period of Sixteen Kingdoms through the middle of the Tang Dynasty as the middle period. He defined the late Tang Dynasty through Godai-Jikkoku period as the second transitional stage, when he insisted that the society changed drastically.

Naito and Kurakichi SHIRATORI had a heated dispute about the Yamatai-koku Kingdom; Naito's theory was that the Yamatai-koku had been established in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) while Shiratori thought that it had been in the Kyushu region.

Naito was often compared with Kurakichi SHIRATORI; for example, "Kurakichi SHIRATORI in the east and Konan NAITO in the west," or "Konan NAITO of demonstration sect and Kurakichi SHIRATORI of philology sect."

In 1926, Naito retired from Kyoto Imperial University. He spent time reading books in Mikanohara Village, Kyoto Prefecutre (present day, Kamo-cho, Kyoto Prefecutre). He passed away on June 26, 1934. He was buried in Honen-in Temple, in Higashiyama (Kyoto Prefecutre).

Naito's literary work

"Naito Konan Zenshu" (The Complete Works of Konan NAITO) in 14 volumes (Chikuma Shobo Publishers, published from 1969 through 1976, revived in 1997)

The Complete Works mentioned above contained the following: "A Study on Japanese Cultural History," "History of Chinese Painting," "History of Chinese Historical Study," "A Study of Chinese Bibliography," "History of Chinese Ancient Times," "Culture of the Middle Ages of China," and "The Early Modern Times of China."

"Cultural History of the East" (Chuko classics J22, Chuokoron-shinsha, Inc.)

"A Study on Japanese Cultural Hisotry" (Academic paperback library, Kodansha Ltd., volumes one and two)

"History of Chinese Historical Study," in two volumes and "A Study on the Qing Dynasty History" (Heibonsha, Toyo bunko, published from 1992 through 1993)


It is said that the Naito family was a descendent of Masatoyo NAITO, a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku period (period of warring states) and Konan, at his father's order, visited Masatoyo's grave in the remains of Nagashino battlefiled.
(According to the "Konan NAITO" by Taisuke MITAMURA)

It was Kokichi KANO, the university president at that time, who decided to make Konan a professor at Kyoto Imperial University, but Ministry of Education disapproved the decision. It was because his academic background; Ministry of Education thought he only graduated from Akita Normal School.
It is said that Ministry of Education said, "we would not accept anyone without sufficient academic background as a professor even he were Oshakasama (Buddha) or Confucius"; Kano pushed his idea, saying "I will resign if Ministry of Education does not accept Naito." (There are various theories as to this and there are some differences in their statements.)

When Konan gave a lecture, his voice was extremely beautiful and Shigeki KAIZUKA, Konan's student, stated in retrospect that he thought Konan's voice was the very 'Kinseigyokushin' (an extremely veautiful voice).

Naito's statement known to the public was as follows; you do not have to study ancient times, and all you have to know about Japanese history is the history after the Onin War, which statement was given in the lecture titled "A Study on the Onin War"; in the beginning of the lecture, Naito made such a somewhat challenging comment; "this lecture should be regarded as Taryujiai (contest between different schools) and it is far from my speciality." This statement is often quoated when Japanese medieval history is discussed.

Tsuzureko Elementary School, where Naito worked as the major Kundo (virtuallly, the headmaster) in 1885, was located in Tsuzureko hamlet, where the Nanbu Domain soldiers, including his own father, Juwan, fought in the Boshin War and burned down many houses when they escaped. The people living there remembered vividly the Boshin War and the damage given to them during the war. Konan NAITO is said to have been respected by the villagers, despite that, by giving Shin-kyoiku (New education) to their children.

[Original Japanese]