In the middle of the 17th century, which marked the advent of the Chinese Qing(淸) dynasty, the intellectuals of many East Asian countries were facing the task of devising new theories that would explain and justify the new world order surrounding them ...
In the middle of the 17th century, which marked the advent of the Chinese Qing(淸) dynasty, the intellectuals of many East Asian countries were facing the task of devising new theories that would explain and justify the new world order surrounding them, and also the task of newly establishing their countries' own identities. And in the process, 'the theory of the civilized and the barbarians(華夷論)' became a hot subject of debate throughout East Asia. For entities who engaged in discussing such subject, we can examine many people. In Joseon there was Song si-yeol/宋時烈, in China there was Wang Fu-zhi/王夫之, and in Japan there was Yamazaki Ansai/山崎闇齋.
In Joseon, Song si-yeol argued the ultimate necessity of honoring the Chinese essence(尊中華) and repulsing the barbarians(攘夷狄). But when the prospect of defeating Qing and claiming the Chinese territory literally faded away, Song si-yeol's suggestion of the 'Civilized/Barbarian theory' shifted itself to the argument of honoring the 'Zhou/周' Legitimacy(/尊周論). This was Song si-yeol's way of expressing defiance against Qing, declaring that Qing dynasty could not and must not be considered as the center of East Asian civilization. Which he actually considered as the genuine object to receive due respect and honoring did not mean merely the 'China'. The theory of honoring the Zhou Legitimacy was based upon the Culture-based Civilized/Barbarian theory which did acknowledge the possibility that 'the civilized' and 'the barbarians' could switch sides. He was trying to say that even Joseon, even with its East-leaned location and age-old designation as a 'race that belonged to the barbaric circle', could also turn itself into a Chinese essence, when it sufficiently developed and trained itself.
In the meantime, in China, a person named Wang Fu-zhi was born in 1619. In 1644, when he heard the news that the Qing army entered Beijing, he started to lead the anti-Qing movement. He believed that the nature of a person would generally be affected and influenced by the natural environment of the region in which that person was brought up, and accordingly, that person would end up having unique habits and customs. So, he rationalized that the Chinese essence separated from each other first by regional differences and then later by cultural and racial distinctiveness, would respectively constitute a world of its own, and come to form an insurmountable rift between themselves, with one side noble/superior and one side mean/inferior. Moreover, he argued that one cannot address the barbarians with the same standards applied to the civilized human beings. He viewed the Chinese history as a long-term process of Chinese people's battling such invasions and incursions.
Yamazaki Ansai, who was born in 1618 in Kyoto, was not forced to witness the transfer process between Ming and Qing. But under the Bakuhu system, which was paying sharp attention to the ongoing situation in which the traditional civilized(Ming) and the traditional barbarians(Qing) changed places(華夷變態), he searched and sought for a proper identity for the newly established Edo-Bakuhu/江戶幕府. He argued that one's own birth country should be considered as no other than 'China', and the other countries as all barbarians. In other words, he clearly denied the validity of the existing East Asian order which had China as its center. Yet, this kind of rationalization did not induce a relativist perspective denying the pre-existing superiority/inferiority status between specific groups or regions or countries. He suggested Japan as the new world center to replace China, and to support his suggestion and justify the superiority of Japan, he mentioned the issue of bloodlines. Based upon the fact that the royal bloodline continued without interruption since the days of Amaterasu Omikami/天照大神, he argued that Japan, as the center of the civilized in East Asia, always maintained superiority over other East Asian countries.