This course aims at providing students with the basic knowledge of kanbun, its grammar rules, conversion techniques (kundoku), linguistic features, and literary aura. By the end of the course, students are expected to demonstrate skills of reading basic kanbun texts composed both in China and Japan.
Until the Meiji period, classical Chinese was the language of choice in official and literary communication. Yet, at the same time, the Japanese also developed a special reading method to mentally punctuate, analyze, and translate classical Chinese (kanbun) into classical Japanese (wabun). Therefore, knowledge of kanbun and kanbun kundoku reading constitutes an essential asset for all students in the field of Japanese Studies, particularly for those interested in pre- and early-modern Japan.
The Japanese use of Sinitic (or classical Chinese) led to the formation of an additional idiom that, while still looking like classical Chinese, incorporated elements of Japanese syntax, style, and lexicon. This popular—and somehow second-class—idiom of “Japanese kanbun” showed a great variety of "hybrid" styles that often lacked a systematic grammar. As a result, Japanese kanbun is often difficult to read and therefore hardly taught outside of Japan. This course is designed to fill in the gap by offering an overview of such lesser-known aspects and introducing the students to a wide range of textual typologies.