Commemorative exhibition of the 300th anniversary of the death of Ekiken Kaibara (8 August 2014)

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In collaboration with Kyoto University Library, The Kyoto University Museum is hosting an exhibition dedicated to Confucian scholar and botanist Ekiken Kaibara, entitled, "Spreading the Joys of Learning to the Masses: Ekiken and Ryushi-ken", from 30 July through 24 August 2014.

Three-hundred years after the death of Ekiken (1630-1714), The Kyoto University Museum and Kyoto University Library have been given the opportunity to celebrate the life of a scholar who loved everything the ancient city had to offer -- cherry blossoms, local sake, the learning environment, and gagaku (ancient court music).

In the early 18th century, Ekiken explored the question of what it would take humans to live an exquisite and vibrant life in harmony with their natural surroundings. Having contributed to helping Japan maintain a stable existence despite its closed borders and meager resources all those years ago, his insights are beginning to shine again in the face of a global need to ensure harmonious coexistence of all life forms.

Kyoto is where Ekiken did much of his learning, and where he discovered Ryushi-ken, a publisher who shared his view that hiragana (Japanese cursive characters), rather than kanji (Chinese characters), should be used as much as possible when presenting important information to the domestic reader.

The present exhibition features a wooden statue of Ekiken, said to be of the scholar's own creation, and the family register of deaths kept by the Ogawa family, who operated Ryushi-ken. Both of these items are being shown to the public for the very first time. Also on display are a great variety of documents and records that convey the rich learning culture of the Edo period.

Prior to the exhibition's opening day, a press conference and preview event were held with some 50 guests in attendance from both within and outside the University. Following a welcome address by Professor Terufumi Ohno, Director of the Museum, commentary on the exhibition was provided by both Professor Emeritus Toshio Yokoyama, who had served on the preparatory committee for the show, and Professor Fuyuhiko Yokota from the Graduate School of Letters. The guests were seen intently examining the items on display, perhaps marveling at the depth of history invoked by the statue of Ekiken, and having a renewed sense of proximity to the Ryushi-ken publishing house, which was located in Kyoto's Gokomachi, Rokkaku-dori.

Professor Emeritus Yokoyama providing commentary during the preview event

Professor Yokota providing commentary during the preview event

The "Spreading the Joys of Learning to the Masses" exhibition being held at the Kyoto University Museum

The self-portrait statue of Ekiken Kaibara on display
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