Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sugita Genpaku and His Workshop

This is a bus stop.  I think someone volunteered to leave those chairs.  I don't know why, but the city does not provide a bench at most of bus stops.

Lately, I've been reading Japanese classics on western thoughts, and today, I read "The Beginning Dutch" by Sugita Genpaku (杉田 玄白, 1733 – 1817).

He tells a story of how he and other Japanese scholars met regularly and put their heads together to translate Dutch medical documents. They made very slow and painful progress in the beginning. But new people with some knowledge of alphabets joined them, plus they acquired some Dutch and translated books. Occasionally, interpreters and a Dutch man came to their meetings, so their study improved. 

One old man named
良沢 was much older than others, and at least 10 years older than Sugita. As the time went on, 良沢 stopped socializing with other people or doing the things he used to do like many old people tend to be. But he still kept coming to their deciphering Dutch document meetings. The old man had energy just for that. They all looked forward for the meeting, and Sugita just couldn't wait for the sun to rise on the day of the meeting. 

I love it! I can tell how that is. Sugita describes how fun it was to meet the group and translate the Dutch document. I wish I were there. Some people were doctors, others had commercial interests such as making profit in trade and so on, and some were there without purpose. It's like a high school drama club. I didn't know the Japanese classics are this much fun! I also read "One Hundred One New Thoughts" by Nishi Amane. That was also excellent. Their sentences have no connectives, punctuations, and no change of lines. They flow like a large river from the beginning to the end.

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