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Yamaga Soko

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  • Born: 1622
  • Died: 1685
  • Japanese: 山鹿素行 (Yamaga Sokou)

Yamaga Sokô was an influential theorist of the Edo period, many of whose writings commented on samurai identity and warrior spirit.

In some of his writings, Yamaga puts forward a Japanocentric worldview, describing Japan as having the perfect balance of four seasons, and no excessive extremes of cold or heat, a typical element of Japanocentric or Nihonjinron arguments. He goes further, naming Japan as 中国 (J: chûgoku, C: zhongguo, lit. "the Middle Kingdom", or "Middle Realm"), coopting the term normally employed for China, and placing Japan, not China, at the center of the world, and at the center of Heaven and Earth; traditionally, it was China which always asserted that it held this position. With Japan at the center of his worldview, Yamaga identifies China as "Outer Court," or "Foreign Dynasty" (外朝, J: gaichô).

Yamaga's writings on samurai identity and warrior spirit play an important role in many interpretations of the story of the 47 Ronin, and of whether or not the actions of the 47 were the honorable or appropriate path.

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