Inoue Kinga (井上金峨)

Kinga INOUE (1732-August 1, 1784) was a Japanese Confucianist who lived in the mid-Edo period. He is known as the founder of the eclectic school ('Secchugaku-ha' in Japanese) of Japanese Confucianism, who denied conflicts among various schools and severely criticized Sorai OGYU's Kobunjigaku (the study of archaic words and phrases).

Kinga's real name was Tatemoto (or Tatsumoto or Tachimoto or Ryugen), and his azana (Chinese courtesy name which was, historically, the name formerly given to adult Chinese men, used in place of their given name in formal situations; scholars and the literati of Japan adopted this custom of courtesy name) was Junkei or Junkyo (which could be written either as "順卿" or "純卿" in Japanese), and his common name was Bunpei (or Fumihira or Fumihei). His pseudonyms ('go' in Japanese) included Kinga, Kohan-o and Ryuto-kanjin.

Brief Personal History

Kinga's ancestry can be traced back to a samurai family of Shinano Province, and one of his ancestors called Daizen, who was of nine generations ahead of Kinga, was a retainer of Nobunaga ODA and reportedly killed in battle at Honno-ji Temple. Daizen had a son called Rokuro who became the first doctor in his line of the Inoue family, whose profession was successively followed by sons including Kinga's grandfather Kian INOUE and Kinga's father Kansai INOUE, who both worked as Han-i (Edo-period doctor working at a public clinic for the whole clan) under Masayuki INOUE of Kasama Domain in Hitachi Province (present-day Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture). The father Kansai was the author of medical book "Keiken Horoku" (55 volumes).

Kinga was born at the residence of Kasama Domain which was located at Hyakunin-cho Ward, Aoyama, Edo, and stayed in Kasama during infancy. When Kinga's father began to work in Edo, Kinga started learning Kogigaku (study of pursuing ancient meanings of Confucius and Mencius based on their original texts, by Jinsai ITO's Ancient Meaning school) under Yuho KAWAGUCHI who was Jinsai ITO's disciple and whom Kinga had been on friendly terms for a long time. Next, Kinga started learning eclecticism (Secchugaku) under Randai ITO who respected Sorai OGYU while studying under Hoko HAYASHI who was a jukan (an official under Confucianism).

At the age of 24, Kinga abandoned his family profession of doctor of the Kasama Domain so as to become a Confucianist, and he first temporarily lived in Komagome where he gathered auditors and lectured in front of them. When giving a lecture, Kinga charged 30 mon (unit of copper currency) per person (auditor), and as it is said that more than 150 persons per day listened to his lecture, accordingly Kinga earned about 4 kan 500 mon (the term kan is a unit of copper currency in Edo, the 4 kan equaling 4,000 mon equaling 1 ryo [unit of gold currency]) per day, which was sufficient for clothing, food and housing expenses. Giving a lecture for earning money (tuition fee) was called iku-ko (literally, rice porridge lecture), and after Kinga, everyone who opened a private school ('juku' in Japanese) at Komagome followed Kinga's way of making a living by providing the iku-ko (lectures for sale).

Kinga often suffered from fires and others, and he had moved, in total, 17 times through his whole life.

He got married at the age of 26, but his first wife died of illness about a year after the marriage, and he married a daughter of the Takei clan for the second time without delay. The second wife, however, died young at the age of 19 less than two years after the marriage. He lamented the death of his second wife and wrote a novel entitled "Joen-ki." At the time Kinga published the "Joen-ki," his master Randai and Kinga alias Dojin KINGA co-authored gesaku (light fiction, especially of the late Edo period): "Toshisho" (literally, making fun of Chinese poems, which was a parody of "Toshisen" [Selection of Tang Poems, late 16th century]) and "Shosetsu Hakuto-den" (literally, novelization of the legend of white wisteria, which was written in slangy Chinese and portrayed some characters resembling famous contemporaries such as Sorai OGYU).

At the age of 34, Kinga was given a free hand to administer a private medical school Seijukan, where he also gave lectures himself, by a medical scholar Rankei TAKI, who had heard people speak highly of Kinga,. At the Seijukan, anyone who wanted to be an auditor, even if not a medical student, was allowed to audit lectures, and Kinga often gave lectures on the Secchugaku (eclecticism). The more the Seijukan got fame, the more Kinga's reputation grew.

At the age of 36, however, an incident related to Daini YAMAGATA happened, which turned out to be the greatest danger in Kinga's whole life. Specifically, Kinga's close associate, Genba YOSHIDA who was a Karo (senior retainer) of Obata Domain of Kozuke Province, fell victim to slander and was imprisoned for suspicion of treachery together with Ryuso YAMAGATA, who was a political advisor to the Lord on domain duties. Moreover, Kinga's close friend Toko SAWADA was also implicated, and the incident thereby grew into taigoku (mass arrest of serious case suspects by the shogunate). This is known as the Meiwa incident. Kinga narrowly escaped from being implicated in the incident, but had to be considerable enough to resign from the Seijukan.

After leaving the Seijukan, Kinga was invited to serve the Lord of Soma-Nakamura Domain, where he received kind treatment, but he stayed there only for a few years, and was then hired as Kishitsu (secretary) who served Rinnoji no miya (honorific title of the chief priest [kanju or kanshu]) of Ueno Kanei-ji Temple.

Kinga was a skilful horseman, and when he served the Lord of Soma Domain, he reportedly tamed a raging horse, so that he rode and broke it at will, thereby astounding onlookers. After middle age, Kinga had studied astronomy for three years under Kageaki OBA, but when he mastered it, he is said to have disposed of his observation record with no hesitation.
That was because "To exert one's utmost strength for nothing is not the way we live on for (i.e. I do not mean to live on for meaningless hard work.)"

In 1784, as Kinga accompanied Cloistered Imperial Prince Kocho in climbing Mt. Nikko, he suffered from a kind of carbuncle which emerged on his back, thereby descended the mountain in haste, being carried on kago (Japanese palanquin). Since Kinga's house was under construction at that time, he stayed and underwent medical treatment at Rankei TAKI's house, but died of illness in August. Kinga died at the age of 53. Lamenting Kinga's death, his close friend Jishu left an elegy for him.

As Kinga did not have a son, he adopted Nandai INOUE as his heir.

Kinga left a few Chinese-style landscape paintings (san shui painting) and paintings of bamboo and orchid. Together with Koyo NAKAYAMA's paintings and Toko SAWADA's calligraphy, both of whom Kinga associated with, Kinga's Gasan (inscriptions associated with paintings) enjoyed high popularity among prominent figures of Edo.

Academic Heritage

Kinga studied Kogigaku (study of pursuing ancient meanings of Confucius and Mencius based on their original texts, by Jinsai ITO's Ancient Meaning school) under Yuho and Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) and Kobunjigaku (the study of archaic words and phrases) under Randai, thus established a school of Secchugaku (eclecticism). The predominant thinking of the day was Kobunjigaku (Sorai-gaku), but Kinga in his "Benchoroku" pointed out errors in the Kobunjigaku theoretically, thereby entering the limelight in the academic society. Since then, Kinga's severe criticism on the Sorai-gaku never stopped, which led the Sorai-gaku to declination. The Secchugaku founded by Koshu SAKAKIBARA was based on reflection on conflicts among different schools of thought. The Secchugaku is characterized by adopting good points of various theories and being balanced among them. Kinga extracted only the good points from the thoughts of four major Confucianists: Chu His, Yomei O (Wang Yangming), Jinsai ITO and Sorai OGYU, so as to incorporate them into his own Secchugaku. On the prevailing Chinese poetry, Kinga criticized its loss of substance and pioneered the future trend of Song Dynasty style poetry in Japan.

Since Kinga gave lectures at a private medical school Seijukan, his Secchugaku (Koshogaku [the study of ancient texts]) spread among medical doctors. Further, Kinga's disciples: Hosai KAMEDA, Hokuzan YAMAMOTO and Koton YOSHIDA educated many brilliant minds, thus allowing the eclectic school (Secchugaku-ha) to keep spreading nationwide particularly among han-ko schools (schools of the feudal domains) until the Meiji period.