Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University

An International Research Project Based on Kanbun Sources to Reconstruct a View of Japanese Culture

Program Introduction Overseas Activities Education Program Others Kanbun Database

Report on Kanbun Course Held at Chulalongkorn University

Program Members: Machi Senjuro, Yamabe Susumu

Following on from the first kanbun course for foreign students studying japanese and Japanese literature at overseas universities and research institutes, held in April-May 2007 at Ca' Foscari University in Venice, in September 2007 Machi and Yamabe held the second such course, this time at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. The aim of this course was to have the students broaden their horizons to include kanbun and deepen their understanding of it by actually reading kanbun texts and mastering the kundoku method of reading kanbun, and it was also intended that they learn how the ability of Chinese characters to form new words has nurtured the Japanese language over a long period of time and how to use this as a new approach to studying the Japanese language Following on from the first kanbun course for foreign students studying Japanese and.

The intensive course conducted on this occasion was incorporated into the formal curriculum of the University's graduate school (Japanese in Classical Literature, consisting of 48 50-minute classes), and it took place at the end of the first semester after the students had studied the grammar of classical Japanese and practised reading Heian literature. The course was attended by six master's students (four second-year students and two first-year students) majoring in Japanese and Japanese literature in the Japanese Section of the Department of Eastern Languages, Faculty of Arts, and also by Associate Professor Saowalak Suriyawongpaisal, whom we had asked to make all the arrangements for the course, and Hiramatsu Hideki, one of the lecturers in the Japanese Section, also attended for part of the time. Many of the students had studied in Japan, and we felt that they were very proficient in Japanese and had excellent understanding of the content of the course. The timetable and content of the course were as follows.


17-20 September (Mon.-Thurs.): 9.00~12.00; 20 September (Thurs.): 13.00~16.00 (equivalent to 15 50-minute classes)


Yamabe began by explaining the structure of kanbun, the need for kaeriten, and the general rules of okurigana with reference to the composition of two-character compounds, and he then went through some simple passages from the Lunyu, Hanfeizi, etc., explaining sentence structure and kundoku grammar as he did so. Machi read various texts such as okototen materials, Ogyu Sorai's Bendo, Hiraga Gennai's San'yaku shofu, Hara Nensai's Sentetsu sodan, and Terakado Seiken's Edo hanjo ki.

We received a written assessment of the course from Dr. Saowalak and comments from some of the students. We have reproduced them here as a token of our appreciation of the fact that we were able to hold the course successfully with the cooperation of all concerned and also for future reference. It may also be noted that, in view of the success of this year's course, the COE Program has received a request from Chulalongkorn University to conduct next year the equivalent of a full course in "Japanese in Classical Literature" in the form of an intensive course.

Associate Professor Saowalak Suriyawongpaisal (M.A. Programme, Faculty of Art, Chulalongkorn University)

In spring of 2005 we had our first contact with the Nishogakusha University 21st Century COE Program "Establishment of World Organization for kanbun Studies." As a result we began in the same year to incorporate kanbun into the curriculum of the Japanese M.A. programme of the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University, and today it has become part of the introductory course in "Japanese in Classical Literature." In 2006, we conducted the first classes through the good offices of Professor Kotajima Yosuke of Meisei University, and in 2007 we were extremely pleased and honoured to be able to invite Professors Machi Senjuro and Yamabe Susumu of Nishogakusha University as instructors.

As leader of the M.A. programme and also as the instructor of classical Japanese, I attended all the lectures and was greatly impressed with regard to the following points. First, in order to have the students do a certain amount of preparation, the professors sent in advance An Introduction to kanbun. Next, the content of the fifteen periods, from the introduction to kanbun in the first part to the readings in Japanese kanbun of the Edo period and later in the second part, was well-balanced. In addition, all the lectures were conducted using well-prepared teaching materials, dictionaries, DVDs, and PowerPoint presentations so that the students would take an interest in the subject matter. Even though time was extremely limited, Professors Machi and Yamabe selected some really good teachings materials and, illustrating the importance of kanbun, taught in a way that the students might enjoy reading kanbun. The selected texts were interesting to read and also served to increase the students' proficiency in modern Japanese. The use of parallel versions of a kabuki text in kanbun and Japanese was particularly effective. I personally agree with the professors' view that Japanese kanbun should be included even in a short introductory course such as this in order to give non-Japanese students a broader perspective and so that they do not gain the erroneous impression that kanbun was written only by Chinese.

The study of kanbun has had a very late start in Thailand, but if Nishogakusha University continues to send instructors in the future and if we can receive their advice for the first kanbun textbook written in Thai, due to be completed in 2008, I am sure that kanbun studies in Thailand will develop rapidly. The videotape of the lectures recorded on DVDs will also make an enormous contribution.

I am deeply grateful to Nishogakusha University for its support.

Students' Impressions

Although it was only a short course, I think it was really great to have been able to attend the lectures. Previously, I had studied kanshi and kanbun for about two weeks, but because I had not been making much use of what I had learnt, I was starting to forget it. With this course, I was able to not only review what I had previously studied, but also deepen my knowledge of kanshi and kanbun. Naturally, the study of the classics is also of use when studying the modern language, and it can be put to use in unexpectedly varied ways.

The course was difficult in content, but the teachers taught us kindly and thoroughly, and it was easy to follow. Instead of trying to make us learn all the grammar first, they made us learn a little at a time through exercises, and this was very effective. Along with the content of the passages, they also explained the historical facts for us, which was really interesting. I am also appreciative of the fact that for teaching material they prepared not only dictionaries and various other materials, but even prepared DVDs and PowerPoint presentations.

It was unfortunate that because there was time for only a one week course, some parts had to be omitted or shortened. I would like to savour not only kanbun, but also kanshi at a more leisurely pace. If the teachers come again next year, I would like to attend. (Viwanporu Kitkrailard, 2nd-year graduate student)

It was good to be able to attend the course in kanshi and kanbun held by teachers from Nishogakusha University on 17-20 September 2007. Because I had studied kanshi and kanbun last year, I thought this course would be an opportunity to go over what I had learnt previously. But the content was different from the previous classes, and after studying the script of a kabuki play rewritten in kanbun, I realized that classes in kanshi and kanbun are extremely important for anyone studying Japanese literature. This was a short course, but it was of substantial content. And because the teachers' explanations were easy to follow, kanshi and kanbun began to feel familiar even to a foreigner like myself.

Lastly, I am truly grateful to the teachers from Nishogakusha University who took the trouble of teaching kanshi and kanbun to graduate students majoring in Japanese literature at Chulalongkorn University. I hope to put the knowledge gained from them to as much use as I can in my study of Japanese juvenile literature. (Tinnapas Paha-nich, 2nd-year graduate student)

I am truly grateful for the instruction I received in kanshi and kanbun. Although it was a short course, I learnt a lot. The content of the kanshi and kanbun was difficult, but the explanations were simple and easy to follow. I studied kanshi and kanbun last year, and by studying it again this year, I think that I was able to learn something new. The okototen were especially difficult, but they were also very interesting. I would like to study more about kanshi and kanbun. If the teachers come again next year, I would like to attend their lectures. (Suwapa Theerakittikul, 2nd-year graduate student)

Back to the list
Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University