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 Courses Held at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi

Program Member: Yamabe Susumu

The Overseas Kanbun Course Section conducted the following overseas kanbun courses.

This course was held as part of "Japanese in Classical Literature" (Vocabulary and structure of the Japanese language in Heian literature, Kanshi and Kanbun), an optional course for master's students majoring in the Japanese language and Japanese literature.

This was the second kanbun course, following on from that held last year, and because we had been asked to run a course on classical Japanese at the same time, as an initial trial we conducted twenty-four fifty-minute classes each in classical Japanese and kanbun. After the conclusion of the courses, there was a test, an evaluation and approval of credits.

Classical Japanese

The classes in classical Japanese were conducted with the aim of having the students acquire the basic knowledge and grammar indispensable for reading and understanding works of classical Japanese literature. In order to have the students realize that their understanding of the world depicted in the classics will deepen by taking into account the historical background and grammatical points when reading them, with regard to basic knowledge we sought to deepen the students' understanding by focusing on the politics and culture of the Heian period, when The Tale of Genji and many other works of literature were produced. As for grammar, we concentrated on verbs, adjectives, nominal adjectives, auxiliary verbs and particles and studied their use.

  1. Introduction: Outline of Japanese history, history of Japanese literature, etc.
  2. Basic knowledge of Japanese classics: About Japanese culture (daily life of Heian nobility, etc.)
  3. Grammar of classical Japanese: Basic items -- verbs, adjectives, nominal adjectives, auxiliary verbs and particles
  4. Exercises in classical Japanese literature: "Young Murasaki" chapter of The Tale of Genji (read in conjunction with the study of grammar)


The aim of this course was to have foreign students of Japanese and Japanese literature master the kundoku method of reading Chinese by actually reading kanbun texts so that they might broaden their horizons to include kanbun studies, which plays an important part in Japanese classical studies, and deepen their understanding of it. It was also intended that they learn how the ability of Chinese characters to form new words and create new meanings has nurtured the Japanese language over a long period of time and how to use this as a new approach to studying Chinese characters as used in Japanese.

  1. Introduction: Bridging the gap between classical Japanese and kanbun
  2. Basics of kanbun kundoku: The structure of two-character compounds, the structure of classical Chinese, the use of kaeriten, historical kana usage, okurigana
  3. Chinese poetry: The forms and rules of Chinese poetry
  4. Exercises in Chinese classics: Chapters from the Lunyu, "Wei mantou" (Wuzazu), Meng Haoran's "Chunxiao," Du Fu's "Chunwang" and Bo Juyi's "Xianglu feng..."
  5. Exercises in Japanese kanbun: "Dannoura" (Nihon gaishi), "Kenzan enryo" (Sentetsu sodan), Sugawara no Michizane's "Kugatsu toka," Kan Chazan's "Toya dokusho" and Natsume Soseki's "Mudai"

This course was conducted by Yamabe under the title of "An Introduction to Kanbun Studies, Kanbun Kundoku Style" for undergraduate and graduate students of the Department of Han-Nom Studies (Faculty of Arts) and the Japan Studies Section of the Department of Oriental Studies and also for young researchers of the Institute of Han-Nom Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi.

Up until now, the overseas kanbun courses conducted by the Nishogakusha University COE Program have been conducted in the form of seminars for teaching kanbun kundoku to foreign students who can speak Japanese and have studied classical Japanese. But on this occasion it was held in the Department of Han-Nom Studies and also attended by people from the Institute of Han-Nom Studies, and it was therefore conducted in the form of introductory lectures using an interpreter, for which role we engaged the services of Dr. Nguyen Thi Oanh, an overseas COE leader.

This course took place as the result of a request from Dr. Nguyen for a kanbun course, based on his view that for the development of kanbun studies in Vietnam, including the study of Vietnam's own Chu Nom script based on Chinese characters, it is necessary to acquire some knowledge about the Sinographic culture of Japan, which belongs to the same Sinographic cultural sphere as Vietnam, that is, about Japanese kanbun studies as a whole, starting with the acceptance of Chinese characters and the development of kanbun kundoku. On learning that this course would be the first series of lectures to be given in Vietnam by a Japanese on Japan's Sinographic culture and that the level of interest was still low, the draft for the lectures was prepared also with the aim of providing an introduction to Japanese kanbun studies. The draft was handed to Dr. Nguyen at the end of June together with handouts for the students, which he then translated into Vietnamese. We are deeply grateful to him for his efforts. It was entirely due to Dr. Nguyen's thorough preparations that there were lively questions at every lecture in spite of the broad spectrum of attendees, ranging from undergraduate students to young researchers. It is planned to publish the Vietnamese translation of these lectures in a Vietnamese academic journal in the near future.

Following this course, we have also received a proposal for a joint study about the acceptance of Chinese writing and Chinese works and other aspects of Sinographic culture in Japan and Vietnam, which both belonged to the same sphere of Sinographic culture. It is our intention to continue with this exchange and make efforts to be able to respond to this proposal as we too deepen our understanding of Vietnamese kanbun.

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Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University