Transition from herbalism to natural history

National Museum of Nature and Science

Learn by studying nature - academic learning that capitalizes on nature's bounty.

Transition from herbalism to natural history, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Transition from herbalism to natural history
Japan acquired much valuable knowledge about animals, plants, and minerals from China. By the Edo Period, surveys of domestic resources were well underway, and cultivation and selective breeding of a wide variety of plants became common. Consequently, many bools on agriculture and herbolism were published and, with the inclusion of and comparison with Western knowledge, herbalism developed into modern natural history.
Honso, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Development of herbalism
Herbalism is a discipline to classify useful natural products, mainly drugs. When the Ming Dynasty's "Primordial Line" was imported in the beginning of the 17th century, it came to classify what is in nature as plants, animals, minerals. In that process, the herbalists began to notice the difference between nature in China and Japan, and started to investigate domestic resources. Mr. Ekiken Kaibara wrote "Yamato Honzo" which handled domestic natural products.
Honzo Komoku Keimo, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Honzo Komoku Keimo
Honzogaku (empirical scientific study of plants and animals) was acknowledged as medical and medicinal science in early Edo priod. The honzo study tectbook Honzo Komoku introduced 60 types of medicine in 16 classes, systematically categorized according to animal, plant or mineral. This categorization style greatly influenced the development of honzo in Japan. In 1627, the first Japanese book, Zusetsu Honzo was published. With the influence of Dutch science in the following years and continued study of honzo, the Honzo Komoku Keimo (48 volumes) was publishied by Tanzan Ono incorporating animals and plants of Japan to the Chinese based honzo book Honzo Komoku. This book is the fourth edition which was edited and publishied by Minonokami Choshin Okabe (Kishi Wada domain, Izumi Prefecture) aiming to develop honzogaku.
Yamato Honzo (Japanese Herbal Medicine), From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Yamato Honzo (Japanese Herbal Medicine)
With reference to the honzo study textbook Honzo Komoku (1802), this book introduces approximately 300 diagrams based on a seminal study of over 1362 species of animals, plants and minerals. It explains in details the Japanese and Chinese names of the species, as well as the regional origin, form and its effectiveness. This is considered to be epoch making literature marking the first step in Japanese herbal medicine. THe Yamato Honzo has significant historical value as the pioneer of natural history during the Edo period.
Yamato Honzo (Japanese Herbal Medicine), From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

Illustrations of shellfish.

Yamato Honzo (Japanese Herbal Medicine), From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

Amari shellfish...

Yamato Honzo (Japanese Herbal Medicine), From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

And a horseshoe crab.

Unkonshi, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Unkonshi
The Unkonshi was named after the phrase "cluds are generated from rocks". It contains information on habitat, history and features of over 2000 tyoes of unique rocks and stone tools, fossils and minerals which were collected by Sekitei Kiuchi during his lifetime. Born in 1724, Kiuchi worked with the local magistrate of the Zeze domain until he retired in his 20's. He studied honzogaku with Keian Tsushima in Kyoto, and became one the central figures in the Kansai cultural salon of that time. He actively attended exhibits throughout the country including Kyoto to collect specimens and gather information.
Unkonshi, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Butsurui Hinshitsu, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Butsurui Hinshitsu
This book is a collection of materials from five medicine exhibitions organized by Gennai Hiraga and Motoo Tamura between 1757 and 1762. Categorized according to the Honzo Komoku, the book focuses on explanations on specimens collected both in Japan and abroda. There are over 360 specimens, including a specimen of a lizard preserved in liquid obtained from rapeki daimyo acquaintances. The book explains cultivation method of ginseng and sugar canes proposed by Gennai, proving to be a epoch making book for honzogaku in the Edo period.
Butsurui Hinshitsu, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

An olive tree on the left, and a maple tree on the right.

Transition from herbalism to natural history, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Development into modern natural science
In the 18th century, Western natural materials and books related to natural science came in through Nagasaki Prefecture. Under the influence, herbalism has spread beyond usefulness and uselessness to a natural science widely targeting nature in general. In the 19th century, a large number of scientific flora and fauna charts were created under sharp nature observation eyes. Linnaeus's plant classification method was also introduced, and an illustration based on this was also made.
Yosan Hiroku, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Yosan Hiroku
Silk was Imported from China as a luxury textile and silk worm breeding, silk reeling and textile manufacturing was conducted domestically even before the Edo period. With the beginning of the Edo period, product manufacturing took off on a nationwide scale, and local special goods were made in various regions throughout Japan. With this , sericulture technology made significant progress, with over 100 technical books being published during the Edo period. Volume one of this book discusses the origin of sericulture, naming, type of silkworm, mulberry tree plantation, silkworm breedint tools. Volume two explains the actual breeding process of silkworms from birth, bed cleaning, larvae separation to spinning of the silk. Volume three goes into the production of raw cotton and cotton threads. The author of this book, Mrikuni Uegaki, ran a silk breeding farm in Tajima, and worked to improve silk breeding techniques by incorporating methods form other areas. This book is considered a comprehensive book of silkworm breeding technology.
Yo-San-Fi-Rok, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Yo-San-Fi-Rok
The Yosan Hiroku was exported abroad by the Siebold. During this time, Europe was struggling with  a countermeasure against silkworm disease which had spread. This book was included among the items presented by Siebold to the King of Holland. It was translated into French and later published in Paris and Italy in 1848, making a significant contribution to the silkworm breeding industry in Europe. This is a  well known example of Japanese technology from the Edo period having an impact overseas in areas other than painting and performing arts.
Yo-San-Fi-Rok, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Nogyo Zensho, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Nogyo Zensho
The first edition of this book, published in 1697, consisted of 10 volumes and 1 appendix volume. It was written by Yasusada Miyazaki who served for the Kyushu Koroda domain based on his findings from forty years of experiments and observations. Using the Jo Kokei's Nosei Zensho (Ming Dynasty) as he model, this book aimed to compile Japanese adricultural technology into one book. Beginning with the second edition in 1786, this book continued to be the standard book on agriculture in Japan for a long time. Subsequent to Volume 1 (10 chapters) on Introduction to Agriculture (farming, seeds, soil, fetilizers, etc.), the series consists of Gogoku (volume 2, 19 types), Sanso (volume 6, 11 types), Shimoku (volume 7, 4 types), Kamoku (volume 8, 17 types), Shomuku (volume 9, 15 types, and Medicine (volume 10, 22 types).
Nogyo Zensho, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Nogyo Zensho, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

Harvesting

Nogyo Zensho, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

Carrying reaped rice on a cow's back.

Nogyo Zensho, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

Rice threshing, and a woman giving her child a piggyback.

Shokugaku Keigen, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Shokugaku Keigen
The Shokugaku Keigen by the Dutch scholar Yoan Udagawa, is the first book on Western modern botany introduced in Japan as well as the West. In the foreword of the book, Kenbo Mitsukuri writes that this bool differs from honzogaku and Western botany in the past, stressing the importance of studying the law and process of natural science as a academic study, and not merely categorizing. It comprises of three volumes with the first volume discussing plant classification, and the shape and physiology of roots, stem and leaves. The second volume looks at flowers and fruits, and the reproduction and DNA mechanism of seeds. The third volume talks about plant fermentation and decomposition and includes diagrams.
Shokugaku Keigen, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science

The morphology of plants and vegetables such as roots, stems and leaves.

Shokugaku Keigen, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Shokugaku Keigen, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Shokugaku Keigen, From the collection of: National Museum of Nature and Science
Credits: Story

This exhibition is based on Global Gallery 2F : Progress in Science and Technology

Photo : NAKAJIMA Yusuke

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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