Six large & thick notebook binders (each 308 x 257 mm.), numbered 1-6, assembled by Yasuo Kobayashi.
Thousands of pages of manuscript notes, pasted-in clippings of scholarly articles by him and others, photos, etc. China: 1920s-30s.
Before Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, Kobayashi Yasuo (1874?-1964) worked as an engineer for the South Manchuria Railway Company (known as mantetsu). This organization had been founded in 1905 upon Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War. It was nothing less than an organ of Japanese imperialism in northeastern China, controlling vital infrastructure — far exceeding the railroad connecting the major cities of the region — in what in 1931 became the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Mantetsu’s sphere of activity extended beyond the shipment of goods and people, power generation, and the operation of hospitals, schools, and ports, to knowledge production. Curiously, with the concurrent rise of academic Marxism and aggressive right-wing militarism in interwar Japan, working on ethnographic, sociological, and other documentary projects assumed under mantetsu auspices became a career path for left-wing academics increasingly unable to find jobs at universities in Japan. Their scholarly efforts in the imperial periphery made lasting contributions to several fields.
Kobayashi was stationed in Dalian during his time with the company. However, his job took him further afield, working on geological surveys throughout the region for the development of new coal mines. He had the opportunity to travel as far as Beijing, where he interacted with both Chinese individuals and Japanese students to nurture his various interests. Unlike the professional humanists and social scientists working for mantetsu, Kobayashi was an amateur scholar. His fields were archeology — he was active in the East Asia Archeological Society [Toa koka gakkai], a Japanese organization involved in surveys throughout Manchuria — and folklore. For some of his writings on popular beliefs, he used the pen name Futakiko. He continued to publish in this field in Japan after the war. During his many years in China, Kobayashi amassed an important collection in his areas of interest, which were not properly inventoried at his death.
This collection of Kobayashi’s notes appears to be the early stages of a planned major work on Chinese history, topography, archeology, and culture. As far as we can tell, the author’s plans were never realized.
The first volume (which lacks its upper cover) contains Kobayashi’s notes and records on Chinese topography, climate, politics, Manchu and Mongolian history, river control, water supply to Beijing, etc. The second volume is concerned with the varieties of soil quality of the Chinese landmass and “Asian dust” caused by the desertification of northern China. Vol. III contains his notes on the civilization that grew around the Yellow River and the history of the Mongols. There are some very interesting notes on the relations between the Han and the cultures to the west, including much on the Silk Road. Kobayashi also writes on the construction achievements of China (including canal building and the Great Wall). Finally, there is a section on Buddhist art and archeology.
The fourth volume is concerned with the early archeology of greater China, migration patterns, the importance of the Yellow and Yangzi rivers in the development of Chinese civilization, etc. Vol. V discusses the development of Chinese culture and provides a description of its natural resources. Kobayashi also discusses the current affairs of China. There are also notes on piracy during the Ming dynasty. The sixth volume discusses the deforestation of northern China and the resulting environmental crisis. Next, we have prefaces, summaries, and conclusions by Kobayashi, followed by descriptions of the Ice Age in China and a series of photographs of daily life and archeological sites throughout China, Manchuria, and Tibet in the 1920s and 30s.
Fine condition. Kobayashi’s hand is neat and easy to read.
❧ All biographical data has been taken from Komai Kazuchika, “Kobayashi Yasuo o seikyo” [“Mr. Kobayashi Yasuo’s passing”], Minkan densh, Vol. 28.4 (1964), p. 212. With thanks to Prof. Marten Soderblom Saarela of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.
Item ID: 8845