This new programme aims to study certain characteristics of the essays, usually grouped in the modern category known as  » brushstroke notes  » (zuihitsu), which flourished during the Edo period. Since the 17th century, booksellers’ catalogues have listed these books in a broader category, koji (precedents) and zakki (various notes), which covers a field ranging from « literary » essays, collections of thoughts captured in the moment, to real collections of stories and classified reflections, or even illustrated encyclopaedias.

There is also a multiplicity of author profiles, be they Confucian merchants or warriors, Buddhist monks, doctors, or even lords; but also a multiplicity of languages, with essays in Chinese, and others in written Japanese. The Chinese characters and two syllabaries, the katakana of the aspiring literate public and the hiragana of the « people », are still as many different media used by the authors of these collections.

Finally, these works are at the crossroads of many internal and external influences: they inherit both the style and organisation of their Chinese equivalents (biji and/or leishu), in particular Xie Zhaozhe’s Wuzazu (1616), and also that of local classics, notably Urabe Kenkô’s Tsurezuregusa (14th century).

Despite this great diversity of forms and styles, it seems nevertheless possible to identify certain recurring themes. These include reflections on the near and distant past, court culture (ga), popular culture (zoku), language, customs, the surrounding world, beliefs, the strange and the foreign. The program will therefore aim to shed light on how these essays enable scholars to organise their knowledge and to construct, from scattered fragments from their readings, discussions and anticipations, an invisible or underlying text to which they confront their ideas and erudition, to finally produce discourses on Japanese history, society, and culture.

Method and schedule

Half-day workshops will be held twice a year. Each participant proposes to study either an author or a particular text. Their contents will be approached from the following angles: the sociability of the authors, the context of production and the chronology of publications, material culture, organisational principles and methods, the role of publishers, the modes of expression of the subject, the reception and collection of the sources examined.

Expected results

Publication of a collective work/journal issue and a collection of French translations of representative selections.




Matthias Hayek (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Daniel Struve (Université de Paris)

CRCAO members

Full members
Matthias Hayek (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Daniel Struve (Université de Paris)
Annick Horiuchi (Université de Paris)
Frédéric Girard (École française d'Extrême-Orient)
François Lachaud (École française d'Extrême-Orient)

Doctoral students
Céline Pisseloup (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Sarah Vallette d’Osia (Université de Paris)

Outside Participants

Didier Davin (National Institute for Japanese literature)
Christophe Marquet (EFEO)
Nicolas Mollard (Jean Moulin University)