Shogakai and the Literati Network from the 18th to 20th Century

Principle Investigator

Jingyi Li (Department of East Asian Studies
University of Arizona)


This project examines the social, cultural, and economic network formed among cultural producers in the nineteenth century through shogakai, as well as primary sources centering shogakai participants. In particular, this project focuses on areas of Edo, Nagoya, and nearby towns in between. Shogakai, literally translated as calligraphy and painting gathering, was a popular form of social gathering for literati of early modern Japan. Beginning as exclusive events for educated intellectuals and art collectors in the late eighteenth century, shogakai became more open to a public audience in the mid-nineteenth century. The complexities of shogakai gatherings reflect a transforming cultural hierarchy disturbed by the expansion of literacy and popular culture, as well as an emerging ideology of art and value during Japan’s modernization after mid-Meiji period.

Research Objectives

From the 1830s, shogakai began to include more and more amateurs of various skills. While many participants failed to leave their names as master artists, their contemporaries documented their activities and interactions during and after shogakai gatherings. Using materials such as shogakai records (hikifuda), catalogs (tenkan mokuroku), directories (jinmeiroku), as well as popular fiction that portrayed shogakai-related figures, this project aims to contribute to the corpus of network analysis of early modern Japan.

Similar to the project “Creative Collaborations: Salons and Networks in Kyoto and Osaka 1780–1880,” this database explores the roles and relationships of figures who participated in shogakai in the Edo-Nagoya area to understand their roles, relationships, and interactions. It also aims to provide more data for understand the transformation of the literati network from early modern to modern Japan.