Chen Xiean

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Chen Xiean was a Chinese scholar who resided in Nagasaki in the 1720s-1730s and played a role in the interpretation of Chinese legal texts for the shogunate. He has been described by historian Ôba Osamu as perhaps the finest such Chinese scholar in the city.

Chen first arrived in Nagasaki in 1727, and from then until 1731 was permitted to live outside of the Chinese compound, a privilege extended to very few. While there, he worked with shogunate officials and other scholars in service to the shogunate to interpret and re-copy a number of texts, including a Tang Dynasty document provided to the shogunate by the Konoe family; when a copy was sent back to China, the Qing government found it rare and precious enough to warrant making further copies.

When Chen departed Japan in 1731, the shogunate provided him with a gift of an amount of silver, and with special shipping permits allowing him to return. This he did in 1736, accompanied by his grandson.


  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 70-71.