Kuraoka Bunjiro

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Kuraoka Bunjirô was a Chinese-speaker who played a notable role in Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu's Chinese-language salon.

Kuraoka's origins are somewhat unclear; it has been suggested that he was either the son of a Nagasaki-based Japanese family of hereditary Chinese-language interpreters, or the illegitimate son of a Nagasaki-based Chinese merchant. He arrived in Edo from Nagasaki in 1698, and eventually attracted the attention of Ogyû Sorai, who provided him with a position within the Yanagisawa household.

Kuraoka is said to have spoken Chinese quite well, and gave lectures on the Confucian classics on several occasions, when the shogun made a formal onari visit to Yanagisawa's mansion. These lectures included discussions of the Great Learning (Daxue) and of the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong).

The calligraphic inscription on Sorai's tombstone is said to be in Kuraoka's hand.


  • Rebeckah Clements, "Speaking in Tongues? Daimyo, Zen Monks, and Spoken Chinese in Japan, 1661–1711," The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 76, No. 3 (August) 2017: 608.