Morohashi Tetsuji

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  • Born: 1885
  • Died: 1984
  • Japanese: 諸橋轍次 (Morohashi Tetsuji)

Morohashi Tetsuji was a Meiji period scholar of Chinese studies and language/linguistics. He is known especially for his Dai kanwa jiten ("Great Chinese-Japanese Encyclopedia"), which is still today frequently regarded as the most thorough and extensive dictionary of Chinese characters (kanji), including their use/meaning in Classical Chinese.

Morohashi attended teacher training colleges in Niigata and Tokyo, and taught for a short time in Tokyo and in Gunma prefecture, before traveling to China in 1918, and again in 1919-1921, where began work on the project that would later develop into his dictionary.

Though Morohashi did not initially intend to compile a comprehensive dictionary, and was merely collecting notes for some smaller project, he was eventually convinced by publisher Suzuki Ichihei (1887-1961) of Taishûkan, to do so. The two signed an agreement in 1928, planning to eventually publish a dictionary in five or six volumes. As it turned out, the project wasn't completed until 1960, and consisted of a thirteen volume set in the end.

Though in the 1930s-40s Japan had long-since switched from woodblock printing to the more "modern" moveable type, for a project such as this, moveable type presented its own challenges. Publishers such as Suzuki typically kept in stock type for only a few thousand characters, and Morohashi's dictionary was to include 50,000 entries, many of them characters which had fallen out of regular use or were otherwise rare or obscure. World War II created serious difficulties as well, first because of diminishing supplies of paper and other basic materials; later, Suzuki's offices and equipment were severely damaged in air raids. Fortunately, copies survived the war, and so the work was able to be published beginning in 1955, with the final volume, an index volume, being published in 1960.

The home Morohashi was born into, along with one of his Tokyo workshops, have been moved to the town of Shitada in Niigata prefecture, where, along with Chinese and Japanese-style gardens and a few other buildings, they comprise a Morohashi Tetsuji Memorial Museum.