Sharing of Archives and Historical Studies in East Asia
Michihisa Hotate, Professor The Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo
In discussion under the theme: "Archives in the Digital Era: Message from Asia," we must begin with the question of whether or not there exist Asia's cohesion and something that could be considered East Asian cultural values. In so doing, we must view European counterparts as the subjects of contradistinction. The strength of Europe since the early modern times, which was started in the 13th century, lay in the nurturing of learning and culture through progressive international cohesion and interchange. This presumably came because the countries of Europe also had Islam, which was then at its zenith, as a common cultural opponent. Meanwhile, the spontaneous formation of international organizations by experts in common law, for example, marked the start of associations of groups of professionals. It is well known that the same movement led to the establishment of university organizations in Europe. Archivists were no exception. The Inns of Court reportedly had archives, which are said to be the origins of archivists in England, for management of their own documents at an early date. Up until the 17th or 18th centuries, East Asia, too, had a strong unity in respect of science and culture. The magnitude of the culture associated with Chinese characters (ideograms) and Confucianism hardly needs to be mentioned. Unlike Europe, however, there was no international interchange among professional organizations. Moreover, developments in East Asia's modern history acted in the direction to destroy the region's cultural unity. East Asian intellectuals in the 20th century could not avoid a tendency to end up sensing toadyism toward European civilization. To my mind, one of the worst manifestations of this tendency was the creed of disassociation from Asia and the accompanying acts actually implemented to this end in Japan as it embarked on modernization. An East Asian way of cultural values is, in my view, secularism and tolerance, a pantheistic sentiment supporting these traits, a technological system of traditional sciences, and collectivistic social know-how. While these values are naturally not completely free of any problems, the long periods of continued peace with certain exceptions within the region suggest that they should, in the final analysis, be sources of pride. I must also note that, as a historian, I do not subscribe to the view that East Asia had no tradition of so-called civil liberty. It cannot be denied that civilization is enriched in the process of interchange with different peoples over long periods. As such, I regard it as only to be expected that modern science and the elements underpinning it arose in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, the crossroads of various peoples and civilizations. To historians, nevertheless, it is now becoming obvious that what really gave birth to modern Europe beginning in the 13th century was the activity across the entire Eurasian landmass, starting with the rise of the Mongol Empire. In such a course of world history, East Asia definitely lagged in the development of modern science and industry, but in effect only for the 200 years of the 19th and 20th centuries. Furthermore, I believe that what East Asia created in the same 200 years was of tremendous importance. As has been actively advocated by Professor Yong Wang of China's Zhejiang Gongshang University, premodern East Asia for a long time had routes which could be called the "book road" and were of decisive significance for mutual cultural transmission and exchange among various ethnic groups from the 8th to the 19th centuries. In the same way, I think the archives of East Asia in this age may be expected to constitute fundamental prerequisites for cultural internationality and to provide the foundation for an East Asian cultural and scientific community. 2. Historical science, "compilation," and archives. (1) Introduction to the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo I am attached to the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo. The Institute is a facility of basic historiographical research and has a staff of 60 researchers. It is engaged in the compilation of historical materials until the end of early modern period in Japan. Viewed from the standpoint of historical science, compilation is a style of basic research of historical science encompassing the entire process of collection, ordering, reproduction, interpretation, annotation, and others. The analogous process in the sphere of natural sciences is experimentation. Just as natural scientists do not perform experiments for their own sake, so we historians engage in compilation for the purpose of presenting proof for new historical facts. This is what compilation means from the standpoint of historical science; from that of archives, it could be regarded as a form of documentation. It is positioned in the overall context of material disclosure, preservation, reproduction, recording, and management. It is an important style of documentation that is an end in itself. (2) Data bases for historical materials and archives in Japan As historical science differs from archival science, the Historiographical Institutes are not archives. Historiographical institutes, however, share the work of documentation with archives. This common ground has become quite prominent since the institutes began the decipherment and disclosure of historical materials in data bases as opposed to publications. In certain aspects, their work is interlinked with disclosure on data bases, mainly at archives. To briefly profile the situation as regards digitization of historical materials in Japan, the digital archives being constructed at the National Archives of Japan represent the first extensive data base on modern and contemporary history. The data base at the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, which is attached to the National Archives, reportedly contains some 13 million image items and 850,000 documents. The second-largest is the data base being built by the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIH) and other national research institutes and museums. The strength of NIH lies in their staff of researchers devoted to the sphere of information science. Under them, there have developed truly diverse data bases, including that of historical materials from the Edo period at the National Institute of Japanese Literature and other data bases on Japanese literature. The third-ranked is the group of data bases being built by the Historiographical Institute and other university organs around the materials they collect. The data base of the Historiographical Institute contains historical materials from the premodern period in Japan. There is a large amount of records of letters and documentation left from premodern Japan. Specifically, the documents in the Shosoin Treasure House, which was built in the 8th century, reportedly number about 10,000, and there are another approximately 5,000 from the Heian period, which lasted from the 9th to the 12th centuries. Old documents from the succeeding Kamakura period, which lasted into the mid 14th century, number about 40,000. The total number of documents available for viewing on the Institute's data base is therefore about 55,000. Also of note is the full text data base of old diaries kept by nobles from the Heian period. At the same time, we are building a system for retrieval of various publications, for example, of “Dai-Nihon-siryo”, that is the large volume of historical materials arranged in chronological form. As might be gathered from the foregoing, Japanese historical records in digital form substantially extend from the 8th century to the 20th century. While they vary greatly depending on the period, the overall framework can be seen. But there consequently remains the largest problem. Japan's universities and academic community lack institutes and facilities staffed with researchers specializing in the field of modern and contemporary history. Our Historiographical Institute is devoted to premodern Japan. Nevertheless, the situation surrounding archives and historical records in Japan clearly improved and progressed substantially following the establishment of the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records in 2001. At the same time, the movement for archival science gathered momentum in Japan. A voluminous book entitled "Archives (The Science of Archives)" was published in 2003, and the foundation for archival science is gradually solidifying. Another big step forward came with the establishment of the Japan Society for Archival Science, a learned association supported by professional archivist organizations, in 2004. (3) Historical knowledge science and archives In spite of these developments, there is still not enough social, cultural, and economic understanding of the preservation and disclosure of historical records and of archives within Japanese society. It is bound to take some time for all of the patient work to bear fruit. After having come this far, the research institutes in Japan are facing the thorny question of how to proceed further. Considering the connection with archives from the stand point of historical science, I think that it is becoming a key task to combine the historical research process and the work of archives by IT measures. In this case, the aforementioned data bases would basically all be moved to the XML format, and it would consequently be necessary for the historical and archival sides to unify metadata on the XML basis. As viewed from the standpoint of archives, historical science seems to be only one of the communities supporting them. Judging from what documentation means to historical science, however, interlinkage of the related techniques with that of archives would hold decisive significance. It may actually become necessary for the historical side to embark on in-depth study of the metadata theory developed by archives. This might be exemplified by the International Center for the Digitization of Premodern Japanese Sources, which was established with the consent of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology last year under our organization. In connection with the Center, we determined policy for the construction of a historical knowledge data base. As this indicates, Historiographical Institutes are inclining toward full incorporation of the techniques of information science such as knowledge data bases or ontology into their compilation and data base projects. In other words, semantic significance would be attached to historical data by the techniques of tagging with a structured language such as XML. This will presumably make it possible to construct semantic and knowledge systems as an aggregate of definitions for these semantic tags. As is well known by archivists, historical materials must be positioned in the context of the whole corpus of such materials, but historians often merely leave a note of such information for themselves. We have been treating a certain portion of the results of our research of historical materials as compilation output and publishing it in the form of research papers. But from now on, I believe we must adopt the agendum of building up a store of data, metadata, and knowledge data for all historical materials while preparing data needed by archivists. At the Historiographical Institute, we are striving to construct knowledge data from "Koji Ruien," an encyclopedia from the Meiji era (called “Ruisho” (books of classified collection) in East Asian parlance), the "History of Pre-Meiji Japanese Science" series, and the "Dai-Nihon-Shiryo," a collection of historical materials in chronological form, compiled by the Institute. Of course same attempts in this direction are already under way at the National Institutes for the Humanities, for example. 3. Knowledge systems and archives –Attempts in the Council of East Asian Historiographical Institute. (1) Profile and history This section profiles the Council of East Asian Historiographical Institute. The Council holds an international scientific conference once every two years. It held the first such conference in Seoul in December 2002, the second in Tokyo in 2004, and the third in Wuhan of China in 2006. The venue moved in succession from Korea to Japan and China, and thereby completed the first round of the three East Asian countries. In the process, the theme changed from “The Tradition of Historical Compilation in East Asia and Research and Compilation of Historical Materials in Each Country” at the first conference to “Computerization of East Asian Historical Sources and Their International Usage” at the second, and “Historical Material Resources and Their Development and Use in Asian Countries” at the third. The next conference is to be held in Korea in 2008. The conference was advocated by Dr. Lee Song-Mu, chairman of the National Institute of Korean History (NIKH), in 2002. The trustee institutions are the NIKH, the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Historiographical Institute. In the joint agreement, the objective of the Council is defined as follows: "To carry on the tradition and spirit of historiography in East Asia, promote mutual sharing of information and materials accumulated in the course of the related compilation and research activities in each country, and build the foundation for sustainable and effective cooperation." Apart from the trustee institutions, the institutions that prepared reports for the three conference were as follows. - First conference: From Japan. Historical Research Office, Hokkaido University; Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University; the Research Institute for Oriental Cultures, Gakushuin University. From Korea. National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Korea; Seoul National University Kyujanggak Institute; From China. History Department, Fudan University; Shenyang East-Asiatic Centre of History of Science; Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences; the History Institute, Nanjing University. - Second conference: From Japan. The Toyo Bunko; National Institute of Japanese Literature; the University of the Ryukyus; Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, National Archives of Japan; From China. the First Historical Archives of China; Jinghua University Library; Institute of History, Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences. From Korea. the Academy of Korean Studies - Third conference: From Japan. Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University; the Institute of Oriental Culture, the University of Tokyo; the National Archives of Japan; Japan Center for Asian Historical Records. From China. Zhonghua Oral History Research Group, Party History Research Center of CPC Central Committee; the Institute of Chinese Modern History, Central China Normal University; Law School, Hubei Jianghan University; Soochow University Taiwan; National Taiwan University of Science & Technology. From Korea. Seoul National University Kyujanggak Institute; the Academy of Korean Studies; Korean Studies Advancement Center Museum. As these lists indicate, the participating organizations consist of public archives, national research institutes, and universities. The conference attracts the participation of all organizations concerned with the research and compilation of historical materials and/or historical science. Such scientific gatherings are not rare these days. It should be noted, however, that the Council was perhaps the first within the overall context of humanities and social studies to provide a venue for general discussion and interchange by national and university public research organizations. I concur with assertion made by Dr. Yu Heping, Vice-President of the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who gave the organizer's address at the conference last year: "Whereas attempts at interchange and collaboration in the field of historical science in the three countries have been apt to go no further than level of individual activity, our efforts from now on are aimed at a wide-ranging scientific interchange and collaboration on the organizational level." Moreover, this initiative was born out of the professional ties in friendly relations among research institutes, and emerged before like-minded efforts on the governmental level. It goes without saying that the East Asian Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (ICA) is of the same character. As I noted at the outset, I believe these two organizations have a particularly important value for the formation of a cultural and scientific community in East Asia. (2) Digitization of historical materials and discussion among archives Let us now consider the nature of the discussions at these international conferences, with reference to the presenters and the themes of their reports. The most important element is presentations and discussion on various patterns of historical materials and their arrangement and compilation in Japan, Korea, and China. Although the conference of course includes some purely scientific reports, those concerning research on historical materials are the most important in the eyes of the Council. The Japanese, Chinese, and Korean organizations researching historical materials are putting a lot of resources into the survey and collection of materials overseas. For this reason, it is extremely useful for them to learn about the various patterns of historical materials in the other participating countries. We at the Historiographical Institute, too, have forged strong ties of cooperation with the First Historical Archives of China. In contrast, reports regarding plans for the preparation of data bases for and digitization of historical materials came to dominate in the second and third conferences. For example, participants were given overviews of projects for the digitization of Chinese classics, based on ancient document depositories of universities in China. Similarly, partly because it is in charge of the Korean History On-line system, the NIKH, the trustee institution from Korea, provides detailed reports on this system each time. From Japan as well, there are reports from organizations promoting IT application, such as the National Institutes for the Humanities, public archives, and university research institutes. The overall orientation may be viewed as lying in the transformation of East Asian historical materials into shared resources by institutions researching them. As I see it, the ultimate objective is to make the data bases in each country capable of freely retrieving information from and sharing information with each other, such that they are routinely accessible to the citizenry and university students in each country. This raises the question of the kind of system that should be installed. While the subject must be carefully studied by researchers in the areas of historical science, archival science, and information science, a specific proposal was made at the second conference by Mr. Kim Hyun from the Center for Information on Korean Culture. His proposal is a persuasive one, and derives from the enormous Korean studies encyclopedia digitally compiled by the Center and a project with a title that translates "Digital Canon of Local Korean Culture." It calls for mutual utilization of information across national boundaries by development of description rules for structural semantic tagging of XML data for historical materials. As the means to this end, it advocates the development and sharing of a Registry system combining XML data processing with digital maps and digital chronological tables. I believe it has much in common with the system targeted by the aforementioned International Center for the Digitization of Premodern Japanese Sources in the Historiographical Institute. (3) East Asia, knowledge systems, and culture This orientation appears to be linked to that for restoration of the entire knowledge scheme in East Asia. As is undoubtedly known, East Asia had an encyclopedic tradition originating with Chinese "Ruisho" that predated that in Europe. In the historical currents since the 18th century, that tradition was not transmitted to the present, but it is part of the traditional cultural values of East Asia. Objectively speaking, what is being discussed by the Council is the vision of reviving this tradition in a new form and under a framework of international cooperation. These days, one often hears the Internet being characterized as a new type of encyclopedia existing on electronic networks. The Internet can indeed be used like an encyclopedia, even if not after the fashion of Wikipedia. For encyclopedias about East Asia, too, I think the key task is not their compilation per se but the placement of all requisite materials on the web while assuring interoperability. At present, of course, it is not clear how the task of sharing historical materials and archives in East Asia will or could converge with that of building a historical encyclopedic system in East Asia. Be that as it may, I believe it could become part of the common agenda if the Council and the East Asian Regional Branch of the ICA make arrangements for long-term cooperation for this purpose while respecting their mutually different stances. Thus far, East Asian history and society have been examined mainly with reference to Western European counterparts. I suspect that the direction in which we must inevitably proceed reexamining them using Asian civilizations themselves as standards, and organizing the digitization of the knowledge in Asian countries toward the end of mutual interchange and accumulation. In my opinion, a sense of cultural affinity with the region and the sharing of its distinctive values and knowledge systems are absolute prerequisites for making pronouncements to the rest of the world from East Asia. In East Asia, there presumably lie issues that cannot be understood by referral to the knowledge systems formed in the West. 4. For the sharing of historical materials and advancement of archives in East Asia On the above basis, I would like to make a few proposals in keeping with the spirit of this symposium, although they are drawn on no more than my limited experience as a historian. In the first place, I would very much like to see the East Asian countries organize an international competition for the sharing of historical materials and advancement of archives in the region. The preservation and disclosure of administrative and historical materials demand far-reaching national support in aspects such financing and facilities. Furthermore, this support must encompass everything from the physical preservation, arrangement, and disclosure of historical materials that date from before the World War II and are at risk of loss and deterioration to sophisticated IT strategies as part of e-government plans. Naturally, it would be a key constituent of long-range strategy in the respective countries. Looking ahead to the shape of East Asia 10 or even 100 years from now, it is obvious from any standpoint that the systematic assurance of the ability to provide evidence for the propriety of national and social behavior as on-line common knowledge will be required for rational and convincing assertion of each national interest. It was in 1990 that then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia advocated the formation of an East Asian community. This movement is bound to progress. Within the cultural projects that should be undertaken in the process, the sharing of historical materials and advancement of archives have a solid worth and should gain the understanding of all concerned parties in each country. At the second conference of the aforementioned Council, Dr. Park Nam-Su of the NIKH made the following comment: "To build a DB network for historical materials on a priority basis from the IT field, promote the easy mutual sharing of such materials among the countries in the region, and get an understanding of the historical experience in each other's countries, we must share the technology enabling integration and linkage of each other's DBs for this common objective." I believe this is a task for all archives in East Asia. In the second place, it is, needless to say, important for archivists and academies in each country to speak out continuously to the international community in a single voice and lobby their governments for action to achieve this end. Obviously, at the center of their requests in this lobbying must be establishment of the professional status of archivists. I might add that Japan is lagging somewhat in this respect, and faces an urgent need to institute academic courses to nurture professionals in archival science and to instate a system for their national licensing. In this connection, I like to make it clear that establishment of the professional position of archivists is an issue for academies as a whole. Historically speaking, jurisprudence and economics played a vital role in leading the archives movement in the West, as is undoubtedly admitted. As a contemporary issue, archives ought to be one of urgency especially for jurisprudence and economics. Amid the efforts to train archivists, historical science must awaken attention to this point as an issue for humanities as a whole. Archives are at the foundation of various fields of learning, and I am frankly apprehensive that, without them, the academies of East Asia would continue to be no more than merely borrowed plumes from the West. In my view, this is a problem involving the disposition of academies. In the third place, we must consider ways of making a close relationship between archival science and information science. I think it is absolutely necessary to organize a forum for interchange between these two sciences on the regional level. This forum must, moreover, be a public one that will receive the support of the governments and IT industries in each country. In so doing, we must ask ourselves whether the cultural value of East Asia is currently vanishing from societies with the progress of globalization. As a historian, I believe we must somehow uphold the various traditions of each country and ethnic group. I also believe that the time has come for us to simultaneously link this to the maintenance and reaffirmation of East Asian values. But to do so, researchers in archival science must join hands with those in computer science in networks, one of the trappings of contemporary culture, and consider what action should be taken. If such an attempt is made, historical science and the rest of the humanities must offer their full cooperation. 5. Conclusion Exactly 10 years ago, I wrote the following passage in a report on a joint project executed by the archives section of the National Institute of Japanese Literature. "Generally speaking, historical science is a human social science whose role is to make a both specific and logical restoration of the makeup of and movements in historical societies as a whole, and to identify the historical orientation of the present as we head into the future. In contrast, archives have the task of expanding upon various social mnemonic devices under the rule of memory- and information-sharing, and linking them to the human future while maintaining and managing them. This cannot be equated with any particular discipline of science. Insofar as they deliver the mnemonic and recording functions indispensable to the society or organization in question, archives are entities (or forms of organizational activities) that directly constitute a special part of the system in the social division of labor. Modern archives are entities/activities with a vision that is not confined to culture and science but is instead broader and linked directly to all socioeconomic activities. Viewed in this light, modern archival theory appears to have aspects that would allow it to be defined as a kind of information history and social theory. In the societal outlook, historical science is ancillary to such social mnemonic devices as a whole. Archival theory and practice are in a position that could be likened to that of a general manager of the French Encyclopedists in modern times; as far as archives of this disposition are concerned, historical science is a kind of supplementary discipline." Naturally, historical science has a unique role of its own. In the highly information-oriented society, nevertheless, the status accorded to archives will definitely assume a core significance for historical science and other humanities and social sciences. In actuality, the Internet has begun to be used as a gigantic encyclopedia. The prediction that information science would be its manager has already become a commonly accepted truth. Archivists nonetheless have an importance in the social and content aspects. Academic circles of historical science, and particularly those in East Asia, clearly must emphasize cooperation with archives in order to broaden their field of vision in research and become involved with actual world history. Archives may preside over the management of digital records in their role as the social and professional supervisors of the entire documentation process. If so, I think that, taking an objective view, among archives, museums, and academies, it will be archives which will, on this basis, be in a position to most exercise leadership in networks. Similarly, I presume, if the archivists of the world represented by the ICA can complete a global network through advancement by archives in East Asia, the days when archivists are recognized as having such duties may be surprisingly near.