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Introduction of the European Peep-box and Development of Visual Culture in the 18th Century Japan

Sang-Myon LEE 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

During the Edo-period [江戶時代 1603-1867], Japan accepted the modern westernscience and culture while trading with Holland since 1609, and also through theinflux of optical instruments in the 18th century the culture of viewing picturesbegan to be developed. Especially, the peep-boxes and their pictures had beenimported from China and Holland since the mid 1750s when they were flourished. The peep-box was rapidly and widely spread. Soon after, the peep-boxes andpictures had begun to be produced in Japan (megane [眼鏡] and megane-e [眼鏡繪])since 1770s when the early visual culture settled down in Kyoto and Tokyo etc. The visual culture developed with the peep-box contains two remarkable factorsin the cultural history of the 18th century Japan. First, the peep-boxes becamethe popular device of visual entertainment, and opened the first phase of themodern visual culture before the advent of photography and cinema in the midand end of the 19th century. Secondly, the peep-box played a role of an educativemedia as a ‘window to the unknown world’ in the 18th century Japan, by showingvarious pictures of many European cities. Through the peep-box pictures the ‘westernimages’ were spread and knowledges of Japanese about the west increased, although they were recognized just as ‘Holland’s images’ without differentiation in eachcountry.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.