taidan histories and mondo texts

Michael McCaskey mccaskem
Sat Jun 7 20:38:36 EDT 2008

Dear Ann and Melek,

Melek is really very perceptive. I'm not sure whether every mondo text is interactive, or a dialogue, or even q&a. Sometimes the form may just be exploited as another way for someone to make a point, or many points, in response to a silent non-questioner.

Sometimes in a classic mondo text, if the answerer is a "big cheese," they may decide to leave out the questions. Or, in some Zen texts I've seen, a question is used as a point of departure for a rambling and nonresponsive response. Zen koan texts are also a puzzling kind of mondo variant.

I went to check an English translation of Muso Soseki's Muchu Mondo, and discovered that all the questions have been left out in the English translations. But the questions are in the Japanese original, as shown by this q&a page excerpt:


Sorry I could not find a fuller or more modern text, but they all seem to be only for sale, and unfortunately not online for believers and/or scholars to read freely.

I did though find an online text of Nakae Chomin's mondo work, so you can decide for yourself how interactive it may be - it may be "creative nonfiction" in any case, with Nakae Chomin playing all the parts.


I guess the Confucian Analects book is also an early taidan examplt, but with Confucius doing almost all of the talking.

Best Wishes,

Michael McCaskey

I forgot, by the way, that I have a different kind of Murakami Ryu book:

E-meeru no tatsujin ni naru ISBN 4-08-720119-8 Shuei-sha 2001, 221 pages
with the rubric "a pilot of wisdom" in English.
The examples are almost entirely extracts from Murakami's own personal and business e-mail, to and from him, including some promotional e-mail about his lectures and books as well. I tried to use it to teach my students about e-mail, but it didn't do the trick.

----- Original Message -----
From: Melek Ortabasi <mortabas at hamilton.edu>
Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008 3:51 pm
Subject: Re: taidan histories

> Hi Ann,
> This is a topic of interest to me too (Yanagita Kunio was a pretty 
> frequent taidan participant). I will be checking out the resources 
> that Michael and Asako sent in, also. Thanks!
> I have a sort of general observation or question about taidan, 
> which 
> is its status as text (of course related to the sokki issue). 
> Yanagita and/or the editors of the older Teihon Yanagita Kunio, 
> for 
> example, did not include any of his taidan, because they were 
> supposedly imperfect as written texts, and were not authored by 
> Yanagita alone. You have to find them elsewhere (the editors of 
> the 
> new zenshu have tried to include them all). However, the number of 
> famous Yanagita texts that are highly edited versions of speeches 
> and 
> taidan-like events is quite significant.
> Michael's suggestion of a premodern origin for the genre is also 
> interesting. I have, incidentally, also come across the use of 
> "mondo" in Yanagita's 1930s journal _Minzoku_, where it's sort of 
> a 
> "answers to reader's questions" column that Yanagita actually uses 
> to 
> air his own opinions on issues. So not as interactive as the title 
> might suggest;-)
> Thanks again for the ideas.
> Melek
> -- 
> Melek Ortabasi, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Comparative Literature
> Hamilton College
> Clinton, NY

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