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Dr Gerhard Leinss

Dr Gerhard Leinss

Research Associate, East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge


After an extended journey through Asia, I started in the late 1970s to learn Japanese and Chinese at Sophia University in Tokyo, and then continued to study at Tuebingen University from where I received an M.A. in Japanese and Chinese Studies (1985), and a Ph.D. in Japanese Studies (1993). I have been teaching in Japanese Studies since 1986, at first mainly at the Department of Japanese Studies of Tuebingen University, later also as a guest professor (University of Trier, University of Hamburg) and lecturer (Zurich University, and especially at Humboldt University of Berlin) at other universities and, more recently, in the Department of East Asian Studies at Cambridge. In total, I spent about five years in Japan and received several research grants (German Research Foundation, Japan Foundation twice). At present, I am engaged in a research project supported by the Leverhulme Trust with Richard Bowring as principal investigator. Apart from being a Research Associate with the Department of East Asian Studies, I am affiliated with the Needham Research Institute, where I am a Senior Research Fellow.

Subject groups/Research projects

Japanese Studies:

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the history of Japanese thought and science within the East Asian context. My Master’s thesis and dissertation deal with a Japanese branch of Confucianism called “School of Ancient Learning” (Kogaku). From its earliest promoter, Yamaga Sokō, I translated a dictionary of Confucian terms (published 1989), from the works of two later representatives, Itō Jinsai and Ogyū Sorai, I selected the key notion of human nature to see how Chinese Confucianism was adapted to Japanese conditions in the seventeenth century (1995). Thereafter, most of my research has been devoted to the study of time, focusing on the history of the calendar and time reckoning and the numerous aspects of cultural and intellectual history related to it. Some basic research on this topic has been published in two articles that analyse the content of the printed calendars of the Edo period (2006) and the writing used in this standardized type of calendar which give us some insight into the reading requirements at that time (2007). Within the Leverhulme research project, I am currently working on a book-length study on the cultural history of the calendar in Japan.                                                                                                                   

Key Publications

Japanische Anthropologie. Die Natur des Menschen in der konfuzianischen Neoklassik am Anfang des 18. Jahrhunderts. Jinsai und Sorai, (Izumi, vol 2, ed. by Klaus Kracht), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995.


Yamaga Sokōs „Kompendium der Weisenlehre“ (Seikyō yōroku). Ein Wörterbuch des neoklassischen Konfuzianismus im Japan des 17. Jahrhunderts, übersetzt, annotiert und eingeleitet von Gerhard Leinss (Izumi, vol. 1, ed by Klaus Kracht), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1989.


Japanische Geistesgeschichte, (ed. with Klaus Kracht and Olof Lidin), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988.