Kuki Ryūichi (1850–1931), the first Director of the Imperial Museum in Tokyo (presently Tokyo National Museum), drew up a guideline for collecting antiquities in 1894, at a time when the first Sino-Japanese war (1894–95) broke out. This guideline lays out the benefits of collecting Chinese and Korean antiquities during Japanese military operations and thus provides important context for understanding the Japanese imperialist perspective on taking objects from China and Korea to Japan over the following decades.
commented by Ji Young Park
source: 齋藤實文書 (Saito Makoto documents) 齋藤實記念館 (Saito Makoto Memorial Hall) 第2期 (The 2nd term) 17-5.
translated by Ji Young Park
The outline of sending personnel to China during the war for collecting and purchasing the treasure is roughly as on the left [following].
1. As the foundations of Japanese culture are closely related to those of China and Korea, it is necessary, therefore, to compare our own culture with others in order to clarify the inherent nature of our own country. Thus, it is a most important scholarly responsibility to collect antiquities from neighboring countries.
2. Since Japan is indeed considered to be a repository of trust of East Asia, many Chinese and Korean antiquities lost in their countries are preserved in Japan. In order to reinforce the present situation, the acquisition of East Asian treasures will lead to completion of the collections in Japan, and expand national power, to form a base for East Asian studies and promote national production. Indeed, as it is true that this is the manner in which the glory of a nation culminates, we need to discuss how to realize this by taking advantage of any good opportunities [in wartime] as well as in ordinary times.
3. The benefit of wartime collection would be to acquire masterpieces which are hard to obtain in ordinary times.
4. The benefit of wartime collection would be to acquire masterpieces at a very low price compared to ordinary times.
5. The benefit of wartime collection would be a means of transportation to move heavier objects compared to ordinary times.
6. The essential point of wartime collection is to prevent the destruction of masterpieces. Even though treasures are always destroyed during wartime in any country, there has never been a country with a history like China’s from ancient times to date. Thus, the necessity of masterpiece preservation for the world is the most beneficial point of wartime collection compared to ordinary times.
7. Wartime collection is more convenient for exploring than in ordinary times.
8. In time of war, part of the honor of victory is the collection of masterpieces, which will sufficiently demonstrate national prestige, to command respect forever.
9. In order to handle the acquired items carefully, collecting during wartime must be strictly in compliance with international law.
Kuki Ryūichi (1852–1931) was a Japanese bureaucrat during the Meiji period of Japan (1868–1912). He was born into a warrior class family in the Harima province in western Japan. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, he studied Western thinking under Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901) at Keio Gijuku and worked in the Ministry of Education. In 1873, he was sent to Europe to study and visited the World Fair in Paris, where he became familiar with Western art as well as Western cultural policy. From 1888, he worked at the Imperial Household Ministry and led the Japanese national survey of cultural properties. In 1897, he was appointed as the first Director of the Imperial Museum (presently Tokyo National Museum) and he worked on establishing the Law for the Preservation of Ancient Shrines and Temples – the first law, which defines cultural properties in Japan. In his later years, he spent his time collecting artworks, with which he opened the first private museum in Japan, the Mita Museum (1914–1931) in his hometown, Mita.