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Mirror, Sword and Jewel : A Study of Japanese Characteristics

Kurt Singer, Richard Storry (Editor)

Buy this book at Amazon.com or try Amazon.co.uk in England, Amazon.ca in Canada, Amazon.de in Germany, Amazon.fr in France, Amazon.it in Italy, Amazon.es in Spain. ASIN=1873410697, Category: History, Language: E, cover: PB, pages: ???, year: 1997.

A detailed review is available for the German translation of this book.

Biography of Kurt Singer

© (2004) by interesting-books-selector.com

This is a summarizing translation of the comprehensive biography in German found at http://www.jdg-sendai.jp/Teil/Teil3_Germany.pdf

Kurt Singer was born 08-May-1886 in Magdeburg. From 1904 to 1910 he studied at the Universities of Geneva, Freiburg, Berlin, and Strassburg philosophy, national economy, soziology, literature, and history of art. His main teachers were the philosopher Georg Simmel ( 1858-1918 ) and art historian Heinrich Wölfflin ( 1864-1945 ). in 1910, PhD. in Strassburg under Georg Friedrich Knapp ( 1842-1926 ), about the indian monetary reform. He personally meets the poet Stefan George ( 1868-1933 ). In 1920, professorship at Universität of Hamburg with his book "Das Geld als Zeichen (Money as a mark)" In 1927 he published his book "Platon der Gründer (Planton the founder). New interpretation of Platon according to Stefan George's spirit.

As an expert for finance and monetary politics he got an invitation by the Imperial University of Tokyo to teach economy, because the Japanese government liked his expertice in deflations- and reflation politics. The Japanese ambassadeur told him before his leave to Japan: "In Japan, you'll meet unity in chaos. For a long time, you'll not find anything interesting, until suddenly you detect the rare and precious." This oracle came to happen for Kurt Singer.

He arrived in Japan in April 1931. In 1932, the Japanese finance minister Takahashi Korekiyo, whose admiration Singer attained, was murdered by ultra nationalists. Political parties lost confidence in Japan. Singer felt that the traditional, spritual, moral and religious substance was lost in Japan.

While he studied japanese culture and history he thought back to the fundamentals of the European spiritual culture. He lived in a strange, cursed quietness like a Buddhist eremit, contemplating, talking with spirits - only instead of the Sutras, he meditated the Platonic dialogues. Some publications about Platon in the leading, philosophic journal Shiso. 1935 japanese translation of a Platon monographie.

In the preface he wrote "With the penetration in Platon starts in a strict sense a new turn for every individual and thus also for every nation, which is capable of hearing his voice. Will the orient, will, what is equivalent: the leading class of oriental men be willing, tu submitt themselves to this foreign world, assume their laws and to throw the own, old and venerable heritance of tradition and sagesse in the melding pot of this unprotected, tension loaded, dangerous being, ...".

After travelling three months in China, he got became a teacher of German language at the Dai Ni Kôtôgakkô in Sendai, where he learned about the campagne of Japan and found quietness for contemplation with the classical writings "Tsurezure gusa (Hours of leisure)" of the the eremit, monk Kenkô Hôshi (also known under the name Yoshida Kenkô) who lived in the 14th century.

1939 he published an anthology "The Life of Ancient Japan" at the renowned publisher Iwanami.

In 1938, with the German-Japanese culture agreement, the minister of education adopted a antisemitism of Germans national socialism. In consequence, in 1939, Singer was fired. He could not return to Germany. He saw no other possibility than emigration to Australia to find a job. Arriving a couple of weeks before the war began, he was imprisoned for two years with the only accusation of being a member of a enemy nation. In 1949, publication of his book "The Idea of Conflict" in Melbourne. Being one of the most important and mature work of Singer, a revision was published in Germany in 1973. In this work, he shows that antagonism and conflict are not only the result of conditions of the society and economy, but are caused by the fundamental facts of the nature and the beginning of human beings.

His "summum opus" work which he also wrote during the end of the 2nd world war is "Mirror, Sword and Jewel", a -how Singler claims himself- "comprehensive work about the Japanische peculiarity, from a psychological, sociological, and art-historical view." He wrote in English.

With his book, he tried to influence the after-war developments into more peaceful political and spiritual new order between the nations, but publishers in England refused to publish it claiming paper shortness. Publishers in the USA refused saying that it were too late for a quiet and timeless academic treatment of the topic Japan. But Singer felt, that "they wanted to push off this topic as fast as possible to the unconscious". German publishers were also not interested, because the low interest in culture and life of this far east kingdom.

He held a professorship at the University of New South Wales until his 70th birthday, but the faculty oriented university life never pleased him.

In 1957, after 26 years of leave, he went back to Germany. After short stays in Switzerland and Rome, he settled in Greece, the land of his longing.

In Greece he travelled and did archaeological, mathematical, and economical studies. He died in 10-Feb-1962 in Athens as an unknown and forgotten man.

Finally, after his dead, in 1973 "Mirror, Sword and Jewel" was published in London and was highly acknowldedged under experts. During all these years, the book had not lost any lifelyness and substantiality.

Kurt Singers odyssee had an admirable inner consequence. He followed the voice of his demon. With all the inconveniences, he found inner fulfilment which not many attain; see his German lyric


Öde ergrünte Flamme schlug auf.
Altar entstand am heiligen Lauf.
Stimme umklang ihn, wurde zum Chor.
Liebende Hände führten zum Tor.
Wetter umrauschten Kampf und Gericht.
Nächten enttauchte göttliche Sicht.
Stieg auf zu sternen Sank als Kristall:
Knabe du Träumer siehe dein All.

A comprehensive, authentic edition of his book was published in 1988 by Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt as a retranslation into German: "Spiegel, Schwert und Edelstein - Dimensionen des Japanischen Lebens".

Richard Storry, the Oxford Japanologe and historian, who published a (unfortunately heavily shortened) version of the 1973 London Edition in 1981 in Tokyo at Kodansha International as paperback under the subtitle "The Geometry of Japanese Life" (which Singer would never have approved), aptly stated:

"Kurt Singer is an economy scientist with the soul of a poet".