Thursday, September 15, 2016

473. A Gentleman Should Use His Talents to Serve the Community

Alexis de Tocqueville was famously struck by the American way of joining together to help the community. This communal tradition of the United States was promoted by the founders in the founding era. Confucian moral philosophy helped the founders nurture a tradition of community service.  

Confucius taught rulers to be virtuous and formulated a series of ethical principles for leaders of the state. Therefore, a very important part of Confucianism is personal and virtuous cultivation. Confucius requested leaders to be gentlemen who should always claim moral leadership to exercise proper influences in order to put society in good order. Following Confucius moral principles, in traditional Chinese society gentlemen with good virtue always served the community with their talents and resources. They devoted their attention to local welfare institutions, such as educational promotion. According to Confucius, Gentlemen “always claimed moral leadership to exercise proper influences was necessary to put the country in good order.” They “devoted attention to local welfare institutions,” such as educational promotion. They “printed their rhymed quotations for effective communications to the less educated as rhymes were easy for them to learn.”

From Benjamin Franklin we find all of the characteristics of a gentleman, as required by Confucius. Franklin accumulated wealth in his middle age. Then, he gradually retired from business. He “remade himself” as “a public-spirited gentleman.”  He donated his time and energy to public affairs and welfare. During the period from the 1730s to the 1740s, Franklin helped to found some cultural and philanthropic institutions, including the Library Company, the American PhilosophicalSociety, the Public Academy of Philadelphia (the University of Pennsylvania)and a network of volunteer fire companies. In his popular weekly newspaper, Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin often published some rhymed quotations for his readers. Most impressively, in 1737, he published Confucius moral works in the same newspaper.  

Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to America’s communal tradition has become a valuable legacy. His hard work had helped produce the phenomenon discovered by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1803 Americans were very good at “subordinating their individualism to voluntary groups of one type or another." The later history tells that Franklin’s service to the community has become a particular United States tradition.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

472. Samuel Huntington and Confucian Culture

For Samuel Huntington, China's resistance to Western supremacy stems from its Confucian values, which emphasize the importance of hierarchy, authority, consensus and the state's dominion over society and which clash with American beliefs of liberty, equality, democracy and individualism.

We cannot agree with Mr. Huntington's argument that Confucianism is what has created friction between China and the United States; trade and economic patterns have. 

Clearly enough, Samuel Huntington didn’t have any clue about the United States founders’ borrowing from Confucian moral philosophy when they unfold the history of the United States and worked hard to lay down cultural foundation for this new nation. Dr. Dave Wang's paper, Confucius in American Founding, reveals how the founders used Confucian moral philosophy to bring up new virtue for the new nation. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

471 Great Wall, Benjamin Franklin, Matt Damon and Yimou Zhang

The upcoming movie, Great Wall has become a hot topic before its being released in the end of this year and early next year. The movie was directed by Zhang Yimou, written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, DougMiro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. The movie is an American-Chinese 3D epic science fantasy monster-adventure action film. The film main star is Matt Damon.

The Great Wall has been regarded a symbol of China. It began to form as early as 7th century BC. However, it was Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, who connected several walls into a big wall during his reign 220-206 BC.  The purpose of the wall was to protect the Chinese from the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups from the north. 
But since the film’s trailer was released, journalists and commentators have criticized it for “whitewashing” — casting white actors in roles that could or should be cast with nonwhites. Why is Matt Damon saving ancient China, anyway? Couldn’t the Chinese handle it themselves?  (Please read "Movies: The real reason Matt Damon had to save ancient China." from Daily Tribune.)
Constance Wu, a star in Fresh Off The Boat, a well-known US comedy series, posted on Twitter several weeks ago: "We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only (sic) white man can save the world." Below you can read the snapshot from her twitter.
Soon after Constance's remark,  Zhang Yimou replied to Ms. Wu, "Our film is not about the construction of the Great Wall. Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point." (Please read "Chinese director defends casting of Matt Damon in film The Great Wall" )
I have no interest in involving myself in the debate. However, Mr. Zhang's mention of "the construction of the Great Wall" reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's recommendation of a Great Wall in North American colonies.

It is very interesting that an American actor played the main role in the movie related to the Great Wall in 2016. Back to 260 years ago, in 1756, Franklin, one of the main founders of the United States, loved the Great Wall so much that he recommended one to be built in the blue mountains to the south of Philadelphia. Actually, Franklin personally involved in construction of forts in the blue mountains. Dr. Dave Wang went to look for tangible relics of Franklin's forts several years ago. Based on his findings there and historical documents, he wrote a paper, which was published by Virginia Review of Asian Studies in 2015.  Below you can find the first two paragraphs: 

Friday, August 12, 2016

470. Ideas from the East: American Founders and Chinese Wisdoms

When the Empress of China, the first commercial ship of the United States, anchored the Chinese shore in August 1784, the Chinese merchants quickly realized that the crew members were not British. The crew members were, in fact, Americans from the newly established United StatesChina’s newest trading partner. By sea the journey had taken over half a year. For the United States, China was still a far-away land. 

Yet in spite of the great distance between these two nations, Chinese culture strongly influenced the fledgling United States. Five years ago Virginian Review of Asian Studies published my study of China’s tangible cultural influence on the United States[1]

It has been noted that America’s founders loved particular Chinese ideas and used them help their efforts to build a new nation in North America around the founding era. In this essay, I will introduce the particular Chinese ideas that were introduced to America as they laid the philosophical and cultural foundation of the United States.

[1] Dave Wang, Chinese Civilization and the United States: Tea, Ginseng, Porcelain ware and Silk in Colonial America,  Virginia Review of Asian Studies, 2011.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

469. America's 240th Independence Day-and the Chinese Connection

Through Dr. Dave Wang's pioneer research we have learned that Chinese civilization had its influence on American founding. In the following I introduce the short essay written by JeffreyBingham Mead, the host of Marvels of China:

July 4, 2016 marked the 240th Independence Day of the United States of America. This is a good day to remind ourselves that the connection between the USA and Chinesecivilization has been in existence almost since the beginning of the United States

The U.S. Founders and China blog site by Dr. Dave Wang features a treasure-trove of little-known facts that Dr. Wang has been researching, publishing and lecturing about for many years. 

On this day Dr. Wang has published Confucian Virtue and the Founding of the United States. Click here to read it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

468. Benjamin Franklin: The First Publisher of Confucius Work

Confucius statues have been seen  probably all over the United States today. In addition to the Supreme Court building, one can find many Confucius statues in many places. There is a Confucius statue in a park, called Chinese Cultural Garden in Cleveland. The Cleveland Public Library invited me to deliver a lecture on Chinese cultural influence on North America several years ago. After my presentation, Carolyn, the librarian,  guided me to the Chinese Cultural Garden to visit the Statue of Confucius in the garden. However I didn't see the stature, for it was covered and was under repair. The City of Cleveland made it a big event when the repair was completed and Confucius statue was reinstalled in the Garden. One still can find the article of reporting the event. The event took place on October 3, 2014. More information regarding the event can be accessed through this article,  Confucius returns to his place in Cleveland's Chinese Cultural Garden.

However, I was attracted by the Statue of Benjamin Franklin on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania on July 29, 2016. The statue captures the historical moment when Franklin was reading his own weekly newspaper, Pennsylvania Gazette. My readers who are familiar with Dr. Dave Wang's work know that Franklin published some chapters of Confucius work in his widely welcomed newspaper in Pennsylvania and other colonies in North America in 1737. Below you can tell that I was trying to find out what Franklin was reading, chapters of Confucian moral philosophy or his own works enlightened by Confucius moral principles? I am sure that you will find the answer on your own as soon as you see the statue in person.

Monday, July 18, 2016

467. Dr. Alfred Hornung Uses Dr. Dave Wang's Paper as Text in his Cultural Course

Once a while we found that Dr. Dave Wang's papers in the field of traditional Chinese civilization's influence on the founders of the United States have been used as teaching text. A friend of mine sent me several pictures of showing that Dr. Wang's paper, The US Founders and China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influence on the United States is used as text in a graduate course. I have no idea where this course is taught. However, I have some basic information on the course. The course is named as ChiAmeica: Stages of Transcultural Encounters and is taught by University Professor Afred Hornung from Johannes Gentenberg University, in Mainz, Germany. Professor Hornung is a well-known specialist on American culture.  According to the introduction from the University, Professor Hornung is a "specialist in American literatures and cultures from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First century and a leading scholar in all areas of life writing. As a long-time editor of the journal Amerikastudien / American Studies, as president of the German Association for American Studies DGfA and of MESEA Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas, as a member of the International Committee of the American Studies Association he participated in shaping the transatlantic and transnational fields of American Studies."  It is very impressive that Dr. Wang's paper has been selected by such a prestigious professor as teaching text.

More information on the course he is teaching you can find from the picture below: