Friday, October 7, 2016

476. The First US President Who Spoke Chinese

My readers might have noticed that the main founders of the United States loved China and its culture. They borrowed from China industrial technologies and agricultural plants to improve the society of North America. For them,  Chinese civilization was so charming and attractive that some of them event tried to learn Chinese.  With this post I would like to introduce you the first US president who spoke Chinese.

The 31st president Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the first president who could speak fluent Chinese. It seems that he was born with some bonds with China. He was born in WestBranch, Iowa on August 10, 1874. It was the ninety years’ anniversary of the successful sail of the Empress of China, the first US commercial ship reached China's shore in August 1784.

Lou Henry, Hoover's wife and Hoover learned Chinese while they worked in China in the early 20th century. Some records show that they spoke Chinese at the White House when they prevented people from hearing what they talked about.  (David King, Herbert Hoover, Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, ISBN 0-7614-3626-X). 

In the early years of the 20th century Hoover worked as an engineer in Kaiping Mine, Hebei Province of China. Chinese characters on the picture read "Kaiping Mine." 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

475. Influence of Chinese Civilization on the Founders of the United States: Hawaii's Promotion of Dr. Dave Wang's Reserach

China's history is one of a proud, mysterious and ancient civilization. Over the past 150 years this nation's history has been marked by war, turmoil, famine, a decadent imperial ruling site, foreign conquerors, native warlords, a feudal past that has quickly transformed itself into a modern, global society. 

Among the historical mysteries of China something few on either side of the Pacific Ocean have realized until recently: the influence of Chinese civilization on the Founder of the United States of America in the 1700's. 

Dr. Dave Wang set out to explore and share his discoveries though his blog site The Founding Fathers and Chinese Civilization

His blog site explores "the cultural influence of traditional Chinese civilization on colonial North American and the early development of the United States." 

In 2012 Dr. Wang joined the Board of Directors of History Education Hawaii, Inc. 
Dr. Wang's pioneering research has earned him a distinguished international reputation. Selected published papers have been translated into international languages including Italian and Chinese. He is often invited to present his research findings to audiences around the world. 

"Certain Chinese products, such as tea, had become deeply involved in the colonies and became an indispensable element of colonists’ daily life. The British control of tea and the colonists’ struggle against this control changed the historical course of the colonies. The tax on tea and the resentment with the tea monopoly by the East Indian Company was one of the factors that led the colonists to rebel. Immediately before the successful 1784 sailing of the Empress of China, the first American commercial ship to reach China, the President of Yale College told George Washington, "Navigation will carry the America flag around the globe itself, and display the thirteen stripes and new constellation, at Bengal and Canton, on the Indus and Ganges, on the Whang-ho and the Yang-ti-king; and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the East."  

474. Dr. Dave Wang's Findings Have Attracted Tremendous Attention

Dr. Dave Wang’s findings in the subject of the United Statesfounding fathers and Chinese Civilization have attracted tremendous attention in the academic world. Since 2007 Dr. Wang’s publications on traditionalChinese civilization and the United States have been recommended by the HistoryEducation Counsel of Hawaii State to be used as teaching texts in American History classrooms. This significant and clear endorsement indicates that his research has contributed to the education of younger generation in their studies of American history. In the following, you will find the statement from Mr. Jeffrey Mead, the President of History Education Counsel of Hawaii, allied with the National History Education Counsel: "Dr. Wang's research and publications are recommended for Hawaii's history classrooms and for historians and history buffs in general. His insights on Chinese influences on the Founding Fathers of the United States should spark curiosity and discussion.”

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.