Sunday, October 19, 2014

370. Top Ten Popular Posts as of October 2014

01.244. Whose Military Strategies Should the US in Afghanistan follow: Sun Tzu or Clausewitz? (posted on November 19, 2011) 02. 100. George Washington and the Empress of China (posted on October 22, 2008,) 03. 299. Benjamin Franklin and Ginseng (posted on February 24, 2013). 04. 241. Why Americans Don't Seek Aristocratic Titles and Honors (posted on Oct 30, 2011). 05. 302. What differentiates Chinese from Americans? (posted on April 9, 2013). 06. 116. China Trade in New England, 1800s (posted on November 27, 2008). 07. 297. Ginseng, Tea and the American Revolution (posted on February 7, 2013) 08. 259. Ginseng and the Founding Fathers (posted on April 28, 2012). 09. 215. Chinese Influence on American Culture (posted on March 29, 2011) 10. 307. The Ten Most Popular Posts in this Weblog (posted on May 1, 2013). My readers will find that the five posts, including 100 (Ranking No. 4 in 2013), 299 (Ranking No. 2 in 2013), 241 (Ranking No. 7 in 2013), 297 (Ranking No. 1 in 2013) and 215 (Ranking No. 3 in 2013 remain in the top ten popular list.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

369. The Reason North America's Ex-Colonies Did So Much Better

In his well-known book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, Dr. Niall Ferguson stated, "The reason North America's ex-colonies did so much better than South America's was because British settlers established a completely different system of property rights and political representation in the North from those built by Spaniards and Portuguese in the South." (His above book, p.14) Dr. Ferguson tries to answer the big question, why in recent 500 years the West civilization prevailed in the world. Many scholars have tried to provide their convincing answers to the question. I don’t have desire to make an attempt to formulate an authoritative answer to it. However, I want to add my small findings to the answer, probably ignored by Dr. Ferguson in his efforts to create his compelling respond to the question. I believe that Chinese factor was one of the main factors that responsible for the different results of the two Americas’ ex-colonies. From reading this blog and Dr. Dave Wang’s publications on the founders and Chinese civilization, a reader should learn that the founders made their consistent efforts to borrow positive elements from Chinese civilization in their undertaking to build a new nation in North America. Chinese civilization served as a positive force helping colonies’ growth from their formation to the early period of the republic. For example, Benjamin Franklin recommended using the Great Wall of China to safeguard the newly founded United States during the early years of the new republic. As for how the founders used Confucius to cultivate new private virtue for the Americans, you can read Dr. Dave Wang's article Confucius in the American Founding: The Founder's efforts to use Confucian Moral Philosophy in their Endeavor to Create New Virtue for the New Nation, in Virginia Review of Asian Studies, Volume 16 (2014): 11-26.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

368. Thomas Jefferson and a Chinese Prince

During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson included an ancient Chinese poem from Shijing ( 诗经 The Book of Odes) in his scrapbook. This poem 衛 風 is about an ancient Chinese prince who was set up as an example for other leaders of the nation to follow. Jefferson’s inclusion of this specific Chinese poem is significant and reveals his close ties to Confucian ideals. Confucius pointed out, ''He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.'' Jefferson aimed to make himself this “North Polar Star.” Therefore, it was not a surprise that Thomas Jefferson regarded the Chinese prince, whom Confucius considered to be one of the ideal rulers to be his role model. The poem pays tribute to Prince Wei, who was loved and respected by the people of his state. Confucius praised Prince Wei when he quoted this poem in his famous book, The Great Learning, to provide a standard to aspire to other princes and leaders of various states. Jefferson’s choice to place this poem in his scrapbook reflects his determination to be as great a leader as Prince Wei. Therefore, “His mem’ry of eternal prime, Like truth defies the power of time!” Jefferson wanted himself to be “in manners goodly great, Refine the people of the state.” Jefferson used Prince Wei to encourage himself to be a leader loved by the future American people, just as Prince Wei was praised and remembered by all posterity.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

367. Ben Franklin Descendants on Dr. Dave Wang’s Study of the Founder

Professor Dave Wang of St. John’s University made the bold claim that Confucius was Franklin’s moral exemplar, and that 11 out of his 13 virtues were inspired by “The Morals of Confucius.” According to Wang, Franklin “consistently and systematically promoted the main principles of the Confucian moral philosophy” in his adult life. Is this wishful thinking, or a breakthrough about the source of Franklin’s personal philosophy? There are indeed some of Franklin’s virtues that are closely linked with Confucian philosophy. Franklin is clearly attracted to the Stoic philosophy of meditation, calm, reason, silence, and avoiding the extremes of anger, fear, and the emotions of mobs. But was this taken from Confucius, or from the Greeks, the Romans, and King Solomon? According to Confucius, rulers and ministers had a special obligation to live a strict moral code and to teach it to their followers. Franklin approved of this approach. In a letter in 1749, he commended Rev. George Whitefield for preaching to high-ranking officials in government. “If you can gain them to a good and exemplary life, wonderful changes will follow in the manners of the lower ranks.” He then cited Confucius on this principle. “When he saw his country sunk in vice, and wickedness of all kinds triumphant, he applied himself first to the grandees; and having by his doctrine won them to the cause of virtue, the commons followed in multitudes.” Above all, Franklin loved the Chinese tradition of honoring the elderly. The above is from Dr. Mark Skousen, “The Chinese Influence on Franklin” in Franklin Prosperity Report April 2011 / Vol. 3, No. 4 Note: Mark Skousen, Ph.D., a sixth-generation grandson of Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, September 28, 2014

366. Confucius and the Formation of the American Virtue

Today, September 28, is the birthday of Confucius, the great teacher of morals. In order to celebrate the day, I post the following paragraph from Dr. Dave Wang's Paper, CONFUCIUS IN THE AMERICAN FOUNDING: THE FOUNDERS’ EFFORTS TO USE CONFUCIAN MORAL PHILOSOPHY IN THEIR ENDEAVOR TO CREATE NEW VIRTUE FOR THE NEW NATION . It was published by Virginia Review of Asian Studies,Vol. 16 (2014), pp.11-26. During the founding of the United States, the Founding Fathers “managed to establish a set of ideas and institutions that, over the stretch of time, became the blueprint for political and economic success for the nation-state in the modern world.” My intent is to bring to light to what was the founders’ efforts to adopt some principles of Confucian moral philosophy and made them into the fiber of the new virtue met the requirement of a free and democratic society. The founders tried to develop good morals to ensure that the democratic system would function in correct direction. They attempted to use Confucian moral philosophy to safeguard the democratic system, build private virtue, and bring up citizens with good morals to serve the new nation. Through the founders’ efforts, Confucian moral philosophy contributed greatly to the formation of the American virtue.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

365. Confucianism Had Definite Appealing to Thomas Jefferson

As one of the main founders of the new nation, Thomas Jefferson eventually became the third president of the nation after his victory in the election of 1800. For Jefferson who tired of metaphysics, a practical religion that advanced private virtue, such as Confucianism has a definite appeal. As president, Jefferson realized the importance of Confucian values to keep his ideals alive and move the country forward. His inauguration speech reflected his thoughts on how to make the United States a great nation. Remarkably, Jefferson showed his confidence in using Confucian moral values in his efforts to lead the new nation in 1801. In front of the representatives celebrating his victory, Jefferson made the following statement: Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles; our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; …. enlightened by a benign religion, professed indeed and practised in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and the love of man, acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

364. Benjamin Franklin and Confucius' Principle of Leadership

Confucius maintained that the people should be led by leaders who governed through their virtue rather than using their laws. He believed that if a government rested its rule entirely on laws, its people would try to escape punishment and have no sense of shame. Therefore, he reasoned that if the people were led by virtue, they would possess a sense of shame and follow their leaders through their own will. 【第一章】子曰、為政以德、譬如北辰、居其所、而眾星共之。 CHAP. I. The Master said, ''He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.'' 【第三章】【一節】子曰、道之以政、齊之以刑、民免而無恥。【二節】道 之以德、齊之以禮、有恥且格。 CHAP. III. 1. The Master said, ''If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. 2. ''If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.'' In 1778, two years after the colonists declared their independence, Franklin addressed the significance of the morality. He pointed out the necessity of governing with morality, especially for the leaders of the United States. He told his fellow Americans that laws were not enough for the new nation: "What the political struggle I have been engag’d in for the good of my compatriots, inhabitants of this bush; or my philosophical studies for the benefits of our race in general! For in politics, what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeras will in a course of minutes become corrupt like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched."