Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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."
Monday, September 8, 2014
Some prominent figures of the day also recognized the value of Confucian teachings. For instance, John Bartram (1699-1777), a well-known botanist in the colonies, was very interested in Chinese philosophy, particularly in the personality of Confucius. Bartram’s paper, “Life and Character of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius,” introduced Confucius’ life to his readers. James Logan (1674-1751), another very influential colonist in Philadelphia, acquired a copy of the first European printing of Confucius philosophy for his personal library in 1733. Logan was not satisfied with the translation by the Jesuits and showed his desire to obtain the “true sense” of Confucianism. Joel Barlow (1754-1812), an American poet and diplomat, considered Confucius to be one of the wisest philosophers in the history of antiquity. Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), a notable geographer, praised Daxue (大学 Great Learning) and Zhongyong (中庸 the Doctrine of the Mean), two of the four classics of Confucius. Morse extolled the two classics as “the most excellent precepts of wisdom and virtue, expressed with the greatest eloquence, elegance and precision.” Morse also compared Confucius with Socrates. He pointed out that Confucius was “very striking, and which far exceeds, in clearness, the prophecy of Socrates." A contemporary author found that Morse's high praise of the Chinese sage “is especially significant” because Morse wrote his Geography for the youth of America and “considered it a means of instructing students in patriotism and morality."
Thursday, September 4, 2014
The great founders’ collective esteem of Confucius during the formation of the United States has stimulated my curiosity to find why Confucius’ moral teachings became so important. The American Revolution was a political revolution which marked the birth of the United States as a new nation. However, it was also simultaneously a moral revolution. While the founders were concerned with preserving their civil liberties and economic freedom through their stance, “no taxation without representation,” they were also concerned with public morality. They fully understood that the war was as much a battle against “the corruption of 18th century British high society” as it was against financial oppression. As a result, the founding fathers were determined to construct new virtues responding to the needs of the new nation. Having seen the results of the moral corruption in the old world, the founders worked diligently to use all valuable moral resources available for them to create virtues for the new nation.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Benjamin Franklin and the Great Wall of China, at Benjamin Franklin House in London. The house is the only museum in London for this great founding father of the United States. Franklin lived in this house from 1757 to 1775. Most readers of my blog have been amazed by Franklin's vision to use valuable elements from Chinese civilization in his efforts to build a great nation in North America. I don't remember if any other prestigious figures in North American colonies raised the notion of the Great Wall of China around the founding of the United States.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Monday, August 11, 2014
Dave Wang, PhD — manager of Queens Library in Laurelton — said the early Americans saw ginseng “as a valuable opportunity to break their economic blockage by Britain” (e-mail, April 23, 2012). Other sources document the Empress as an attempt to establish a new source of tea, which was becoming dearly missed after the United States was banned from trading with the British West Indies. Meanwhile, China also had a need for new ginseng sources. Though the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) first sought to protect the region’s ginseng populations by controlling collection, it eventually gave up that mission. “[The Empress] triumphed because it made it there and back, and made a profit, which was never guaranteed at that point in time. Economically, it was important in terms of making contact between the US and China,” said Taylor, noting a Congressional resolution, passed after the Empress’s return, encouraging more such ventures. According to Dr. Wang, American ginseng “was the most important commercial good in the trade between China and the United States during the late 1700s leading into the early 1800s.” The above paragraph is from Lindsay Stafford' s article, First US-China Trade Ship Carried 30 Tons of American Ginseng Helped Establish American Identity and Roots of International Trade. It is available on line from this link.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
As the main designers of the new nation, the founders knew that it took more than a perfect plan of government to preserve liberty. They needed some moral principles accepted by the people to encourage them to obey laws voluntarily. They recognized that a free government should be supported by people who could act morally without compulsion, and would not willfully violate the rights of others. Benjamin Franklin firmly believed that "Laws without morals are in vain. (quid leges sine moribus vanae proficient)" Cultivating new virtues for the fledgling United States therefore became one of the most significant themes during this time of social and political transformation. With this notion in mind, the founders turned to Confucian moral philosophy.