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:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

466. China's Cultural Impact on the World Stopped at the Water Edge?

In his article, Looking at China's past to understand its future,  Mr. Cliff Stearns,  the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 6th Congressional District from 1989 to 2013,  and President of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, pointed out that China's cultural impact on other countries often stopped at the water edge.  No doubt, Cliff hasn't read Dr. Dave Wang's papers on Chinese cultural influence on colonial North America and the founders efforts to borrow from Chinese culture in their efforts to build a new country in North America. In deed, from the Great Wall to Confucius, the founders used many positive Chinese culture elements to help with their endeavor to lead Americans to start an uncharted journey in North America. From the image you can tell the speech, Dr. Dave Wang made in Japan in 2010.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

465. Confucian Ideas Lifted Americans From Corruption

In today's New York Times, July 12, 2016, David Brooks published his OP-ED article, Is the U.S. On the Path to Ruin. He provided a very clear historical picture on the political crisis generated by moral corruption in the federal governments in the 1880s and the 1890s. According to him, in the periods, “America faced crises as deep as the ones we face today …The political system was worse and more corrupt than ours is today. Culturally things were bad, too. Racism and anti-immigrant feelings were at plaguelike levels.” 

In order to change it, “America responded.”David listed some specific measures to show how Americans stood up to meet the challenges. However, he missed the most important American response to fight against the contagious corruption. At this critical conjuncture, the American leaders adopted Chinese civil service examination system based on Confucian ideas. Under the help of Chinese civil service Examination system the Americans lifted Americans out of notorious corruption that tortured the whole nation. Both the inheritance systems in the colonies overthrew by the American Revolution and the Spoil System started by Thomas Jefferson Administration were replaced with the merit system. As a result, corruptions was greatly reduced.

According to Confucius, governing authority should be based on merit, and not inherited status. The public service positions should be given to those who passed the imperial examinations. The Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), which established Confucianism as its official philosophy installed the meritocracy as its governmental system to select officials in the second century BC. The Han Dynasty began choosing public service official based on civil service exams for the first time in the world.