Tuesday, June 30, 2009

152. Presenting Benjamin Franklin’s Great Wall in Franklin House

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) has been regarded as the sage transmitter of the Western European tradition to the early American way of life. He has been a great icon of American culture, embodying American ideals and dreams. My research on Benjamin Franklin and China, which as examined Franklin’s endured efforts to draw nourishment from Chinese civilization during the formative age of the United States, has attracted the attention from all over the world. Recently, the New York Times Week in Review featured my studies of Benjamin Franklin, as can be seen through this link.

What was really inspiring was the invitation from the Benjamin Franklin House in London to do a presentation concerning how Franklin incorporated Chinese culture into early Colonial society in America. The said presentation can be seen through this link. Franklin lived in this house for nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, and it now serves as a historical relic of the scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor, and Founding Father of the United States.

I was honored to be able to present my work in a place where Benjamin Franklin had once lived and worked. I tried to
express to my audience my belief of how Benjamin Franklin was arguably the greatest American lover of the Great
Wall of China. In 1756, Franklin built his own great wall in order to defend the Pennsylvania colonies in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Later in 1760, Franklin recommended a great wall resembling that of China’s to safeguard the British Colonies in North America against possible outside attacks. Even later in 1776, Franklin counseled the French engineer responsible for the fortifications of George Washington’s revolutionary army
to build a wall for shelter during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) against the English empire. To further illustrate my point, I made this model of the great wall that Franklin built between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers, seen below.

I was impressed by so many fascinating questions from the floor. There are three questions that came to most audience mind: Did Franklin really build his great wall? Why did he build his wall? Did Franklin’s great wall really work?

Franklin’s great wall was built in 1756 when he was commander of the defensive force of 500 colonists in Pennsylvania. Franklin had them build a wall, a basic means of protection against the Indians and their French allies. In his letter to Samuel Rhodes, an old friend, in 1756, Franklin described his great wall in detail. I relayed two basic reasons for Franklin’s wall: First, Franklin was concerned with the safety of the colonists. In his pamphlet,
The Interest of Great Britain Considered published in 1760, Franklin had stated: “the security of our planters from the inroads of savages, and the murders committed by them—will not be obtained by such forts, unless they were connected by a wall like that of China, from one end of our settlements to the other.” The second reason was to have fewer people on either sides of his wall being killed. Not only did Franklin want to save the lives on his side of the wall, he wished to end the bloodshed entirely. He wanted to use his wall as a tool of intimidation against the
French and the Indians in the hope that they would end the violence. It was against his nature for Franklin to tolerate violence. He needed a plan that would be accepted by his fellow Quakers but which would also reduce the brutality. Franklin knew very well the situation he faced "Most of the members of the Assembly were Quakers. I had many opportunities to observe them. I saw how uncomfortable they were made by their principle against war…I had cause to believe that our plan to defend the country was agreeable to the Quakers—provided they were not required to take part. I found that a great number of them were clearly in favor of fighting to defend something, though they were against starting a war." (From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin).

But the big question is: did Franklin’s wall really work? The fact that Franklin recommended construction of the great wall twice—once in the French Indian War and another time in the Revolutionary War—suggested to us that his vision of a great wall was functional. In fact, his defensive wall of 1756 formed a huge obstacle for the Indians and their French allies. Based on testimony given by Williams Franklin (1731-1813), son of Benjamin Franklin, the Pennsylvanians were protected well by the wall. According to William Franklin, “the Enemy is not, nor ever was, in the Heart of the Country, having only molested the Frontier Settlements by their Parties.” Under the protection of Franklin’s wall, “the Inhabitants, who at first abandoned their Frontier Settlements, returned generally to their Habitations, and many yet continue, though not without some Danger, to cultivate their
Lands…” (William Franklin to the Printer of The Citizen, 1757)

My answers to the three questions were welcomed by thunderous applause. My audience felt my presentation should be longer. They not only came from local area. A gentleman even told me that he had come all the way from Germany to listen to my lecture in London. I feel that my presentations on Benjamin Franklin and the Great Wall of China have opened new windows for people to view the history and culture he helped to create.

The above essay is adopted from CALA Newsletter, NO. 100, Spring 2009. Thank CALA's generosity.

151. CALA Introduces Dr. Wang's Research

CALA Newsletter
Chinese American Librarians
Association Newsletter
N O . 1 0 0 S P R I N G 2 0 0 9

CALA Newsletter (ISSN:0736-8887) is the official publication of the Chinese American Librarians Association. The CALA Newsletter is published twice a year in Spring and Fall. URL:http://www.cala-web.org/publications/newsletter. In the recent issue, The Issue 100, Spring 2009, the Newsletter introduces Dr. Wang's achievements in his study of the founding fathers and traditional Chinese civilization:

Dave Wang’s findings in the subject of the United States founding fathers and Chinese Civilization have attracted tremendous attention in the academic world. He has been invited to present his papers at international forums and conferences at New York, USA, Rome, Italy, and Lisbon, Portugal and some Universities in China. His publications on traditional Chinese civilization and the United States have been recommended by the History Education 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. We look forward to having Dr. Wang to speak in Hawaii." You could read more about his work through the following links:
Honolulu Advertiser:
Hawaii Reporter.com:
His research was also reported by New York Times. On January 29, 2009, New York Times introduced his research on Benjamin Franklin and China. You could find it through the following link
http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/franklin-and-china/. The editors believe that his research is" the most interesting writing we've come across lately on the Web".

Dr. Wang’s lecture schedule for 2009 is as below. He will make the presentation on Benjamin Franklin and the Great Wall of China in London in April 2009; more information on the lecture can be found from the following link, http://www.lecturelist.org/content/view_lecture/6359
Thomas Jefferson and Chinese Architecture in Monticello in early June; George Washington and the
China Trade
in Salem in the late June; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Chinese Classics in Las Vegas in July and the U.S. founding fathers and Chinese Culture in Beijing in September.
The influence of Dr. Wang’s study of Chinese civilization and the development of the United States also reached China in this Internet world. Following is the email from a Chinese University Professor;


您在欧美学术界取得了这样惊人的,可喜的,巨大的成绩和影响力, 我为您高兴, 很荣幸能分享到您的成功地喜悦. 更为我们中国人骄傲! 正是由于您的研究和努力, 我们中华民族的悠久文明得以在欧美传播, 多的人士才了解到我们祖辈的优秀文化对美国产生了如此深远的影响! 我做为中国人感谢您的研究和对我们我们自己的文化的传播! 我为您骄傲! 我下午有大三的美国文学课,我将把您的研究成果和您的学术成果,相关网站及您的影响
力介绍给我的学生们. 让他们不仅学到知识,也为中国人而骄傲! 再次恭贺您!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

150. George Washington and China

So far, Dr. Wang has published three papers on the historical connection between China and George Washington. Thanks to his research, we know that George Washington supported the United States' trade with China. We also learned that Washington wanted to introduce Chinese flowers to the United States. His love of Chinese porcelain ware helped popularize the ware in colonial period and the early periods of the United States.

A. George Washington and the China Trade

Even before the departure of the Empress of China, Washington had discussed the possibilities of this engagement with people like Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale College. Washington had realized that the American merchants "will carry the American 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 [the Yellow River] and the Yang-ti-king [Yangtze River], and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the East." While the Empress of China was still on her way to China, Washington told Thomas Jefferson that "from trade our citizen will not be restrained". More on how George Washington supported the China Trade can be found throuth this link.

B. George Washington and Chinese flowers

You can read Dr. Wang's paper, George Washington and Chinese Flowers and found how the founding father worked hard to plant Chinese flowers in his garden at Mount Vernon.

C. George Washington and Chinese Porcelain Wares

Like other founding fathers, such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, George Washington loved Chinese Porcelain. I have found that among Chinese porcelain ware, Washington had a special fondness for blue-and-white porcelain. I have found at least nine recorded references to his purchase of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain in Washington's Papers. Dr. Wang's paper, The Founding Fathers of the United States and Chinese Porcelain Ware, revealed Washington's life long pursuit of Chinese porcelain wares.

Friday, June 19, 2009

149. Congratulation from CALA

The following congratulation letter sent by CALA (Chinese American Librarians Association). CALA is an very important academic organization, therefore, I quote the letter for you in the following:

Dear CALA Members and Friends,

Dr. Dave Wang's paper "Benjamin Franklin and China" has been published on the official website of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission was established by an Act of Congress in 2002 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth in 2006. George W. Bush, the President of the United States, serves as Honorary Chairman and made six appointments to the Commission. Leaders of Congress appointed another eight of the fifteen members, whose numbers are completed by the Librarian of Congress, serving ex officio. Dr. Rosalind Remer serves as Executive Director of the Federal Commission,which operates
with the assistance of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary.

Congratulations to Dr. Dave Wang! And thanks for his efforts to bridge the
Chinese and the American cultures.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

148. Dr. Wang's Research on Benjamin Franklin in Expand Your World

Expand Your World: The Newsletter of Ethnic Service Round Table, New York Library Association carries a brief article introduces Dr. Wang's research on Benjamin Franklin and China. I will quote it in the following:

ESRT Member Speaks about Benjamin Franklin and the China Connection in London ESRT member Dr. Dave Wang of Queens Library at Hollis was recently honored to present his pioneering study on how 18th century Chinese culture influenced Benjamin Franklin’s thinking. The presentation was given in London’s Benjamin Franklin House, where the statesman lived from 1757 to 1775. For more information, see New York Times
and Dave Wang’s blog the Founding Fathers and China.
Further reading:
“Benjamin Franklin’s Efforts to Promote Sericulture in North America,” Franklin Gazette, Volume 18, No. 2, Summer 2008; “Benjamin Franklin and the Great Wall of China,” Franklin Gazette, Volume 18, Number 1, Spring 2008; “Benjamin Franklin and Chinese Civilization,” Reset Dialogue on Civilizations, Well-known European Website. “Exploring Benjamin Franklin’s Moral Life,” Franklin Gazette, Volume. 17, No. 1, Spring 2007; “Benjamin Franklin and Chinese Civilization,” U.S –China Relation Series, No. 2, New York, Outer Sky Press, August 2006; “Benjamin Franklin’s Attitude toward Chinese Civilization,” Social Science Journal of Harbin Institute of Technology, Issue 4, 2006 and “Benjamin Franklin and China: A Survey of Benjamin Franklin’s Efforts at Drawing Positive Elements from Chinese Civilization during the Formative Age of the United States, “ The Official Website of Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission. The commission is headed by former President George W. Bush.