Sunday, October 30, 2011

241. Why Americans Don't Seek Aristocratic Titles and Honors

In his essay, titled “Optimistic or Pessimistic About AmericaProfessor Joseph Nye pointed out correctly that “some observers worry that America will become sclerotic like Britain, at the peak of its power a century ago. But American culture is far more entrepreneurial and decentralized than was that of Britain, where the sons of industrial entrepreneurs sought aristocratic titles and honors in London.” It is true that American youths today don’t regard the aristocratic titles as worthwhile to pursue.

What I want to add to the point is that this great tradition was started by the founders of this country, such as Benjamin Franklin. Some Americans wanted to continue the British tradition. However, it was the founders’ wisdom of drawing nourishments from Chinese civilization that guided the United States to the road away from the British tradition.

After the American victory, some veterans wanted permanent recognition for their triumph through formation of an order of hereditary knights. Franklin raised objection to this idea by using Confucius’s principle of social promotion:

Thus among the Chinese, the most antient, and, from long Experience, the wisest of Nations, Honour does not descend but ascends. If a Man from his Learning, his Wisdom or his Valour, is promoted by the Emperor to the Rank of Mandarin, his Parents are immediately intitled to all the same Ceremonies of Respect from the People, that are establish’d as due to the Mandarin himself; on this Supposition, that it must have been owing to the Education, Instruction, and good Example afforded him by his Parents that he was rendered capable of Serving the Publick. This ascending Honour is therefore useful to the State as it encourages Parents to give their Children a good and virtuous Education. But the descending Honour, to Posterity who could have had no Share in obtaining it, is not only groundless and absurd, but often hurtful to that Posterity, since it is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be employed in useful Arts, and thence falling into Poverty and all the Meannesses, Servility and Wretchedness attending it; which is the present case with much of what is called the Noblesse in Europe. " The above quotation is available online from the Papers of Benjamin Franklin.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

240. Chinese Technologies Helped Franklin's Efforts

In Colonial North America, colonists usually built a fire place in their houses in the cold winter. This practice was neither safe nor efficient. Benjamin Franklin wanted to change that. He worked hard to find a more efficient way to make homes warmer and safer in the 1740s. From his own record we find that he was enlightened by the Chinese heating technology.

In Notes for the Letter on Chimneys (unpublished) in 1758, Franklin revealed his study of the Chinese heating technology. He wrote in the note, “ IT is said the northern Chinese have a method of warming their ground floors, which is ingenious. Those floors are made of tile a foot square and two inches thick, their corners being supported by bricks set on end, that are a foot long and four inches square, the tiles, too, join into each other, by ridges and hollows along their sides. This forms a hollow under the whole floor, which on one side of the house has an opening into the air, where a fire is made, and it has a funnel rising from the other side to carry off the smoke. The fuel is a sulphurous pitcoal, the smell of which in the room is thus avoided, while the floor and of course the room is well warmed.” Franklin, based on the Chinese principles, invented the Pennsylvania Fire Place. Better heating technology made the cold winter less harsh and induced more colonists to move to the North, which later contributed greatly to its development as a manufacturing center.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

239 Thomas Jefferson and Confucius

The late Professor Herrlee. G. Creel (1905-1994) was the famous specialist in Confucius and his influence on United States founding fathers. In his well-known work, Confucius: The Man and the Myth, he compared the thought of Thomas Jefferson with that of Confucius.

According to Dr. Creel, Confucius and Thomas Jefferson "were alike in their impatience with metaphysics, in their concern for the poor as against the rich, in their insistence on basic human equality, in their belief in the essential decency of all men (including savages), and in their appeal not to authority by to 'the head and heart of every honest man." Professor Creel pointed out that, "Jefferson's statement that 'the whole art of government consists in the art of being honest' is amazingly similar to Analects 12.17, and other such examples could be cited."

Thursday, October 13, 2011


中国文化影响美国 王小良研究受主流关注

2011-09-28 05:55:18 来源: 《美国侨报》 作者: 管黎明【大 中 小】 浏览:612次 评论:1条 copied from 纽约在线

无论是美国的华人移民还是土生土长的美国人,可能很少有人知道美国最高法院东门顶端的雕像群里,中间的三人之一便是孔子。在皇后区Laurelton图书馆馆长王小良博士(Dave Wang)的眼中,这便是中国文明对美国建国之父影响至深的明证之一。而由田纳西大学出版的针对美国中学和大学老师的教学指导性刊物《亚洲研究》(Education About Asia),也在最新一期里刊出了王小良博士的长篇学术专著——《美国开国元勋与中国:中华文明对美国影响的缘起》(The US Founders And China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influence on the United States)。这是继早前《弗吉尼亚亚洲研究》等学术期刊登载王小良的学术论著之后,又一本美国学术期刊介绍他的成果。


在《亚洲研究》刊载的文章中,王小良详细分析了中国文化对于华盛顿富兰克林杰斐逊,以及被誉为是美国革命资助人的罗伯特•莫里斯(Robert Morris)的深远影响,这些影响涉及哲学、法律、农业、技术、航海和贸易等方方面面,远非今天的中国人和美国人所能想象。

美国革命的传奇人物罗伯斯•莫里斯早在1784年便资助了首航中国的船只“中国皇后号”(Empress of China),正是这次首航的成功才有了之后的中美贸易。对于当时的美国建国者来说,要想在政治上摆脱欧洲的殖民统治却又不得不在贸易上依赖他们,无异于与虎谋皮,因此打通和中国的贸易成为新美国能够生存下去的关键要素之一


纽约的伊利运河(Erie Canal)也是受启发于中国的大运河而建造。杰斐逊对于中国的园林设计和花草植物情有独钟,这不单可以从他的庄园设计里得到明证,甚至美国很多农作物和花草也是经过他的努力从中国经由欧洲转运到北美新大陆。而中国的陶瓷、丝织和造船工艺也都是美国的建国之父们大力研究和推广的技术。