Saturday, December 15, 2012

288. Benjamin Franklin and Silk

Americans have loved silk. By the 20th century the United States became the leading customer for raw silk, and New York had become the leading international silk center. According to the Silk Association of America’s report, the United States had imported about 60% of the total trade internationally. Benjamin Franklin would be very happy by the following fashion headlines as the marriage of Alice Roosevelt in a wedding gown of American silk, or the selection of a new range of silk colors for the inaugural gown of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and her three daughters, sent the silk manufactures into ecstasy. In history, Benjamin Franklin worked tirelessly and consistently to promote the sericulture, or silk production, in North America.

As early as 1729; at the age of 23, Franklin found the value of silk production to the economic and social progress of the colonies. He told his fellow colonists that if they thought that “raising Wheat proves dull, more may (if there is Money to support and carry on new Manufactures) proceed to the raising and manufacturing of silk.

He told the colonists: “If it is asked, what can such farmers raise, wherewith to pay for the manufactures they may want from us? I answer, that the inland parts of America in question are well-known to be fitted for the production of hemp, flax, potash, and above all silk.” (Benjamin Franklin, The Interest of Great Britain Considered, With Regard to her Colonies, And the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe. To which are added, Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c. London: Printed for T. Becket, at Tully’s Head, near Surry-Street in the Strand. MDCCLX. (Yale University Library); draft (five scattered pages only): American Philosophical Society.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

287. Why James Madison Asked Thomas Jefferson to Buy Book on China?

On April 27, 1785, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), then the United States ambassador to France, received a letter from James Madison (1751-1836), in which Madison requested he buy in Paris the recently published book on China. This was more than an ordinary correspondence between the two great founders of the United States: indeed, it is of great significance to our study of the cultural relations between China and the United States.

It reflects the fact that in Madison’s mind, Jefferson was an expert on China who was qualified to be trusted to make acquisition of books on China. This was not the first time that somebody called upon Jefferson’s expertise in the subject. Earlier in 1771, Robert Skipwith, Jefferson’s brother-in-law, requested Jefferson to recommend him "a list of the best books on general subjects available in America.” Jefferson recommended two Chinese classical books.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

286. Why Chinese Architectural Design?

Several years ago I gave a presentation in New England on Thomas Jefferson and Chinese architecture. Some of my audiences wondered why Jefferson put Chinese railings on the top of his mansion in Monticello. The following explanation from Jefferson should help them and readers of this weblog to understand the reason why Jefferson had the Chinese design on his building top. He stated, "We must contrive a building in such a manner that the finest and most notable parts of it be the most exposed to the public view, and the less agreeable disposed in by places, and removed from sight as much as possible."

The above statement is clear enough for us to understand Jefferson's thinking of the Chinese design. At least it tells that in Jefferson's mind, the Chinese design is both "the finest" and one of the "most notable parts" of his mansion. It shouldn’t be considered it a statement of overstretch to make the conclusion that Jefferson had been influenced by Chinese culture. Furthermore, it shouldn't be considered it a coincidence that Jefferson placed the Chinese design on the top of his beloved mansion in the time when he made great efforts to build a new nation by drawing positive elements from the whole world.

Friday, October 19, 2012

285. Franklin and European Hereditary System

After the victory of the American Revolution, one question in the minds of the colonists was, “Should the United States be developed into another European country on the new continent?” The basic fact is that the majority of colonists who waged the war against the British rule were from Europe, some veterans considered that it would be natural for the colonists to establish a country just like the countries in Europe. In 1784, the Society of Cincinnatus was established. Some tried to use this organization to serve as means of bestowing a type of hereditary nobility on all the soldiers who had fought on the American side.

Franklin stood up to show his position concerning the direction American should take. He opposed firmly the concept of establishing any kind of hereditary aristocracy in United States political system. He used the Chinese social promotion system developed according to Confucius thoughts as an example to support his argument against the system similar to the European hereditary institution. He told his fellow Americans:

" Among the Chinese, the most ancient, 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 entitled to all the same Ceremonies of Respect from the People, that are establish'd as due to the Mandarin himself; on the 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 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 employ'd 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."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

284. Ronald Regan and Lao-tzu

President Ronald Reagan loved Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s governing philosophy. He used the philosophy to convince the law makers to support the Republican free market notion. In 1988, in front of the Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union, Reagan told the law makers that the ancient Chinese philosopher,

Lao-tzu, had pointed out that over-governing was not good governing. He then quoted Lao-tzu, "Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish; do not overdo it." Lao Tzu’s succinct language helped Reagan to win the support from the law makers.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

283. Ben Franklin Promoted Virtue Cultivation

1784 was the year when Benjamin Franklin was seen to start his endeavor to advocate the use of Confucian moral philosophy to cultivate individual virtue. It was in this year that he revealed his readers of his personal experience in cultivating his own virtue. He wrote in this year a pamphlet of advice, entitled “To Those Who Would Remove to America.”

Franklin advised to the Europeans who wanted to move to North America that one could obtain success in the United States, if one had good virtue. He said to them that “the only encouragements we hold out to strangers are a good climate, fertile soil, good pay for labour, kind neighbors, good laws, liberty and a hearty welcome. The rest depends on a man’s own industry and virtue.” The message Franklin conveyed is very clear. If one wanted to be a successful person, he must possess good virtue. With it you would achieve success anywhere in the world. If you don’t have good virtue, you wouldn’t be a successful person even in a place as plentiful as the United States-- the recently independent country, full of opportunities and good conditions.

In 1790, largely confined to bed, Franklin, who had finished his last will, struggled to add to his autobiography another seven and half pages. In these last pages Franklin still encouraged people to cultivate their virtues.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

282. China and the American Revolution

Certain Chinese products, such as tea, had become deeply involved in the colonies and became an indispensable element of colonists’ daily life. The British control of tea and the colonists’ struggle against this control changed the historical course of the colonies. The tax on tea and the resentment with the tea monopoly by the East Indian Company was one of the factors that led the colonists to rebel. Immediately before the successful 1784 sailing of the Empress of China, the first American commercial ship to reach China, the President of Yale College told George Washington: Navigation will carry the America 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 and the Yang-ti-king; and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the East.

However, the Americans had difficulty in finding goods that would sell in the Chinese market. Interestingly enough, the plant Ginseng, was found to grow in North American mountains, and helped the fledgling United States to trade with China and enter the international commerce. Chinese porcelain greatly enriched American life. In order to establish the silk industry in North America, Benjamin Franklin made great efforts to introduce Chinese silk technology, revealing the founding fathers’ drive to use Chinese civilization to facilitate the development of the colonies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

281 Confucius in North America around the Revolution

Confucius “dominated early American perspectives Chinese worship." In colonial bibliophile James Logan's collection works of Confucius were found. In 1733, Logan "acquired for his personal library a copy of the first European printing of Confucius philosophy. In May 1788, an article carried in the Columbia Magazine introduced its readers to Confucius’s filial piety.

John Bartram, the well-known American scientist, showed his interest in the personality of Confucius." Another influential magazine in New England, the New Hampshire Magazine in its September 1793 issue published "an outstanding tribute to Confucius and Chinese religion." A writer using Confucius Disciple as a pen name wrote "a concise History of Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher," in which he demonstrated his belief that Confucius was "a Character so truly virtuous."

In 1796 Jedidiah Morse, the author of American Universal Geography cited Daxue (Great Learning), the new French translation, and Zhongyong (the Doctrine of the Mean) two of the four classics of Confucius philosophy. Morse praised the two works as "the most excellent precepts of wisdom and virtue, expressed with the greatest eloquence, elegance and precision." In his word, Confucius "is very striking, and which far exceeds, in clearness, the prophecy of Socrates."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

280. Why China Became the First Trade Partner?

There was a great deal of uncertainty in the newly founded country. After the war for independence was over, the nation's fiscal system was on the brink of chaos. Many small farmers, the broad base of the new nation, were being thrown into jail for debt and many others were forced to lose their farms. The Congress, established under the Articles of Confederation, was attempting to bring order out of the turmoil. In Massachusetts, an agrarian revolt spread quickly.

In the meantime, Britain, which lost the war militarily, was seeking to defeat the Americans economically. It strengthened its economic pressure on individual states to compel them, one by one, to return to "Mother England". Britain closed all traditional trade partners to the new nation, and American merchants could no longer trade with Spain, Africa and West Indies. In the aftermath of the victory of the American revolutionary war, France, Holland and other European countries were willing to use the US as their market, but not anxious to take American wares in exchange.

Given the situation, commerce became "the lifeblood of America's recovery from its economic slump". New trade partners had to be discovered, new trade routes had to be opened and new connections had to be established. Otherwise, political independence wouldn't last long. It was in this critical situation that the first American voyage to China started.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

279. Chinese Tea and American Revolution

One of the most obvious direct economical and political influences of the Chinese culture upon social development in North America was the tea from China that helped trigger the American Revolution. On December 17, 1773, a week away from Christmas Eve, some colonial patriots, disguised as Indians, secretly entered Boston Harbor under the cover of night. They boarded three British ships in the harbor and dumped some 350 chests of Chinese tea into the water. Their action was a protestation of taxation without representation and the monopoly granted the East India Company (among other complaints against the British regime).

The importance of tea had developed into such a degree that it impacted the historical course of the world. Tea had become a basic element in North American colonial society so that in the 18th century, drinking tea in the morning at home and socially in the afternoon or early evening became an "established custom". A contemporary estimated that one third of the population drank tea twice a day. Some visitors left us vivid records about tea drinking in Pennsylvania and New York. “The favorite drink, especially after dinner, is tea.”

A Swedish traveler found that there was “hardly a farmer’s wife or a poor woman, who does not drink tea in the morning.” In Philadelphia the women would rather go without their dinners than without “a dish of tea.” The tea ceremony, with tea drinking, became the core of family life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

278. Ginseng, Tea and American Revolution

The Ginseng drive also helped popularize the tea drinking from upper class to the rest of the society. Tea drinking in the colonies had been very popular before the huge amount of teas shipped directly by the citizens of the United States. The British carried the habit from England to North America, and the colonists quickly adopted their tastes for tea. Tea houses following London models became powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and the distribution of news.

Indeed, the taxes that the British imposed on the colonists’ tea spurred their demands for independence in the American Revolution. However, before 1784, tea was mainly a luxury reserved for affluent colonists due to its high price. However, large amounts of tea carried over oceans from China to North America by the Empress of China and other American ships after 1784 popularized the drink by making more affordable to ordinary Americans.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

277. Washington Loved Blue-and White China

Among Chinese porcelain ware, George 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. Samuel Fraunces (ca 1722-1795), realizing that Washington loved this, found an assortment of blue-and-white china for Washington.

As the War of Independence came to an end and the focus of American officers and troops turned toward their civilian futures, Washington began to search for a large set of chinaware for Mount Vernon. He wrote to Daniel Parker (a partner with William Duer and John Holker in a company formed to provision the Continental Army) in occupied New York and requested "a neat and complete sett of blue and white table China." With the help of Samuel Fraunces, Parker collected 205 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain before September. Edward Nicole, Jr. also provided some blue-and-white pieces for Washington.

Washington learned through an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser on August 12, 1785, that the Pallas, which was coming directly back from China, would be selling its cargo, including blue-and-white Chinese porcelain. He wrote to Tench Tilghman, his former military aide, and asked him to inquire about the conditions of sale and price. Five days later Washington, at Mount Vernon, learned that "the Cargo is to be sold at public Venue, on the first of October," and wrote a letter to Tench Tilgman in which Washington asking him to buy “a set of large blue and White China Dishes with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati" and the best Hyson Tea, one dozen small blue-and white porcelain bowls and best Nankeens.

In July 1790, when two ships had just arrived in New York from Canton, Tobias Lear asked Clement Biddle to purchase and send to Mount Vernon blue-and-white china tea and coffee services for twenty-four persons with three or four matching slop bowls for tea dregs. A week later Biddle sent to Mount Vernon a box marked GW containing 3 dozen china cups & saucers, 2 dozen coffee cups & saucers, & 4 slop bowls by the sloop Dolphin, Captain Carhart, on 6 August, 1790.

Friday, August 24, 2012

276. Benjamin Franklin Started to Culivate His Virtue in 1726

As early as in 1726 Franklin was determined to cultivate his virtue. Franklin stated: I have never fixed a regular design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that, henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature." On October 11, 1726, after about three month’s life on the ocean, Franklin returned to Philadelphia. It was about this time he started his “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.

He stated that “I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” Shortly Franklin compiled a list of thirteen virtues he thought to be the most important elements that would contribute to the development of his virtue. The thirteen virtues constitute the main content in Franklin’s drive for moral faultlessness. According to Franklin himself, this system of behavior made him “not only successful but a better person.” It is worthy to examine the sources of the thirteen virtues. In addition to the above thirteen virtues, another virtue - charity, love of one’s fellow man, deserves to be mentioned here.

It has been regarded as the “great principle” of Franklin’s life. The fact that Franklin did not include this important virtue into his moral cultivating principles has induced scholars’ curiosity. One of the convincing answers to the question provided by Professor Morgan is widely accepted by Franklin scholars. According to him, Franklin’s omission was that Franklin wanted to “affirm[ing] to himself the superiority of a ‘moral perfection’ that has nothing to do with Christianity.” If you compare Franklin's fourteen virtues with Confucius moral codes, you will find out that eleven out of Franklin’s fourteen values are inspired by the Morals of Confucius.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

275. American Civilization and Chinese Civilization

It is well-known that "for much of their history, Americans defined their society in opposition to Europe." American civilization, it was argued, was a distinct civilization.” George Washington had believed that “the new nation would develop a unique American character.” Thomas Jefferson alleged that American civilization “was the part of a form of civilization higher than the polished societies of Europe. “US cultures have evolved and absorbed elements from other cultures in the historic process of the formation of American civilization.

American civilization drew positive elements from other major civilizations of the world, including Chinese civilization. In contemporary society, American political leaders have also clearly realized the influence of Chinese civilization on the development of American civilization. Bill Clinton pointed out that China as “a stronghold of creativity, knowledge and wealth” had an impact on American life long before the United States was even born. He told Americans that “From the printing China invented to the poetry it produced, from medicine and mathematics to the magnetic compass and humanistic philosophies, many of China’s earliest gifts still enrich our lives today.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

274. US Founders Found Resources in China

The founding fathers regarded China as a place where they could find important resources to promoting agricultural and industrial development in North America. They made their exertion to transplant valuable plants from China to North America. Benjamin Franklin obtained rhubarb seeds and sent them to John Bartram in 1772. George Washington made his own experiments to plant Chinese flowers in his garden on Mountain Vernon. Thomas Jefferson made long time commitment to transplant the dry rice to southern United States. Samuel Bowen introduced soybeans from China into Savannah, Georgia in 1765.

Franklin also sent soybean seeds from London to John Bartram in Philadelphia in 1770. Franklin expressed his great interest in Chinese industrial technologies, such as heating house in the winter, ship building, paper making, candle and mill and other technologies. Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) was influenced by the literature on the Grand Canal of China. The Chinese canal construction technologies had an impact on the New Yorkers, who wanted to build the Erie Canal, which could help in making New York one of the great cities in the United States.

Jefferson borrowed elements from Chinese architecture in his effort to create a new style of building. Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush also promoted the sericulture in North America. (Dave Wang, Benjamin Franklin’s Efforts to Promote Sericulture in North America, in Benjamin Franklin Gazette, Vol. 18, no. 2, Summer 2008. Benjamin Rush told his fellow colonists “Mulberry trees are so plenty among us that we might raise silkworms in a few years to supply us with all the silk we want, as oak leaves (when those of the mulberry are not to be had) have been found in China to afford a food to the worms.” )

Thursday, August 9, 2012

273. A Way to Cultivate Patriotism

The Americans wanted to diminish their reliance on taxed imports and ultimately their need for other goods controlled by England. Their pursuing self supply of Chinese porcelain ware became a powerful call for the patriotic support of American economical independence. Some colonists started attempts to establish a porcelain manufactory company in Philadelphia in 1769. They established the factory on Prime Street near the present day navy yard, intended to make china at a savings of 15,000 £. Benjamin Franklin, who was in London at the time, showed his happiness seeing the achievement made by his countrymen.

Franklin said, “I am pleased to find so good progress made in the China Manufactory. I wish it Success most heartily.” The American China Manufactory became noted for the porcelain ware it produced. More importantly, it succeeded in cultivating patriotic support. It set in motion “an intense competition between the young American factory and its English contemporaries.” Although the porcelain factory lasted to 1772, it challenged Britain’s monopoly of the Chinese products and ultimately contributed to the winning of American independence. Benjamin Rush stated clearly, “There is but one expedient left whereby we can save our sinking country, and that is by encouraging American manufactures. Unless we do this, we shall be undone forever.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

272. Benjamin Franklin and Philadelphia

It was in Philadelphia where Benjamin Franklin had the opportunity to access knowledge of Chinese civilization. Philadelphia was one of the centers of Chinese culture in North America. In the 18th century, “things Chinese, or in the Chinese style, then began a steady infiltration of the homes of the American city-dwelling merchant.”

The Philadelphian inhabitants “had access to more reliable knowledge concerning this aspect of Chinese life than readers anywhere else in the West”. For example, it was popular for the residents there to use Chinese wall paper to decorate their homes. Powel Room, located at 244 South Third Street in Philadelphia, was decorated with beautiful Chinese wall paper. Chinese products, including teas, silk, porcelain, and cloth “became part of the social milieu of colonial and post-Revolutionary Philadelphia.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

271. What Can Laws Do Without Morals?

A very important principle of Confucian moral philosophy is to educate the leaders to rule according to the belief--governing according to morality and promotion according to talents. In 1778, two years after the colonists declared their independence; Benjamin Franklin addressed the significance of the morality’s role.

Franklin pointed out the necessity of introducing the notion of governing with morals, especially for the leaders of the United States. He told his fellow Americans, 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."

Friday, July 20, 2012

270. American Ginseng and Americanization

Much has been written about the Ginseng’s contributions to the American effort to open the trade with China, but its impact on the social development has been neglected. It should be noted that American Ginseng had helped change American society in the early period of the United States. For example, the Westward expansion was promoted by the pioneers who looked for exploitable natural resources and new commercial opportunities.

Driven by the need of gathering enough Ginseng worthy for the journey of long distance to China, Ginseng diggers and traders were soon found in the Appalachian Mountains and other areas where Ginseng was readily available. After gathering them together, the merchants would transport the herbs from the interiors of Pennsylvania and Virginia to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston. “

This proved to be an important educational influence, since it was almost the only way in which the pioneer learned what was going on in the East.” As a result, the huge masses of Ginseng diggers, traders, and transporters changed the society. “Mobility of population is death to localism, and the western frontier worked irresistibly in unsettling population. The effect reached back from the frontier and affected profoundly the Atlantic coast and even the Old World.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

269. George Washington and Chinese Porcelain

George Washington used Chinese porcelain as precious gifts to his friends and guests. In 1797 he gave Mrs. Samuel Power, a Chinese porcelain cooler, liner, and cover, underglaze-blue river scene with gilt handles and rims. On June 9, 1798, Mrs. Washington made Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a Polish journalist then visiting Mount Vernon, a gift of Chinese porcelain cup with her name and the name of the United States.

As Washington’s reputation in then North America during the formative age of the United States, his appreciation for Chinese porcelain ware produced a great influence on other people since a stream of visitors to the headquarters had been served with the ware at the Commander in Chief's table. George Washington once called his home as a well-resorted tavern” and existing records confirm his statement.

According to household documents, Washington dined with his wife alone only twice in the last 20 years of his marriage. Ordinary American citizens and friends “flocked to see the President, and with customary grace, he welcomed them to home, not only for meals but to spend the night.” More about Washington and Chinese Porcelain is available through reading this paper, The Founding Fathers of the United States and Chinese Porcelain Ware

Saturday, July 7, 2012

268. The American Founders and Chinese Food

Among the American founders, Benjamin Franklin told us his personal experience with Chinese food. In a letter, dated January 11, 1770, to John Batram, a friend in Philadelphia, the founing father introduced Tau-Fu, one of the popular Chinese foods throughout the history of China. Franklin told Batram, "Father Navarrete's account of the universal use of a cheese made of them in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused enquiry to be made of Mr. [James] Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made, and I send you his answer. I have since learned that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water, when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds. [...] These ... are what the Tau-fu is made of." As for more information concerning Franklin's love of Chinese food, please read "Franklin’s Favorite Foods" by Dr. Page Talbott, Associate Director, and Chief Curator, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

267. The American Founders and Chinese Civilization

I have found that History Education Hawaii, Inc., an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation serving the history learning community of the state of Hawaii, promotes to study Dr. Dave Wang's research on the US founders and China.

It is well-known that HEH promotes study, research, effective learning practices and innovative history teaching techniques, partnering with educational institutions, facilitates professional programs for history-buffs, educators, teacher-candidates, historians, historic preservationists, foundations, museums and the government, military and business communities. History Education Hawaii is allied with the National Council for History Education.( Joining our mailing list by contacting us at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

266. China and the Founding of the United States

It seems a historical irony that China, the ancient and far away empire, also had an impact on the founding of the United States. Military support from France was one of the key factors in the colonists’ victory in the American Revolutionary War. One reason the French royal court fought the British in North America was to prevent a British from monopoly of trade with China.

The French court understood that the French needed a victory in order to “destroy British hegemony, not only in North America but in the sugar-rich With the accession of King Louis XVI, Charles Gravier Comte de Vergennes (1717-1787) became foreign minister. He believed that the power of the states on the periphery of Europe, namely Great Britain and Russia, was increasing and should be checked. His rivalry with the British and his desire to avenge the failure of the Seven Years’ War led to his support of the Americans in their war for independence. In 1777 he told the Thirteen Colonies’ commissioners that France acknowledged the United States and was willing to form an offensive and defensive alliance with the new nation. It was also due to his encouragement that King Louis sent expeditions to Indochina. Thomas Fleming, The Perishes of Peace: America’s Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, New York: Smithsonian Books, 2007, p.57.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

265. The Main Weavers of the Fiber of American Civilization

As a reader of this blog, you have realiezed through Dr. Dave Wang's reserach the influenc of Chinese culture on the development of the United States. The founding fathers of the United States were among the main weavers of the fiber of United States Civilization. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had positive attitudes towards Chinese civilization and worked hard to borrow from it in their efforts to make a new and flourishing society in North America.

Benjamin Franklin studied and promoted Confucian Moral philosophy in his effort to cultivate his own morals as well as to encourage Americans to do the same. George Washington personally conducted an experiment to grow Chinese flowers in his garden. Thomas Jefferson incorporated Chinese architectural elements into his own buildings in Monticello.

Thanks to Dr. Wang's study of the subject, we can learn the relations between Chinese culture and the United States. Enjoy the poster of Dr. Wang's Speech in Rome in 2006

Friday, June 15, 2012

264. Benjamin Franklin and Chinese Heating Technology

There is a long and cold winter in the northern section of North America. During colonial times, most people warmed their homes by building a fire in a fireplace, even though it was dangerous and much wood was needed. Franklin figured that there had to be a better way. By the 1740s the growing population of the Colonies resulted in noticeable inroads on the great forests, which supplied fuel. The heating of houses was growing more expensive, while the wood used was very inefficient, much of the heat - five sixth, Franklin estimated in many cases - being lost up the chimney. In the process of working on a new and efficient heating system, Franklin studied Chinese heating technology. He examined the “ingenious” heating technology used by “the northern Chinese.”

As in other cases, Franklin did not just copy the Chinese technology. He examined it first, and then adopted the most suitable part from the technology. He noticed that the Chinese heating technology had some minor flaws. For instance, “as the underside of the floor must grow foul with soot, and a thick coat of soot prevents much of the direct application of the hot air to the tiles.” Franklin found the cause of this problem. Franklin was not satisfied with finding the problem; he continued to work to find the solution. For the purpose of making the Chinese heating system more efficient in the United States, Franklin built “the funnel close to the grate, so as to have only an iron plate between the fire and the funnel, through which plate, the air in the funnel being heated, it will be sure to draw well, and force the smoke to descend.”

On the basis of his assimilation of the Chinese heating technology, Franklin invented a fire place, which was called the Pennsylvania Fire Place. He dealt with the problem by incorporating a number of passages and vents so that the apparatus drew in cold fresh air from outside the building and, after warming the air in a passage kept hot by the escaping gases of the fire, finally discharged it into the room. The main advantage, Franklin maintained, was that “whole room is equally warmed, so that people need not crowd so close round the fire, but many sit near the window, and have the benefit of the light for reading, writing, needle-work, &c

From Benjamin Franklin and Chinese Civilization, published by Reset Dialogue of Civilization. The paper can be accessed from this link.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

263. Chinese Wisdom and American Victories

Former President Bill Clinton has tirelessly and earnestly exhorted Americans that “success in the twenty‐first century world requires Americans to be curious enough to learn from other countries.” Clinton’s admonition is of particular significance now that the United States is once again facing tremendous, unprecedented challenges both domestically and abroad. It has been a great tradition of the United States to learn from other countries.

Readers will learn how political and military leaders, including the founding fathers of the United States, have used Chinese wisdoms to overcome obstacles on their roads to victories. In fact, some eminent leaders of the North American colonies paid attention to Chinese culture long before this country was founded. Traditional Chinese civilization has served as a priceless treasure from which the American leaders constantly draw wisdom. Numerous American political leaders, from the US founders to contemporary presidents, have sought enlightenment from traditional Chinese culture.

This is the opening paragraph of Dr. Dave Wang’s paper, Chinese Wisdom and American Victories, in Huaren E-Magazine, January 2012.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

262. Resources For A Great Classroom Day: Immigration

Dave Wang, “The US Founders and China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influence on the United States,” Education About Asia 16 no. 2 (2011): 5–11 (reprints for educational purposes are granted with the permission of the Association for Asian Studies, Inc.).
“In his work of over several years, Dr. Dave Wang has explored Chinese culture and the early development of the United States, particularly the efforts of eminent colonists, including the founding fathers, who worked hard to draw nourishments from traditional Chinese Civilization. Dr. Wang has written recently an excellent article titled "The US Founders and China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influence on the United States," useful for the Chinese-American community and teachers and students interested in their roots in early America. It is a must-have resource for education about Asia. ( Permission to use has been granted b: Peggy Creswell, Managing Editor, Education About Asia. 302 Pfeiffer Hall, Dept. 2222 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, TN 37403. Phone (423)425-2118, Fax (423)425-5441. Website: (Above paragraph is from this link.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

261. China's Needs of American Ginseng and Its Infulence on American Social Development

Much has been written about American Ginseng’s contributionsto United States’ effort to open direct trade with China, but its impact on the social development has been neglected. It should be noted that American Ginseng had helped change American society in the early period of the republic. For example, the Westward expansion was promoted by the pioneers who looked for exploitable natural resources and new commercial opportunities. Driven by the need of gathering enough Ginseng worthy for the journey of long distance to China, Ginseng diggers and traders were soon found in the Appalachian Mountains and other areas where Ginseng was readily available. After gathering them together, the merchants would transport the herbs from the interiors of Pennsylvania and Virginia to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston. “This proved to be an important educational influence, since it was almost the only way in which the pioneer learned what was going on in the East.” As a result, the huge masses of Ginseng diggers, traders, and transporters changed the society. “Mobility of population is death to localism, and the westernfrontier worked irresistibly in unsettling population. The effect reached back from the frontier and affected profoundly the Atlantic coast and even the Old World.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

260. The Earliest Contact Between Chinese Culture and North America

   The connection between China and North America can be traced the inception of the American colonies in May of 1609. British colonists, sent by the Virginia Company landed on the north bank of a river they named James Fort (later to be renamed Jamestown), for they believed the river’s headwaters to be “the shortcut to China.” The choosing of Jamestown as the landing spot was not a chance decision, but was made in accordance with instruction given by the Virginia Company. Even the “decisive and stern leadership” of John Smith (1580-1631) was not given “the authority to override” the instruction from the Company, which believed that the James River could lead the colonists to “a shortcut to China.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

259. Ginseing and the Founding Fathers

American Ginseng, nicknamed Flower Flag Ginseng, was the most important commercial good in the trade between Chinaand the United Statesduring the late 1700s leading into the early 1800s. American Ginseng’s role in promoting the trade between China and the United States is evident by how the amount of Ginseng shipped to China increased proportionally during the first five administrations of the United States.

During the Washingtonadministration of 1789-1797, the United States exported 374,792 lb. of Ginseng to China. However, during John Adam’sshort administration, 1797-1801, the United States exported 337,192 lb., close to that of the Washington administration. During the Thomas Jefferson Administration of 1801-1809, the American merchants sent 1,617,594 lb. to China.  Compared with that of Washington’s administration, the export of Ginseng increased 4.3 times.  In theJames Madison administration, 1809-1817, the US exported 1,000,660 lb. to China. During the last presidency of the founding father generation, the James Monroeadministration (1817-1825), the amount of American Ginseng exported to China reached 2,868,062 lb.  

258. Benjamin Franklin Can't Be Blamed

Readers of this blog know that it was Benjamin Franklin who introduced tallow tree from China to  North America in the 1700s. At that time Franklin was in London, where he sent tallow tree seeds to Georgia. Loving the great economic value, Franklin hoped the tree would be flourishing in the colonies.
Today tallow trees are classified as an invasive species. The trees are spreading so fast that they are destroying native habitates. I have been worried about it, for Franklin might be blamed for the situation.

Thanks to the research done by Even Siemann, Professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at Rice Unversity, we have known that the tallow trees that are running amok in most of the United States aren't from the batch that Franklin imported. The descendants of Franklin's trees are confined to a few thousand square miles of coastal plain in northern Georgia and soucthern South Carolina. All other U.S. tallow trees are descendants from seeds brought to the United States around 1905.  More information is available from the report by Huston Chronicle Garden Editor Kathy Huber, Did Ben Franklin Bring Invasive Tallow Tree to Texas?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

257. China as One of the World's Major Civilizations

In his article "The Future of U.S.-Chinese Relations," in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2012, Dr. Henry Kissinger pointed out, "China can find reasuarance in its own record of endurance and in the fact that no U. S. administration has ever sought to alter the  reality of China as one of the world's major states, economies, and civilizations." I can't say bettter than Dr. Kissenger, Chair of Kissinger Associates and a former U.S. Secretary of States and National Security Adviser. Yes, indeed, in the eyes of the great founding fathers of the United States, China provided valuable resources for their efforts to build a new nation in North America. From George Washington (1732-1799), the first president,  to James Manroe (1758-1731), the fifth president, all the first five administrations  of the United States promoted to develop the relationship between China and the United States. I feel that you will find it is eassier to understand Dr. Kissinger's above statement if you have read some posts from this weblog.

256. The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influences on the US

Walking from the east entrance up the steps to the SupremeCourt building, one can see a sculpture of Confucius along with Moses and Solon. The sculpture may serve as an indicator of the impact of Confucius in the formation of American culture. Indeed, Chinese cultural and technological influence on what would become the United States started even before this country was born.

Chinese culture became important when some of the US founders looked for resources that could be mobilized in their efforts to build a new nation after declaring independence from Great Britain. Chinese contributions to early America were varied. In their efforts to cultivate personal virtue and to educate the younger generations to be virtuous, several founding fathers sought guidance from Confucian philosophy. The founders also adopted Chinese inventions to facilitate the social and economic development of colonies and introduced elements of Chinese agriculture to North America.

 -------The US Founders and China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influences on the United States, in Education about Asia, Vol. 16, No. 2 Fall 2011.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

255. China in the Era of the Founding of the United States

One question in this blog readers' mind might be why the founders of this nation wanted to learn from China. I just came across an excellent article. I think that the following quote from Why China is China: A Historical Perspective-in Forbes by Dr. Doug Guthrie will answer this question. According to him,  "

In For more than 2000 years, China was the center of the world it knew. It was the “Middle Kingdom” of a tributary system in which “lesser” nations paid homage to the “Celestial Empire.” So remarkable was its stature that during the 18th and early 19th centuries, China controlled one-third of the world’s economy. Several of its metropolitan areas had populations on the order of 1 million residents. (The most populous city in Europe at the time was Paris, which had 100,000 residents.) And China was a technological marvel that had an impressive list of firsts, including the discovery of gunpowder and the production of printed books."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

254. Obama and Mencius' Wisdom

Both the founders of this nation and more contemporary leaders have sought assistance from Chinese wisdom; indeed, it has become an important tradition of the United States. With the aid of Chinese insight, the United States has overcome numerous obstacles. Ironically however, American leaders today struggle to improve their relationship with China, one of the world’s most important bilateral relations.

Not surprisingly, to undertake this issue, American leaders utilize Chinese wisdom again. At the opening meeting of the first China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue on July27, 2009, President Barrack Obama quoted the ancient philosopher Mencius to win Chinese cooperation building long-term relations with China. “ Thousands of years ago, the great philosopher Mencius said: "A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time." In the following please find Mencius original words:

孟子谓高子曰:‘山径之蹊间,介然用之而成路;为间不用,则茅塞之矣。今茅塞子之心矣。’” 孟子·尽心下》                                                                                                                 

253. The Influence of Trade with China during the Early Period

Encouraged by the success of the China Trade, George Washington expressed his feeling thus: "the Maritime Genius of this Country is now steering our vessels in every ocean ..." In September 1796, he told the American people that the US "will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities of which it brings from abroad" - namely through trade with China. In the same year, he invited Thomas Handasyd Perkins, the pioneer of China trade in Boston, to Mount Vernon to drink tea and to spend the night there.

The China trade helped change America's political map. It helped the US to move its political center from Virginia to New York City and New England. Hamilton decided to build the national bank in New York. The political center of the United States would be in New York, the commercial and financial center of the new nation.

The significance of the China trade in the early development of the US was crucial to Washington's thinking about American foreign policy. On September 1796, Washington in his Farewell Address told his fellow American citizens that "the great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations".

Saturday, March 10, 2012

252. Thomas Jefferson's Dream: A Shor Cut to China

It was Thomas Jefferson’s dream to open up a shortest trade route between China and the United States. He had tried three times before the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  On April 30 1793, ten years after the independence was recognized in the Treaty of Paris and at the beginning of the second term of the Washington administration, Jefferson wrote the instructions for Michaux.  Jefferson told him that the first purpose was to “find the shortest & most convenient route of communication between the U.S. & the Pacific ocean, within the temperate latitudes.”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

251. Franklin and Confucius' Way of Social Promotion

Confucius pointed out that it was very important for kings to behave themselves well in their court and family because their actions are certainly imitated. During the founding era of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, among others, worked hard to promote this important principle. In the wake of their independence from Britain, some revolutionary veterans “thought it proper to distinguish themselves and their posterity from their fellow citizens.”

They wanted to “form an order of hereditary knights.” Franklin raised objections to this idea by using the Confucian principle of social promotion. He told his fellow Americans, “Thus among the Chinese, the most ancient, 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.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

250. Modern Science Technology and the Founders

In his new book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, Dr. Niall Ferguson made the following statement, "modern science and technology are fundamentally Western products." He also told his readers that the past is really our only reliable source of knowledge to understand our future. Therefore, before we agree with his above statement we are obliged to examine the sources of modern Western science and technology.

We know that the founders of this country worked hard to draw positive elements from Chinese culture in their efforts to build a new nation in North America. Some eminent scientists in North America represented by Benjamin Franklin borrowed some Chinese technologies in making some fundamentally Western products. It was under the help of Kite, an invention of China, that Franklin made the famous scientific test related to electricity.

Now it is very clear, modern western science and technology had incorporated in their progress some scientific and technical elements from China and other countries in the world. For the sake of our understanding better the future, history shouldn't be cut into separated and unrelated pieces but should be pieced together all relevant parts into a big picture. In this sense, I do agree with Dr. Ferguson, "the biggest threat to Western civilization is posed not by other civilizations, but by our own pusillanimity — and by the historical ignorance that feeds it."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

249. John Adams and Confucius

Some US founding fathers drew on the wisdom of Confucius, who yearned to see people, especially political leaders, adopt better morals and more compassion. For him, virtue was not only the basis and foundation of an empire, but also the source from whence flowed whatever might render it flourishing. During the formative age of the United States, American founder John Adams (1735-1826) laboured to make a plan for the new government. He realized the importance of virtue in a good government.

I have been surprised by his plan; especially, his following statement, which has definitely opened my eyes. I believe that you will open your eyes to the fullest scale when you read it. After thorough thinking, Adams came to the following conclusion, "All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this".

The above statement conveys two important mesages, including the significance of virtue for a good government and the influence of Confucius's moral philosophy on John Adams. Clearly, Confucius has occupied the most outstanding place in John Adams mind in terms of good virtue that a good American government must possess.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

248. HEH Welcomes Dr. Dave Wang to its Board of Directors

History Education Hawaii, Inc., the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation serving the history learning community of the state of Hawaii, proclaimed that Dr. Dave Wang was selected as one of its Board of Diretors.

In its announcement of the news, Jeffrey Bingham Mead, Jeffrey Bingham Mead, NCHE Hawaii liaison, co-founder and president of History Education Hawaii explained why Dr. Wang was selected by the following statement: Dr. Wang’s research and scholarship has added a new and exciting illuminations into the founding of the United States of America, the influence of China’s civilization and traditions on the founders. This is something that should be taught in our Amen rican and Chinese history courses.” Congratulations!