Sunday, April 28, 2013

306. Benjamin Franklin Obtained Knowledge of China in Philadelphia

It was in Philadelphia where Franklin had the opportunity to access his knowledge of Chinese civilization. Philadelphia was the center 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”. It was popular for the residents of Philadelphia 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.”

Friday, April 26, 2013

305. To Realize his China Dream Thomas Jefferson Initated the Expedition

China Dream, the principal object of which was building a commercial relationship with China, “dominated Jefferson’s thinking about America.” Jefferson naturally wanted Lewis to learn what he could about the routes used by the British traders coming down from Canada to trade with the Missouri River tribes, and about the trading methods and practice. He also instructed Lewis to pay attention to how the fur trade, currently dominated by the British, could be taken over by Americans using the Missouri route.

From the report of Lewis to Jefferson we can tell that Jefferson’s concern about finding a possible commercial route for the United States. “In obedience to your orders we have penetrated the Continent of North America to the Pacific Ocean, and sufficiently explored the interior of the country to affirm with confidence that we have discovered the most practical rout with does exist across the continent by means of the navigable branches of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers.” We admire Jefferson’s great vision reflected in his China Dream. However, what really are impressive are Jefferson’s great efforts to realize his dream. As historian and scholar Jon Meacham has perceived that Thomas Jefferson “dreamed big but understood that dreams become reality only when their champions are strong enough and wily enough to bend history to their purpose.”

The influence of Thomas Jefferson’s China dream on American history was so great that it encouraged a contemporary scholar to state that the Lewis and Clark expedition initiated by Thomas Jefferson “Changed American history forever—in no small part thanks to the seed of a dream planed so many years earlier.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

304. The First American Visited China and His China Dream

John Ledyard (1751-1789) was called “American Marco Polo” and arguably the first United States citizen to have visited “the most ancient Nation in History.” He was also the first American to design and promote a systematic plan for the United States’ trade with China. Amazed by Chinese economic power, Ledyard had worked on his plan when he was a crewmember on James Cook’s (1728-1779) third journey. He hoped that the United States would become a global trading center and would “like the Chinese command the commerce of all nations that find it their interests to visit her & not suffer by those who do or do not.”

In October 1780, Ledyard deserted the Royal Navy and found a safe place to write his experience in the third voyage with James Cook. In Uncle Thomas’ law office, Ledyard completed A Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage in the winter of 1782 and the spring of 1783. Immediately after completion of his book, Ledyard started to implement his plan beginning in his native state, Connecticut. In his memorial to the Connecticut assembly, Ledyard said that his plan may be “essentially useful to America in general but particularly to the northern states by operating a most valuable trade across the North Pacific Ocean to China & the East Indies.” However, the governor of Connecticut, Jonathen Trumbull (1756-1843), was not impressed by Ledyard’s plan.

Ledyard attempted to win the support from the leaders of the United States. The leaders of the new nation, suffering from economic chaos, were working hard to find a way to lead the nation out of its distressed circumstances after their victory in the Revolutionary War. Ledyard convinced whoever interested in his plan by predicting such a trip to China “could save our country from bankruptcy on profit of the fur trade.” It could also, “give our United States a place in the commercial world.” He went to Philadelphia, the new nation’s economical center, where his “revolutionary new plan for China trade” attracted Robert Morris (1734-1806), one of the founding fathers. Morris, the Financier of the American Revolution, was the Superintendent of Finance of the United States when Ledyard met him.

In June 1783, Ledyard had a conference with Morris. He described his sailing route from the United States to China. In accordance with the route, a ship would sail around Cape Horn to the Pacific West, where the ship could buy furs pelts from the local Indians. Then the ship would sail to China with the furs, where those things would be “sold at fabulous prices.” Probably, Ledyard’s plan was too gigantic for the fledgling new nation due to the fact that a journey to China was unchartered and full of unknown to American sailors.

Robert Morris and his partners scaled back the ambitious plan recommended by Ledyard and decided to send the Empress of China from New York directly to Canton. Instead of furs from Northwest American Coast area, they decided to gather ginseng from Northeast and Virginian Mountain areas. The trading goods carried by the Empress of China and shipped to China consisted of entirely of ginseng roots.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

303. From China Dream to Pacific Dream

With this post I don’t intend to dig the roots of the Pacific Dream. However, if present is from the past, we should understand that the Pacific Dream has its origin like everything else. It is no secrecy that Thomas Jefferson, the first United States Secretary of State, had a China Dream. The fact that he made his efforts to find a safe and convenient trade route with China constitutes main content of his China Dream. On April 14, 2013 John Kerry, the 68th United States Secretary of State, raised the notion of the Pacific Dream.

I have noticed that before he gave out the notion of the Pacific Dream, he told his audience Thomas Jefferson’s memorial in Washington DC was covered with beautiful ribbon of color at the moment when he made the following speech; “Now you have all heard, I know – and I say this without presumption that we're proud of it – you’ve all heard of the American Dream. It is embodied by no one more than by Barack Obama. Now Beijing’s new leader has introduced what he calls a “China Dream.” Today I’d like to speak with you about our opportunity in this increasingly global age to design and define our dream for the Pacific region, one in which nations and people forge a partnership that shapes our shared future.”

It is clear enough that John Kerry's statement demonstrates to the world that the tradition of drawing positive elements from other cultures to advance American culture started by the founders of the United States has has been preserved and developed into new stage of history. Mr. John Kerry’s Pacific Dream is the echo of Thomas Jefferson’s China Dream. One of the most important features of history is continuity. Yes, no one can cut the history from present. A nation without its history is not a nation. What is the Pacific Dream? We should hear John Kerry’s explanation. “Our Pacific Dream is to translate our strongest values into an unprecedented security, economic, and social cooperation.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

302. What differentiates Chinese from Americans?

The culture gap across the Pacific Here is summary of my observations on the differences between Americans (USA) and Chinese. There are of course major trends in the two peoples.

Feeling of time:  Perception is shaped by history and present. A 100 year old house or church is considered old by Americans. For a Chinese, ancient refers to the history before Qin Dynast BC 221, when the first emperor unified China. For Americans,  200 years was ‘ancient.”

Cars:  Most of Chinese have are with manual gears, while most Americans like automatic ones.

Measure System:  Chinese use the metric system (meters, grams) Americans use the old English imperial system (yards, mile, pounds, Fahrenheit, etc)

Date and time system: Chinese write the date in the format, Year, Month, Day., whereas Americans use “Month, Day, Year.

Public Holidays: May 1 is Labor Day for Chinese, whereas American Labor Day is first Monday of September.

Names: Chinese given names are after their family names, whereas Americans are the opposite. Their family names are after their give names.

Food:  Chinese eat more varied and balanced meals and less fast food than American. Chinese probably drink more alcohol and American drink more wine. Americans eat more cheese and yogurt. Americans drink more coffees and Chinese more teas.