Tuesday, February 3, 2015

379. Research on China and Our Founding Fathers

The following is from Dr. Wilton Dillon's new book, Smithsonian Stories: Chronicle of a Golden Age, 1964-1984, published by Transaction Publishers, 2015. Dr. Wilton Dillon is well-known anthropologist in the world. He is f"ormer president of the Institute for Intercultural Studies (founded by Margaret Mead) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and senior scholar emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution. His four Smithsonian decades drew upon earlier experience as a soldier, journalist, college teacher, foundation executive, and science diplomat. He is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Additionally, he was honored by the French government with the Chevalier des arts et des lettres, in part, for his book Gifts and Nations. "
I should let my readers know that Dr. Dave Wang has felt that he was flattered by Dr. Dillon's introduction to his research on US founders and China.

"I met Dave Wang at an Aspen Institute meeting of Friends of Franklin. Meeting this Chinese scholar from St. Johns University in New York opened up a floodgate of new insights about Chinese influence on our founding fathers and colonial North America. Prof. Wang travels the world now to share his new findings. I have given copies of some of his papers to former US senators Larry Pressler, Republican from South Dakota, and Harris Wofford, Democrats from Pennsylvania, when they lectured in China on "the two party system." Celebrating one nation's cultural gifts to another--and especially, the capacity to receive--makes for good diplomacy.

'How China Helped to Shape American Culture: The Founding Fathers and Chinese Civilization' is the tile of Wang's 2010 summary of his findings, published in Virginia Review of Asian Studies (2010). Confucian philosophy, tea, porcelain, wallpaper, rhubarb, soybeans, house heating, canal and ship building, ideas about reason, rocketry, and alternative medicine were among many cultural contributions coming from China. Franklin designed a wooden wall inspired by the Great Wall to protect Philadelphia from Indians after the French and Indian War. Jefferson's architecture showed hints of Chinese design. Wang traces Chinese influence on Thomas Paine, John Bartram, Benjamin Rush, and Jedidiah Morse, among others.

His essay starts with a quote from President Barack Obama in his July 27, 2009 remarks at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue:

Americans know the richness of China's history because it helped to shape the world and it helped to shape America. We know the talent of the Chinese people because they have helped to create this great country.

Lines need to be drawn between pandering for political, economic, and security goals on one hand, and historical studies of cultural contact on the other. Western, particularly US influence, has helped to revolutionize Greater China. The Asian idea of yin and yang would help both interdependent parties to feel more comfortable with each other. "