Friday, December 01, 2006

China Now, China Then

Do these sound like depictions of China/Chinese people today?


"Our character is that of clansmen rather than citizens. Chinese social organization is based on family and clan as the unit rather than on the individual, what is called 'regulating one's family before ruling the country.' ... [The West] developed the city system of self-gov't, while we developed a clan system of self-gov't ..."

"We have a village mentality and not a national mentality."

"Westerners work only 8 hrs a day and rest every Sunday. Chinese stores are open everyday from 7 in the morning to 11 or 12 at night, but though shopkeepers sit erect there all day, day in and day out, without rest, they still fail to get as rich as the Westerners."

"American schools average only 140 days of study a year, and 5 or 6 hrs every day. But for the same reason as before, Westerners' studies are superior to those of the Chinese."

"A small Chinese shop often employs several or more than a dozen people. In a Western shop, usually there are only one or two employees. It may be estimated that one of them does the same amount of work that it takes three of us to do. It is not that the Chinese are not diligent, they are simply not intelligent."

"When more than a hundred Chinese are gathered in one place ... there are bound to make 4 kinds of noise: the most frequent is coughing, next come yawning, sneezing, and blowing the nose ... In Oriental buses and trolleys there are always spittoons, and spitters are constantly making a mess ..."

"When Westerners walk, their bodies are erect and their heads up. We Chinese bow at one command, stoop at a second, and prostrate ourselves at a third ... When Westerners walk their steps are always hurried; one look and you know that the city is full of people with business to do ... The Chinese on the other hand walk leisurely and elegantly, full of pomp and ritual ... You can recognize a Chinese walking toward you on the street from a distance of several hundred feet, and not only from his short stature and yellow face."

(Now, probably 2 of my favorites ...)

"Westerners walk together like a formation of geese; Chinese are like scattered ducks."

"When Westerners speak, if they are addressing one person, then they speak so one person can hear; if addressing two people, they make two people hear ... The volume of their voices is adjusted appropriately. In China, if several people sit in a room to talk, they sound like thunder. If thousands are gathered in a lecture hall, the [speaker's] voice is like a mosquito."

(Lastly, on democracy ...)

"We can accept only despotism and cannot enjoy freedom ... With such countrymen, would it be possible to practice the election system? ... I have not observed the character of Chinese at home to be superior to those in San Francisco. On the contrary, I find their level of civilization far inferior to those in San Francisco ... Even if there are some Chinese superior ... their lack of qualification for enjoying freedom is just the same."

"Freedom, constitutionalism, and republicanism mean gov't by the majority, but the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people are like [those in San Francisco Chinatown]. If we were to adopt a democratic system of gov't now, it would be nothing less than committing national suicide. Freedom, constitutionalism, and republicanism would be like hempen clothes in winter or furs in summer; it is not that they are not beautiful, they are just not suitable for us ... To put it in a word, the Chinese people of today can only be governed autocratically; they cannot enjoy freedom ... I pray that our country can have a Guanzi, a Shang Yang, a Lycurgus, a Cromwell alive today to carry out harsh rule, and with iron and fire to forge and temper our countrymen for 20, 30, even 50 years. After that we can give them the books of Rousseau and tell them about the deeds of Washington."


Words by Liang Qichao・梁啟超 - one of the major reformists who led the Hundred-day reform, which eventually failed terribly. All of the above were written in 1898, almost 110 years ago.

China now and China then. At times I just cannot see the difference, and the only thing that I can do is - laugh.

梅ちゃん at 3:30:00 PM



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