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The Japanese view of the Chinese Civilization [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2005-2-1 16:15:02 |Display all floors
John Mak,

Someone once posed a question to me for which I had no answer.  This thread and especially the post about the Japanese disliking all foreigners except the Europeans provided the much needed agent that enables an answer to congealed in my mind.

The original question was, ‘Why are the nations which inherited the Judaic-Graec-Roman traditions (Westerrn) are respectful of and thankful to their civilization’s core states like Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc,  while the nations that are heavily influenced by the Chinese civilization turn against China?’.    The Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Japanese, the Tibetans, the Mongolians and even some minorities within China Proper do not show the same regards for the Chinese or the Hans as the peoples at the periphery of Europe and those in the New worlds showed towards the European core states.  Even those nations that were once colonized by the European nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America have more love and respect for their erstwhile colonial masters than the Koreans and the Japanese have for China.  

Is it because of what China had done in the past?  Is it because of the nature of the historical relationships between China and the peripheral states?  Is it because of what China is doing now?  Is it because of what China is NOT doing now?  Is it because of the changes that have been wrought in those peripheral states in the last few centuries?  Is it because of the dominance of the Western Civilization?

I think every single one of the above questions is relevant and merits closer examination if China is to improve her relationship with all those countries.  But to find the answer to the question of why China does not get the kind of respect and regards from those nation one needs only to focus on one question, the ‘decline of the Chinese Civilization’.  

The so-called Western Civilization is a successful civilization and the Chinese Civilization is a failed one measured by most criterions.  Perhaps some would say up to and until the progress China had made over the last twenty odd years the Chinese Civilization was a failed one.  Should we now say that the Chinese Civilization has rejuvenated itself and is now a ‘successful’ civilization because of what happened in the last fifty years?

It is not easy to find answer to the last question.  Should we ascribe the achievements of China of the last fifty odd years to the inherent strength of the Chinese Civilization or should we ascribe them to the successful adoption of parts of the Western Civilization and the abandonment of the Chinese Civilization?

I don’t know what should be the correct answer to the above question.  But to the Japanese at least the answer is perfectly clear.  The Chinese Civilization cannot be resurrected and what China had done during the last fifty odd years is further proof that Chinese Civilization is long dead and there is nothing they can learn from China now.  That is why they are so disdainful of China and show no qualm in insulting her at every turn.  For the same reason they are disdainful of all other civilizations except that Western one.

What is even more painful is that a large number of thinking Chinese seem to share the Japanese view of the Chinese Civilization and thus the clamor for more westernization.  The sad truth is that this number is increasing by the day.  And unless something is done quickly to arrest this decline we will have nothing we can call Chinese Civilization to talk about in the near future.
As for what should be done I shall leave it to the experts.

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Post time 2005-2-1 16:40:13 |Display all floors

Would you please tell me what is the " Chinese civilization" in your mind?

How do you identify CHinese civilization? Only when I know your criteria , can i have a further consider of your ideas.

"The so-called Western Civilization is a successful civilization and the Chinese Civilization is a failed one measured by most criterions. "

I dont want to reiterate the long history of Chinese civilization but I really doubt that Chinese civilization is declining as you implied.

Please kindly let me know what is your identification of Chinese civilization and give some examples to prove your argument.

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Post time 2005-2-1 22:58:09 |Display all floors

japan's westernization

interesting question, rethink.

many people say japan threw out their traditions and systems entirely in order to westernize.  i don't think that's true.  japanese society and culture is still very, very distinct ... for better or for worse.  they took industrialization and matched it with their work ethic and feudal loyalty ideas ... again, for better or for worse.

i think much of china's advances in the past 50 years are certainly due to china incorporating western ideas.  this doesn't mean chinese society and culture has to lose its distinctiveness ... for better or for worse.


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Post time 2005-2-1 23:23:52 |Display all floors


I always found your posts interesting and bringing in some important points even though sometimes I feel you could have overstated in some areas. But I trust the result of debating would generate more attention to the issue, and serve as a good warning to all of us.

I agree with you on your observations on Japanese mindset and at the same time, I would ask the same questions as sleepye did.

Thank you, rethink, for bringing in this important topic.

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Post time 2005-2-2 00:18:19 |Display all floors

By the way,

How to judge the success of a civiliazation needs to take a historical long time view, not just a short period of time. The past 20 years China was playing an economic catch up, is a special period.

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Post time 2005-2-2 08:02:28 |Display all floors


I do not suppose to know anything about the Chinese culture, so I can't comment on that.  But thinking about the point you raised about Western culture and it's lasting effects...

Britain, in particular, established much goodwill in many of her former colonies.  The British were not intent on enslaving entire cultures, and all of these countries had a great deal of autonomy.  Even after fighting a war with the US, people in the US generally feel at ease with the British, although I'm not sure that feeling always goes both ways.  So I think I understand what you mean about how people feel toward those former colonial powers.

Largely, I think the goodwill can be traced back to 2 basic things.  Freedom, and nostalgia.  Freedom, because those countries have renounced their "claims" on those people's land, culture, and livelihood.  There is no longer any sense of competition between our countries whatsoever.  And nostalgia, because there is some sort of mystical appeal about those far-away countries that were the cultural "elite" of their day.  We share some sort of tie to those countries, almost like a fantasy.  It is something to do with history, culture, and the way things used to be.  It's very hard to describe.  But I know that anyone who had the means would JUMP at the chance to go to Europe, just to see some of the things that are part of our heritage from 200 - 300 years ago.

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Post time 2005-2-2 10:13:06 |Display all floors

Interesting subject

In my opinion, to draw a conclusion is still too early.

Asian nations influenced by Chinese civilization were due to the advance of China. China did not rule Japan or Korea. Compare with the ex-colonies of Western nations, they were having more freedom. Chinese civilization was only a teacher to them, and not the master.

Western countries established colonies, and rule over the local people. Aborigines were massacred and some local groups even completely erased. Those survived were converted to accept the ruler’s civilization. I would like to point out, religion plays a very important role in this conversion.

Needless to said, a student is free to learn from the advance, and slave is forced to learn from the master. Unfortunately Chinese civilization was at her lowest point and not matched with the westerner during the past two hundred years. It is reasonable for the students to turn to someone more superior.

Then China was invaded, isolated, and been described as a Communist monster. These facts are still casting negative shadow nowadays to Chinese relationship with others.

I do not mean Chinese civilization has nothing wrong. Since we lost the Opium War, Chinese are thinking hard what actually gone wrong, and struggled to find the way for future. Reformist in Qing Dynasty, Revolutionist under Dr. Sun, Suggestion for total westernization in 1921, Communist revolution, renmingongshe, and Deng’s theory…

Ones medicine is the others poison, we should not jump to conclusion that Chinese should follow the western style. In fact, this was tried in the past and proved not working. I have a strong belief, we Chinese, being the largest population in the world and survived thousand years of civilization, is capable to develop a way suitable for our civilization and bring our civilization to a new height over the ancestor.

We were teacher to Japan and Korea for a thousand years already, and it is not surprising for the students to find it enough and learn new things from others. On the other hand, the Judaic-Graec-Roman traditions over the ex-colonies is only some two hundred years in effect. I am not here to defend for Chinese civilization, the important point is, if we just try to learn from others without developing something truly Chinese, that it will be the true end of Chinese civilization.

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