Monday, November 8, 2010

"John Chinaman, and his Japanese cousins, are not ignoramuses..."

On the front page of the March 1, 1860 edition of Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon’s monthly intelligencer ‘The Friend’ is an interesting editorial reflecting, no doubt, Damon’s sentiments. “Do Not The Japanese Know What They Are About?” is a clear statement of respect for both the Chinese and Japanese peoples. As he states, “John Chinaman, and his Japanese cousins, are not ignoramuses which some self-inflated and self-conceited outside barbarians suppose them to be.”

He illustrates his message with remarks by an American missionary in Asia:

It is very common to hear and read statements respecting Chinese and Japanese exclusiveness, and want of a correct knowledge of outside barbarians. This may be flattering to European and American intelligence, but if the truth was known, we doubt not that those people would be found to entertain far more information respecting Europe and America than we give them credit for.

In the late battle with the English at the Peiho River, the Chinese came off victorious, but no credit is given to them, as some Russians must have been behind the breast works!

The following remarks by the Rev. Dr. Macgowan, an American missionary, are exceedingly suggestive. John Chinaman, and his Japanese cousins, are not ignoramuses which some self-inflated and self-conceited outside barbarians suppose them to be:

JAPANESE BOOKS. – I spent several hours daily in a book-shop, where several curious things turned up. One of these afforded me, I confess, some gratification; it was the republication, by the late Prince of Satzuma, of my book on the Law of Storms. Persons who, like M. Huc, are guiltless of publishing anything in Chinese, and therefore beyond the reach of criticism, have sneered at the literary productions of Protestant missionaries, my own included.

Now, I submit, that if our books are as defective in style as has been represented, the Japanese would not republish them; at least it may be supposed that they were worth reading. There are probably few, if any, books published by missionaries on secular affairs, that have not been re-published by the knowledge-loving Japanese.

The largest work of the kind is from the pen of the senior missionary in China, Dr. Bridgman –a geographical and statistical account of America, issued some twenty years ago. To that book the Japanese are indebted for their knowledge of our country –a knowledge so precise as to excite surprise.

We now see how they obtained it. Those who think that no sort of truth except that contained in Holy Writ should be given to the heathen by missionaries, will think Dr. B.’s geography has done no good.

I think otherwise. I have no grounds for affirming that it contributed to prepare the way for a favorable reception to the United States expedition under Commodore Perry; but sure I am that it has taught them to understand and to respect our countrymen having relations with this land, whether political, mercantile, or missionary.

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