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Chapter 19: Changing China and Japanese Perceptions of the West

With regard to the documents on China, I think it is worth contemplating why it was so hard to introduce reforms in China. What made it so difficult to “change China”? On Japan, it’s interesting to consider how the Japanese seemed to develop a love/hate relationship with the west. I think these images present evidence that both of these attitudes could exist simultaneously, and it is worth trying to understand what they believed was worth copying, and what aspects of the western model seemed unsuitable and unappealing.



  1. Anna B. says:

    Document 19.2 provides two selections explaining why the current Chinese system of education at the time was no longer an adequate method and how it was actually detrimental to China’s future. One source is anonymous and the other comes from Emperor Guangxu. Both sources make a clear case that the education system is outdated, as the anonymous source states that all the students were made to focus on was poetry, rhyme-prose, and fine script. These subjects seem like ones that would have been valued under a Confucian-based education system where the scholarly elite would be the respected and upper class of society. During the late 1800s though, China was facing a threat from the United States and Japan that could not be overcome with knowledge of poetry, rhyme-prose, and fine script. The speakers both advocate more westernized education, one that focuses more on science and mathematics as these subjects could be useful to building a strong military and defense tactics against the potential invaders. By having students with this kind of education, China would have been able to be placed at the same level as the United States and Japan. After China had possessed such an established form of education for so long, ideas such as these would have been extreme and not warmly welcomed by conservatives who valued Chinese tradition and culture. Hearing practiced customs called “meaningless and extravagant” would have angered many conservatives. The anonymous source depicts the ability of one reaching these expected educational standards as highly improbable, “vulgar and ridiculous.” Both sources believe that the men of their society would be put to greater use in the military force than to study a style of education that seemingly showed no useful purpose to society. If this change was to have happened it would have been one that would have to take place over some time, as the Chinese people would not be accustomed to a drastic reform such as this one overnight.

  2. Krys M. says:

    Visual Source 19.2 shows a cultural intermingling between the Japanese and Western nations. Depicted on this woodblock print are five Japanese women wearing lovely European style dresses and a small boy child in military uniform. The dresses however, have colors and patterns that more reflect traditional kimono. The lady in the the very center of the visual, appears to have many layers to her European dress, which is also traditional and occurs frequently with the kimono (traditional Japanese dress). Instruments and music are key in this picture. One lady is playing the violin while another plays the piano, and two others have sheets of music in their hands. This scene shows a typical Western activity or an activity that would not cause alarm or cultural shock in a Western society. In truth, the only things depicted in this picture that are not related to Western culture are the images from the background. The background shows a small body of water, perhaps a hot spring or pond and a grand Sakura tree. Were it not for the background this scene could easily have taken place in Western Europe. I, personally, am still puzzled as to why the Japanese wanted to adopt Western culture so badly. I find Japanese culture and traditions to be one of the richest by far, so why change centuries of values for something completely new?

  3. Shamira says:

    Visual source 19.3 was drawn in 1879 by Japanese cartoonist Kobayashi Kiyochika with a quote that basically is mocking the Japanese’s new fascination with all things European. The picture shows a European man dressing a monkey in European clothing much like his own. On page 968 it loosely reads that we were once monkeys, but even now aren’t we still monkeys? This is Kiyochika reminding us of the old cliche “Monkey see, monkey do” and that copying everything we are amazed by isn’t what they should be doing. It’s clearly portraying the adoption of European culture in a negative light.

  4. Levon Austin (Jay-T) says:

    Within the first lines of document 19.1 it immediately explains the effects of holding on to something so long such as traditions and how it can cause the downfall of a community. Kang Youwei was very smart and tried to explain how the world was changing around China and it’ll be wise for China to upgrade as well. Youwei understood what worked to keep China at peace before needed adjustments but Emperor Guangxu was very stubborn. Throughout the document Youwei argues how some of the emperor’s ways of sticking to ancestral institutions were invalid because if the emperor really did stick to ancestral institutions they would literally have to stick to everything such as “using barbarian ways to change China,”. The overall reason for why it was so hard to change China was because of those in power such as Emperor Guangxu did not want to change away from the way of life that took place in China at that time.

  5. Jessica says:

    Visual Source 19.1

    In reference to visual source 19.1, the viewer can automatically infer that Japanese artists went out of the box when it came to imagination. You can tell this cartoon-like painting is satirical because its poking fun at Commodore Perry. The steam-driven black ship is painted as if the artist wished to resemble the devil or as the book says, “tengu” which is a type of goblin who is known to be harmful. The picture seems quite demonic with the leering monster at the front of the boat and a numerous amount of cannons hanging about from the sides of the boat. Smoke due to the burning of coal from the engines could possibly portray the fires of hell. The back of the ship also depicts yet another monster’s face with the eyes, nose, and mouth. I believe the artist wished to give the viewer an understanding of the demonic nature of the people who were on the ship.

  6. Daisha B. says:

    I found image 19.2 to be very interesting. To see the Japanese culture adapt to western culture in their style and the way they dressed.
    The picture is titled Illustration of Singing by the Plum Garden.
    On the side to the far left the women are dressed head to toe in traditional kimonos. but they have on hats that look more like ones that would be worn in Western society.
    The middle image looks more Western to me, The patterns and the style the young man and woman are wearing as well as the colors and her hat once again.
    The last image looks like mixture. The headdresses are western style the dresses are as well but the patterns look like Japanese culture.
    It was stated that not all of Japan was ready to accept this change but in time they grew fascinated with the western culture. I feel like this image depicts that completely frame by frame.

  7. Kameron H says:

    Doucument 19.2 presents two excerpts that criticezed the China’s old examination system and its education system. These writings push for “educational reform.” In the opening of the first excerpt the author opens up immediately with the statement that the system is “annoying and cumbersome”, setting a dissatisifed tone for the rest of the passage. The author mentions the “innumerable hardships” faced by the students giving detailed order of events during a year of a student. The essays, poetry, and fine script are being criticized as the author moves along. A sense of worthlessness is gained through these criticisms. The author believes that “Every meaningless and extravagant custom should be reformed” in order to obtain efficiency. In the second excerpt, Emperor Guangxu begins with stating a couple of things the education system is lacking. In his opninion, “changes must be made to accord with the necessities of the time.” This excerpt provides a more urgent tone than the first passage. The Emperor believes that the country must look westward for ways of reform. The formalitiy of this passage provides a more reasonable argument. The Emperor states “keeping in mind the morals of the sages and wise men” the country must build a better foundation hence, silencing the conservatives who believed westernizing would destroy the culture.

  8. Arian Amiri says:

    Document 19.2 shows how the examination system and Confucian-based educational system were “conservative, backward, and out of date” which prevented effective modernization. The first passage is by an unknown, anonymous author. The second, is written by Emperor Guangxu during the ‘Hundred Days of Reform’ in 1898. Both passages were written with the goal of promoting educational reform. The first passage titled Editorial on China’s Examination System explains how difficult and annoying the examination system is. Leaving no time for free time to do things like personal reading, most of the time spent studying leaving students hair white from stress. The anonymous author strongly believes that the system of examinations should be thrown out and approached differently using useful studies rather than what he/she believes at the time was not useful. The second passage by Emperor Guangxu displays his irritation with the education system of that time. He argues that “changes must be made to accord with the necessities of the times…” meaning that the educational system is outdated and needs reform. He believes that they needed to adopt a more western approach to education and military leading. Believing that the literary essay is out of date he strongly believes in adopting western approaches to education such as elementary and high schools as well as colleges and universities. He strongly believes in education in arts in sciences. How else would people of that time have common knowledge without these necessary studies. He believes that their military would be much stronger if taught with western organization and modern arms. Without knowledge in sciences and art, how would this be possible? Clearly their education system was out of date, and needed reform.

  9. Rashundra Martin says:

    During the second half of the nineteenth century, Japan was experiencing many changes. Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate which reigned for two centuries and then came to an end in 1868 to the Meiji restoration. Japan made a transformation in their military and government. They began opening their views to more of a western perspective. The initial Japanese reflection of the west occurred in 1853-1854, in American commodore Matthew Perry’s efforts to expose Japan to a commercial relationship with the United States. Visual Source 19.1 is a picture of a Japanese depiction of the American warships. According to the Japanese artist the American warships would be elaborate black ships that were coal-fueled and carrying many crewmen. The ship would also contain cannons on the side of the ship which would be used in the event of a water war. The artist depicted the ship to have an intricate design. I believe the artist was trying to show that the Americans were very elaborate in every aspect even when it came to building their ships. I also think the image intended the show that the Americans were different from the Japanese by showing some of the crewmen hanging from the ropes on the ship, almost describing them to be kind of wild or barbaric. The Japanese portrayed a particular kind of goblin, “tengu”, as having long noses and being viewed as being dangerous, demonic, and warlike. By the Japanese artist placing this “tengu” on the American ship, it inferred that the Americans were dangerous, demonic, and warlike as well.

  10. mina-s says:

    With Visual Source 19.2, it portrays women enjoying a leisure time. It’s interesting how, although Western dress was adopted eagerly in elite circles, the Japanese took their own form of it, by mixing Western fashion with their own. Clearly, the women are dressed in Western style dress, however, the print is definitely not something I have seen in Western European fashion during the late-19th century. Also, I am certain the instruments seen in this print have been imported from the Western world as well. The windows in the background on the left side appears to be taken from Western architecture as well as the style of drapery in the right side too, is taken from Western culture. Overall, I think this artist wanted to show how rapidly and in all the ways Japan has become westernized with this one print.

  11. Illustration of singing by the Plum Garden in Visual Source 19.2 depicts the altering attitudes the Japanese culture had for western ideas. Despite the fact that the woman in the middle image has a highly western dress, the idea that young males should train for the military, instead of obtaining educational advances was still a primary focus of the cultures. They accepted the idea of using the western idea of dress to show fortune, however the idea of education had not yet been accepted. In the image to the right, the women have accepted the western idea of music over the instrument shown in the picture to the left. It appears as the picture getzz more western as they go across to the right, as if they slowly the develop the western culture into their own.
    G. Jones

  12. Sidney Nelson says:

    When I think of Japanese culture, the first thing that comes to mind is their tranquil and serene environments. I believe that they have beautiful and unique aesthetics. In Chapter 19, the visual source 19.2 portrays my thoughts exactly. There are many ways in which this print reflects the continuing appeal of the Japanese culture. The overall picture is pretty fascinating to me. The skinny trees and the flowers give off a calm, peaceful, and relaxing vibe in the picture. I also noticed how all the ladies dresses have a unique, but simple design on them. They also look somewhat fancy. This shows how the Japanese culture is very decorative, but at the same time they do not like to overdo their decorations. In addition, the picture portrays how much the Japanese love nature and the environment, and how they incorporate it a lot in their every day lives. Also, while observing the print, I noticed how everything in the picture looks so neat and well put together. Therefore, I assume that the Japanese try to keep things as clean and orderly as possible. Lastly, I noticed how a few of the ladies in the picture are holding a piece of paper. I wonder what it is that they are reading?

  13. Garrett Mitchell says:

    Document 19.2 intrigues me particularly, as it shows how double sided the fight for/against reform was in China. The wished to resist western influence so as to maintain chinese tradition. in attempts to keep their chinese identity, the author of the first document argued for change in the traditional examination system. So to keep the status quo, they wanted to change. The author of the second document even seems to go against the chinese nationalism and embraces a form of realism. He acknowledges how the chinese are now too far behind the europeans and that changes must be made. The authors of the duel documents represent the feelings of the time and show how obvious it must have been to the rest of the world that china was no longer the power it used to be.

  14. JoslynP says:

    In Visual Source 19.2, the Japanese individuals are arranged wearing a mixed culture of apparel. This shows Japanese acceptance of the westernization in the fashion aspect, while they struggled to accept other ways of the Europeans. I observed the balance between the dresses and how the pattern is of the Japanese culture, incorporating the Kimono flower prints that compliment the blossoms found in Japan; but the make of the dress is of the West, including multiple layers, unlike the thin, silk Kimonos usually worn by the Japanese women. The male figure is also seen in a European style suit. From this analysis, you can see the boundaries of the westernization and how the Japanese were able to still keep the appeal of their culture, although Western dress was requirement at particular occasions.

  15. Jazzzmin says:

    Document 19.1 the opening statement for the most part gives an explanation as to why China had such a hard time adjusting. China had always been the same and closed off from the rest of the world making change more difficult to embrace. Kang Youwei notes this as he develops his point.He also notes that the countries that did not change did not survive. Youwei also says that he does not agree with the “barbarian ways to change China” which may also be the opinion of most of the Chinese population which is why changing China was so difficult. Youwei believes in following the reform methods of the Meijei dynasty derived from Japan. Kang Youwei was among the leading advocates for reform after the war with Japan.

  16. G. Readdy says:

    I find the image of 19.1 the most intriguing of all the sources. The Japanese’s perspective of the West strikes fear into the heart of anybody who looks at the image. The black ships, the shooting cannons, and the evil face on the front of the ship is scary. It’s interesting how Europe used to fear the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and now to the rest of the world, the Europeans were the ones being feared. I’m almost positive any country that encountered the West would have depicted a similar fearful image. If anyone wanted to keep up, they knew they would have to modernize and turn to the “dark side” as well.

  17. Jamison H says:

    Document 19.1 was written by Kang Youwei and it’s primary focus is on social reform in a place where reform was not easy to come about. But like as he states in document 19.1 “if we can change, we will preserve ourselves: but if we cannot change, we will perish” and with that he leads off on the basis of his argument. If China does not step up and change their old ways they will never be able to compete in this new modernized world if they were still using education systems and a bureaucratic form of government that was established in ancient times when things were much different. So why was it so hard for the Chinese to grasp this concept of reforming in order to be able to compete with other countries across the globe? Youwei helps us see why it might have been so hard for China to change by criticizing the old-fashioned bureaucrats that condemned those who were “using barbarian ways to change China” and “upsetting ancestral institutions.” Although it seems as if it was clear to the people of China that reform was necessary, it was hard for them to act on this without being punished for some sort of treason. So even though the Chinese knew that their country could not prosper without reform, there was no way for change to come about without someone having to be a scapegoat and possibly risk being thrown in jail or beheaded. The old court systems are what it made reform in China so hard to come by.

  18. Ruby says:

    Japan, previously looked at as the mimicking shadow of China, has proved itself to be a strong, independent, and self sufficient country. They proved this in 1894-1895 when they won against China in war. This victory set China in a state of confusion, losing to a country that borrowed Buddhism, Confucianism, court rituals, as well as other Chinese practices from them.The Japanese later won the war against Russia in 1904-1905, providing evidence that Japan had now become a country others didn’t want trouble with. Visual source 19.5 was painted during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905. Japan’s victories over China and Russia are depicted in this image in the form of twin Japanese navy men using an older Chinese man as bait to lure a greedy Russian. It is clear that the artist’s goal was to represent Japan as a superior county, not only to China, who they were previously in the shadow of, but also Russia who represents a major European power. Proving Japan to be strong independent and self sufficient regardless of it’s mimicking past.

  19. Carina C says:

    Visual source 19.1 is interesting because it depicts the fear that the Japanese felt when engaging with the West unwillingly. When Commodore Perry sailed his steamship to Japan and forced trade between the two nations, it allowed the Japanese to realize they need to industrialize quick in order to keep from the bottom of the food chain. This illustration made by a Japanese artist portrays the Western ship as a dark, ominous, and threatening figure. By the way that the illustration is most likely over exaggerated, there is no questioning the terror of the Japanese when they first encountered the new invention.

  20. dzdavidson says:

    I’m impressed! Many of you are mastering the art of close analysis, of focusing in on one aspect of a text or image and thinking about what it signifies. That’s the sort of approach you need to take in your document exercises, too, except that you need to take an addition step: connecting that analysis to a larger point, your main thesis. It sounds like we will have an interesting discussion today!

  21. ajones188 says:

    In Document 19.1, Kang Youwei discusses change. Although Youwei agrees that the Chinese dynasties of the past were excellent, he states that ancient times are different from the modern times and should be treated as such. According to Youwei, the ways of China should be changed or the Chinese culture would be doomed to disappear under the heel of Europe. Youwei suggests to look to Russia and Japan as opposed to the United States, France, Britain, and Germany because Russia and Japan are closer to China both geographically and culturally.

  22. Samuel says:

    I think the western show of force most notably, “Perry’s expeditions”, starting in 1852, forced the Japanese government to rethink its closed-minded approach to western trade and ideology. Sequential, Japan, openly displayed a panicky reaction to Commodore Perry’s visit such that China is forced to take notice also. Japan quickly moves toward western technology with the goal of becoming as militarily adequate, and succeeds for a century. However, China’s move towards developing a more positive relationship with the west has an adverse effect. China becomes infiltrated by foreign rule for the first time in its history. To that end, a social revolution begins in efforts to steer China back towards the traditional ideology of its ancient past where China is as much known for autonomy as it was for exotic commerce. Social revolution in China would eventually succeed, whereas the call for similar social ideas in Japan becomes revolutionary and highly radicalized therefore failing, ending of course with the Japanese military ultimately destroyed during World War 2.

  23. Simbuilder5 says:

    In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler starts off by stating, “every animal mates only with a member of the same species.” He is drawing the conclusion that Jews are lower than animals in the respect that interrelations cause a stronger race to become diminished. I was reluctant to read Hitler’s words because of how mad and adamant he was. He truly believed Aryans were the superior race. He even looked to “nature” to explain and justify his claims of hierarchy within races. He even calls them the Jewish menace. It truly scares me that a man like that came into power and killed millions with support! I can only imagine this happening here in the US. I suppose most Germans back then weren’t college educated and this to me seems to be part of the problem. A lot of us need to finish or at least attend college to keep people like him from gaining support and recognition. He was great with words, but hopefully it wouldn’t work in today’s society. That’s just my idea that hopefully education can keep people like this from gaining actual power in today’s world. Whether we want to acknowledge it, racism is very alive in a lot of parts of America. History does repeat itself and we need to be very sensitive to this possibility. What do y’all think?

    Winston S.

  24. Samuel says:

    Asia had as much right as any who did, to remain secluded tending their own affairs, besides America practiced isolation at various points in our young history as-well. I can’t say I approve of Commodore Perry’s visitation, although, I do considered myself very pro-American. Further, I can’t say I agree with every diplomatic decision our government has made thus far. It is worth notating, if we had not showed up to Japanese shores in such an intimidating manner, as was the case with Perry’s visitation, Japan would have had no reason to panic setting off a chain of events. Secondly, Asia had much to defend, such as their unique women, among other treasures. One can easily empathize with Asia’s race to militarism.

  25. ShanakayW says:

    Visual source 19.3 was drawn by a Japanese cartoonist Kobayashi Kiyochika in 1879. The image depicts the criticism and negative portrayal brought about by the adoption of western culture in japan. The picture depicts, monkeys, who are probably Japanese in a sense, dressing in extravagant and expensive European clothing, and a European man who is probably the owner of the store basically helping these monkeys dress up. The quote on page 968 says, “all human beings were monkeys in the beginning…but even now aren’t we still monkeys?” this quote is significant because just as Shamia said it’s a basically a reminder of the cliché “Monkey see, Monkey do” meaning that Japanize copying the western culture is not always the right thing to do, considering the fact that their country built on its own traditional customs and cultures.

    – ShanakayW

  26. Jose F says:

    Historically, Japan has been known to be a closed, xenophobic nation very hesitant to make contact, much less initialize trade with other nations. Visual Source 19.1 shows this Japanese nature by depicting American commodore Matthew Perry as a devilish character in an even more frightening “Black Ship”. Japanese interpretation of Western culture and influence is portrayed in this painting and the viewer can easily identify Japan’s fears of external contact since they viewed the Western powers as terrifying imperial forces bent on destruction. Specifically, the black smoke emanating from the ship seems to represent Japan’s fear of an overwhelming force they cannot predict or control.

  27. DHarris says:

    Document 19.2 was interesting because it shows how the fight for and the fight against reform was in China. The Chinese wanted to resist the western influences so that they could maintain the Chinese traditions. The author of the first document argued for change in the traditional examination system and to keep the status quo, they wanted to change. The author of the second document seems to go against the Chinese nationalism and embraces a form of realism. He addresses how the Chinese are too far behind the Europeans and that changes must be made to advance the Chinese.

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