asian american history

Question number 1:

            The author, by the name of Fukuzawa Yukichi, seems to be of a Japanese descent, probably one that had experiences in and out of his country.  From his essay, we can immediately notice his vast knowledge regarding events and issues that had happened and are still happening on the western part of the world. This suggests that he studied other countries intently and compiled this ideas together with those found in his own. He also seems to be less interested in a country’s economic state, since he mostly tackled on things regarding agriculture, customs, knowledge, wisdom and communities as a basis for civilization. There was only one instance where he touched on economics, mentioning that “Their business ventures prosper day by day to increase the sources for human welfare” (p. 77). In regards with his political stand, it can be observed that he didn’t mention anything about government and its role in the fully civilized world. In fact, he said that men “form communities, and create the outward semblance of a state” (p. 76) only during the second stage of civilization. It might mean that he has little faith on what the state can do in a very civilized country.

Question number 2:

            Upon reading the whole text, one can infer that the author designed the essay for the Japanese. Probably not only the Japanese, but those mentioned as the semi-primitive and primitive countries – Africa, Australia, China, Turkey, and Asian countries. It is like a kind of moral booster, raising these countries’ confidence to strive for civilization, and not to be bog down by the others. He even used the term “Asian Intellectuals” (p. 76), giving a sign of their ability to do something great. The text worked like a double edged sword. In the first few paragraphs, the author bombarded the western world with a series of praises. Then “demonstrable and irrefutable” (p. 76) facts were shown stating that indeed, the Asian and other countries are far from the civilization accomplishment of the Westerners. These points would definitely strike hard on Asian readers, sometimes it would be hard for them to accept the reality of their country being uncivilized.

            But the author immediately changed sides when he started mentioning about the evils of civilization. The Asian – semi civilized people suddenly found a light at the end of the tunnel. Also the author could have lifted the Asian’s spirits when he said that “civilization is an open-ended process” (p. 77). I think that it kind of gave a reality check that indeed, there is still a great chance for the primitive and semi civilized nations to catch up, or even exceed the current European trend.

Question number 3:

            The essay was written in the year 1875, the time when political and cultural problems are numbered to the thousands. I think that one great factor that affected the author’s ideas is the presence of wars all around the globe. He made it clear that although the West nations are of a very civilized form, it is also them who are always at war, which for the author is the “greatest calamity in the world” (p. 77). This led him to think that civilization has its evils, together with robbers and murderers, which he portrayed the Westerners to be. This year was also the time when a lot of political issues of the West have been heard by the Asian nations, things such as deceptions, political killings, assassinations, rallies and injustice. The author’s feelings toward these can be read in a whole paragraph, criticizing the wrongdoings of the West.

            Another important event that could have affected the writer’s intention is the start of the industrial and scientific blooms in the Western nations. There was a time when Japan, and probably some other nearby countries, closed its doors to outside sources, keeping technology from other countries at bay, and keeping their resources and knowledge to their own. This may be seen by the author as a gate that divided Japan from external wisdom that could have helped in their civilization – upgrade. The author mentions a lot about knowledge, refinement, sources, cultivating and improving. All of these, I think, are ideas that the author wishes to stress as the important points that the Japanese loss during these period. It is not like they lose a lot of things; it is still true that the Japanese regained nationality and the closed-door policy helped them a lot in many ways. It is just that the author thinks that Japan should really catch up with the civilization rush that is sweeping all throughout the West.

            In conclusion, these events, together with the author’s own ideas and beliefs, affected the essay in many ways. While it is true that the author described civilization as something open-ended, with all the evils and everything, he also tried to convince the semi-civilized nations to strive for a full pledge civilization.

Question  number 4:

            This essay is strikingly different from others because its main theme tackles on Japan as a semi-civilized nation, seeing the West as a superior being. What more, the author himself is Japanese. The opening statements are very harsh, and like mentioned earlier, somewhat hard on the Japanese and other Asian nations. Unlike in document 6, where the opening statement saying “… not only demonstrated to world the military power of Japan, but it has convinced the Japanese people that in vitality and spirit, they are outstanding by far among Eastern nations and are among the outstanding races of the world” (p. 78) immediately grasps the readers attention, if ever he or she is Japanese.

            Another would be author’s effort to stay in a safe ground in regards to his defense against the West. It was pretty obvious that the author praised the West at first, then started to mention evil things that they have done, and ended by proposing that Japan still follow the Western standards of civilization. This whole thing makes the author’s stand very vague, unlike other documents which really got straight to their point.

Works cited

The Work of National Expansion of the American West

Fukuzawa Yukichi;

Document 5, Leading Japanese Intellectual Encourages Westernization, 1875

Document 6, Japanese Newspaper Jiji Shimpo Views Emigration as Japanese Sign of Military Power, 1896

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