CHAPTER I. THE EAST AND THE WEST
AS facilities of intercommunication, and therefore points of contact, have of late rapidly increased, and as the East and the West can now see and hear each other at close range on matters of business interests, instead of merely exchanging courtesies at a polite distance, occasions have likewise more frequently arisen for misunderstanding and for doubt. The reasons for this seem manifest, and among them is Imperalism, the overpowering trend of trend of the last century, which, causing the stronger nations to overleap their respective territorial bounds, has brought them face to face with one another in unexpected quarters distant from home. The Dutch and the English, for instance, encountered each other in an unwonted relation on the South African veldt. The Japanese and the Russians renewed acquaintance under strained circumstances on the plains of Manchuria-somewhat after the manner of America and Spain in Cuba and the Philippines, or, more recently, the Italians and the Turks in Tripoli. Though I do not desire a rupture of friendship between the United States and her friends, she may yet face some of them in unamiable converse on the pampas of South America.
Upon the frontiers of empires has been witnessed the impingement of one people upon another during the last two decades. When one calls at a neighbour's front door, one is usually received with courtesy; on the other hand, one may possibly be considered an intruder in the backyard, no matter how innocent. Just as the marginal utility of commodities fixes their value, as economists teach us, so it is in the margins of civilisations that the power of expansive nationalities seems to be tried and determined. America has extended her borders to the Philippines, and Japan the edge of her dominions to Formosa. Here they almost meet. American trade, increasing in China, is brought into competition with Japanese, and as in these outskirts of commercial territory, inhabited by alien races, each nation tries to demonstrate and assert its own superiority, the timid are afraid that we may come to know each other in ways not always agreeable.
With the growth of Imperialism the stronger nations look upon each other with suspicion and jealousy, and, unlike the more innocent intercourse of former days, when men delighted in the exchange of the ideas and arts of peace, modern Imperialism, impelled by feverish megalomania and zest for commercial supremacy, has come to regard all competitors, not only as rivals, but as potential enemies, whose existence jeopardises their own and whose fate must therefore be decided at the point of the sword. Nor is Imperialism alone to blame; for it is nowadays quite the proper thing for dilettante ethnologists and amateur sociologists to put forward their incomplete theories and insufficient data only to make the imagined abyss between the East and the West appear more hopeless. How little Blumenbach and Cuvier fancied that their classification of the human race by the colour of the skin would be taken so seriously as to become a cause of animosity among the nations of the earth! Under these circumstances it is the duty of every lover of humanity and of peace to be an interpreter, a go-between in the supposed clash of national interests and racial sentiments.
Am I greatly mistaken in believing that, as far as the race question is concerned, we are now at a comparatively early stage of generalisation, having but just begun to perceive aggregate differences? Will not the next stage be a fuller recognition of spiritual affinity, of psychological unity-a realisation that "mankind is one in spirit" and the whole world kin?
I doubt whether in the earlier centuries of the Christian era Europe was intelligently aware of its own unity, as against the multitudinous principalities and powers of Asia, any more than these are at present conscious of their mutual ties.
The political unity forced upon Europe by the Carlovingians proved a premature coup, but religious unity survived the imperial fiasco, and brought about social unity within the boundaries of Europe. Then followed the Crusades to renew and reinforce the feeling of oneness among the warring nations. The term Christendom was then invented,-its first appearance in the English language being in 1389; but it long remained a vague, sentimental denomination. With the Reformation and the Renaissance the glamour of the Civitas Dei receded more and more into the privacy of each pious soul, while the civitas terrena, largely freed of the evil import imposed upon it by St. Augustine, was upheld by necessity, learning, and custom.
The term Christendom, which had been steadily losing prestige as a communion of saints, God's kingdom on earth, assumed the new sense of the community of culture and the comity of nations. Its religious significance grew fainter and fainter, until it was at last displaced by the secular term, West, first used by Monsieur Comte. The selection of this term involved the thesis confirming the unity and uniformity of European civilisation, and the antithesis as to its diversity from and superiority to Oriental civilisation.
Discrimination of differences between the East and the West certainly marks an advance in the differentiation of ideas upon the age when the nations of Europe were blind to their collective interests and indicates at the same time a step toward a larger synthesis, whereby Europe becomes conscious of a common bond. But the ancients seem to have made little distinction between Europe and Asia. Probably differences were not then so glaring, trade passing unencumbered to and fro, learning and peaceful arts being freely exchanged. In the borderland between Asia and Europe mingle Aryans, Semites, and Turanians. The marvellous civilisation of Babylon was not autochthonous, nor was that of ancient Crete. Indeed, how much of Greek art and thought is strictly Occidental, I should like to know. Or, how much of the arts and philosophy of Persia and India are strictly Oriental, I fain would ask. Until the Middle Ages the world was more homogeneous than now-at least in feeling and ideas.
Take the early history of art, and it seems that Greece and India and China were in pretty close contact. Compare ancient Hindoo sculpture with Greek, and it is amazing to observe how closely allied they are, with the Bactrian as a link between them. Place by their side the old Chinese images, until lately almost unknown and only recently unearthed, and we feel that the lands of Plato and of Confucius were not irreconcilably opposed in culture. The victories of Alexander, somehow, do not strike me as the descent of an army of civilisation into a region of a very inferior grade of culture. The Jews served for a long time as cosmopolitan mediators between Europe and Asia through their commercial agencies; then, later, the Arabs, not yet turned hostile to Christianity, became the intermediaries of Occidental and Oriental science and art. But as the Saracens and afterwards the Ottomans-or shall we say Moslems?-interposed an almost insuperable barrier between Europe and Asia, the world was practically rent in twain. Then each began to pursue its own course, irrespective of the other's movements, so that when Europe awoke from its sleep of the Dark Ages, Asia still continued to slumber; but by the time they met again after the lapse of centuries they could hardly recognise each other's features. Rejuvenated Europe, fresh and strong, armed with science and trained in liberty-how could it own a friend of "Auld Lang Syne" in decrepit Asia, worn with age and torn with discord! Sluggard Asia had lost all consciousness of unity of any kind. You cannot call it Buddhaland, because unlike Christ in Europe, Buddha has rivals claiming dominion with him; nor was there any unity of race, literature, or language. If there was then any East that could be named in juxtaposition to the West, it expressed chaos as against order, a crowd of Kings who reigned without governing, a nondescript mass of beings who simply existed without living. Who would not then prefer "fifty years of Europe to a cycle of Cathay"? But the question in my mind is whether this difference between the East and the West is strictly scientific or of lasting value? It is said that Leibnitz divided the human family into those who could read Latin and those who could not; and Mr. Kipling mildly hints the classification of the same family into those who wear trousers and those who wear something else-to which I may suggest adding those who wear nothing. The division of mankind into East and West is more convenient but no more scientific than that of Leibnitz or Kipling; for with Alexander Pope, we may
"Ask where's the North? At York, 't is on the Tweed; In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where."The meridian that divides the globe into East and West is the line which passes through the place where the observer stands and through the two poles. Hence there are as many meridians as there are observers and what is East to one may be West to the other. The Arabs were called by the Hebrews the children of the East, and by the Babylonians the dwellers of the West; and they denominated themselves by either of these names. As there is no absolute meridian, East and West are merely relative terms. If the meridian at Greenwich was selected by the convention of 1884 in Washington as the basis of calculation for the world, that meridian itself was only conventional, in more senses than one, for the little English village has no other claim than its observatory to be the centre of the world. The line which there divides East from West also serves to unite them. Hence we may improve upon the rhetoric of the psalmist and say, "As near as the east is to the west"; and hence, too, it is not only when two strong men, "coming from the ends of the earth, stand face to face," but when the weakest man, fixing his eyes upon the polar star, stretches out his arms, that the two hemispheres are united, and that "there is neither East nor West, border nor breed, nor birth." Without being untrue to the land of one's birth or of one's adoption, one may say with Henry Clay, "I know no South, no North, no East, no West, to which I owe any allegiance."
No small pains are taken to discover points of difference between East and West, and of these there are many, especially of the superficial sort; but the very fact that attempts are made to discover differences, takes points of resemblance for granted. When I listen to the analysis of Japanese character and institutions by a hypercritical foreigner-and vice versa for that matter-I am reminded of an anatomist who dissects a woman's corpse and eruditely arrays all the points wherein she differs from man, and would lead us to the inevitable conclusion that man and woman are so irreconcilably opposed in every single respect that the two can never be one. If he were so minded, a nursery psychologist could easily bring out evidence tending to show that a parent and a child are of such different mental constitution that their natural relations are unreasonable and must end in disaster. A mere description without an explanation is likely to lead to a wrong inference. Not much better are the method and attitude of zoilists who write on Japan. Every oddity in manners, every idiosyncrasy in thought is magnified into a distinguishing characteristic of the East or the West, as the case may be; either way, most often for the Pharisaical purpose of self-exaltation. The very faults that are common to both, are deemed particularly blameworthy when committed by the other race. The atmosphere of the Pacific seems to possess the obnoxious power of throwing above the horizon on either side not only an inverted but a perverted mirage. For instance, a clever author of a recent book dwells in some detail on the immorality of the Japanese, which he proves by statistics-appalling figures indeed- but which will stand comparison with similar statistics of the city of New York or of Chicago, if he had only given these. The same gentleman casts a suspicion upon our public men-of course in contrast to the purity and invulnerability of American politicians, who never violate one commandment of the Decalogue-the more so as the ten commandments made no mention of graft!
It is not by mutual fault-finding or by exaggerating each other's peculiarities that we can arrive at understanding or appreciation. Not by antipathy but sympathy; not by hostility but by hospitality; not by enmity but by amity, does one race come to know the heart of another. I have already intimated that the line of division is also the line of union, and "What God hath joined, let no man put asunder."
There is something grand and graceful in the old belief or beliefs as to the locality of paradise. In the early Christian Church, on the occasion of his baptism, a new convert was made first to face the West in abjuring the devil and his work, because the West was, according to Cyril, the region of darkness; and then he turned toward the East in receiving ablution, because in that quarter of the heavens was shown God's peculiar favour. In strange contrast to this, did the Buddhists place the abode of the blest in the West, whither the sun itself makes its daily pilgrimage. Not in the Occident and not in the Orient, but in the union of both, will be revealed many of the secrets of Divine dispensation as yet hidden from our sight. A few days before I left Japan, Seiho, the greatest painter of Modern Japan, said to me: "Though I do not profess any familiarity with European masters, I have great hopes in that region of art where the East and West come together-not the neutral land that lies barren between the two, but where Western art fades into Eastern, or where the Eastern lapses into the Western, or where the two domains overlap, as it were." As I listened to him, I thought to myself that this remark of his may be applied to other activities and walks of human life as well as to art. May we not say that some of the greatest discoveries of biology have been made in the borderland where the animal and vegetable kingdoms meet? Some of the most fertile principles have been found in the newly cultivated field which joins chemistry with physics; and as for psycho-physics, delving as it does in a realm not yet named, between the territories of mind and of matter, it has struck rich veins of precious knowledge. We may expect the greatest fertility in the virgin soil where apparently contrary natures meet and wed.
It is said that the genius of the East is spiritual, mystical, psychical, and that of the West is materialistic, actual, physical; it is said that the forte as well as the fault of the East is religion and sentiment, and that of the West, science and reason; it is said that the East delights in generalisation and universal concepts, and the West in particulars and special knowledge; that the one leans to philosophy and ideas, and the other to practice and facts; that Oriental logic is deductive and negative, and Occidental logic inductive and positive. It is also said that in political and social life, solidarity and socialism characterise the East, and individualism and liberty, the West; it is said again that the Asiatic mind is impersonal and rejects the world, whereas the European mind is personal and accepts the world. The strength of Europe lies in the mastery of man over nature, and the weakness of Asia in the mastery of nature over man. In the land of the morning, man looks for beauty first and writes his flighty thoughts in numbers; in the land of the evening, man's first thought is for utility, and he jots down his observations in numerals. He who watches the setting sun, pursues whither it marches, and his watchword is Progress and his religion is the cult of the future. He who greets the effulgent dawn is therewith content and cares not for its further course, but rather turns in wonderment to the source whence it came, hence his religion is the cult of the past. The matin disposes man to contemplation, the vesper hour to reflection. In the East man lives for the sake of life; in the West man lives for the means of living.
On the whole there is food for thought in this contrast of race peculiarities; but such general characterisation is of little practical use in diplomacy or in commerce, for the individuals with whom we deal do not always conform to a type, and the wider the scope allowed to individual activity, the greater is the divergence from the type. This is distinctly so in Japan, where the thought and the influence of the East and of the West find their meeting ground. It is well known that the sea which surrounds my country is the richest in varieties of fish, because the various currents of the ocean which wash our shores and the rivers which flow into its waters meet and mingle and offer favourable conditions to various forms of animal life. It is along the line which unites the East and the West that we should look for a higher and a richer successor to our present civilisation. But instructive and interesting as is fishing on the high seas of speculation, there is a more pressing and utilitarian demand for the study of the regions where Europe and Asia come in direct contact. Or-to put the case more concisely- there is, at present, urgent and practical need for America to understand Japan. As long as our planet is round, a segmental or hemispheric progress, however deep, can only remain fragmentary and falls short of perfect culture. Only in a mutual understanding between the opposite points of the compass, can man read the final destiny of the race, whereas without comprehending the antipodal soul, he can never discover his own shortcomings or his peculiar gifts. Very truly says Bailey:
"'T is light translateth night; 't is inspiration expounds experience; 't is the West explains the East"; and it is only tautological to add that 't is the East explains the West.Of late years, most unfortunately and most unexpectedly have darksome clouds been lowering across the Pacific Ocean, sometimes reaching gigantic proportions and assuming threatening appearances-so much so that some Americans have imagined they saw among the clouds a dragon spitting fire, as in the cartoon drawn by no less distinguished a personage than Kaiser Wilhelm. There is a custom in our country whereby literary men who have composed a stanza ask their artist friends to make suitable pictures to bring out the meaning the better, and, conversely, artists ask poets to write some lines to elucidate their pictures. When I first had the honour of beholding this celebrated drawing of the Kaiser, there came to my mind an ancient Japanese ode:
"Clouds on the distant hills Of far Cathay- Smoke which from our own hearthstones Rose to-day!"May we not say that the clouds which hang over the Pacific, if there really are any, are but the accumulation of fancies which have emanated from beclouded brains amongst us and amongst you? They are largely the creations of Yellow Journalism, for which, as it enjoys no legal patent right, the public pays in fright and anxiety. Then some unscrupulous individuals make a regular trade of spreading thrilling news of the imminent danger of war. Naturally, to satisfy a general craving for excitement, writers of fiction wield their busy pen, and already on the book-stands are arrayed a number of their products bearing popular titles. There is no lack of authors who pander to depraved or bloodthirsty lovers of the fantastic. There are, too, not a few military and naval men who honestly believe that they can maintain their profession in high repute, or their trust in high efficiency, by constantly keeping possible warfare before the eyes of the public. Then, again, there are important business concerns to which a war scare is a source of large orders and of profit. Not seldom does it happen that an order for building a Dreadnaught is preceded by loud talk about complications with a foreign country. When we learn that an order for a single gunboat means business to the amount of six million dollars and employment for five thousand men for two and a half years, it is not surprising that a Japanese bogy should periodically appear. Of all forms and methods of argumentation, none is more convincing, though text-books on rhetoric refuse with lofty scorn to take note of it, than argumentum ad crumenam or ad hominem; and the deeper the pocket, the more keenly is the force of such logic appreciated. I have heard that a scare-crow in a melon patch does some good by frightening away innocent birds, but that it offers at the same time a convenient cover for a thief! "We seek and offer ourselves to be gulled," says Montaigne. The ancient Romans had an adage, "The populace like to be deceived" (Populus vult decipi)-and the populace have not changed much since then, despite all the changes they have witnessed. The gullibility of the human mind seems recently to have assumed most appalling dimensions; and when it does so, it is easily taken advantage of. It is then that false prophets and soothsayers ply their craft; and many, too many, have already made their appearance. Some of their voices were heard but lately in high places. It is deeply to be regretted that cheap prophecies are going to prove very dear to believing peoples.
Doleful prophets there have been in all ages and in all places;-for instance, in 1895, a young navy officer uttered at Annapolis a prophecy that in the year of our Lord 1896 or 1897 a great cataclysm would involve the whole of Europe, and that Russia would make irresistible march westward, while England would dwindle into a third-rate power. The time that was allotted for the fulfilment of this prophecy has long passed, and poor mortals with limited vision still fail to discern the signs of its near realisation. Captain Hobson started out as a war prophet at the early age of twenty-five, and he still continues to exercise the same gift of foresight, only with this difference-that now the field of his prediction is the East instead of the West, and instead of counting the period of its fulfilment in years he calculates it in months. In February, 1911, he declared that a rupture would take place between the United States and Japan within ten months-a per od of time which, after further consideration, he stretched to twenty months and which, I hope, he will be further inspired to prolong to eternity.
Nor is Captain Hobson the only alarmist; for only last summer there appeared a rival prophet who pretended to give a "mathematical analysis of the astrological evidence of war with Japan," in which the author points out that "When California was admitted to the Union Uranus was in Aries and when Washington was admitted Saturn and Neptune were cavorting together in an unholy alliance-conclusive evidence that both these States show themselves to be a sometime battlefield of the nation!"
Whatever honour these prophets may enjoy here in their own country, they have none in ours. We are too light-hearted to take them seriously. It is not childish heedlessness that makes us feel light of heart. With our eyes wide open and our minds eager for national safety, we still fail to detect any ground for going to war with any country, least of all with America. Should anything so improbable occur, you may rest assured that the initiative will not be taken by Japan.
The simple fact that Japan, during the past two decades, has engaged in two great conflicts-or three, if you include her share in the suppression of the Boxer movement-may give an erroneous idea that we are a nation wantonly fond of fighting, a dangerously cantankerous character for a neighbour to have. But is there any other nation that can boast of two hundred and thirty years of con- tinuous peace? I do not wish to brag; but I should like to know for the sake of information whether any other country has broken that record, -and yet such is the absurdity of fame, that we figure to the world as a race of Myrmidons.
I have often seen suspicion cast upon Japan because of her great armament; that she must be drilling her army and building Dreadnaughts for the ulterior purpose of territorial expansion. I personally am opposed to such armament; but even as it is, it is not for aggression. You know the Scotch proverb, "Nae one can live in peace unless his neighbours let him." Or, to put it in more high-sounding phraseology, we have to bring ourselves into selective accommodation or organic adjustment to the bellicose environment of the twentieth century. If we need an army or navy, we need it for self-defence, self-preservation. With the acquisition of Korea and Saghalien, our coast line has increased, but not our navy in the same proportion.
We do not forget some unkind comments and hard treatment from certain countries; but we are morally prepared to bear them, if not like martyrs, at least like gentlemen. Like our fabled dragon, we do not stir while maidens play with our beard or children ride upon our back. But let a rude hand touch his throat, the dragon will rise in all his native fury. You understand this spirit. It is not a warlike or aggressive spirit. Is it not the spirit of '76, as you call it? When the Thirteen Colonies, the "three millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty," rose up, like one man, "invincible by any force," who called them an aggressive people? There is a wide margin between an unconquerable spirit and a spirit of conquest. "The vigilant, the active, and the brave" are not on that account the warlike. The unconquerable spirit is the spirit of peace and not of war. No people will understand the distinction better than the American.
"Westward the course of Empire holds its way," has been true in one hemisphere, while eastward has been the march of human mind in the other, and now America in the foremost files of Western time and Japan as the heir of all the Asian ages, are met to complete the world's electric circle. I would not liken you to sentinels of Occidental culture and ourselves to guards of Oriental traditions, as do some. Neither of us stands on the Pacific coast to ward off the other from the treasures of his heritage. Are we not more than willing -even eager-mutually to share our ancestral gifts?
If your country and mine should come to a better knowledge each of the other-to a fuller and deeper understanding of each other's mission and aspirations-a long stride will have been taken toward the general advancement of human happiness, a great step toward the fulfilment of the prophecy, not of a sensational soothsayer, but of a great seer and thinker, who dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, and saw the time "When the war drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furled In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world." And to this great consummation, devoutly to be wished for, it is a privilege to contribute a widow's mite.