. . . Yet we are shamefully humiliated by the four nations [England, Russia, U.S., France], not because our climate, soil, or resources are inferior to theirs, but because our people are inferior . . . Now, our inferiority is not something allotted us by Heaven, but is rather due to ourselves. . . Since the inferiority is due to ourselves, it is a still greater shame, but something we can do something about. And if we feel ashamed, there is nothing better than self-strengthening . . .
Why are the Western nations small [a mistaken judgment in the case of Russia and the U.S. which also ignores Britain's imperial holdings] and yet strong? Why are we large and yet weak? We must search for the means to become their equal, and that depends solely upon human effort. With regard to the present situation, several observations may be made: in not wasting human talents, we are inferior to the barbarians; in not wasting natural resources, we are inferior to the barbarians; in allowing no barrier to come between the ruler and the people, we are inferior to the barbarians; and in the matching of words with deeds, we are also inferior to the barbarians. The remedy for these four points is to seek the cause in ourselves. They can be changed at once if only the emperor would set us in the right direction . . .
We have only one thing to learn from the barbarians, and that is strong ships and effective guns . . . Funds should be allotted to establish a shipyard and arsenal in each trading port. A few barbarians should be employed, and Chinese who are good in using their minds should be selected to receive instruction so that in turn they may teach many craftsmen . . .
Our nation's emphasis on civil service examinations has sunk deep into people’s minds for a long time. Intelligent and brilliant scholars have exhausted their time and energy in such useless things as the stereotyped examination essays, examination papers, and formal calligraphy. . . . We should now order one-half of them to apply themselves to the manufacturing of instruments and weapons and to the promotion of physical studies. . . . The intelligence and ingenuity of the Chinese are certainly superior to those of the various barbarians; it is only that hitherto we have not made use of them. . . . There ought to be some people of extraordinary intelligence who can have new ideas and improve on Western methods. At first they may take the foreigners as their teachers and models; then they may come to the same level and be their equals; finally they may move ahead and surpass them. herein lies the way to self-strengthening.
. . . When we speak of repelling the barbarians, we must have the actual means to repel them, and not just empty bravado. If we live in the present day and speak of repelling the barbarians, we should ask with what instruments we are to repel them . . . [The answer is that] we should use the instruments of the barbarians, but not adopt the ways of the barbarians. We should use them so that we can repel them.
Some have asked why we should not just purchase the ships and man them with [foreign] hirelings, but the answer is that this will not do. If we can manufacture, repair, and use them, then they are our weapons. If we cannot manufacture, repair, or use them, then they are still the weapons of others. . . . In the end the way to avoid trouble is to manufacture, repair, and use weapons by ourselves. . . . only thus can we become the leading power in the world; only thus can we restore our original strength, redeem ourselves from former humiliations, and maintain the integrity of our vast territory so as to remain the greatest country on earth.
. . . during the past twenty years since the opening of trade [i.e., trade as expanded after the demands of the treaty of Nanking], a great number of foreigners have learned our written and spoken language, and the best of them can even read our classics and histories. They are generally able to speak on our dynastic regulations and civil administration, on our geography and the condition of our people. On the other hand, our officers from the governors down are completely ignorant of foreign countries. In comparison, should we not feel ashamed? The Chinese officers have to rely upon stupid and preposterous interpreters as their eyes and ears. The mildness or severity of the original statement, its sense of urgency or lack of insistence, may be lost through their tortuous interpretations. Thus frequently a small grudge may develop into a grave hostility. At present the most important political problem of the empire is to control the barbarians, yet the pivotal function [i.e., personal communication with the foreigner] is entrusted to such people. No wonder that we understand neither the foreigners nor ourselves, and cannot distinguish fact from untruth. Whether in peace negotiations or in deliberating for war, we are unable to grasp the essentials. This is indeed the underlying trouble of our nation.
[Ref. extracts from the writings of Feng in W.T. de Bary et al.,eds. Sources of Chinese Tradition, II (1960), 46ff.Copyright 1964, Columbia Univ. Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher]
I have been aboard the warships of British and French admirals and I saw that their cannon are ingenious and uniform, their ammunition is fine and cleverly made, their weapons are bright, and their troops have a martial appearance and are orderly. These things are actually superior to those of China. Their army is not their strong point, yet whenever they attack a city or bombard a camp, the various firearms they use are all non- existent in China. Even their pontoon bridges, scaling ladders, and fortresses are particularly well prepared with excellent technique and marvellous usefulness. All these things I have never seen before . . . I feel deeply ashamed that Chinese weapons are far inferior to those of foreign countries. Every day I warn and instruct my officers to be humble-minded, to bear the humiliation, to learn one or two secret methods from the Westerners in the hope that we may increase our knowledge .. . If we . . . . . cannot make use of nor take over the superior techniques of the foreigners, our regrets will be numerous
Chinese scholars and officials have been indulging in the inveterate habit of remembering stanzas and sentences and practicing fine model calligraphy, while our warriors and fighters are, on the other hand, rough, stupid, and careless; . . .In peace time they sneer at the sharp weapons of foreign countries as things produced by strange techniques and tricky craft, which they consider it unnecessary to learn. In wartime, then, they are alarmed that the effective weapons of Western countries are so strange and marvelous, and regard them as something the Chinese cannot learn about. They do not know that for several hundred years the foreigners have considered the study of firearms as important as their bodies and lives . . .
Scholars and men of letters always criticize me for honoring strange knowledge and for being queer and unusual. It is really difficult to understand the minds of some Chinese.
(Ref.: I. Hsu, The Rise of Modern China, pp. 346ff.Copyright, 1975: Oxford Univ. Press. Reprinted with permission)
I know that within a hundred years China will adopt all Western methods and excel in them . . . Even if the Westerners should give no guidance, the Chinese must surely exert themselves to the utmost of their ingenuity and resources on these things.
As the mind of Heaven changes above, so do human affairs below. heaven opens the minds of the Westerners and bestows upon them intelligence and wisdom. their techniques and skills develop without bound. they sail eastward and gather in China. This constitutes an unprecedented situation in history, and a tremendous change in the world. The foreign nations come from afar with their superior techniques, contemptuous of us in our deficiencies. They show off their prowess and indulge in insults and oppression . . . Under these circumstances, how can we not think of making changes? . . . what compels us unavoidably to change is the doings of men.
If China does not make any change at this time, how can she be on a par with the great nations of Europe, and compare with them in power and strength? Nevertheless, the path of reform is beset with difficulties. What the Western countries have today are regarded as of no worth by those who arrogantly refuse to pay attention. Their argument is that we should use our own laws to govern the empire, for that is the Way of our sages. They do not know that the Way of the sages is valued only because it can make proper accommodation according to the times. If Confucius lived today, we may be certain that he would not cling to antiquity and oppose making changes. . . .. But how is this to be done? First, the method of recruiting civil servants should be changed. The examination essays, coming down to the present, have gone from bad to worse and should be discarded. And yet we are still using them to select civil servants . . .
Second, the method of training soldiers should be changed. . . . The authorities consider our troops unreliable . . . If they continue to hold on to their old ways and make no plans for change, it may be called "using untrained people to fight," which is no different from driving them to their deaths . . .
Fourthly, the complex and multifarious laws and regulations should be changed. . . . The government should reduce the mass of regulations and cut down on the number of directives; it should be sincere and fair and treat the people with frankness and justice. . . .
. . . But the most important point is that the government should exercise its power to change customs and mores while the people below should be gradually absorbed into the new environment and adjusted to it without their knowing it. This reform should extend to all things--from trunk to branch, from inside to outside, from great to small . . .
Formerly we thought that the foundation of our wealth would be established if only Western methods were stressed, and that the result would be achieved immediately. . . . Now in various coastal provinces there have been established special arsenals to make guns and ships. Young boys have been selected and sent to study abroad. Seen from outside, the effort is really great and impressive. Unfortunately, we are merely copying the superficialities of the Western methods, getting only the name but very little substance. The ships which were formerly built at Foochow were entirely based on the older methods of Western countries, not worth the faint praise of those who know about such things. . . .
The advantage of guns lies in the techniques of discharging them; that of ships in the ability to navigate them. The weapons we use in battle must be effective, but the handling of effective weapons depends upon people. . . . Yet those regarded as able men have not necessarily been able, and those regarded as competent have not necessarily been competent. They are merely mediocrities who accomplish something through the aid of others. Therefore, the urgent task of our nation today lies primarily in the governance of the people, and next in the training of soldiers. And in these two the essential point is to gather men of abilities. Indeed, superficial imitation in concrete things is not so good as arousing intellectual curiosity. The forges and hammers of the factories cannot be compared with the apparatus of the people’s minds
[Ref.: W. de Bary et al.,eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition, II (1960), 56ff.Copyright 1964, Columbia Univ. Press. Reprinted with permission]