Western Influence in China and Japan

Topics: Western culture, Elite, Social class Pages: 5 (1656 words) Published: June 12, 2006
China and Japan are two unique civilizations that went through similar, yet vastly different changes throughout their histories. Their growth and response to other nations differed in many ways in government, lifestyle, and general well-being. One of the main causes for such difference between the countries is the way the West influenced each region, and the way China and Japan responded to this influence. China focused more on the idea of being a "status oriented" society, while Japan was more "goal oriented" based. In China, anyone had the ability to better themselves and change their status through civil examinations given by the government. Western impact however slowly changed this old age system. Japan's caste system viewed certain aspects of life differently and structurally differed themselves from China. In The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, Fukuzawa plays a leading role in the devolvement of Japan's education system based on the ideas of Western civilization. Growing up in China, Chiang Monlin in Tides From the West tells his story of Western education and the meaning it brought to him. Shown through the books, The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa and Tides From the West, differences in the elite life of China and Japan with their relationship to the government, lower classes in society, and individual lifestyles grow out of the influence from the West.

With China being a status orientated country, the elite class had a close relationship with the government. For an individual to join the aristocracy of China, studying of the Confucian classics and passing the Imperial Civil Examinations was crucial. Chiang explains how he was taught from a young age to do well on the civil examinations and that "the path was difficult but it was the only road to success" (Chiang 23). Studying and school was a very time consuming task that required more than just memorizing Confucian classics. Dedication was required to get through the demanding education, as this was the only way for a better life. The examination system was eventually abolished by the Imperial Court to create a forward step in educational reform. A new system replaced the old, modeled after the Japanese, which in turn had been brought by the West. As Chiang explained, "China was now surely on the road to westernization" (Chiang 62). Even with the new changes to the educational system, being part of the elite class gave close relation to government and officials.

The elite class of Japan also had a close relationship with government officials and was necessary in spear heading decisions. Fukuzawa described his importance in making a resolution on future policies as he says "the officials were willing to seek my opinions and I was called to the chancellor's residence. It seemed that they expected a very radical speech from me. Every official of any rank whatsoever had assembled there" (Fukuzawa 278). Fukuzawa played a critical role in making decisions for the emerging Japanese government. Government officials looked to him for advice because of his involvement and knowledge about the West. He continues to explain his authority even in America as he argues by saying "you have brought me out here far from home, used me all these days, and now that the work is done, you want to send me back. But you don't have such authority […] I am here under the official order of the ministry, not under yours" (Fukuzawa 176). The elite and upper classes of Japan were respected in other nations than just Japan. Even though Fukuzawa was faced with an order from an official in America, he did not have to comply knowing that he had a greater authority. Helping to bring Japan into a more Western state, Japanese officials and elite were important to the advancement of nation.

As shown in by Chiang Monlin, Chinese elites often treated the lower classes with respect and did not belittle them. Monlin explained the difficult lifestyles of the poorer...
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