“An Argument for leaving Asia” or “Datsu-A Ron” translation attempt, Part 1

Datsu-A Ron” is an unsigned editorial of a newspaper called “時事新報” published in March 16, 1885.

Here is the part 1. Somebody really needs to rewrite my English.

現在、西洋人の地球規模での行動の迅速さには目を見張るものがあるが、ただこれは科学技術革命の結果である蒸気機関を利用しているにすぎず、人間精神において何か急激な進歩が起こったわけではない。したがって、西洋列強の東洋侵略に対してこれを防ごうと思えば、まずは精神的な覚悟を固めるだけで充分である。西洋人も同じ人間なのだ。とはいえ西洋に起こった科学技術革命という現実を忘れてはならない。国家の独立のためには、科学技術革命の波に進んで身を投じ、その利益だけでなく不利益までも受け入れる他はない。これは近代文明社会で生き残るための必須条件である。

Recent movement of westerner’s global rapid action is remarkable. However, this is only a result of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent steam engines and does not mean there was some kind of progress in terms of human spirits(or humanity). Therefore, in order to stand up against and to prevent the invasions to the orient by western great powers, first of all, we only need to get ready in our mind(meaning “to keep open mind and learn, not to have physical strength”). Westerners are the same human being. But, that does not mean we can disregard the reality of Industrial Revolution. In order to keep an independence of a country, it is necessary to just jump into the wave of the Industrial Revolution and accept not only it’s benefits but also it’s disadvantages as well. This is now required to survive in this modern civilized society.

近代文明とはインフルエンザのようなものである。インフルエンザを水際で防げるだろうか。私は防げないと断言する。百害あって一利も無いインフルエンザでも、一度生じてしまえば防げないのである。それが、利益と不利益を相伴うものの、常に利益の方が多い近代文明を、どのようにして水際で防げるというのだろう。近代文明の流入を防ごうとするのではなく、むしろその流行感染を促しつつ国民に免疫を与えるのは知識人の義務でさえある。

Modern civilization is like influenza. Can we prevent infection of influenza on the sea front? No, I strongly believe we can’t. Influenza has no benefit, and we can’t avoid infections once it spreads. But, modern civilization bares both benefits and disadvantages, and how can we protect ourselves from modern civilization which has more benefits than disadvantages. It is, in a way, a duty for intellectuals to push the infections while providing antidotes.

西洋の科学技術革命について日本人が知ったのはペリーの黒船以来であって、これによって、国民も、次第に、近代文明を受け入れるべきだという認識を持つようになった。ところが、その進歩の前に横たわっていたのが徳川幕府である。徳川幕府がある限り、近代文明を受け入れることは出来なかった。近代文明か、それとも幕府を中心とした旧体制の維持か。この二者択一が迫られた。もしここで旧体制を選んでいたら、日本の独立は危うかっただろう。なぜなら、科学技術を利用しつつ互いに激しく競いながら世界に飛び出した西洋人たちは、東洋の島国が旧体制のなかにひとり眠っていることを許すほどの余裕を持ち合わせてはいなかったからである。

It was when Perry’s black ships appeared in Edo Bay, Japanese learned about the Industrial Revolution of the west. Since then Japanese gradually had begun to recognize the needs to accept modern civilization. However, the Tokugawa shogunate was the obstacle. As long as the Tokugawa shogunate existed, we could not accept modern civilization. We had only 2 choices; modern civilization or sticking to the old regime. If we had chosen the the old regime, the independence of Japan had been in danger. It’s because westerners, who went out to the world while taking advantage of technologies and competing each other, had no mercy to leave the oriental island country asleep.

ここに、日本の有志たちは、徳川幕府よりも国家の独立を重んじることを大義として、皇室の権威に依拠することで旧体制を倒し、新政府をうちたてた。かくして日本は、国家・国民規模で、西洋に生じた科学技術と近代文明を受け入れることを決めたのだった。これは全てのアジア諸国に先駆けており、つまり近代文明の受容とは、日本にとって脱アジアという意味でもあったのである。

Hereby, the faithful retainers, holding a faith to the country and the emperor, destroyed the Tokugawa shogunate and built a new government. This way, Japan as a country and the whole nation decided to accept technologies and modern civilization born in the west. This was the first amongst the all Asian countries and this also meant leaving Asia for Japan.

[part 2]

Comments? Suggestions?


6 responses to ““An Argument for leaving Asia” or “Datsu-A Ron” translation attempt, Part 1

  • Ryan Thomas

    Today, seeing the state that China and the rest of asia is in economically, I’d say he was dead on. But what did he mean by “mind?” Did he mean charisma or spirituality? If it was the first, then that’s some pretty self-hating envy turned nationalism. Is it not?

  • John Smith

    “Mind” means we need to get educated. He talks about education a lot (fukuzawa yukichi). He advocated education and knowledge besides money guns steam engines. We need to get educated first through western knowledge is what he is saying. To be educated populace

  • toru

    >But what did he mean by “mind?”

    Mr John Smith is right.

    I should change “Mind” to “Spirits”.. or “humanity”. “人間精神” should be translated as “human spirits”.

  • ChinaKorea Buster

    “Datsu-A Ron” is an unsigned editorial of a newspaper called “Jiji Shin-Pou” published in March 16, 1885.

    Escape from Asia

    By Yukichi Fukuzawa

    At present, the speed of actions of the Westerners on the global scale is remarkable. However, this speed is merely an achievement of steam engines, which is a result of the Science-Technology Revolution. Despite this speed, no rapid progress in human spirits has occurred.
    Therefore, in order to defend the Orient against the invasion by Western Imperial Powers, it suffices to consolidate our spiritual resolution. Westerners are also humans like us. That being said, we must not forget the reality of the Science-Technology Revolution that has occurred in the West.
    For the sake of the independence of our nation, we have no choice but to willingly throw ourselves into the wave of Science-Technology Revolution and accept not only its benefits but also its demerits. This is an essential condition that is needed for us to survive in the modern civilized society.
    The modern civilization is like influenza. Is it possible to stop influenza at the waterfront? I adamantly assert that it is impossible. Once influenza engenders, even though it does nothing but harms, its dispersion cannot be stopped.
    The dispersion of the modern civilization generates both merits and demerits. However, the modern civilization always generates more merits than demerits. That being the nature of the modern civilization, how could its dispersion be possibly stopped at the waterfront?
    Therefore, it is even a duty of the intellectuals of Japan not to stop the influx of the modern civilization and to give our citizens immunization against the modern civilization while accelerating the infection dispersion.
    Japanese got informed on the Science-Technology Revolution of the West only after the US Black Ships of Perry came to Japan. After this incident, the people of Japan gradually started to hold the idea that they should accept the modern civilization.
    However, what lied before the progress was the Tokugawa Bakufu. As long as Tokugawa Bakufu exsited, there was no way for Japan to accept the modern civilization. The modern civilization or the Bakufu- centered obsolete system? Choosing one of these two options was inevitable. If Japan had opted the obsolete system, the independence of Japan would have been jeopardized. That is because the Westerners, who have jumped out to the world utilizing science and technology while intensely competing with each other, could not afford to allow the island nation of the Orient to keep on sleeping alone in the obsolete system.

    At this stage, volunteers of Japan established the cause of choosing the independence of the nation over the Tokugawa Bakufu. Based on the authority of the Imperial Household, they downed the old system, and established a new government.
    Thus, Japan, on the national scale as well as at the people’s level, decided to accept the science, technology, and modern civilization that engendered in the West. In this decision, Japan preceded all the other Asian nations. Therefore, to Japan, the acceptance of the modern civilization also meant its de-Asianization.
    Japan, though its land is in Asia, in its national spirit, accepted the modern civilization of the West. However, what appeared as Japan’s misfortunes were two neighboring nations. One was Ch’ing, and the other was Chosun. The people of these two nations, like Japanese, belong to the Chinese Character Culture Zone, and share the same classics. However, possibly because they are originally racially distinct from us or possibly because they received an education different from ours, the spritual distance between Japan and these 2 nations is incomprehensively large.
    In this era of power-game of modern civilization, in which information travels back and forth so rapidly, Ch’ing and Chosun know about the modern civilization and the international law, and yet they hold onto the past. The spirits of Ch’ing and Chosun have remained unchanged for the last 1000 years. In these 2 nations, the word “education” means Confucianism. Moreover, their knowledge of Confucianism is superficial. Their blind adherance to Confucianism, in reality, has led them to not only scornful attitudes toward scientific truths but also degenerate ethics. For example, in a scene of an international dispute, they are always self-righteous and defiant, saying, “You are to blame!”.
    In my view, Ch’ing and Chosun, if they stay unchanged, will not be able to remain as independent nations. If volunteer warriors of revolution appeared in these 2 nations, achieved a political reform like Meiji Restoration, and accelerated a top-down modernization project, they would be able to survive. Otherwise, they are unquestionably destined to perish and have their lands divided and severed. That is because, when they are being washed by the influenza-like waves of modern civilization, if they remain confined in a room shutting off the air flow so as to avoid the waves, they have no choice but to suffocate to death.

    The phrase “Lips-Teeth and Cheek Bones-Lower Jaw Bone” that appears in the Chinese classic “Spring and Autumn Chronicle of Zuo” expresses an inseparable relation between neighboring nations that must help each other to survive. However, such relation does not exist between Japan and the pair of Ch’ing and Chosun. Ch’ing and Chosun currently are not only useless to Japan but also hazardous to Japan. Only because these 3 nations are geographically close to each other, Japan has a risk of being indentified as a nation in the same category of Ch’ing and Chosun by Europeans and Americans. Here are some examples of the endless list of such risks.
    1. Ch’ing and Chosun are under dictatorship. Japan is also highly likely to be mistaken for a nation under dictatorship by Europeans and Americans.

    2. Ch’ing and Chosun are nations of Confucianism. This serves as a ground for making Europeans and Americans think that Japan is also a nation of Confucianism.

    3. Ch’ing and Chosun openly and shamelessly ignore and insult international laws and international manners. Even if Japan reproaches them for their uncivilized behaviors, Japan is still highly likely to be maliciously mistaken for an uncivilized nation of the same kind by Europeans and Americans.

    4. Chosun has been oppressing its political prisoners. This fact is sufficent to mistakenly make Europeans and Americans think that Japan is also doing the same.
    This situation can be exemplified by the situation of a village in which all of its residents but one are insane cruel outlaws. Even if the only normal resident of the village censured the insane barbaric acts of the other residents, in the eyes of any outsider of the village, this normal resident would not look any different from the barbaric residents.
    In fact, such incidents sporadically occur in scenes of evaluation of Asia diplomacies. I have no choice but to say that this is a great misfortune to Japan.

    After all, we must not expect these 2 nations to behave according to the internaional law and interntional manners. We should abandon the illusion that they might hopefully contribute to the prosperity of “East Asia Unon”.
    Instead, Japan must sever the relation with the Chinese Continent and Chosun Penninsula, and move forward with the advanced nations. We must not treat these 2 nations with any special emotion just because they are neighboring nations. We should treat these 2 nations strictly based on the internaional law and international common courtesy. Those who condone a bad act of their bad friends are bound to receive together a bad reputation. I hereby have wholeheartedly decided to sever the relation with my bad friends of “East Asia”.

  • ChinaKorea Buster

    I carefully read the original article, and revised the last post so as to preserve the expressions and tone of the original.

    “Datsu-A Ron” is an unsigned editorial of a newspaper called “Jiji Shin-Pou” published on March 16, 1885.
    Escape from Asia
    By Yukichi Fukuzawa

    The roads of world traffic has become convenient. As a result, the wind of the Western Civilization has gradually reached the East. There is not a single grass of tree that does not flutter with the wind. In ancient times and today, Westerners are not much different from us. Even though Westerners were slow to develop in ancient times, they are actively developing now. This is precisely because they have gained momentum utilizing machines of traffic.

    Therefore, at present, in order to plot for nations of the East, it might seem possible to block and stop the momentum of the progression of the western civilization if we were determined to do so in fury. That being said, however, those who have observed the current situation of the world know that such attempt is in fact impossible. As the world changes, we have no choice but to float and sink together in the ocean of civilization, raise together the wave of civilization, and share together the agonies and joys of civilization.

    The civilization is like a measles dispersion. At present, the measles in Tokyo is like the one that starts in the west land province Nagasaki, gradually spreads eastward, and steadily disperses with the arrival of warm spring. At this stage, even if we hate the harm of this epidemic and wish to prevent the spread of the epidemic, is there any means to do so? I adamantly assert that there is no such means. Even when an epidemic that does only harms spreads, we should not get upset by its momentum. Needless to say, we must act likewise when the modern civilization, which has both merits and demerits but has more merits than demerits, spreads.
    Therefore, it is even a duty of the intellectuals of Japan not only not to stop the influx of the modern civilization but also to make a special effort to help the dispersion of the civilization, and have our citizens bath in the atmospher of the modern civilization.
    The modern civlilization of the West came to Japan when Japan opened the country in Kaei Era (Note: this refers to the arrival of the Black Ships of US in Uraga, in 1853). After this incident, the people of Japan finally understood the need to adopt the modern civilization. This atmosphere gradually gained momentum.
    However, what lied before the progress was the old fashioned senile big government. There was nothing people could do about it. This old government ordered never to let in the civilization for the sole purpose of self-preservation. Regardless of the situation, the modern civilization could not co-exist with the old-fashined system of Japan. If the old system was to be abandoned, the old government inevitably had to perish simultaneously. On the other hand, if Japan stopped the influx of the modern civilization and blocked its intrusion to Japan, Japan would not have survived as an independent nation. That is because the extremely busy fights between the world civilizations would not have allowed the solitude sleep of the isolated island of the East.
    At this stage, volunteers of Japan established the cause of choosing the nation over the government. Moreover, fortunately, relying on the hollyness and dignity of the Imperial Household, they resolutely downed the old government, established a new government, and adopted the modern civilization of the West in everything in both public sectors and private sectors throughout the country. Thus, Japan alone evolved out of the old system, and newly established one axis among all the states of Asia. Thus, Japan solely stands on the principle of de-Asianization.

    Japan, though its land is in Asia, in the spirit of its people, has already moved out of the stubborness of Asia, and joined the modern civilization of the West.
    However, Japan’s misfortunes are two neighboring nations. One was Ch’ing (Note: Chi’ng was a Manchurian empire that covered the territory that is approximately equal to today’s People’s Republic of China. Its name in Manchu is Dai Cing gurun. The word Chi’ng is equivalent to Cing. The first, second, and third official languages were Manchu, Mongolian, and Chinese, resepectively, in this order. Its ruling class consisted of Manchurians and Mongolians.), and the other was Chosun (Note: Chosun was a vassal nation of Chi’ng that corresponds to today’s the union of N.Korea and S.Korea which were founded in 1948 by Soviet Union and USA, respectively.).
    The people of these two nations differ from Japanese even though, like Japanese, they were raised in the Asia-style religeon, politics, and custom. This difference exists possibly because they are racially distinct from us in their origins or possibly because they traditionally received education different from ours even though they lived in the Asia-style religeon, politics, and custom.
    In the comparison of Japan, Ch’ing, and Chosen, Ch’ing and Chosen are very close to each other. The difference between Ch’ing and Chosen is far smaller than the difference between Japan and the set of Ch’ing and Chosen. The people of these 2 nations act in unity. They also have no knowledge on how to improve their nations.
    In this world of the extreme convenience of the modern traffic, it is impossible that they have not seen or heard anything about the modern civilization.
    However, since what they saw and heard were not impressive enough to move their minds, they stay in love with their old fashined obsolete systems and customs just as they did over one thousand and several hundreds years ago. In this action theater of the modern civilization that is updated daily, when they talk about education, they talk about the principle of Confucianism. When they talk about education policies, their discussion is limited to the 4 fundamental virtues of Confucianism cosisting of “Sympathy”, “Sense of Justice”, “Social Manners”, and “Ethical Discretion”. In every aspect of their discussions, they focus only on the external decoration of their appearances. In reality, not only they have no knowledge or understanding of truths and principles but also even their ethics has reached the extreme of cruelty and disgrace, sweeping the ground. Nonetheless, they remain arrogant and feel no remorse.
    In my view of these 2 nations, considering the current trend of the eastward progression of the modern civilization, there is no way that they will be able to keep their independence (Note: Chosun was a vassal nation or colony of Ch’ing and was not recognized as an independent nation by the West. This author’s description means Chosung as a colony of independent Ch’ing.).
    If volunteer warriors of revolution fortunately appeared in these 2 nations, achieved a political reform like Meiji Restoration, and accelerated a nation-scale modernization project, they would be able to survive. Otherwise, they are unquestionably destined to perish and have their lands severed and divided by the civilized nations of the world in a matter of several years.
    That is because, when they encountered the measles-like dispersion of the modern civilization, they defied the nature of the dispersion, remained confined in a room to avoid the dispersion, and shut off the air flow. In this situation, they have no choice but to suffocate to death.

    The proverb “Lips-Teeth-Cheek Bones-Lower Jaw Bone” that appears in the Chinese classic “Spring Autumn Chronicle of Zuo” describes the inseparable relation between neighboring nations that must help each other to survive. However, Japan currently has no such relation with Ch’ing and Chosun. Ch’ing and Chosun currently are not only useless to Japan but also hazardous to Japan. Only because these 3 nations are geographically close to each other, Japan has a risk of being indentified as a nation in the same category of Ch’ing and Chosun by Europeans and Americans. Here are some examples of the endless list of such risks.
    1. Ch’ing and Chosun are under dictatorship in which no reliable legal system exists. Japan is also highly likely to be mistaken for a lawless nation under dictatorship by Europeans and Americans.

    2. The leaders of Ch’ing and Chosun are too deeply in love with Confucianism to understand what science is. This serves as a solid ground for making Europeans and Americans mistakenly think that Japan also practices Ying-Yang Wu Xing of Confucianism.

    3. Chinese are base and shameless. Because of this, even Japan’s Gikyou (Note: Gikyou is a brave “Stand up and Fight for Justice against all adverse conditions”-type action of justice so as to protect the weak against the evil big and strong.) is clouded and obliterated in the eyes of Westerners.

    4. Chosun punishes its people using cruel and barbaric tortures. Europeans and Americans infer that Japan must also be ruthless like Chosun.
    This situation can be exemplified by the situation of a village or town in which all of its residents but one are stupid insane cruel ruthless outlaws. Even if the only normal resident censured the insane barbaric acts of the other residents, in the eyes of any outsider of the village or town, the proper action of justice of this normal resident would be immersed in the other ugly acts of the barbaric residents and would become invisible.
    In fact, such incidents sporadically occur in scenes of evaluation of Asia diplomacies. I have no choice but to say that this is a great misfortune to Japan.

    After all, we must not expect these 2 nations to behave according to the internaional law and interntional manners. We should abandon the illusion that they might hopefully contribute to the prosperity of “East Asia Unon”.
    Instead, Japan must sever the relation with the Chinese Continent and Chosun Penninsula, and move forward with the advanced nations. We must not treat these 2 nations with any special emotion just because they are neighboring nations. We should treat these 2 nations strictly based on the internaional law and international common courtesy. Those who condone a bad act of their bad friends are bound to receive together a bad reputation. I hereby have wholeheartedly decide to sever the relation with my bad friends of “East Asia”.

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