Copyright © 1996 The American Studies Association. All rights reserved. This work may be used, with this header included, for noncommercial purposes within a subscribed institution. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically outside of the subscribed institution, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the JHU Press.
American Quarterly 48.2 (1996) 201-232

The Transformation of Culture:
Three Chinese Views of America

K. Scott Wong

For the past fifty years, American historical scholarship documenting the Chinese presence in the United States has focused largely on various aspects of the anti-Chinese movement, often paying more attention to the "excluders" than the "excluded." This obvious trend in the historiographical record prompted Roger Daniels in 1966 to write, "Other immigrant groups were celebrated for what they had accomplished; Orientals were important for what was done to them." 1 Currently, despite a growing body of literature on Chinese American labor and legal history and Asian American literary criticism, little scholarship has appeared that gives voice to the Chinese in America, thus impeding the development of a Chinese American intellectual or cultural history. 2

Ironically, the politics surrounding the development of Asian American studies has contributed to this trend. Asian Americans, long considered perpetual foreigners, rightfully sought to claim themselves as Americans, full participants in American democratic society, unquestionably deserving of the respect and privileges that accompany membership in the American polity. For Asian American scholars and activists, however, the cost of this strategy often meant distancing themselves from their historical ties to Asia. By focusing primarily on the American perspective of the Asian American experience, the Asian voice has often been neglected. In an article published in 1991, Sucheta [End Page 201] Mazumdar challenged Asian American scholars to recontextualize their work so that it included a broader, more international perspective. She wrote, "Asian American Studies has been located within the context of American Studies and stripped of its international links. . . . To isolate Asian American history from its international underpinnings, to abstract it from the global context of capital and labor migration, is to distort this history." 3 This essay, using both Chinese- and English-language sources, attempts to respond to this challenge. Although not rooted in the capital and labor migration context of which Mazumdar spoke, it seeks to widen the range of Chinese American studies by exploring the links between Chinese and Chinese American intellectual and cultural history. More to the point, a study of this kind can contribute to the ongoing internationalization of Asian American and American studies.

This essay examines three Chinese perceptions of American culture during a time of social transformation in China, when many Chinese intellectuals looked to the United States as a model for modernization and an ally against European imperialism. Specifically, it utilizes Chinese representations of George Washington, the travel diary of Liang Qichao (1873-1929) published in 1904, and the personal memoirs of Yung Wing (1828-1912). These three views of America reflect a developing understanding of American society on the part of the Chinese as each one comes closer to America spatially, in the amount of time spent in this country, and in their appreciation and appropriation of American culture. These examples also disclose a growing sense of how Chinese intellectuals and political reformers were influenced by what they found in the United States and its attendant culture, thus revealing that the Chinese presence in America had a mutually transformative effect on both Chinese and Americans. Not only was the American landscape transformed through Chinese labor while American immigration policy became increasingly racialized and class biased through the passage of exclusionary legislation enacted against Chinese immigrants, the Chinese experience in America also had an important cultural impact on the Chinese, similar to what Mary Louise Pratt terms transculturation. She defines this term as the process whereby "subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted to them by a dominant or metropolitan culture." 4 The examples of Chinese perceptions of George Washington, Liang Qichao's views of the Chinese in San Francisco, and Yung Wing's vision of the salvational [End Page 202] qualities of an American education speak eloquently of the process of cultural borrowing, adaptation, and transformation. By encountering a variety of "Others," in the United States, these Chinese intellectuals, political reformers, and diplomats came to reevaluate their Sinocentrism and thereby laid the foundations for an early Chinese American cultural outlook, which, during this period, was a blend of Chinese and Western social and political values.

Research approaches that can give voice to the Chinese immigrant experience in America are often determined by the availability of sources. Social historians in the field have had to rely mainly on records kept by government agencies (federal, state, and local archives), federal and state hearings on Chinese immigration, and journalistic impressions of the Chinese community, almost always written by authors hostile to the Chinese or, at best, those written from an Orientalist perspective. When using sources written by the Chinese, in either the Chinese or English language, there is yet another set of problems to confront. Because only a small segment of the Chinese population received a formal education, those who learned to read and write well were in a minority, and those fluent in both Chinese and English were even fewer. Most important, those who wrote well enough, had the leisure time to write essays and keep journals, and had the connections to publish them were a select few. Therefore, the vast majority of textual sources surviving from this period come from a small, scholarly elite. It was through their hands that the received textual tradition passed, thus shaping the body of documents available to modern scholars and reflecting the values and sensibilities of this privileged segment of Chinese society. Until contemporary scholars uncover a sizable cache of reliable documents (letters, journals, pamphlets) that reflect the views of Chinese peasants in Guangdong (the region of China from which most pre-1965 Chinese immigrants came), early Chinese laborers, and the various residents of Chinatown, historians of Chinese America are largely restricted to writings from this Chinese elite. Even the extant writings that supposedly speak for the merchant class in Chinatown during this period should be considered elite, as they represent the literate class of the community and usually reflect the traditional elite Chinese values embedded in Confucianism. 5 Therefore, the available sources have limited this essay. Not reflected here are the views of working- or merchant-class immigrants, nor are those of the small number of Chinese born in the United States by this time. [End Page 203] However, the texts used here do reflect the perceptions of a group of educated Chinese who consciously sought to incorporate American culture into their worldview, offering us an opportunity to explore the early development of a Chinese American intellectual and cultural history. This study, therefore, aims to contribute to an understanding of that development and offer avenues for future consideration.

This essay also attempts to broaden the discourse of the Other, to expand its usual binary construct to one that can include multiple perspectives and competing elements. It is often the case that when self/Other relationships are examined, especially in American ethnic or racial studies, the focus is on the misconceptions or prejudices one race or ethnic group holds of another and how these perceptions contribute to unequal relationships of power. This article offers a different approach to this line of inquiry by presenting examples of an evolving Chinese use of the American Other in order to critique Chinese, American, and Chinese American culture. As will be seen, the Other was not solely American society or immigration policies, but Chinese culture and the Chinese in America as well. Therefore, by crafting their arguments in a manner that used one group to achieve the agenda of criticizing another, the elite Chinese addressed in this essay manipulated self/Other relationships in a novel fashion.

Rather than situate the self/Other relationship in a construct that would simply place Chinese and Americans at odds with each other, I will present these three clusters of images whereby the Other is not always of the opposite race, nor necessarily regarded as inferior. By casting George Washington as the familiar Other, Chinese immigrants as third-party Others, and Yung Wing as a doubly excludable Other, I suggest new ways in which to view cross-cultural contact and comparisons, contributing to the process of disentangling the complex web of Chinese, American, and Chinese American cultural encounters and the transformation of cultural sensibilities that took place among the Chinese and Chinese American immigrant elite.

China and the United States: A Special Relationship

The Chinese had long considered themselves the center of the civilized world. This Sinocentric worldview colored their relations with other countries and cultures and would inform their initial response when confronted with a technologically superior West. At the core of [End Page 204] the traditional Chinese world order was the concept of tianxia ("all under Heaven"), which designated the Chinese empire and provided the Chinese with a "sense of all-embracing unity and cultural entity." 6 The concept evolved as Chinese civilization, which began in the fifth millenium B.C., expanded from the Yellow River in the north to the Yangtze River in the south. Although vaguely aware of other cultural centers to the west, the Chinese viewed the kingdoms that fell early under their influence as the center of their known world. These kingdoms or states were regarded as the central states (Zhongguo, which later became the term for China), and those who lived outside of the Chinese cultural purview or beyond the political borders of these states were seen as marginal peoples of underdeveloped cultures that were "wanting" (in both senses of the term) of the benefits of Chinese civilization.

Chinese authors articulated the dichotomy between the Chinese and those beyond the pale of Chinese civilization very early in Chinese history. The Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Oceans) is an anonymous, illustrated compilation that appeared sometime during the Zhou or Han periods (sixth century B.C. to first century A.D.) and has been termed the "oldest traveller's guide in the world." 7 The text purports to describe the lands and peoples well beyond the borders of China: the "hairy white people" (possibly the Ainu of northern Japan) and "malodorous barbarians" (perhaps of the Siberian coast). A large proportion of the beings described and illustrated are fabulous: "heads that fly about alone, winged men, dog-faced men, bodies with no heads, and the like." 8 Those images were often contrasted in the text with images of the Chinese as paragons of the true human social being. These representations distinctly differentiated the inhabitants of the central states, depicted wearing identifiable Chinese apparel, from the peoples and cultures outside of China's physical and cultural borders.

The Chinese made very clear distinctions between themselves and their neighbors in terms of cultural attainment, and descriptions of the Other became prescription, as is readily apparent in the following passage from the Lunyu (Confucian Analects, ca. 150 B.C.):

Confucius expressed his desire to live among the nine tribes of Yi. One of his followers said, "The Yi are ignorant. How can you think of such a thing?" Confucius replied, "Should a Gentleman live among them, how could they remain ignorant?" 9

[End Page 205]

This passage represents two important facets of the Chinese attitude toward the Other. While the Chinese distinguished themselves from the ignorant tribes of the Yi (non-Chinese living in the north and east of ancient China) and expressed contempt for their uncivilized state, Confucians also expressed a belief in the capacity of the superior Chinese culture to transform and uplift the barbarian Yi. This belief granted the Yi the capacity to be transformed, a malleability of character that actually denoted their humanness. The presence of a "gentleman," a man of virtue imbued with the Chinese cultural tradition, would serve as a model for the benighted Yi (and for Others) to emulate, thereby enabling them to cross the boundary of Chinese civilization.

This image of Chinese superiority and its transforming power vis-à-vis Others remained an integral component of the Chinese worldview and determined for centuries how Chinese dealt with foreigners. Nearly always acting from a position of perceived cultural superiority, the Chinese virtually never entered into relations with non-Chinese on the basis of equality, but rather with a hierarchical sense of measurable superiority.

Western imperialism in Asia, however, challenged this worldview. When the British won the first Opium War in 1842, it became obvious that the Chinese could no longer maintain the fiction of cultural superiority. The British victory opened Chinese ports to a greater number of foreign ships and, subsequently, increased contact with Western nations, including the United States. For the most part, the Chinese viewed Americans as less aggressive than the British and French in their efforts to "open" China, and American merchants had achieved the reputation of being "properly deferential" in their dealings with the Chinese in Canton. 10 To counteract the power of Britain, the Chinese attempted to fall back on an age-old practice of compensating "for weakness by drawing the least threatening power(s) to her side." 11 For much of the nineteenth century, that ally was the United States. This policy, as proposed by the great statesman Zeng Guofan (1811-1872) and his protege "self-strengthener" Li Hongzhang (1823-1901), was another version of the Chinese method of "using barbarians to check barbarians." 12 For this purpose, Zeng put forth a view of Americans as "pure-minded and honest" and "long recognized as respectful and compliant toward China." 13

The choice of the United States as an ally was not entirely a free one. [End Page 206] Compared to the other major powers of the time, the United States did not appear to be much of a threat to China's territory. In other words, the United States seemed to the Chinese to be the least offensive barbarian with which to ally. The Americans, for their part, saw advantage in a benign international image of the United States. In the course of diplomatic correspondence, the U.S. Department of State frequently referred to the record of peaceful negotiations between the United States and China, the absence of American colonial ambitions, and Americans' reluctance to use force in China. 14

China's attraction to the United States was, of course, not only ideological and for reasons of diplomacy, but for financial gain as well. Drawn to California after the discovery of gold there in 1848, some 400,000 Chinese emigrated to the United States between 1849 and 1882, at which time Congress passed the first Chinese Exclusion Act. 15 Although Chinese immigrants initially ventured to the United States in search of gold, calling the United States "Old Gold Mountain," Chinese eventually filled a variety of occupational niches in the American economy. They worked in the fishing industry, built railroads, found employment at all levels of the agricultural business, engaged in light manufacturing and cigar making, opened restuarants and laundries, and hired themselves out as domestic servants and common laborers. A smaller number also entered the country as merchants, students, and religious figures. 16

As the Chinese turned their gaze to the American shore, their Chinese cultural perceptions and historical experience framed their impressions of the United States. Just as there was no single China for Americans, there was likewise no single, static Chinese understanding of America. Rather, the Chinese viewed the United States during this period from three primary intersecting angles: (1) China's faltering yet persistent Sinocentric worldview, challenged by (2) a growing perception of China's material and political weakness vis-à-vis the foreign powers, and (3) the immigration experience itself, made worse by the stigma of American exclusion legislation. These three elements, interacting with coeval political events and with each other, reflect a persistent and shifting ambivalence in Chinese views of America and in their perceptions of themselves as well. As the context changed in which Chinese and Americans interacted with each other, their views of each other were naturally affected. For a segment of the elite and other Chinese who were in contact with Euro-Americans, the instability of [End Page 207] the Chinese national identity, coupled with the sociopolitical changes of the time and the humiliating immigration experience, revealed cracks in the once solidly Sinocentric worldview.

Other writers have argued that the ambivalence in Chinese impressions of the United States was rooted in their "unwarranted expectations and ethnocentric attitudes." 17 In addition, however, elite Chinese images of the United States and of their own culture were determined by their interaction with Euro-Americans and with Chinese immigrants living in the United States. The process of analyzing the formation of cultural images and expectations is more complex than simply privileging the observer's point of view; one must also acknowledge the reciprocal influence of whom or what they are observing, the sociocultural environment in which this process takes place, and the history of the relationship between the observer and the observed. Images are not formed through one-sided observations, but through the process of interaction. Following are three cases in which American culture can be seen as a "contact zone" in which Chinese and American culture and expectations collided, revealing the degree to which American values influenced a changing Chinese worldview. 18

George Washington and the Chinese

One of the strongest images of the United States held by members of the Chinese elite during the late nineteenth century was that of George Washington. A number of Chinese intellectuals, rooted in the Confucian tradition of rule by virtuous example rather than by force, revered Washington, placing him on a level with the mythical kings and great generals of China's glorious imperial past, even though their knowledge of the first president was extremely limited. The most influential "biography" of Washington to appear in Chinese during the nineteenth century was written by Xu Jiyu (1795-1873) in his geographical treatise Yinghuan zhilue (A Short Account of the Oceans Around Us) written in 1848. Xu, the governor of Fujian province, never traveled abroad, but constructed this work through extensive reading of translated Western works and contact with foreigners. The province of Fujian, in southeastern China, had a long history of foreign contact, and after the Opium War, it was open to an increase in foreign trade, affording Xu more opportunities to avail himself of foreign texts, ideas, and personal contacts. His treatise became the main source of geographical [End Page 208] knowledge of the Western world in China and an indispensible tool for China's diplomats in the latter part of the nineteenth century. 19 And, his near apotheosis of George Washington would influence the views of the Chinese elite for years to come, as Washington came to symbolize the power and virture of the United States.

Rooted in a Confucian prescription of moral example as proper government, Xu placed Washington within a well-developed Chinese paradigm of good government that, in fact, very few Chinese rulers could even attain. His biography of Washington is worth quoting at length:

There was one named Washington (Huashengdun) from another part of the United States, who was born in 1731 [actually, 1732]. When he was ten years old his father died, and his mother raised him. In his youth he had great ambitions, and he was naturally gifted in both civil and military affairs, and his bravery and virtue surpassed all others.
When Washington had settled the country, he handed over his military authority and desired to return to his fields. The people were unwilling to part with him and chose him to be the country's ruler. Washington then said to the people that it was selfish to take a country and pass it on to one's descendants; he said it was better to choose a person of virtue for the responsibility of governing people.
As for Washington, he was an extraordinary man. In raising a revolt, he was more courageous than Sheng or Guang. In carrying out an occupation, he was braver than Cao or Liu. When he took up the three-foot double-edged sword and opened up the boundaries for ten thousand li, he did not assume the throne and was unwilling to begin a line of succession. Moreover he invented a method of election. He established a "world for everyone" (tianxia weigong), and he swiftly carried out the traditions of the Three Dynasties (sandai). He governed his country with reverence and respected good customs. He did not esteem military achievements, and he was very different from [the rulers] of other countries. I have seen his portrait; his bearing is imposing and excellent. Ah! Can he not be called a hero? . . . Of all the famous Westerners of ancient and modern times, can Washington be placed in any position but the first? 20

Obviously, Xu's description of Washington was meant to serve a political purpose. As the Chinese confronted a militarily superior West, they sought to lessen the sting of their humiliation at the hands of the West by transforming Washington into a Chinese statesman, thereby making the Other as familiar as possible. This account of Washington's [End Page 209] early childhood is in fact a form of Confucian hagiography. The death of Washington's father while he was young and his upbringing by his mother match exactly the childhood circumstances of Mencius, the next major philosopher after Confucius and one of the early shapers of the Chinese concept of proper behavior in the public sphere. Washington's desire to return to his farm corresponds both to the Chinese reverence for agriculture and the pastoral life and to the tradition of eremitism for officials. And yet, when called upon by the people, Washington served the country, which was also in the spirit of Chinese recluses who gave up personal desires and comfort to aid the people and the government. 21

This biographical sketch declares that Washington was a man of great military prowess, comparing favorably to heroes of China's past. More importantly, Washington did not emphasize the martial aspect of ruling but instead focused on justice, again conforming to Confucian ideas about good government. Finally, Washington did not attempt to pass the presidency on to his descendants, but "abdicated" to a man of virtue. 22 Here, he is compared to the Sage Kings Yao, Xun, and Yu of the ancient Three Dynasties period who were said to have established the idea of ruling through merit rather than descent. In short, Washington was the perfect example of a ruler who practiced the proper way of a king (wangdao). 23

Used in a contrasting manner, later intellectuals invoked the image of Washington for other political reasons. Addressing the poor treatment of Chinese immigrants in America, Huang Zunxian (1848-1905) used the appeal of Washington to express his indignation over the subjugated status of Chinese in America. While serving as consul general in San Francisco, he wrote a long poem entitled "Zhuke pian" (Expelling the Visitor) in 1882, the year Congress passed the original Chinese Exclusion Act. In one section of the poem Huang Zunxian writes:

I sadly think back to George Washington,
Who certainly had the talent to be a forceful ruler.*
He proclaimed that in America
There is a broad expanse of land in the western desert.
There, the "nine tribes and eight barbarians"**
Are all allowed to go and settle in the frontier.***
The yellow, white, red and black races
Are all equal to our native people.
Not even a hundred years till today,
They are able to eat his words without shame. 24

[End Page 210]

And, in a poem about the presidential election of 1884, Huang wrote:

Alas! George Washington!
It is nearly a hundred years now
Since the flag of independence was raised
And oppressive rule was overthrown.
Red and yellow and black and white
Were all to be treated as one. 25

The source of Huang's image of Washington's views on racial equality is uncertain but it is clear that Huang felt betrayed by the land that had given birth to a man whom he and many other learned Chinese admired greatly. Viewing Washington as the embodiment of all that was good in America and all that China could become, Xu, Huang, and other Chinese intellectuals looked to the United States for salvation and used the imagery of George Washington to praise and criticize both Chinese and American societies. 26 Other scholars have interpreted the Chinese appreciation for George Washington as an indication of the decline of Sinocentricism. 27 I suggest, however, that the Chinese reverence for Washington points to a much more complex stage in the transculturation process that took place among these Chinese elites in the American "contact zone." By equating Washington with the mythical progenitors of Chinese culture, members of China's elite revealed the constraints of their discourse and their inability or unwillingness to transcend their own cultural frame of reference. Washington was not a man of virtue merely because of his own deeds, but because he resembled what the Chinese valued in a Chinese gentleman. In effect, Washington is a later example of the hua-hu (conversion of the barbarians) theory, a Han Dynasty argument claiming that the Buddha was actually Laozi and thus Chinese. 28 The image of Washington as a familiar Other in the likeness of the Chinese Sage Kings, satisfied the Chinese belief in the superiority of their own standards of good government and affirmed their confidence in Chinese institutions. However, by 1882, no longer comfortable claiming Chinese cultural superiority in the shadow of American exclusion policy, Huang Zunxian drew on a thoroughly egalitarian and democratic image of Washington to legitimize the anger and frustration felt by Chinese in response to their degraded status in the United States. This use of the images of Washington fits well with Gary Okihiro's position that Asian Americans have long exhibited an appreciation for American civic values and have sought inclusion in [End Page 211] American society. He writes, "In their struggles for equality [Asian Americans and other minorities], these groups have helped preserve and advance the principles and ideals of democracy and have thereby made America a freer place for all." 29 However, another Chinese intellectual, Liang Qichao, spent time in the United States and expressed doubts whether the Chinese in America fully appreciated American concepts of freedom and democracy. He used the Chinese immigrant community as a means to critique Chinese society.

Liang Qichao and the Chinese of America

Despite the appreciation of American values by some Chinese, many Americans did not hold reciprocal feelings toward Chinese immigrants in the United States. Soon after Chinese immigrants arrived in the gold fields of California, they encountered hostilty in the form of legislation such as the Foreign Miners Tax (1850), which demanded that all noncitizens pay an extra tax for permission to engage in mining, and in the form of constant threats of physical violence. In addition, the American government politically disenfranchised Chinese immigrants by forbidding them to testify for or against a white person in a court of law, and most importantly, by denying them the right of naturalization. Based in racial antipathy and class antagonisms, the anti-Chinese movement severely restricted Chinese immigrants' civil rights, stunted the normal development of families since very few women were allowed to immigrate, tilted the class composition toward merchants at the expense of workers, and drove the Chinese into segregated residential and business enclaves generally referred to as Chinatowns. 30

And yet, in the face of such adversity and hostility, Chinese immigrants continued to seek new lives in America, either temporarily or permanently. By the turn of the century, Chinese immigrant communities could be found in all of the Western states and in the larger cities of the Midwest and the East Coast. The Chinatown in San Francisco, however, became the cultural heartland of Chinese America, serving as the gateway through which most Chinese immigrants entered the country. Therefore, when Liang Qichao toured North America in 1903, it was natural that he would spend a substantial amount of time with the Chinese of San Francisco.

In order to place Liang's writings on Chinese immigrants within the contexts of his career and of Chinese American history, one must have [End Page 212] an understanding of the intellectual and political priorities that mediated Liang's field of vision. Liang was, first and foremost, a Confucian scholar and a political activist. Considered by some to be "China's first true modern intellectual," 31 Liang was devoted to the transformation of Chinese society. He came of age during a time of grave political turmoil in China and became politically active due to the crisis of China's relations with the Western powers and Japan. Trained and influenced by his mentor Kang Youwei (1858-1927), Liang's Confucian outlook was grounded in the jingshi (practical statesmanship) tradition of the late Qing.

Adherence to this tradition was not merely a commitment to political activism or a general sense of social responsibility; it meant a dedication to institutional reform. For example, while in the capital in 1895 to take the triennial metropolitan civil service examinations, Kang and Liang used the occasion to rally the patriotic fervor of the assembled literati by organizing them to protest the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which the Chinese court had signed earlier that spring to end the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War. In what Liang would later describe as "waking China from its 4,000 year-long dream," 32 Kang and Liang persuaded the 1,300 examination candidates to join them in protesting the treaty and petitioning for institutional and political reform.

For the next several years, Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei led a growing movement for political reform in China. However, conservative elements at court crushed what came to be known as the 1898 Reform Movement, forcing Kang and Liang into exile in Japan, where they remained influential in Chinese political reform and intellectual circles both in China and Japan. Throughout his life, Liang Qichao would be drawn to various schools of thought, Chinese and Western, but he would never abandon his dedication to the traditional Confucian emphasis on the duty of intellectuals to serve the state by demanding the best from it and its citizens.

The fourteen years in exile, almost all of which were spent in Japan, proved to be critical to Liang's intellectual and political development. Japan in 1900 was already a modern nation-state and the only one with which Liang had direct contact. This first-hand exposure to a nation of power would affect how he came to view international relations and concepts of human progress. Already exposed to Social Darwinism in China through his relationship with Yen Fu (1854-1921), a leading [End Page 213] translator and promoter of Western ideas, Liang found kindred souls in Japan who espoused similar theories. 33

Thus Liang Qichao came to the United States ideologically rooted in Confucian ideals of political reform and social hierarchy, but also influenced by Social Darwinist notions of race and power that privileged Anglo-Saxon supremacy. Dismayed by the turn of events in China and inspired by the example of growing Japanese power, Liang believed that the nature of the "Chinese character" had to be transformed in order for political and social reform even to be possible. That transformation, however, would call for national self-examination, generated by and resulting in a restructuring of the Chinese worldview. This complex agenda for political reformation and social transformation would influence Liang's perspective of Chinese America.

Liang toured North America at the invitation of the Baohuang hui (Protect the Emperor Society), a political reform association founded in Canada by Kang Youwei in 1899, to raise funds and gather support for reform ideas. The Baohuang hui, also known as the Weixin hui (Reform Association), was one of the first political parties in Chinese history. It favored preserving the power of the emperor through a constitutional monarchy. Over the next ten years, this party would compete for followers with Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary parties, the Xingzhong hui (Revive China Society) and the Tongmeng hui, the forerunner of the Guomindang or Nationalist Party. Most Chinese immigrants in America supported one of these parties as they believed that political reform in China would bring about a stronger government with international respect, resulting in improved conditions for overseas Chinese. 34

Liang left Yokohama in February 1903 and landed in Vancouver in early March. For the next seven months, he crossed the continent twice by rail, visiting three Canadian cities and twenty-eight American cities and towns. Throughout his stay in the United States and Canada, Liang took copious notes on the people he met, what he observed, and what the Chinese could gain from American culture. When he returned to Japan, he assembled these notes into his now-famous Xin dalu youji jielu (Selected Memoir of Travels in the New World), which he published in 1904. 35

Aside from being one of the first texts written in Chinese that describes Chinese life in the United States, this travel diary presents a unique opportunity to examine a new perspective in self/Other relations. Most other well-known travel accounts reflect a dichotomous [End Page 214] relationship between the observer and the observed (such as Marco Polo and the Chinese or Tocqueville and the Americans), who are usually separated in terms of discrete cultural and ethnic spheres. These writers tended to set themselves quite apart from the cultures they observed and reveal little of how they may have affected the "host" culture by their presence or whether these "foreign" societies had much of a lasting influence on their own cultural values and worldviews. Liang's text, however, is unique in that it offers an elite Chinese evaluation of people like himself--at least racially alike if not also in terms of class--who lived and labored in a foreign environment and his explicit reactions to their lives in America.

A great deal of Liang's text describes his travels in various cities, including his visit to the site of the Boston Tea Party and to Independence Hall to see the Liberty Bell, revealing that he too held the American Revolution in high esteem. However, it is his appraisal of the Chinese in America that is most important to the study of the transculturation process that occured for the Chinese visiting or living in the United States. 36 Liang met with the resident Chinese population in nearly all of the towns and cities he visited, and he launched a scathing attack on the Chinese in America in response to his month-long stay in San Francisco's Chinatown. At the root of Liang's criticism of the overseas Chinese was his belief that they did not possess the qualities required of citizens in a democracy. Often ignoring the pernicious effects of American racism that kept the Chinese immigrant community confined to Chinatown, Liang pointed to Chinese provincialism as the primary reason the Chinese could not rise above regional and surname loyalties to see themselves as members of a larger, more important, political entity. Of this problem Liang wrote:

Chinese can be clansmen but not citizens. I believe this all the more since my travels in America. There you have those who have left villages and taken on the character of individuals and come and go in the most free of the great cities and [enjoy] all that they have to offer, and still they cling to the family and clan systems to the exception of other things. . . . When I look at all the societies in the world, none is so chaotic [divided] as the Chinese community in San Francisco. 37

This chaotic and divided state, according to Liang, left the Chinese ill prepared to assert themselves in American society and, on a larger scale, to participate as equals in world politics. Athough Liang goes to [End Page 215] great lengths to enumerate the various provincial, surname, and occupations associations found throughout Chinese American communities, he does not adequately acknowledge the social functions of these fraternal organizations. Acting as surrogate families, these associations offered shelter from a society from which Chinese immigrants found themselves alienated. As Sucheng Chan points out, the associations "provided mutual aid to their members and served as settings where coethnics could partake of warmth and conviviality. At the same time, they functioned as instruments of social control over the masses of immigrants and as legitimizers of the status accorded particular immigrant leaders. The latter exercised power and acquired prestige not only by virture of being officers of commmunity organizations but also by serving as communication links--and consequently, as power brokers--between their compatriots and the external world." 38 Although sensitive to the problems that emerged because of this system and the Chinese identification with regional and surname loyalties, Liang chose, in this text, to ignore the power of racial discrimination and political disenfranchisement that placed Chinese immigrants in a subordinate position. 39

The provincialism that Liang criticized, however, was only one manifestation of the "cultural deficiencies" that he found in the Chinese of San Francisco. He went to great lengths to enumerate these short-comings, stating that

Westerners work eight hours each day and then rest on Sunday. Chinese open their shops each morning at seven o'clock and work until eleven or twelve and only then begin to shut down. They stay in their shops all day long and still do not rest on Sunday. And yet, they cannot compete with Westerners, because they are too tired. And being too tired, they do not have high goals. This carries over to education as well. American students only study five to six hours a day, for 140 days a year, but their educational level is much higher than the Chinese.
The Chinese operate small shops and hire up to ten or more people. Americans also run small stores but only employ one or two workers. Thus one [American] can do the work of three Chinese. It is not that the Chinese are not industrious, but that they are less intelligent.
At public gatherings of more than several hundred Chinese, no matter how serious the occasion, one will hear four kinds of noises: coughing, yawning, sneezing, and the blowing of noses. However, I have been in Western theaters with several thousands in the audience and did not hear a sound.
[End Page 216]
Spitting is forbidden in the streets of San Francisco as is littering. Offenders are fined five dollars. Spitting on the streetcar in New York is a five hundred dollar fine. They value cleanliness to the point that they are willing to interfere and restrict freedom. Chinese (in breaking these regulations) are seen as disorderly and dirty citizens. It is any wonder that they are so hated? 40

Liang continues by even discussing the manner in which Chinese walk, "with their heads bowed in a servile pose while Americans walk erect. . . . Americans, when walking in a group, are orderly like geese, but the Chinese are scattered like ducks." 41 Finally, Liang ends his vehement assault on these so-called character flaws by writing,

Confucius taught, "Without studying the Odes, you are unfit to converse. Without studying the Rites, you cannot establish your character." A friend has said, "The Chinese have not yet learned to walk, speak, nor read." This is no exaggeration. These may seem like small issues, but they reflect larger ones. 42

The larger issues to which Liang refers here are those that he believed prevented the Chinese from becoming citizens of a modern nation-state. By ending his critique of the Chinese in America by referring to the Confucian canon in relation to the inability of the Chinese to act like citizens of a democracy (which, for the most part, they were legally barred from becoming), it is evident that Liang was caught in an intellectual and cultural dilemma. Wishing to save the Chinese from being dominated by the Western powers but finding little desirable in the Chinese "national character," Liang's experience in the "contact zone" of the United States left him with little faith in the readiness of the Chinese to participate in an American democratic society. Although there are no written records that indicate how the people of San Francisco Chinatown reacted to Liang's views, after publication of his travel memoir, the Chung Sai Yat Po, one of the leading Chinese-language newspapers in the community, never again printed an editorial in praise of Liang's political reform efforts. 43

Liang's embrace of Western political and social standards and his view that the Chinese were unable to meet those standards led him to temper his quest for democratic reform in China. Upon his return to Japan, he was increasingly attracted to the authoritarian models of the Meiji oligarchy in Japan and nineteenth-century German statism. 44 As Stefan Tanaka has argued, Japanese intellectuals were in similar straits during this period as well. They too reacted to the intrusion of the West [End Page 217] while trying to preserve a Japanese state. Rather than accepting one or the other, the Japanese grappled with the issues of how to "regenerate society by adapting from the alien West while still retaining its own distinctiveness." 45 In Japan's case, Japanese intellectuals turned to the study of Asia to find common historical roots that would link Europe and Japan. Tanaka points out that "in this way, Japanese were using the West and Asia as other(s) to construct their own sense of a Japanese nation as modern and oriental." 46 Likewise for Liang, the Other, as expressed in his travel account, was not the racially and culturally different Euro-American population of the United States but rather the Chinese immigrant community which he used as a third-party Other in order to address a broader political agenda, the cultural critique of Chinese tradition and society.

Yung Wing: Becoming Chinese American?

Ironically, while Liang Qichao was touring the east coast of the United States, he stopped in Hartford, Connecticut, to visit Yung Wing, an American-educated Chinese who had embraced much of the Western political values and social habits that Liang found wanting in the majority of his countrymen.

Yung Wing was born in 1828 near Macao and was enrolled in a missionary school at the age of seven. After four years there, he spent five years in another missionary school in Hong Kong run by Rev. Samuel Brown, an 1832 graduate of Yale University. This association would begin Yung's life-long relationship with Yale. More importantly, Yung, unlike most Chinese children who were fortunate enough to go to school, would receive an American education, becoming fluent in English at an early age. Although unique at the time, Yung's experience established a pattern that would become more prevalent in the next generation of Chinese students, a generation on which Yung would have a major influence. In 1846, Brown announced that he was returning to New England and offered to take a number of students with him to study in the United States. Yung and two other students made the journey to America with Morrison and enrolled in the Monson Academy in Monson, Massachusetts. From there, Yung Wing went on to become the first Chinese to graduate from an American university (Yale in 1854). 47

During these early years in the United States, Yung Wing became [End Page 218] increasingly attracted to American social and political mores. His reevaluation and rejection of a Sinocentric worldview is evident in his decision to remain in the United States after his graduation from the Monson Academy. While deciding the direction of his future education, Yung Wing corresponded with Samuel Wells Williams, the American charge d'affaires to China and a Morrison Education Society trustee, a life-long friend with whom Yung had become acquainted while a student in Hong Kong. Yung wrote to Williams explaining his desire to remain in the United States rather than return to China:

Of course you are aware that my feelings would not allow me to leave my mother and brothers and sisters, since I promised them all when I left China to return in two or three years and you know ful [sic] well the prejudice of the Chinese, how they misrepresent things, and that they are not able to see as you or any enlightened mind do, the object, the advantage, and value of being educated. Ignorance and superstition have sealed the noble faculties of their minds, how can they appreciate things of such worth? 48

Clearly, Yung had already distanced himself from a strictly Chinese worldview and had begun privileging Western learning. He rejected what he saw as Chinese "prejudice" and "ignorance and superstition" and favored the "enlightened mind" produced by an American education. Chinese "misrepresented things" and were unable to see the "value of being educated." Of course, a Confucian education was highly valued in China, but Yung, not thoroughly grounded in the classical Confucian tradition, did not consider it in the same category as a Western education. Yung believed there were stark differences in the manner in which Chinese and Americans viewed the world, and the American approach was certainly the better of the two.

Yung robustly embraced American culture during his years at Yale. The most striking example of this embrace was his naturalization as an American citizen on 30 October 1852 in New Haven. 49 Curiously, he does not mention this important event either in his autobiography or in his surviving unpublished papers. Nonetheless, it is a telling indication of Yung's commitment to a life in the United States. His attainment of citizenship revealed his evolving cultural identity: a Chinese student in America officially staking his claim as a Chinese American.

Although Yung rejected certain aspects of Chinese culture and embraced America as his adopted country, he never abandoned his desire to see China modernize so that it could fully participate as a [End Page 219] nation-state in the geopolitical arena. His lengthy exposure to American educational practices and values, and his own transformation thereby, led him to believe that China's rejuvenation depended on the training of China's youth in Western learning. He later wrote:

Before the close of my last year in college I had already sketched out what I should do. I was determined that the rising generation of China should enjoy the same educational advantages that I had enjoyed; that through Western education China might be regenerated, become enlightened and powerful. To accomplish that object became the guiding star of my ambition. 50

After his graduation from Yale, Yung returned to China and worked at various occupations, always hoping that he would find a way to promote his idea of sending Chinese youths to America for an education. Finally in 1870 in the wake of the Tianjin Massacre, Yung presented his ideas to Zeng Guofan and other members of the Zongli Yamen. 51 Over the next few months, officials within the Zongli Yamen hammered out the details and the project now known as the Chinese Educational Mission came to fruition.

The mission was to send thirty students between the ages of twelve and sixteen to the United States each year for four years. These 120 students would study in America for fifteen years and would be allowed to travel for another two years before returning to China. They would then report to the Zongli Yamen for assignment to useful occupations in service of the country. Chen Lanbin (fl. 1853-1884), an official with the Board of Punishment, was to be in charge of their Chinese education while abroad, and Yung was responsible for their Western curriculum. It was also decreed that the students read the Sacred Book of Imperial Edicts at specified times and that students must consult Chinese almanacs in order to observe the proper rituals at their designated times, ensuring that they maintain their sense of Chinese propriety and reverence for Chinese tradition. 52

Soon after the mission was established in Hartford, Connecticut, Yung and Chen clashed over the direction, operation, and goals of the mission as well as over the behavior of the students. 53 From early on, Chen was disturbed that the students wanted to shed their traditional scholar's gowns and cut off their queues. Eventually, Yung and Chen reached a compromise wherein the students wore their gowns when they were with their Chinese teachers. 54 Their hair, however, was another issue. Given that the mission existed under the auspices of the [End Page 220] Imperial Court, Chen would not permit the students to cut off their queues, which were symbols of Chinese obedience to Manchu rule. Offenders were to be sent back to China. The great majority of the students retained their queues, but they learned to conceal them with hats and pins or inside the back of their coats. 55

More important than their outward appearance were the perceived changes in the behavior and values of the mission students. Conservative officials complained that the students had become spoiled by the luxurious accommodations at the mission, had lost their Chinese language skills, and most important, had become deracinated and denationalized. 56

Yung's perception of the differences between Chinese and American approaches to education and the conduct of students is best captured in his evaluation of the reasons for Chen Lanpin's dissatisfaction with the mission:

The only standard by which he measured things and men (especially students) was purely Chinese. The gradual but marked transformation of the students might well be strange and repugnant to the ideas and senses of a man like Chin Lan Pin [sic], who all his life had been accustomed to see the springs of life, energy and independence, candor, ingenuity and open-heartedness all covered up and concealed, and in a great measure smothered and never allowed their full play. 57

As in his earlier correspondance with Samuel Wells Williams, Yung here reveals the extent to which he disdained and rejected what he perceived as certain Chinese cultural traits. Contrasting American "energy and independence, candor, ingenuity and open-heartedness" with a Chinese tendency to "cover up, conceal, and smother," Yung decidedly turned his back on what he viewed as the stultifying character of Chinese society and chose instead the "springs of life" that he found in America.

Eventually, Yung would take much of the blame for the students' behavior, as a number of them like Yung Wing himself did cut off their queues, convert to Christianity, and later, marry white American women. 58 The Chinese Government recalled the mission in 1881. The reasons often cited include the expense, not many of the students had learned enough technical skills, and conflicts occurred between the principal figures. But the underlying reasons were much more fundamental. Those officials who did not share Yung's attraction to American [End Page 221] culture worried that the mission students would adopt Western ideas and practices that contradicted fundamental aspects of the Sinocentric worldview and thereby reject their original culture. This rejection might, in turn, result in the loss of their nationalistic sense of purpose to serve China. This loss would represent not only a failure of the mission's goals, but would also indicate a loss of control by officials of their overseas subjects. The closing of the mission signified a crisis for Chinese intellectuals who had attempted to create a new role for China in the modern family of nations while still retaining a Sinocentric worldview. This proved to be impossible in the case of sending young students to live in the United States. These students, like Yung Wing, represented a new era in Chinese history and in Chinese American history as well. Charged with the mission of transforming China into a modern nation, they had turned their attention to America in search of a modernizing vision that a Sinocentric worldview could not accommodate.

Because Yung Wing spent most of his official career in the service of the Chinese government, and for some, because he converted to Christianity, Yung Wing is often marginalized in the study of the Chinese American experience. 59 He was, however, an important figure in the development of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Chinese American history, representing for that generation and class of Chinese immigrants, the transition from a primarily China-oriented life to an American-oriented life. The fact that he was devoted to China's modernization in no way decreased his commitment to a life in America. In fact, he based his model for China's modernization on what he loved about American society. Yung Wing spent nearly half of his life in the United States and was profoundly affected by what he experienced here. He was one of the first of the Chinese elite to recognize the confines of Sinocentrism on the world historical stage, and he sought to liberate modern China, or at least a few score of the younger generation, from its grip. In this undertaking, however, Yung adopted the sociopolitical hegemony of Western thought. Although he was not as disdainful of the Chinese immigrant population in America nor as critical of Chinese social habits as Liang Qichao, Yung Wing clearly accepted a Western-centered world order.

Contrary to the racialist thinking prevalent during the anti-Chinese movement that deemed Chinese unassimilable, Yung Wing's life in America can be seen as one of assimilation in progress. His American [End Page 222] education, religious background, family, friends, and career were all part of and products of a worldview that was becoming fundamentally American and less rooted in Chinese tradition. Indeed, by rejecting much of his traditional Chinese cultural ties, Yung sought to become American. He thus continued the process of transculturation initiated earlier by Xu Jiyu and Liang Qichao by reinventing himself in the American province by using what he found desirable here and shaping these cultural practices to suit his needs.

In the end, however, Yung's legal status did not match his cultural and intellectual embrace of America. While doing business in China in 1898, the American government stripped Yung of his American citizenship due to the enforcement of the 1878 In re Ah Yup decision, which declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for American citizenship. 60 Ironically, Yung's American leanings cost him the favor of those in power in China as well. During this trip to China, Yung played a minor role in the same reform movement that exiled Liang Qichao to Japan. Yung, too, had to flee China, finding refuge in the British colony of Hong Kong. Fortunately, in spite of his loss of American citizenship, Yung managed to return to the United States where he lived until his death in 1912. 61 He had, however, lost his legal status in both countries. Education, religion, family concerns, and cultural affinities notwithstanding, in the eyes of American law, Yung was still an excludable Other in America. And in China, he was also viewed as an Other, dangerous to the Sinocentric governmental structure that once placed him in power. Legally excluded from two conflicting social and political systems, Yung attempted to act as a cultural bridge between his country of origin and his adopted home. Although stigmatized as an Other in both countries, he seems to have felt most comfortable in the United States; perhaps the poles of self and Other found a synthesis in this early Chinese American patriot and reformer.


Since the publication of Harold Isaacs' Scratches on Our Minds in 1958, there has been considerable scholarship on American images and perceptions of China and other Asian countries, but the study of Asian views and representations of the United States and American society has been slower to develop. 62 There have been even fewer studies that address how these images and expectations of the United States [End Page 223] influenced how the Chinese came to view themselves and their culture. By analyzing a number of these images and impressions, I have argued that members of the Chinese elite, both those in China and those who either visited or lived in America, were transformed by their encounter with the United States, and that these shifts in Chinese perceptions of the West and of themselves were part of a transculturation process that took place because of this collision of cultures.

The three Chinese views of America presented here disclose shifting and ambivalent perceptions of American, Chinese, and Chinese American society and culture. Xu Jiyu's icon of George Washington represents an image of America held by many Chinese elites during the preexclusion era of Chinese immigration to the United States. However, the poor treatment experienced by Chinese immigrants in America prompted later writers to implore the American people to "return" to the moral example set forth by George Washington. Thus Xu used the George Washington icon as a familiar Other to praise American society while Huang Zunxian later used Washington to criticize it. By using Chinese images of Washington as a focal point, one can explore the influence of a traditional worldview on immigrant perceptions and expectations of the country of their destination and how the uses of the image shift when their expectations are not met. Although handled in contrasting ways, the image of George Washington illustrates how the Chinese used an American icon as a vehicle to express their perceptions of both themselves and American society.

In contrast, Liang Qichao used the Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco as a third-party Other to address his concerns about Chinese society and culture. The Chinese in San Francisco, because of their continued emphasis on regional and surname loyalties, led Liang to believe that the Chinese national character was unfit for democratic reform. Once drawn to democratic liberalism, Liang's time with the overseas Chinese caused him to reevaluate that option for reform. In this manner, Chinese self-images were transformed through the encounter with the lived experiences of the Chinese in America.

Still another set of images and examples of cultural transformation can be apprehended in the life and career of Yung Wing. Educated primarily in American institutions, Yung wholeheartedly embraced American culture and sought to rejuvenate China along American lines, in ways similar to his own cultural transformation. In doing so, however, he was eventually driven from China and yet simultaneously [End Page 224] stripped of his American citizenship. Although a doubly excludable Other, Yung Wing is a clear example of the process of transculturation as he sought to shed his ties to certain facets of Chinese culture and become American.

Chinese intellectuals, some encountering the Western presence in China and a number of them arriving in the United States themselves, thus attempted to reformulate Chinese culture in order to ensure China's national survival. Addressing mounting internal disorder and foreign encroachment in China as well as the poor treatment of Chinese immigrants in America, intellectuals and reformers often saw these two situations as intertwined. Some blamed the weak Chinese government and the Chinese national character for the plight of overseas Chinese. At the same time, however, these intellectuals remained rooted in the very tradition, Confucianism, that informed the policies of the Chinese government and the behavior of many Chinese abroad. Caught in this conflict of tradition and modernity, Chinese elites sought to maintain an allegiance to China while grappling with its weaknesses, especially as it was reflected in the poor treatment Chinese received in the United States. This developing elite culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, therefore, tried to encompass both worldviews, that of traditional China and a modernizing America, in an attempt to forge a new and distinctively Chinese American cultural sensibility, one that would allow for the blending and embrace of both sets of conflicting cultural practices and values. 63 As seen in these three cases, however, the process was not an easy one, as it necessitated the rejection of fundamental aspects of Chinese culture in favor of American values and practices. Seen in this light, the Chinese response to the West took place not only in China, but in the "contact zone" of America as well, where a Chinese American identity evolved during this cultural transformation.

Williams College

K. Scott Wong is an assistant professor of history at Williams College. He is currently working on a book about the impact of the Second World War on Chinese Americans.


This essay, in its present form, has benefitted from helpful comments and suggestions from several colleagues. I would like to thank Sarah Deutsch for being so generous with her time to offer advice on revisions, Gary Kulik and Lucy Maddox for their patience and encouragement, and the anonymous readers for making me clarify my arguments.

1. Roger Daniels, "Westerners from the East: Oriental Immigrants Reappraised," Pacific Historical Review 35 (Nov. 1966): 375.

2. Notable exceptions are Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (San Francisco, 1981); and Marlon Hom, Songs of Gold Mountain: Cantonese Rhymes From San Francisco Chinatown (Berkeley, Calif., 1987). For a recent publication in Chinese American cultural studies that is framed as a study of anti-Chinese imagery, see James S. Moy, Marginal Sights: Staging the Chinese in America (Iowa City, Iowa, 1993).

3. Sucheta Mazumdar, "Asian American Studies and Asian Studies: Rethinking Roots," Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives (Pullman, Wash., 1991), 29-30, 41.

4. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London, 1992), 6.

5. For example, see Lai Chun-chuen, Remarks of the Chinese Merchants of San Francisco, upon Governor Bigler's Message and Some Common Objections: With Some Explorations of the Character of the Chinese Companies, and the Laboring Class in California (San Francisco, 1855); Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, A Memorial to His Excellency U. S. Grant, President of the United States from Representative Chinamen in America (n.p., 1876); and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Memorial of the Six Companies: An Address to the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States (San Francisco, 1877). The best study that links the merchant class in Chinatown to the scholarly elite culture of China is Kim Man Chan, "Mandarins in America: The Early Chinese Ministers to the United States, 1878-1907" (Ph.D. diss., University of Hawaii, 1981). A major source of documents from Chinatowns are the newspapers published in these communities. These, too, were controlled by the elites as the editors were usually better educated than their readers, often in Western missionary schools, and often with ties to the Chinese government or other political groups in China. For two studies that make extensive use of these newspapers, see Judy Yung, "Unbinding the Feet, Unbinding Their Lives: Social Change for Chinese Women in San Francisco, 1902-1945" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1990); and L. Eve Armentrout Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese Politics in the Americas and the 1911 Revolution (Honolulu, 1990).

6. John K. Fairbank, "A Preliminary Framework," in The Chinese World View, ed. John K. Fairbank (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 5.

7. Joseph Needham, et al., Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge, England, 1959), 3:504.

8. Ibid., 505. Needham offers a facinating discussion of these images in comparison to similar images found in Greek and Roman texts of this period, but such a discussion is well beyond the scope of this study.

9. Lunyu (Confucian Analects), 9: 13: 1-2. Translation by the author. For another English translation, see Arthur Waley, trans. The Analects of Confucius (New York, 1938), 141.

10. Chang-fang Chen, "Barbarian Paradise: Chinese Views of the United States, 1784-1911" (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1985), 17. From a different perspective, however, Stuart C. Miller points out that American traders in Canton had very negative images of the Chinese by this time. See Stuart Creighton Miller, The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882, 2d ed. (Berkeley, Calif, 1974), 16-37.

11. Michael Hunt, The Making of a Special Relationship: The United States and China to 1914 (New York, 1983), 115.

12. Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang were statesmen and officials who were both prominent in the self-strengthening movement of the late nineteenth century. This movement was based on the belief that China had to modernize in order to compete in the Western world and that this was only possible by learning from the West and by acquiring Western technology. For a brief survey of how the Chinese traditionally attempted to keep foreigners and border peoples under control, see Lien-sheng Yang, "Historical Notes on the Chinese World Order," in The Chinese World Order, ed. John K. Fairbank (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 20-33.

13. Quoted in Hunt, Making of a Special Relationship, 59.

14. Merle Curti and John Stalker, "'The Flowery Flag Devils'--The American Image in China 1840-1900," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 96 (20 Dec., 1952), 680.

15. The original Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States for a period of ten years. It was revised and renewed in 1888, 1892, 1894, 1898, 1902, and 1904. The evolution of these acts can be traced in U.S. Statutes at Large 22 (1881-1883): 58-61; U.S. Statutes at Large 25 (1887-1889): 476-79; U.S. Statutes at Large 27 (1891-1893): 25-26; U.S. Statutes at Large 28 (1893-1895): 1210-12; U.S. Statutes at Large 32 (1901-1903): 176-77; U.S. Statutes at Large 33 (1903-1905): 428; and U.S. Statutes at Large 43 (1923-1925): 153-69. For studies that analyze the effects of exclusion on the Chinese immigrant community, see Sucheng Chan, ed., Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943 (Philadelphia, 1991). The two main works that document the Chinese American challenges to exclusion through the American legal system are Hudson N. Janisch, "The Chinese, the Courts, and the Constitution: A Study of the Legal Issues Raised by Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1850-1902" (J.D. diss., University of Chicago, School of Law, 1971); and Charles J. McClain, In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley, Calif., 1994).

16. For general overviews of this period of Chinese immigration to the United States, see Sucheng Chan, This Bittersweet Soil: The Chinese in California Agriculture, 1860-1910 (Berkeley, Calif., 1986), 1-78; Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle, Wash., 1988), 9-99; and Ronald Takaki, Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (New York, 1989), 79-131.

17. Chang-fang Chen, "Barbarian Paradise," 21.

18. I am borrowing the term contact zone from Pratt who uses it to denote "the space in which peoples geographicaly and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict. . . . [It] is an attempt to invoke the spatial and temporal copresence of subjects separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect." Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 6-7.

19. Fred W. Drake, China Charts the World: Hsu Chi-yu and His Geography of 1848 (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), 5. Conservatives within the Imperial Court perceived Xu's positive portrayal of the West as a threat to the notion of Chinese cultural superiority. Xu was dismissed from office in 1851 and did not return to official duty until thirteen years later.

20. Xu Jiyu, Yinghuan zhilue (Short Account of the Oceans Around Us) in Zhonghua wenshi congshu (Collection of Chinese Literature and History) (Taibei, 1968), 6:732-36. The historical personages refered to in this section are Chen Sheng and Wu Guang, leaders of peasant revolts in the third century B.C. and Cao Cao and Liu Pei, rivals for the throne during the Three Kingdoms period (220-265). The Three Dynasties period (2357-2198 B.C.) is generally seen as the earliest golden age in Chinese history when Chinese cultural values were first formulated.

21. The most famous example of this kind of service to the country in Chinese history is that of Zhuge Liang (181-234). During the Three Kingdoms period (222-265), Zhuge Liang agreed to leave his reclusion in order to assist the remaining descendants of the fallen Han Dynasty in their attempts to regain the empire. As a military strategist, Zhuge Liang was said to be incomparable. His exploits are celebrated in the famous novel Sanguo Zhi Yenyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) attributed to Luo Guancheng (twelfth century). This novel became one of the major sources for Chinese theater and opera, popular in both China and Chinese American communities. The standard translation in English is Lo Kuan-chung, Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2 vols., trans. C. H. Brewitt-Taylor (Rutland, Vt., 1959).

22. Xu was apparently unaware of, or chose not to mention, the fact that Washington left no direct descendants.

23. The legends of the Sage Kings of the Three Dynasties period are first found in the Book of History, one of the Confucian classics normally attributed to the early Zhou period (ca. 800 B.C.). The first textual discussion of the way of the king (wangdao) is also found in this text. Washington has, of course, been the object of myth-making in this country as well. Some important works that address this process are Marcus Cunliffee, George Washington: Man and Monument (Boston, 1958); Paul K. Longmore, The Invention of George Washington (Berkeley, Calif., 1988); Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol (Ithaca, N.Y., 1987); Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (Garden City and New York, 1984); and W. E. Woodward, George Washington: The Image and the Man (New York, 1926). I am grateful to Robert Dalzell and Patricia Tracy for discussions about the American imagery of George Washington.

24. Huang Zunxian, "Zhuke pian" (Expelling the Visitor), reprinted in Fan Mei Huagong jinyue wenxue ji (A Collection of Literature Written in Opposition to American Restriction of Chinese Laborers), ed. A Ying (Beijing, 1962), 3. My translation of these sections of the poem differs from those of J. D. Schmidt's found in Irving Yucheng Lo and William Schultz, eds., Waiting for the Unicorn: Poems and Lyrics of China's Last Dynasty, 1644-1911 (Bloomington, Ind., 1986), 333-36 and R. David Arkush and Leo O. Lee, eds., Land Without Ghosts: Chinese Impressions of America from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present (Berkeley, Calif., 1989), 61-65, as well as Chang-fang Chen's translation in "Barbarian Paradise," 229. These differences, though minor in regard to the overall meaning of the poem, are intriguing in light the image of George Washington as a sage hero and Chinese conceptions of the Other. In the first example (*), the Chinese written characters used are bawang, meaning one who rules by force rather than righteousness (Schmidt and Chen offer "great ruler"). The items marked by double #asterisk (**) refer to jiu Yi, ba Man, phrases used since early times to denote various barbarian tribes on the borders of China (Schmidt: "All kinds of foreigners and immigrants"; Chen: "A variety of ethnic groups notwithstanding"). These peoples are described in the poem as settling in (***) qiongzuo, an ancient name for one of the barbarian kingdoms in southwest China (Schmidt: "new lands"; Chen: "this nation"). Although it is difficult to ascertain Huang's original intentions, I believe that they are revealing in their denotion of Otherness, thus delineating the separate spheres of those settling in America by comparing them to similar patterns in Chinese history. I have tried to retain this sense in my rendering of the poem.

25. Quoted in Arkush and Lee, eds., Land Without Ghosts, 70.

26. At least two other Chinese intellectuals and writers of this period visited Mount Vernon and wrote poems commemorating their visits. Zhigang (mid-nineteenth century) came to the United States as part of the Burlingame Commission in 1868 and wrote of his visit to Mount Vernon as did the famous reformer Kang Youwei. See Zhigang, Chushi taixi ji (First Mission to the Far West) in Qingmo minchu shiliao congshu (Collection of Historical Sources from the Late Qing and Early Republican Period) (Taipei, 1969), 38:59; and Robert L. Worden, "A Chinese Reformer in Exile: The North American Phase of the Travels of K'ang Yu-wei, 1899-1909" (Ph.D. diss., Georgetown University, 1972), 158.

27. Chen, "Barbarian Paradise," 68.

28. The hua-hu theory is centered around the Daoist (Taoist) assertion that Laozi (Lao Tzu), the spiritual progenitor of the Daoist religion and philosphical system, left China in the fourth century B.C. and departed to the west, going on to Central Asia and India to instruct the barbarians and became the Buddha. For a general account of this controversy, see Erik Zucher, The Buddhist Conquest of China (Leiden, Netherlands, 1959), 291-94.

29. Gary Okihiro, Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture (Seattle, Wash., 1994), ix. See esp. chap. 6, "Margins and Mainstreams," 148-75.

30. The body of literature on the anti-Chinese movement is quite large and impossible to summarize in an endnote. Aside from the texts already mentioned, other useful studies include Mary Roberts Coolidge, Chinese Immigration (New York, 1909); Elmer C. Sandmeyer, The Anti-Chinese Movement in California, 2d ed. (Urbana, Ill., 1973); Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley, Calif., 1971); Cheng-Tsu Wu, ed., "Chink!": A Documentary History of Anti-Chinese Prejudice in America (New York, 1972); and Roger Daniels, ed., Anti-Chinese Violence in North America (New York, 1978).

31. Land Without Ghosts, Arkush and Lee, eds., 81. The major works on Liang Qichao include Joseph R. Levenson, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and the Mind of Modern China (Cambridge, Mass., 1953); Hao Chang, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and Intellectual Transition in China, 1890-1907 (Cambridge, Mass., 1971); Philip C. Huang, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and Modern Chinese Liberalism (Seattle, Wash., 1972); and Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns. One of the most useful collections of documents by and about Liang in Chinese is Ding Wenjiang, Liang Rengong xiansheng nianpu changpian chugao (Chronological Biography and Letters of Liang Qichao), vols. 1-2 (Taipei, 1962); also published as Liang Qichao nianpu changpian (Shanghai, 1983).

32. Ding Wenjiang, Liang Rengong xiansheng nianpu changpian chugao, 1:24.

33. For the definitive study of Yen Fu's intellectual impact on China, see Benjamin Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and and the West (Cambridge, Mass., 1964); and for Yen's influence on Liang, see also Y. C. Wang, Chinese Intellectuals and the West, 1878-1940 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1966), 218-21.

34. For the best study that documents the relationship between these political parties and the Chinese in the United States, see Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, Chinatowns.

35. Liang Qichao, Xin dalu youji jielu (Selected Memoir of Travels in the New World) in Yinbingshi heji (Collected Writings From an Ice-drinker's Studio) zhuanji 22 (Shanghai, 1936). For an analysis of this text as a source for Chinese American history, see K. Scott Wong, "Liang Qichao and the Chinese of America: A Re-evaluation of his Selected Memoir of Travels in the New World," Journal of American Ethnic History 11 (summer 1992): 3-24.

36. For Liang's account of his visits to Boston and Philadelphia, see Liang Qichao, Xin dalu youji jielu, 48-54, 71-77.

37. Ibid., 122.

38. Sucheng Chan, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History (Boston, 1991), 63.

39. In another text, usually ignored by scholars of Liang's political thought, Liang condemned American immigration very forcefully. See Ji Huagong jinyue (Notes on the Exclusion of Chinese Laborers) in Yinbingshi heji zhuanji 22, 149-84.

40. Liang Qichao, Xin dalu youji jielu, 125-26.

41. Ibid., 126.

42. Ibid. The reference to the Odes and the Rites is a paraphrase of a longer passage in the Lunyu,16: 13: 1-3. See also Waley, trans. The Analects, 207-8.

43. Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns, 94.

44. Chang, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and Intellectual Transition, 243.

45. Stefan Tanaka, Japan's Orient: Rendering Pasts into History (Berkeley, Calif., 1993), 31.

46. Ibid., 18.

47. The most useful sources which focus on Yung Wing and his life in the United States are Yung Wing, My Life in China and America (New York, 1909); Thomas E. LaFargue, China's First Hundred (Pullman, Wash., 1942); William Hung, "Huang Tsun-hsien's Poem, 'The Closing of the Educational Mission in America,'" Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 18 (1955): 50-73; Edmund Worthy, "Yung Wing in America," Pacific Historical Review 34 (Aug. 1965): 265-87; Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Chinese American Portraits: Personal Histories, 1828-1988 (San Francisco, 1988); and Charles Desnoyers, "'The Thin Edge of the Wedge': The Chinese Educational Mission and Diplomatic Representation in the Americas, 1872-1875," Pacific Historical Review 61 (May 1992): 241-63. An important collection of Yung's own writings can be found in the "Yung Wing Papers," Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library (microfilm), New Haven, Conn.

48. Yung to Williams, 15 Apr. 1849, Yung Wing Papers.

49. Worthy, "Yung Wing in America," 270. Yung was one of a small number of Chinese who managed to attain American citizenship before the 1882 Exclusion Act. For an important study of the early Chinese American communities on the East Coast in which some of the Chinese attained citizenship, see John Kuo Wei Tchen, "New York Chinese: The Nineteenth-Century Pre-Chinatown Settlement," Chinese America: History and Perspectives, 1990 (San Francisco, 1990), 157-92.

50. Yung, My Life in China and America, 41.

51. The Zongli Yamen was the office in charge of foreign affairs from 1861 to 1901. It handled treaty negotiations with foreign countries, established language schools with Western curricula, and sponsored research of Western forms of government and international law. For a study of its creation, see Masataka Banno, China and the West, 1858-1861: The Origins of the Tsungli Yamen (Cambridge, Mass., 1964).

52. Y. C. Wang, Chinese Intellectuals and the West, 1872-1949 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1966), 43.

53. Despite their differences over how the Chinese Educational Mission should be run, Yung's and Chen's experience in dealing with the West led the imperial court to assign them to diplomatic duties. In 1874, Chen was sent to Cuba to investigate the conditions of Chinese laborers there and Yung was sent to Peru to do the same. In large part, because of their efforts, the infamous "coolie trade" came to an end. After completing this mission, Chen and Yung were appointed ministers to the United States, Spain, and Peru, posts they held until the Chinese Educational Mission was recalled in 1881.

54. Charles A. Desnoyers, "Chinese Foreign Policy in Transition: Ch'en Lan-pin in the New World, 1872-1882" (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1988), 96.

55. LaFargue, China's First Hundred, 39. During his years at Yale, Yung apparently sometimes wore his queque pinned up under a hat. Once, while participating in a ball game, "His hat went off; his queue burst from the pins and streamed out behind him like a pump-handle." Hartford Daily Times, 17 Nov. 1922. Quoted in Worthy, "Yung Wing in America," 272.

56. These concerns are conveyed quite strongly in Huang Zunxian's poem (The Closing of the Educational Mission in America).

57. Yung, My Life in China and America, 202-3.

58. Yung Wing married Mary Louise Kellog in 1875, and they remained married until her death in 1886. They raised two sons. His nephew, Yung Kwai, who was among the second group of students to attend the mission, also married an American woman, Mary Burnham, in 1894. During his 1903 tour of North America, Liang Qichao met with Yung and about ten former mission students who had remained in the United States. Liang mentioned that they had married American women and thus their sense of Chinese patriotism had faded. Liang Qichao, Xin dalu youji jielu, 47. Brief biographical sketches of a few of them are found in LaFargue, China's First Hundred, 140-44, Wang, 96-98, and Yung Shang-him, "The Chinese Educational Mission and its Influence," T'ien Hsia Monthly 9 (Oct. 1939): 241-56.

59. The writer Frank Chin takes a very critical approach to Yung Wing and his life in America, attacking his conversion to Christianity and his use of autobiography as examples of Yung's "white-washing." Chin characterizes Yung's autobiography as "mission-schoolboy-makes-good Gunga Din licking up white fantasy." While Chin is correct in pointing out that Yung and many of his generation did seek China's salvation in the ideologies of the West, he does not take the Chinese political situation or relevant trends in Chinese intellectual history well enough into account to provide for a solid contextualization of these intellectuals' attraction to the West. Nor does he take into account the long history of Christianity in China. For Chin's searing critique of Yung Wing and other Chinese American writers who use autobiography, a literary form he considers to be solely rooted in the Western literary tradition and now used as an expression of Chinese American desire for white acceptance, see his essay "Come All Ye Asian American Writers," in The Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature, eds., Jeffery Paul Chan, Frank Chin, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong (New York, 1991), 1-92. For a recent study that firmly places autobiography in the Chinese literary tradition, independent of Western influence, see Pei-yi Wu, The Confucian's Progress: Autobiographical Writings in Traditional China (Princeton, N.J., 1990).

60. In re Ah Yup (C.C.D. Cal. 1878). In this case, the federal circuit court denied Chinese immigrants the right to naturalization because they were neither "a free white person nor a person of African nativity or descent," as required by the existing naturalization laws. See Janisch, "The Chinese, the Courts, and the Constitution," 201. This ruling was reiterated in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, U.S. Statutes at Large 22 (1881-1883): 61.

61. For details about Yung losing his citizenship and his reentry into the United States, see Worthy, "Yung Wing in America," 283-85.

62. Major works examining American images of China and the Chinese (and the Chinese in America) include Jules Becker, "The Course of Exclusion, 1882-1924: San Francisco Newspaper Coverage of the Chinese and Japanese in the United States" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1986); Limin Chu, "The Images of China and the Chinese in the Overland Monthly, 1868-1875, 1883-1935" (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1965); Warren I. Cohen, "American Perceptions of China" in Dragon and Eagle: United States-China Relations: Past and Future, eds., Michel Oksenberg and Robert B. Oxnam (New York, 1978), 54-86; Harold Isaacs, Images of Asia: American Images of China and India (New York, 1962; originally published as Scratches on Our Minds, 1958); Robert McClellan, The Heathen Chinee: A Study of American Attitudes Toward China, 1890-1905 (Columbus, Ohio, 1971); Colin Mackerras, Western Images of China (New York, 1989); Miller, The Unwelcome Immigrant; and William Wu, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940 (Hamden, Conn., 1982). Studies that explore Chinese images of the United States are fewer in number. The most useful are Chang-fang Chen, "Barbarian Paradise: Chinese Views of the United States, 1784-1911"; Curti and Stalker, "'The Flowery Flag Devils'--The American Image in China, 1840-1900"; David Shambaugh, Beautiful Imperialist: China Perceives America, 1972-1990 (Princeton, N.J., 1991); Tu Wei-ming, "Chinese Perceptions of America," in Dragon and Eagle, eds., Oksenberg and Oxnam, 87-106; and Kevin Scott Wong "Encountering the Other: Chinese Immigration and its Impact on Chinese and American Worldviews, 1875-1905" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1992). A useful collection of translations of Chinese views of the United States is Arkush and Lee, eds., Land Without Ghosts. An indepth study of these two groups of imagery found in the visual arts is greatly needed.

63. This attempt to reconcile Chinese and American cultural values is still an issue for the Chinese American community today. As immigration continues and the children of immigrants become more involved with American society, there are tensions between parents who want their children to follow traditional practices and the children who want American lives. A recent example of this conflict can be seen in the film The Wedding Banquet (1993), directed by Ang Lee, who was born and raised in Taiwan and now lives in the United States.