2009年8月31日 星期一

M.C. Perry and Japan (VI)

For his visit on shore Perry departed from his vessel at 9 am and landed at a small village called Tumai which was about 2 miles from the palace of Shuri. Before Perry's arrival, some US marine already had been waiting near the shore under arms and in line. There was the band of the Mississippi and a company of marines. These two formation accompanied Perry who was sitting in a sedan chair.1 Following Perry were six coolies bearing the presents designated for the prince and queen dowager. Next followed was the band of the Susquehanna, with another company of marines. The whole possession consisted of some 200 men. The natives gathered on the road sides to watch this novelty. En route Perry was suggested to visit only the regent's house instead of the palace but the suggestion was rejected. Finally, after passing through the outer court of the palace, Perry was conducted into the hall of audience. He was offered a seat at the head of the room, his officers were also seated on a single line on the right hand side, next to Perry according to rank. On the left hand side, there was the regent sitting, with his three principal councillors. The interpreters stood at the the head of the room, near Perry.2 Both the queen dowager and the boy prince did not made their appearance. Cups of weak tea were presented to the guests and smoking boxes were distributed. In view of the simple reception offered here, it was evident that no formal ceremony was intended to take place here. On the spot, Perry invited the regent and his three colleagues to visit him on board the Susquehanna. After staying in the palace for about an hour, Perry was invited to visit the regent's house. It was obvious that the most hospitable preparation had been arranged for the US visitors there. (to be continued)

1. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page 26.
2. Ibid., page 29.

2009年8月30日 星期日


Recently Yomiuri News reported the following:


The vote casting for the much noted 45th parliamentary election was held on the 30th, votes were counted on the same day, with the Democratic Party winning 308 seats, exceeding half of the total seats (241) and got the mandate to govern. Since the founding of the Liberal Democratic Party, for the first time it became a second party and Prime Minister Taro Aso declared his resignation from the party's presidency. 16 years had lapsed since the Hosokawa regime, the first ever non-Liberal Democratic political coalition to form the government. Now it was the first time under modern constitution for one single non-ruling party to win the majority votes, Japanese politic was embracing a turning point. Representatives of Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party at once made preparation for the taking over of the government, and to negotiate with the Social Democratic and the New National parties to co-ordinate appropriate future policies. The new government with Hatoyama as the prime minister would be formed by mid-September.

The victory of Yukio Hatoyama in the parliamentary election shows that Japanese voters are eager to see some changes in the government. It is a victory for the people of Japan and people living in the free world. Through a democratic voting system, people can have a say in deciding their future.

2009年8月28日 星期五

M.C. Perry and Japan (V)

Perry's squadron arrived at Lew Chew(琉球) on May 26, 1853 and anchored at the harbour of Napha. The squadron could see the British ensign being raised on a flagstaff near a house which was the residence of a missionary, Dr. Bettelheim, who had been living on the island for 5 to 6 years. Soon, two native officials approached the squadron for the purpose of offering complimentary salutation on arrival. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Bettelheim came and was received by Perry and they had discussion for 2 to 3 hours. The next day some native officials came, saying that they wanted to present some gifts to the squadron, but was declined. Some junks were seen coming for a close inspection. They looked like Chinese junks, some with two great eyes painted in the bows, probably they were collecting intelligence for Japan. A boat was sent off for Dr. Bettelheim to join a working breakfast with Perry on board which was attended by Rev. Mr. Jones, chaplain of the Mississippi, and Mr. Wells Williams, the interpreter. An exploration of the island was decided which would consist of 3 parties: 2 by sea and one by land. Perry also decided to buy a house on shore. On the 29th Lieutenant Contee and Mr. Williams went ashore to visit the mayor of Napha. The next day at about 1 pm, a native barge containing Lew Chew dignitaries came. Among them were the regent of the kingdom of Lew Chew, a venerable old man. It was said that the prince was a 11 years old boy who was now sick. A salute of three guns was fired by the squadron, it was so startling that some of the Lew Chew visiting officers dropped upon their knees.1 These guests displayed intense curiosity and alarm as they were showed around on the ship. Later they were taken to the cabin of Perry who received and entertained them generously. Perry told the visitors that he would come ashore on the 6th of June to the palace, as a diplomatic representative of the US.2

1. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page 18
2. Ibid., page 19

2009年8月27日 星期四


Recently the Asahi News reported the following:

27日朝に東京、秋葉原を出発したつくばエクプレスの快速電車で、運転士が居眠り運転していたことがわかった。運行する首都圏都市鉄道(東京都台東区)が発表した。国土交通省関東運輸局は、20代の運転士について精密検査を実施し、詳しい原因を調べるよう指示 した。同社によると、居眠りが発覚したのは午前8時2分発のつくば(茨城県つくば市)行き快速電車(6両編成、乗客200人)。同45分ごろ、茨城県内の守谷-つくば間(20.6キロ)を走行中、運転士が居眠りをしているのに乗客が気づき、攜帶電話で動画で撮影してつくば駅員に伝えた。運転士は同社の調査に対し、「8時25分に南流山駅(千葉県流山市)を出発する前に眠気を感じで窓を開けるなどした。同37分に守谷駅を出発した後に再び、強い眠気お感じた。特にうとうとしていたのは1~2分程度」などと説明しているという。

In the morning of the 27th a driver of an express train that departed from Akihabara of Tokyo fell into a doze, it was understood, according to the railway organization serving the capital metropolis. According to the Ministry of Transport, a train driver who was in his 20s was now under close investigation, and instruction was given to carry out a thorough check to look for the reason. According to the this company, the incident took place in the morning train departing at 8.02 am for Tsukuba (Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture) , being an express train (6 carriages with 200 passengers). At about 45 minute, as it was travelling at a section (26 km) between Moriya of Ibaraki prefecture and Tsukuba, a passenger noticed that that driver was falling into a doze. The passenger used the cellular phone to take some video, and passed it to the staff of the station. This driver in response to the investigation said that "at 8.25 before he left the Minanagareyama station (Nagareyamashi in Chiba prefecture) he felt sleepy and he opened the window of the train. At 8.37 when he departed from Moriya station, he again felt a strong urge to sleep, in particular he felt asleep for about 1 to 2 minutes".

If this passenger did not report the incident, probably no one would know that such a thing had ever happened, except until a serious accident occurred. It seems that railway safety is always a challenge for all the train companies in the world.

2009年8月26日 星期三

M.C. Perry and Japan (IV)

Chapter one of Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan is entitled "Preparations for the Mission to Japan". It lays out the general situation in the US and the preparations leading to the departure of the squadron. The vessels picked included three steamers: the Mississippi, the Princeton and the Alleghany. There were also the Vermont together with the sloops of war, Vandalia and Macedonian. Separately the steamship Susquehanna and sloops of war Saratoga and Plymouth were already at the East India station. Also, three armed storeships, Supply, Lexington, and Southampton were enlisted. Soon Princeton was replaced by Powhatan.1 When US announced publicly its intention to send an expedition to Japan, many applications for permission to join were received from civilians, for example scientific men. But these application were refused by Perry because this trip was not scientific, but was naval and diplomatic in nature. Perry wanted strict discipline which civilian could not bear. He also prohibited his crews to make communication to the newspaper and that all journals and private notes kept by the team members would be considered as US government property. Perry worried that any leakage of information would jeopardize the mission, and he knew that Russia was keeping a watchful eye on his expedition.2 On November 24th, 1852 the Mississippi alone departed from Norfolk to start the mission to Japan via Madeira, the Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, and Singapore, to be joined by other vessels en route.3 On December 14, 1852 at Madeira Perry wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy which was replied by Edward Everett on February 15th, 1853.4 (to be continued)

1. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page 5
2. Ibid., page 7
3. Ibid., page 9
4. Ibid., page 13

2009年8月25日 星期二


最近我在相熟博客的網誌中看到介紹一書本 Freakonomics. 於是由圖書館借來一看. 它是在2005年出版, 是講一些有關美國的事情, 例如美國地產等. 部份主題的內容雖然是老生常談, 但它看問題的角度則頗有新意. 例如第五章的名稱 是 'What Makes a Perfect Parent?'. 它談及美國人教養小孩方法和它的有效性. 作者在分析十六個教導兒童有關的方法或者現象, 用統計數字來證實它是否有效. 書本第166頁摘錄如下:

According to the the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study ( ECLS) data, eight of the factors show a strong correlation - positive or negative - with test scores. The other eight don't seem to matter. Feel free to guess which are which.

1.The child has highly educated parents.
2.The child 's family is intact.
3.The child's parents have high socioeconomic status.
4.The child's parents recently moved into a better neighbourhood.
5.The child's mother was thirty or older at the time of here first child's birth.
6.The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten.
7.The child had low birth weight.
8.The child attended Head Start.
9.The child's parents speak English in the home.
10.The child's parents regularly take him to museums.
11.The child is adopted.
12.The child is regularly spanked.
13.The child's parents are involved in the PTA.
14.The child frequently watched television.
15.The child has many books in his home.
16.The child's parents read to him nearly every day.

據作者(Steven D. Levitt)分析, 以上十六個主題, 只有八個是在統計學上與學生的測驗得分有關(正面或者負面). 我的感覺是以上的觀察可能只適合美國情況, 如果在世界其他地方, 可能未必適用, 不過仍然有參考價值. (答案: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15). 至於是正面或是負面影響及其原因, 讀者可以從書本中找到.

1.ECLS measured the student's academic performance and gathered typical survey information about each child: his race, gender, family structure, socioeconomic status, the level of his parent's education etc.
2. PTA is Parent-Teacher Association
3. Head Start is a federal pre-school program in the US

2009年8月24日 星期一


Recently NHK News reported the following:

北海道由仁町では先週、三川小学校の児童4人が新型インフルエンザに感染したことがわかり、この小学校は今月27日までの予定で休校となっています。由仁町教育委員会は感染拡大を防ごうと、24日、三川小学校を含め町内の小中学校5校のすべてのクラス、そして図書館などの公共 施設に置けるようにあわせて40本の消毒液を配りました。全校児童180人の由仁小学校では、担任の教師が「教室に入るときは必ず手を消毒してください」と呼びかけ、子どもたちに消毒のしかたを教えました。子どもたちは、順番に教室の入り口の置かれた消毒液を手にとってよくこすり合わせて消毒していました。

Last week four primary school students in a city in Hokkaido had contracted the new type influenza and this school would be closed until the 27th of this month. The eduction board of the city, in order to prevent further spreading of the influenza, had on the 24th distributed 40 bottles of disinfection fluid to classes in all five schools in town, and also to locations with public facilities such as the library. The primary school affected by the influenza had 180 students, the teachers would be requested to disinfect their hands before entering classrooms, and also to teach children the way to disinfect hands. To disinfect hands, children would in turn use the disinfection liquid placed at the entrance of the classroom to rub hands.

After reading the above, I wonder if schools in Hong Kong would care to carry out similar precaution when classes start in September.

2009年8月23日 星期日

M.C. Perry and Japan (III)

In the introduction of MC Perry's three-volume book, there was a summary of the history on the US/Japan relationship from the perspective of the American. The first paragraph is quoted below:

"In the year 1831, a Japanese junk was blown off the coast . . . and [the Japanese] went ashore on the western coast of America . . . and finally they were carried to Macao. . . their benevolent friends were ignorant of the Japanese law which prohibited the return of natives to Japan. . . Accordingly the Morrison . . . was fitted out for the voyage to Japan."1

When this ship reached the Bay of Edo, the Japanese officials soon showed their contempt and fired at the ship which had no other alternative but to return to Macao with the Japanese on board. In 1846 an expedition was dispatched to Japan by the US government. This expedition consisted of the Columbus and the Vincennes under the command of Commodore Biddle. In July the vessels reached the Bay of Edo, immediately they were surround by about 400 guard boats, some Japanese even climbed up the Vincennes. This expedition was a failure because their application for permission to trade with Japan was rejected. Japan maintained the policy of only to trade with Holland.2 The next visit to Japan was carried out in 1849 by commander Glynn in February 1849. One purpose of this trip was to seek for the release 16 American sailors held in Japan after shipwreck.When Glynnn arrived at Nagasaki, his vessels were surrounded by a number of boats. Eventually the sailors were released and the squadron headed by Preble returned to join a squadron stationed off the coast of China.3 The next attempt to open trade with Japan was performed by MC Perry, and he had successfully fulfilled the assignment. Before Perry died in March 1858, he strongly recommended Townsend Harris as the first American consul to Japan. Perry's recommendation of Harris reflected the keen judgement of men's ability of the former. Harris had proved to be a skillful diplomat who could develop US/Japan relation despite all kinds of difficulties.4 (to be continued)

1. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page xxxi.
2. Ibid., page xxxii
3. Ibid., page xxxiv
4. Ibid., page xxxv

2009年8月22日 星期六


Recently Yomiuri News reported the following:

高校生の5人に1人が、インタネ上のトラブルに遭遇した経験があることが、慶応大大学院メデッアデザイン研究科などのアンケート調査で明らかになった。調査によると、トラブルの経験があると答えたのは22.7%だった。トラブルの内容(複数回答)は、サイトを開いただけで契約の成立を装って法外な料金を求する「ワンクリック詐欺」や偽のホームページに口座番号などを打ち込ませて悪用する「ファッシング詐欺」が50.3%で最も多く、「思いがけないグロテスな画像を見た」も48.5%に上った。また、「薬物や犯罪などの情報に出合った」は16%だった。高校生のパンコンの技 量や利用頻度別では、トラブルに遭遇した「初級者」は12.4%だったのに対し、「上級者」では41.6%に上った。調査は今年6月、慶応義塾高1年全生徒720人を対象に行った。

One out of five high school students had the experience of encountering troubles when using the Internet, according to a study done through questionnaires by a the media design research institute of a Japanese university. According to this study, 22.7% of the respondents said that they had the experience of encountering Internet trouble. The types of trouble mentioned (multiple reply) included: after signing in, they were asked for unexpected fees called "one click cheating", and there might be fake home pages that tried to obtain your personal information called "phishing cheating' , these were the most popular and represented 50.3%. 'Unexpected creepy image being seen' was 48.5%. Also 16% of the trouble was 'run into drug and law violating information'. Among the high school students, there were difference in proficiency and in frequency in the use of personal computers, for beginners 12.4% had the experience of encountering trouble. As for proficient students, the percentage was 41.6%. This research was done in June targeting at all the 720 first year senior high school students of the same school.

After reading the about, I am wondering if the 20% rate of 'Internet trouble' is too high to be acceptable. And as such, I think the school authority should do more to prepare students to handle Internet troubles.

2009年8月21日 星期五

M.C. Perry and Japan (II)

The Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan was published in 1856. It has three volumes, the first volume contains the complete narration of Commodore Perry's mission. The second volume contains a series of reports. The third volume contains Observations on the Zodiacal Light.1 When this three-volume book was printed in 1856, MC Perry wrongly believed that all the material written about this trip were put together in his book. The reality was that several diaries written by some members of the trip were secretly kept and only came to light some time after the book was published. Such documents included the day books of the chief interpreter, Samuel Wells Williams. Also, there were confidential letters from Perry to the President and to the Secretary of the Navy, and some other official correspondents. This three-volume-book is basically Perry's book in that it was a verbatim copy from his journal.2 The abridged edition had omitted, among other things, the over fifty thousand words written about Japan, including its origin, its people, and its history.3 In the course of this expedition, the US already knew that an unusually large Russian navel force was gathering at the Pacific near Japan, expecting the visit of MC Perry. Should Perry's visit lead to a military conflict with Japan, the Russian would stand on the side of Japan.4 Japan was important to Russia. Indeed in a letter dated 12th November 1853, the Russian admiral had made a proposal to joint Perry's squadron. Japan, on the other hand, seemed to be distrustful of the Russian in view of the latter's activities on the Amur River at that time.5 (to be continued)

1. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page xxiii.
2. Ibid., page xxv
3. Ibid., page xxvi
4. Ibid., page xxix
5. Ibid., page xxx

2009年8月20日 星期四


For the purpose of learning Japanese, in the next four months, I shall do some close reading on about eleven articles. One of them is about a temple in Japan. Details of this article are as follows:

法隆寺 (607) は 聖德太子(574-622)の鎮魂の寺である。奈良時代(710-794)の政権者は、度重なる火災疫病は太子の怒りであると考えていた。何故そう考えたかというと、太子一族から政権を奪い取った穌我氏は陰謀策略を重ねて、太子の血縁者をことごとく抹殺していったからだ。そのためになくなった聖德太子の怒りがさまざまな災い起こしていると考え、それ以上太子の怒りを招かないよう、この寺であらゆる手をつくして、彼の鎮魂に努めたのである。救世観音像は法隆寺が再建されたその100年後(739年)に藤原氏によって建てられた。通称「夢殿」と呼ばれる東院に安置されている。以後1000年白い布にかぶさりたこの像は秘仏としての目触れることはなかった。1884年、岡倉天心とフェノロサ(Ernest Fenollosa)は法隆寺夢殿を調査した。彼らは。古都の文化財を調査、保護するための政府のエージェントだった らしい。夢殿の救世観音像は数世紀もの間秘められており、だれもみたことがなかった。鎌倉初期の法隆寺の学僧でさえ、「だれもみたことがない。仏像のかたちはわからない。」と記錄している。実際、天心とフェノロサは500mもの白い布をほどいてようやく8世紀以前では最良のコンデションにある木彫佛をみいだした。そのとき、法隆寺の僧侶たち逃げたしたという。1

1. Copied from Reading Selection. Japanese Language Program: Department of Asian Studies, UBC, 2009.

2009年8月19日 星期三


中國人在上一個世紀, 特別是在開始的六十年 (1900-1960) 經歷了大大小小的災難, 戰禍和政治風暴. 例如庚子拳亂,八國聯軍入北京, 軍閥內戰, 北閥, 抗日戰爭, 國共內戰. 大躍進等等. 在六十年代開始在中國大陸以外的一些學者出版雜誌來收集不少時人在那六十年中的親身經歷, 用文字與大家分享. 其中一書本叫<春秋>, 另一個叫<傳記文學>. 如果你對當時曾發生的事情有興趣的話, <傳記文學>是一本頗有參考價值的雜誌. 它的第一卷第一期是在1962年6月出版. 據我的理解, 第一卷有7期 (見下相片). 第二卷總共有六期, 是在1963年一月到六月出版. 直到今天它還繼續在出版(見上相片). (註: 相片中的雜誌是卑詩大學亞洲圖書館收藏品)

2009年8月18日 星期二


在我活生的城市中, 不時可以看到一些香港熟悉商舖的名字, 它可能霎時會令你產生身在香港的感覺. 對有思鄉情意結的人來說, 這未嘗不是一件樂事.

2009年8月17日 星期一

M.C. Perry and Japan (I)

M.C. Perry (1794-1858) was the commander of a squadron sent to Japan by the US to negotiate a treaty which would open up that country to commerce. He delivered his message and papers to the representatives of the emperor on July 1853 and then sailed to China to give Japanese time to consider the proposals. He returned and obtained a treaty that was signed in March 1854 granting US trading rights at ports of Hakodate and Shimoda.1 In order to cerebrate the Centennial of Commodore Perry's visit to Japan a historian Sidney Wallach edited the original three big volumes Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan which was compiled by M.C. Perry and published by the US government in 1856, and produced one smaller edited version. Wrote in the introduction of this edited version in around 1952, Wallach says that Perry's visit had generated much internal pressure to the governors in Japan. Their problem was whether to run the risk of war, or to be more conciliatory. Japanese leaders knew that censorship could no longer conceal the news of this visit.2 America was an unknown to Japan although through the Dutch, they were aware of the existence of such a country. Additional information about America was obtained through the Chinese. In the US, the desire to visit Asia was mounting since the 1830s. America's investment in whaling in the Pacific was enormous and shipping bases were needed to supporting the ocean going whaling and trading ships. 3 Indeed before MC Perry's visit, there were several attempts to mount a similar expedition. As early as 1835, US President Jackson had written a letter to the Emperor of Japan that was intended to be delivery by Edmund Roberts, but the latter died before he could do so. 4 In 1845, Commodore Biddle mounted an expedition to Japan to open trade related negotiation, but was physically struck by Japanese guard and flung back into a boat. In 1849 Commodore Glynn's similar mission also failed. In 1851, another expedition was planned with Commodore Aulick as the officer-in-charge. But later he was replaced by Commodore MC Perry. (to be continued)


1. Merriam-Webster's Biographical Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, publishers, 1995, page 816.
2. Perry, Matthew Calbraith ed. by Sidney Wallach. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. NY: Coward-McCann, 1952, page xiv

3. Ibid., page xv

4. Ibid., page xvi

2009年8月16日 星期日


Recently Asahi News reported the following:

海上自衛隊の練習艦隊が香港に寄港しようとして中国政府に断られたことが15日わかった。日本政府関係者が明らかにした。公式には理由は示さりていないが、亡命ウイグル人組織「世界ウイグル会議」のラビア. カーディル主席の入国を日本が認めたことなどに中国側が不満を示したという。香港に寄港しようとしていたのは、海自の遠洋練習航海部隊。練習艦「かしま」「しまゆき」、護衛 艦「ゆうぎり」で編成し、約700人を乗せ4月に東京. 晴海を出航。東南アジア、中東、欧州など13力国を回って9月上旬に帰国する予定だ。香港への寄港は当初の計画になかったが、日中間で防衛交流が進んだことを踏まえ、8月末から9月上旬にかけて寄港して軍関係者と交流したい意向を中国側に伝えた。しかし、中国政府は12日、北京の日本大使館に「敏感な問題があり、寄港を認める雰囲気ではない。受け入れは難しい」と返答した。関係者によると、日本政府が7月末、新疆(しんきょう)ウイグル自治区ウルムチで起きた騷乱の扇動者と中国が非難するカーディル氏入国を認めたことを挙げ、台湾の李登輝元総統が9月に訪日することにも不快感を示した。

On 15th, it was learned that China had refused to allow Japan's Sea Defense Force training fleet to visit Hong Kong, according to people who had connection with the Japanese government. Although no formal reasons were given, it was speculated that China wanted to show its displeasure because the chairman of the 'World Uighur Conference' had been allowed to visit Japan. It was Japan's Sea Self Defense Force ocean going training fleet that wanted to visit Hong Kong. It consisted of two training ships and one escort ship carrying about 700 sailors and had departed from Tokyo in April. It would visit 13 countries in south east Asia, Middle East, Europe and return to Japan in early September. The plan to visit Hong Kong was based on the wish to promote Chinese-Japanese defense exchange, and Japan's intention to visit Hong Kong by the end of August and early September had been conveyed to the related Chinese military personnel. But on 12th, China informed Japanese consulate in Beijing that 'there is some sensitive issue involved, and the situation is not conducive to allow such a visit. There is difficulty to give the permission'. According to people who had connection with the matter, China wanted to show its displeasure because Qadir, who had been accused by China as the agitator of the riot that happened in Urumqi in the Uighur Self-ruling Region in Sinkiang, was allowed to visit Japan in July. Also Japan had given permission to the former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to visit the country in September.

Diplomacy is a complicated issue. After reading the above, I wonder if Japan's foreign policy decision would yield to the pressure from China.

2009年8月15日 星期六

The Pattern of the Chinese Past(VIII)

In chapter 16 Elvin focuses on investigating China's major economic activities and concludes that in the last 3 century of pre-modern China some large private economic organizations began to prop up. There were market networks to handle large number of employees and such could be regarded as a sign of progress, and there were evidence to suggest that heightened tempo of economic activities in China had begun from late 1500. Yet China could not break through to modern economic growth.1 In chapter 17 Elvin proposes some answers to why industrial revolution had not begun in China despite the fact that there were great manufacturing centers in China, for example porcelain production in Ching-te-chan (景德鎮). Elvin suggests that: was it due to inadequate capital and restricted market? Was it due to political obstacles on economic growth?2 Or, was it due to the fact that enterprises were small-scale and short-lived? After exploring these three aspects, Elvin concludes that non of these conventional explanations can give convincing answers to why technical progress was absent in China when it was enjoying a period of prosperity and expansion.3 As a conclusion to the book, Elvin asserts that 'in late traditional China economic forces developed in such a way as to make profitable invention more and more difficult . . . with cheapening labour but increasingly expensive resources and capital, with farming and transport technologies so good that no simple improvement could be made, rational strategy for peasant and merchant alike tended to the direction not so much of labor-saving machinery as of economizing on resources and fixed capital. Huge but nearly static markets created no bottlenecks in the production system that might have prompted creativity. When temporary shortages arose, mercantile versatility, based on cheap transport, was a faster an surer remedy than the contrivance of machines. This situation may be described as a "high-level equilibrium trap'''.4 It was this 'high-level equilibrium trap', according to Elvin, that was responsible for China's technological stagnation.5

1. Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973, page 284
2. page 289
3. page 297
4. page 314
5. page 298

2009年8月14日 星期五


Recently Yomiuri News reported the following:

中国、台灣産のウナギかば焼きを德島產と偽って販売したとして、不正競爭防止法違反に問われた德島県阿南市の水産物卸売社「アオキ淡水」社長、青木義市(67)、同社員鳴鬼富雄(63)両被告の判決が14日、德島地裁であった。畑山靖裁判官は「偽裝が長期間に及び悪質だか、罪を認め反省している」として両被告にいずれも懲役2年、執行猶予4年(求刑. 懲役2年)の有罪決を言い渡した。判決では、青木、鳴鬼両被告は同地裁で有判決を受けた阿南市の食品会社社長(59)と共謀し、2006年6月~08年2月、中国、台湾産ウナギかば焼き計39トンを德島産と偽って販売。08年3月~12月にも、同市の食品加工会社「タカラ食品」前社長、折野直樹被告(59)(公判中)らと共謀し、中国、台湾産ウナギかば焼きなど德島産と書いた段ボール箱に詰め、約3トンを金沢市などの業者に売った。

On 14th, a court in Tokushima handed down sentence to the director of Greenwood Freshwater and one employee for selling split and broiled eels from China and Taiwan but falsely claimed that they were from Tokushima. The judge, having considered 'the long period of cheating, and the admitting of the charge', sentenced both to two-year imprisonment. The court verdict showed that during the period from June 2006 to February 2008 the two defendants, in collaboration with the director of a food company who had been found guilty separately, sold 39 tons of eels from China and Taiwan, but falsely claimed that they were from Tokushima. Also, in 2008 from March to December they collaborated with another former food company director, now a defendant of another court case (court judgment pending), put China and Taiwan split and broiled eels into corrugated paper boxes and labeled them as product of Tokushima. About 3 tons of eels were sold to retailers in various locations.

So next time when you see eels in markets in Japan, don't be so sure that they must be a product of Japan, even if they are labeled as such.

2009年8月13日 星期四

The Pattern of the Chinese Past(VII)

Elvin starts chapter 15 by suggesting that up to the late Ming period, manorial order with serfdom and the like continued to be a universal feature in the social and agricultural system in rural China.1 Throughout this chapter Elvin explains the social changes that had occurred and eventually led to the disappearance of serfdom in China in early Qing. He claims that such a change had important social consequences. Elvin asserts that there were several reasons for serfdom to disappear. The first was government policy. In 1681, Qing emperor issued an edict to the effect that '. . . when landlords are buying and selling land they must allow their tenants to do as they please. They may not sell them along with their fields or compel them to perform services'.2 Another reason was economic and social development related, and it also had a connection with the changing pattern of investment at that time. People with money began to shift their wealth from investing in rural land to activities such as trading, pawnbroking, and urban real estate buying because of the higher returns. It was also due to the fact that some land owners had found tenants resisted paying their rents.3 The decline in investment in rural land meant that land ownership started to fragment, and the countryside began to belong to small land holders. At the same time with the appearance of big cities, influential landowners moved into big cities, thus creating absentee landlords, with the consequence of giving out rights of permanent tenure to rural inhabitants, and making multiple land ownership possible.4 The demise of the manorial order had far reaching consequences socially and politically. One consequence was that it resulted in a huge a demographic upsurge: Chinese population jumped from 200 million in 1583 to about 410 million in 1850.5 It also made possible greater social mobility and geographical mobility. It created a new social group: the grassroots in the rural area. The nature and power structure in the countryside changed. Local gentry began to play an important role in the rural area. Their appearance was important in the evolution of the traditional Chinese social structure.6 Gentry and scholars began actively participated in local matters, for example the management of local hydraulic projects.7 Through these projects, the voice of the gentry in local policy-making was heard. Power in the countryside no longer fully tied to land ownership. Trade, finance, education and institutional position became more important as far as power and influence were concerned.8 (to be continued)

1. Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973, page 235
2. page 248
3. page 249
4. page 253
5. page 255
6. page 260
7. page 263
8. page 267

2009年8月12日 星期三


Recently Yomiuri News reported the following:


The Ministry of Management and Coordination on the 11th announced the population figure of Japan as at March 31st. The total population ( foreigners excluded) was 1.27 billion (10,005 more than last year), it was the second year increase. While the 'social increase' due to those returning from overseas and those through naturalization was 55,919 (last year 41,826), the 'natural increase' based on birth rate minus death rate recorded a minus of 45,914, being the highest 'natural decrease'. It was a fact that population was decreasing at a faster pace. Natural decrease last year was 29,119, being a record, was substantially surpassed. In 2008 birth figure was 1,088,488 (a drop of 7,977 compared with last year), it was a drop not seen since 3 years ago. The number of death was at a peak of 1,134,402. 'Social increase' also went up, the ministry's analysis was that it might due to '(Japaneses) enterprises retreated from overseas having regard to the poor economic situation'. Naturalization figure was around ten thousand. Also, the population in Tokyo Metropolitan Ring, Nagoya Metropolitan Ring, and the Kansai Metropolitan Ring was at the record height of 64 million (representing 50.37% of country's total population). Kansai Metropolitan Ring (with 2 provinces and 2 prefectures) had a population of 18.2 million, witnessing an increase not seen since 5 years ago. In Tokyo capital, the population was 12.5 million. There was an increase of 86,062 people or 0.69%, being a record high, and the tendency for people to concentrate in Tokyo continued.
From the above, it seems that Japan is quite successful in controlling its population growth.

2009年8月11日 星期二

The Pattern of the Chinese Past(VI)

Elvin in chapter 13 asserts that between 10th and 14th century China had created the world's earliest mechanized industry, and this was the climax of its scientific and technical progress. Thanks to the woodblock printing, the dissemination of ancient scientific texts was made possible and it inspired scholars to master old science and pushed it to the next level. The government was the driving force behind this renaissance of learning, for example the Sung government took up the task of editing and printing the standard texts on mathematics, medicine, agriculture and warfare.1 Private printing also flourished because it was profitable to print books, for example books on agriculture, elementary arithmetic and the technique of the abacus, thus making China the most numerate and most literate nation.2 In late 13th century printing using movable types became common and thus sped up the production of books. During the this period China witnessed huge development in the fields of medicine, mathematics and textiles production.3 In chapter 14 Elvin claims that the medieval economic revolution in China did not last for long. For reasons that has to be ascertained, Chinese economy was on a decline between 1300 and 1500. During the medieval economic revolution growth was accompanied by new technology. But in 1500-1800 there were no new inventions although economic somehow growth continued.4 In chapter 14 Elvin put forward a theory that in China, further invention came to a still still because its economy was in a equilibrium which also meant a stagnation.5 He suggests that in the mid 14th century, China's further economic development suffered a set back. The reasons were: expansion in frontier, reduction in overseas trade with foreigners, and changes in attitudes of Chinese philosophers towards nature. As a result of these factors Chinese people's interest in systematic investigation was 'short-circuited by a reliance on introspection and intuition. There were therefore no advances in science to stimulate advances in productive technology'.6 (to be continued)

1. Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973, page 180
2. page 181
3. page 184
4. page 203
5. page 203
6. page 204

2009年8月10日 星期一

British Confidential Prints on Opium War

In the field of history, British Documents on Foreign Affairs provides important primary source materials for historians to study the Opium War from the perspective of the British. The title of Volume 16 of this series is 'Anglo-Chinese War and Its Aftermath, 1839-1849'. In total there are 286 pieces of documents, dated from 18th October 1839 to 5th July 1848. The first document of this volume, dated 18th October 1839, carried the Confidential Print number 75/1. It is a secret dispatch from Viscount Palmerston to Captain Elliot, R.N., Superintendent of Trade and is a very crucial document on the Opium War.1 This document is both a situation report and an instrument from the British Foreign Minister to a senior British official posted in Asia. It reflects the intention and thinking of the British government of the day. Major points in this dispatch are:1) Her Majesty's Government feel that it is impossible for Great Britain not to resent the outrages which have been committed by the Chinese upon British subjects, and upon the Queen's officers. 2) Her Majesty's government would send to the China seas a naval, and probably a small military, force. 3) The operation of this force would be decided by the Governor General of India, the Admiral and Captain Elliot. 4) British navy would plan on blockade Canton and the Peiho or Pekin rivers, and as an intermediate point, to seize and occupy one of the Chusan islands, or the town of Amoy, or any other insular position that could be used to mount military operations, and afterwards to be used as a secure basis for the British commercial establishments permanently. 5) Elliot should not interrupt the legitimate British trade in Canton of the year.

Among the many things that amazed me when I first read this dispatch was that as early as in 1839, the British already had the intention of establishing a permanent trading basis in China. It was by destiny that Hong Kong eventually became the pick.

1. Palmerston, Henry John, 3rd Viscount (1784-1865) was the British Foreign Minister at that time and Charles Elliot (1801-1875) was the British Chief Superintendent of Trade in China. In early 1841 Charles Elliot was the administrator of Hong Kong, succeeded by Henry Pottinger in late 1841.

2009年8月9日 星期日


Recently Fuji News Network reported the following:


On the 9th, the 64th round "Atomic Bomb Explosion Memorial Day" was held at the bombed city of Nagasaki. Before noon the peace praying memorial ceremony was held with the presence of the prime minister. On the 8th evening, the Peace Garden of Nagasaki was brightened up by candle light for peace. On the 9th, the Peace Garden was the venue for the memorial ceremony to pray for peace, and to announce the commencement of day one for eternal flame praying. This ceremony was started at 10.40 am, with Prime Minister Aso, and ambassadors from a record number of 29 countries participating, including Russia. The mayor of Nagasaki made a peace declaration in support of US President Obama's declaration made at Prague that aimed at achieving a nuclear weapon-free world. The mayor also invited the 10 countries that had nuclear weapons to visit Nagasaki.

Although every year Japan is calling for a nuclear weapon-free world, it seems that some countries are still trying hard to obtain some nuclear weapons.

2009年8月8日 星期六

British Documents on Foreign Affairs

British historians in early 1980s started compiling the British Documents on Foreign Affairs. In its introduction of May 1983, the editors said "It is in the last thirty years or so that historians have begun to realise the importance of modern diplomatic achieves for other kinds of history than the history of diplomatic relations between two or more countries. . . British archives contain one source that no other national archive can match, the product of a practise without exact parallel in the machinery of government of any other major power. This is the so-called Foreign Office Confidential Print".1 This Foreign Office Confidential Print (FOCP) comprises of diplomatic dispatches from England to its overseas agencies/representatives who might be a colonial governor or a British armed forces leader. The starting date of the collection is about 1850s, depending on the destination of the dispatch and the location of the addressee. The original intention of FOCP was for the information of the Queen or King of England, and major embassies abroad. They were also circulated to major departments of the British government. This practice was later extended to Cabinet Office and various sub-committees , and the Committee of Imperial Defense. All these organizations later became recipients of the FOCP. Regarding the origin of the practice of keeping FOCP, in May 1983 according to the general editors of British Documents on Foreign Affairs, the fullest study done so far was by Dr. Lo Hui-min, who suggested that the practice of systematically keeping diplomatic papers was a response of the small post-Napoleonic Foreign Office to the enormous increase of dispatches received after 1821, thereafter a filing system by numbering and classifying was introduced. On hand the documents collected in the archive numbered from 1 to 20,000 and up. These documents are now divided into three parts. Part I is from the start up to 1914, that is before WWI. Part II covers 1914 - 1940, that is the period between the two Wars. Part III is 1940- 1945, that is WWII period. Because British was a huge empire, many diplomatic events had happened in those days. For the purpose of publishing the British Documents on Foreign Affairs, under the same period, the prints now are further divided by geographical regions. The region that I am interested is Asia and the period is before 1914, when many important events had happened in China, for example the Opium War and the Boxer Uprising. Through these documents, mostly secret if not confidential, readers could see how British formulated their foreign policy towards Asian countries in general, and China and Japan in particular.

1. Nish, Ian Hill ed. British Documents on Foreign Affairs - Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part I Series E Asia, 1860-1914. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, c1989 - , volume 15, page xv.

2009年8月7日 星期五

Fresh Figs

Yesterday my friend picked figs from trees in his front-yard garden and gave some to me. Fig tree was often mentioned in the Bible and was said to grow in the Garden of Eden. Figs have different varieties, the one I received is green in color. Fresh figs are at their best when just picked from trees as they begin to ripe. Ripen fig is very sweet and could be eaten out of hand. You could smell the freshness of the fruit while eating, and the feeling is very unique. When ripen its skin is very thin and is very soft to touch. But it could soon lose its good quality, probably within 24 hours. It could spoil quickly even if stored in a refrigerator. According to some saying, figs are rich in fibre, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron.

2009年8月6日 星期四

The Pattern of the Chinese Past(V)

In chapter ten Elvin asserts that the development of better transport and communication were almost as important as better agriculture itself in bringing about an economic revolution.1 He says that both Tang and Sung governments had improved the transportation routes in the empire, including the maintenance of perishable wooden bridges that were costly to maintain. As for sea transport, according to Elvin, at Sung times, Chinese sea-going junks were quite sophisticated. But it was the growth of river and canal shipping that provided the greatest economic impetus. Many separate waterways were linked up to form a national network during the Tang and Sung periods. Chapter eleven is about revolution in money and credit. Elvin suggests some reasons to explain why the monetary revolution took place.2 One reason was the growing interdependence of the regional Chinese economy starting from the period of 'Five Dynasty'. At first copper money was in use. But as copper was in short supply, paper money was invented starting from the Tang period.3 But later paper money became a bureaucratic monstrosity that would hamper the productive forces and attribute to the transformation of Chinese society and economy beginning in the 14th century. In chapter 12, Elvin talks about revolution in market structure and urbanization. All along, most Chinese people were little affected by commerce until the later part of the Tang dynasty when markets became numerous. Government controlled market began to give way to commercial freedom. Chinese rural economy began to link up with the market mechanism.4 The consequence was the appearance of a national internal customs network. Increased marketing activities turned the Chinese peasantry into petty entrepreneurs and a wide range of new occupations were opened up in the countryside. Vegetable and fruit were produced for urban consumption. Rural production began to be market oriented, for example silk had displaced rice as the basis of peasant economy.5 International trade was also booming, in particular with Japan and south-east Asia.6 The effect of these economic changes accumulated in an urban revolution: cities spilled out into the suburbs. The number of urban inhabitants began to rise. Big cities began to pop up. Urban landownership became an important source of profit beginning in Sung times, and urban real estates became the object of taxation.7 At this juncture, Elvin highlights one observation: Chinese cities did not play the same historic role as their counterparts in medieval Europe. Cities in China were not centres of political or personal freedom, their inhabitants did not develop any civic consciousness. The reason was that all Chinese cities were under one single ruler, they could not have independent development. In Europe different cities might have different feudal political and military structure.8 (to be continued)

1. Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973. page131
2. page 150
3. page 155
4. page 166
5. page 168
6. page 171
7. page 175
8. page 177

2009年8月5日 星期三


Recently the NHK News reported the following:


In order know how the extremely quiet hybrid cars could affect those who had vision problem in term of road safety, a test was held to see what level of sound could alert those who could not see, and such a test was held in Tokyo. It was organized by a committee of the Ministry of Transport and this was their first test. Participants were blind people. It was found that if the car was traveling at about 10 km per hour, about half of the participants could note the approach of the car. But if it came suddenly from the side, it was not noticed. If the car was added with speaker to make a chime or buzz or some other noises, most people could note the approach of the car at a further distance. One participant commented that in daily life the appropriate level of sound might be different. One professor who was also a member of the committee said that "while a louder noise could make the car easier to note, the right level of sound might also be affected by the environment. They would continue to look for the right type and right sound level".

In view of the above, I am wondering if the above could be one safety aspect that the Hong Kong Government might consider when they permit the import of hybrid cars into Hong Kong.

2009年8月4日 星期二

The Pattern of the Chinese Past(IV)

Elvin in chapter eight says that the Ming Empire was characterized by its low amount of national product being assigned for administration and defense purposes. There is no evidence to suggest that the expenditure on maintaining the government and on funding the warfare had been a burden. According to Elvin, the reason for such a good financial position was due to the continuation of higher economic productivity started in Sung , together with the continued use of the civil service examination, also started in Sung, which had the effect of reducing government administrative costs. Also there was the fact that major wars with barbarians were over and Ming therefore could enjoy peace with reduced military expenses. The extensive internal migrations in the empire, together with the improvement of communication had made the central plain more homogeneous and stable.1The Ming dynasty survived for about three centuries until it fell in 1644. The reasons for its demise were many, including but not limited to the shortage of military manpower partly due to the epidemics, internal rebellion, and the external threat from the Manchus.2 Ming was not conquered by Manchus, but conquered for them by Chinese generals including Wu San-kuei and Hung Cheng-chou who had defected. The Manchus, with its huge economic resources in the heartland, and its ability to master the firearms, enjoyed domination over the people of Mongolia, eastern Turkestan and Tibet. In chapter 9 Elvin begins to talk about the farming revolution in China. He asserts that there were agricultural improvement in China between 8th and 12th centuries, with the major progress took place in the South. The mastery of technique of wet-field rice cultivation allowed migration into previously difficult to develop areas. 3 It seemed that a unified empire had help the spread of this technique. The main center of agricultural revolution was in southern Kiangsu and Chekiang. Wookblock printing had also helped the spread of this new method. Elvin suggests that there were two more factors that had help increase grain production: the development of a more efficient transport system, and the development of a more integrated market network.4 Elvin outlines four aspects of this agricultural revolution: 1) farmers learned to prepare their soil more effectively, 2) better seeds were introduced which either gave heavier yields, or resist drought better, or ripen more rapidly, 3) more effective hydraulic techniques were introduced, and 4) specialization in crops production was made possible.5 (to be continued)

1. Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of Chinese Past. Stanford: Stanford University, 1973, page 93
2. page 106
3. page 113
4. page 117
5. page 118

2009年8月3日 星期一


昨天到友人家中作客, 見到他後院的迷你田裡種了一些瓜菜, 例如日本南瓜, 節瓜, 扁豆, 蕃茄. 近日天氣十分炎熱, 對瓜類生長很有幫助, 節瓜能在一星期內由大約二英寸生長到一呎多. 老友從瓜棚摘了兩個給我回家做瓜湯, 因為新鮮, 所以十分清甜. 瓜邊的顏色很翠綠, 簡直是一種視覺享受. 一樂也.

2009年8月2日 星期日


Recently NHK News reported the following:


In connection with the comic and animation character costume beauty competition, the "World Cosplay Summit" was held in Nagoya starting 1st (August), with young people from all over the world proudly wore costumes in a parade held in the downtown. Due to the popularity of Japanese comic and animation, the "World Cosplay Summit" had the support from organizations including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs each year, and this year it started the 7th round in Nagoya. Winners of earlier competition held in France and Korea, and also in Brazil and other15 countries joined the summit in Japan. On the first day, overseas representatives would join Japan's comic costume fans and in total 500 people would participate in a parade. They would walk around the shop streets in downtown Nagoya for one hour to display favourite poses and take photos for joy. A participant from Nagoya, a female nurse, said she was "shocked by the high level of participation from overseas, and she would make a costume to participate next year". On the second day, "World Cosplay Summit" representatives from around the world would hold a performance contest to decide who should be the world's number one.

In view of the international nature of this event, I am wondering if Hong Kong could also hold similar events in order to attract more tourists.

2009年8月1日 星期六


最近在家清理舊報紙, 發現香港法庭在一九九七年二月曾審理一宗騙案, 罪名是使用虛假文件. 由於銀碼很大, 所以吸引我的注意力. 犯案手法頗有創意. 興幸的是現代科技幫助法庭判定出這人所擁有的六合彩是偽造的. 現代科學鑑証水平進步神速, 一日千里, 使行騙者不能得逞.