Contrasting Japanese and Chinese Responses to European Imperialism Directions

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Contrasting Japanese and Chinese Responses to European Imperialism

You have been reading recently about European imperialism and the events occurring in Japan and China as a result. Today you will examine primary sources from both Japan and China, which trace the evolution of their opinions of and reactions to European incursions. In class, we will examine the first source together and the others in pairs. You will be responsible for writing a DBQ Essay style Point of View statement for each source following the format we have been using in class. “The point-of-view of ______ is influenced by ______. This person believes/wants/feels/describes _____ in ________ way because of _________ motive.” (Their motive must be linked to the personal characteristic named in the first sentence).
Write a DBQ essay using these documents as the basis to answer the question:
“Examine the responses to and reasons for incursions into China and Japan by Europeans during the Age of Imperialism.”

Document 1: Perry's Letter in Connection with the Delivery of a White Flag, July 14, 1853
This letter was sent by US naval officer Commodore Perry to the Japanese, requiring that they change laws that had been in place since the 1600s. These laws isolated Japan and forbid nearly all trade and interaction with foreigners.

For years several countries have applied for trade, but you have opposed them on account of a national law. You have thus acted against divine principles and your sin cannot be greater than it is . . . If you are still to disagree we would then take up arms and inquire into the sin against the divine principles, and you would also make sure of your law and fight in defense. When one considers such an occasion, however, one will realize the victory will naturally be ours and you shall by no means overcome us. If in such a situation you seek for a reconciliation, you should put up the white flag that we have recently presented to you, and we would accordingly stop firing and conclude peace with you, turning our battleships aside.


Source: Francis L. Hawks, compiler; Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to China and Japan, performed in the years 1852,1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M. C. Perry United States Navy, by Order of the Government of the United States, I. Washington, D.C., A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1856, pp.256-59.

Document 2: The Charter Oath of 1868
The following declaration, often called the "Charter Oath of 1868" is one of the first documents written by the new Meiji Restoration leaders and reveals much about the new society they hoped to create.

“By this oath we set up as our aim the establishment of the national weal [a prosperous state] on a broad basis and the framing of a constitution and laws.
1. Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion.
2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.
3. The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue his own calling so that there may be no discontent.
4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature.
5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule.”

Source: Sources of Japanese Tradition, volume II, compiled by Ryusaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary and Donald Keene (N.Y.:Columbia University Press, 1958) p. 137.

Document 3: Kunikazu Utagawa, View of Shimbashi Ginza Street, Tokyo, 1903 (note the rising sun flag in the backdrop)


Document 4: Imperial Proclamation of War by Japan against Russia, 1904

In 1904, Japan and Russia came into conflict over Korea in the Russo-Japanese War, in which the Japanese were victorious. It served as the first time in the modern era when an Asian power defeated a Western power in a major conflict.
We, by the Grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan, seated on the Throne occupied by the same Dynasty from time immemorial, do hereby make proclamation to all Our loyal and brave subjects as follows:
We hereby declare war against Russia and We command our army and navy to carry on hostilities against that Empire with all their strength, and We also command all Our competent authorities to make every effort . . . to attain the national aim with all the means within the limits of the law of nations . . .
The integrity of Korea is a matter of constant concern to this Empire, not only because of Our traditional relations with that country, but because the separate existence of Korea is essential to the safety of Our realm …
 We cannot in the least admit that Russia had from the first any serious or genuine desire for peace. She has rejected the proposals of Our Government; the safety of Korea is in danger, the vital interests of Our Empire are menaced. The guarantees for the future which we have failed to secure by peaceful negotiations We can only now seek by an appeal to arms.
It is Our earnest wish that by the loyalty and valor of Our faithful subjects, peace may soon be permanently restored and the glory of Our Empire preserved.”


Source 5: The Reception of the First English Ambassador to China, 1792.

”As soon as the monarch was seated upon his throne, the master of the ceremonies led the [British] ambassador [Lord Macartney] toward the steps. The latter approached, bent his knee, and handed, in a casket set with diamonds, the letter addressed to His Imperial Majesty by the King of England. The emperor assured Maccartney of the satisfaction he felt at the testimony which His Britannic Majesty gave him of his esteem and good will in sending him an embassy with a letter and rare presents; that he on his part entertained sentiments of the same kind toward the sovereign of Great Britain, and hoped that harmony would always be maintained between their respective subjects. He then presented to the ambassador a stone scepter, whilst he graciously received the private presents of the principal personages of the embassy. He was perfectly good-humored, and especially pleased with the son of Sir G. Staunton, who talked a little Chinese, and received as a token of imperial favor a yellow plain tobacco pouch with the figure of the five-clawed dragon embroidered upon it.”

Source 6: Letter from Lin Tse-hsu to Queen Victoria in 1839. During the mid-1800s, Great Britain began importing opium to China. Britain undertook this process because they had few trade goods

“After a long period of commercial intercourse, there appear among the crowd of barbarians both good persons and bad, unevenly. Consequently there are those who smuggle opium to seduce the Chinese people and so cause the spread of the poison to all provinces. Such persons who only care to profit themselves, and disregard their harm to others, are not tolerated by the laws of heaven and are unanimously hated by human beings. His Majesty the Emperor, upon hearing of this, is in a towering rage. He has especially sent me, his commissioner, to come to Kwangtung, and together with the governor-general and governor jointly to investigate and settle this matter.

We find that your country is sixty or seventy thousand li [three li make one mile] from China. Yet there are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade for the purpose of making a great profit. The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians. That is to say, the great profit made by barbarians is all taken from the rightful share of China. By what right do they then in return use the poisonous drug to injure the Chinese people? Even though the barbarians may not necessarily intend to do us harm, yet in coveting profit to an extreme, they have no regard for injuring others. Let us ask, where is your conscience? I have heard that the smoking of opium is very strictly forbidden by your country; that is because the harm caused by opium is clearly understood. Since it is not permitted to do harm to your own country, then even less should you let it be passed on to the harm of other countries - how much less to China!”

Source 7: The People of Canton: Against the English in 1842. Canton was the main trading port of China open to foreigners before the Opium War.

”Behold that vile English nation! Its ruler is at one time a woman, then a man, and then perhaps a woman again; its people are at one time like vultures, and then they are like wild beasts, with dispositions more fierce and furious than the tiger or wolf, and natures more greedy than anacondas or swine. These people having long steadily devoured all the western barbarians, and like demons of the night, they now suddenly exalt themselves here.

During the reigns of the emperors Kien-lung and Kia-king these English barbarians humbly besought an entrance and permission to deliver tribute and presents; they afterwards presumptuously asked to have Chu-san; but our sovereigns, clearly perceiving their traitorous designs, gave them a determined refusal. From that time, linking themselves with traitorous Chinese traders, they have carried on a large trade and poisoned our brave people with opium.
Verily, the English barbarians murder all of us that they can. They are dogs, whose desires can never be satisfied. Therefore we need not inquire whether the peace they have now made be real or pretended. Let us all rise, arm, unite, and go against them.
We do here bind ourselves to vengeance, and express these our sincere intentions in order to exhibit our high principles and patriotism. The gods from on high now look down upon us; let us not lose our just and firm resolution.”

Source 8: Photo of foreign troops in Beijing’s Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion. European powers had intervened to stop violence against foreigners and secure their trade status and spheres of influence in China.

Source 9: Puyi, the last emperor of China in traditional dress before his overthrow in the nationalist Revolution of 1911.


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