Arthur Smith by Chinese Characteristics
與J.G. 沒有見面開會，只是在電郵上一來一往，從他的回應中，知道了 Arthur Henderson Smith （十九世紀美國在華宣教士）所著的 Chinese Characteristics (1890)
並現代中文文學學者 Lydia Liu 的 Translingual Practice 她在書中第二章以"Translating National Character: Lu Xun and Arthur Smith"為名論述了魯迅如何此書影響，在那時代反思中國人的性格，塑造出一個阿Q正傳中的敘述者和阿Q。Lydia指出其中一段：
“In the item of sleep, the Chinese establishes the same difference between himself and the Occidental as in the directions already specified. Generally speaking, he is able to sleep anywhere. None of the trifling disturbances which drive us to despair annoy him. With a brick for a pillow, he can lie down on his bed of stalks or mud bricks or rattan and sleep the sleep of the just, with no reference to the rest of the creation. He does not want his room darkened, nor does he require others to b e still. The ‘infant crying in the night’ may continue to cry for all he cares, for it does not disturb him. In some regions the entire population seem to fall asleep, as by a common instinct (like that of the hibernating bear), during the first two hours of summer after noons, and they do this with regularity, no matter where they may be. At two hours after noon the universe at such seasons is as still as at two hours after midnight. In the case of most working-people, at least, and also in that of many others, position in sleep is of no sort of consequence. It would be easy to raise in China an army of a million men–nay, of ten millions–tested by competitive examination as to their capacity to to sleep across three wheelbarrows, with head downwards, like a spider, their mouths wide open and a fly inside.” (Lydia, 56)
Lydia criticizes Smith’s for using totalizing phrase “the Chinese” to spell out “the essential difference between the Chinese and the Occidental. What Smith might use as “rhetorical and figurative”–”hibernating bear” and “spiders” becomes not “humourous” but “ridiculing”, as Lydia describes “contemptuous metaphors.” (Lydia, 57)
Smith was aware of possible objections to his description of Chinese characteristics, one of which might be that “parts of the views here presented, especially those which deal with the moral character of the Chinese are misleading and unjust" (Smith, 11). But he defended his interpretation using “photographic negatives" as a metaphor, that “no two of which may be alike, yet each of them may present truthfully something not observable in any of the rest. The plates on which the photographs are taken differ; so do the lenses, and hte developers, and the resulting views differ too" (Smith, 12). He has cited Cooke’s Preface in George Wingrove Cooke, China: Being “The Times" Special Correspondence from China in the Years 1857-58. London: G. Routledge &Co., 1858), saying,
“I have, in these letters, introduced no elaborate essay upon Chinese character. It is a great omission. No theme could be more tempting, no subject could afford wider scope for ingenious hypotheis, profound generalization, and triumphant dogmatism. Every small critic will, probably, utterly despise me for not having made something out of such opportunities. The truth is, that I have written several very fine characters for the whole Chinese race, but having the misfortune to have the people under my eye at the same time with my essay, they were always saying something or doing something which rubbed so rudely against my hypothesis, that in the interest of truth I burnt several successively letters. I may add that I have often talked over this matter with the most eminent and candid sinologues, and have always found them ready to agree with me as to the impossibility of a Western mind forming a conception of Chinese character as a whole. These difficulties, however, occur only to those who know the Chinese practically: a smart writer, entirely ignorant of the subject, might readily strike off a brilliant and antithetical analysis, which should leave nothing to be desired but Truth.
Some day, perhaps, we may acquire the necessary knowledge to give to each of the glaring inconsistencies of a Chinaman’s mind its proper weight and influence in the general mass. At present, I at least must be content to avoid strick definitions, and to describe a Chinaman by his most prominent qualities. (Smith, 10).
The case is that either Smith, Cooke, or Lydia, each has one’s own situatedness in a particular historical location and situation which shape one’s perspective. In Smith’s case, none has yet pointed out from a psychological aspect, whereas a missionary full of vision and aspiration to spread the gospel of the kingdom of God, albeit his hidden racist perception, which creates a gap like cliff to the valley compared to those Chinese commoners where he served, whom were but villagers leading a lifestyle compatible to villagers in far remote UK in pre-industrial time. Lydia’s situatedness is shaped by being growing up mainly in communist China and also intellectually shaped by post-colonial theories.
Does it mean that one cannot have an essentialist argument for Chinese characteristics? This is probably so. There is no one dominant version of what Chinese really is. However, to say then that there is no difference between Chinese and other races is also another reductionist argument. Growing in Malaysia where multiracial encounter is part of everyone’s daily experience from political to economical, from education to business opportunity, from festival celebrations to religious practices, from cultural customs to the pride of one’s moral values. Difference between ethnic groups and solidarity among one’s own race is too obvious to ignore.