井底之蛙

6/8/2008

If you prick Taiwanese savages, do they not bleed?

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:27 am

I want to share just one more short passage from Small Sea Travel Diaries, the English translation of Yu Yonghe’s journal and essays from his trip to Taiwan in the 17th century by Macabe Keliher. I find the following reflections by Yu on natives he met in Taiwan to be an interesting display of humanity and an overly confident universalism on the part of the author, though it’s tone is entirely inconsistent with the far more insulting, unsympathetic, and otherwise derogatory tone used elsewhere in Yu’s journals.

The worst off people in the world are not as bad off as the Taiwan savages. Because they are different they are discriminated against. When people see them without clothes, they say, “they don’t get cold.” When they see them walk in the rain and sleep in the two, they say, “they don’t get sick.” When they see them carry burdens over great distances, they say, “they can work without rest.”

Aye! They are also people! They have limbs and bodies and flesh and bone; in what way are they not human? How can one say such things of them? If horses run without rest, or oxen loaded with more than they can carry, will they not get sick? If oxen and horses are like this, then what of humans? If they had cloth, and they would wear layers of clothes when the weather turned cold – what would be the point of getting cold. If they had no responsibilities, they would settle peacefully and not run around naked – what is the point of being naked? If they did not have to work, they would rest and relax and not labor for these interpreters. Who does not enjoy eating well and staying warm, avoiding pain and hunger and cold? Who does not hate hard labor and enjoy leisure and comfort? This is human nature. There are different people, but the nature is all the same. The benevolent know this and do not need to repeat it. 1

As the mention they get in this quote suggests, Yu really did not like interpreters, and they appear as the most evil figures in his narrative. Perhaps his own dependence on them when he went hunting for sulphur in remote areas of Taiwan added to his dislike for their deceptive practices.

  1. Yu, Yonghe, trans. Macabe Keliher Small Sea Travel Diaries (2004) SMC publishing, Taipei, 2004, 119. []

Chinese Description of Dutch Suicide Tactics

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:07 am

Another quick quote from Small Sea Travel Diaries, the English translation of Yu Yonghe’s journal and essays from his trip to Taiwan in the 17th century by Macabe Keliher.

In an appendix entitled “Tales of the Sea” the author gives us some often amusing observations about the geography, culture, and customs of various countries. In the section on the “red barbarians,” (the Dutch), there is, for example, the following description of their tactics in battle.

When Zheng Chenggong invaded Taiwan, he fought the Red Hairs on land. [The Dutch] had good guns that would shoot when ignited and did not need the labor of lighting a fuse. They were small in their power could combat the biggest of cannons.

But beside this, their tactics were all absurd. They wore high shoes on their feet so that he couldn’t run fast and would get injured. After getting injured, the [Dutch troops] would lie down and not get up. When a [Zheng] soldier would go to collect the head, he would get hit by a bullet. But they soon learned not to approach the injured Dutch. Or the [Dutch soldier] would strap gunpowder to his shins and push his knees into the person, blowing them both up. Indeed, they would use their disabled body to take the enemy’s life; this can be called not giving up until the death.

Also, [the Dutch] kept a gunpowder store in the places they lived. If something happens, they could ignite the machine, and the room and the people would all fly like ash. They had sworn they would not be insulted by the enemy. The holes of their ships were such that in emergency they could set themselves ablaze, not allowing others to know the ingenuity of their sails and masts. It is such that other countries could not copy their construction.1

See also the interesting descriptions of the “cruel” Japanese punishment of criminals (190-1), and the bizarre description of inhumane policies of Western priests who, for example, do not let the dead be buried because, “they fear that the mountains will raise strong spirits and give birth to a hero that will fight their country.” (200)

  1. Yu, Yonghe, trans. Macabe Keliher Small Sea Travel Diaries (2004) SMC publishing, Taipei, 2004, 196. []

A Moment of Humility

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:35 am

I just finished reading Small Sea Travel Diaries which is an English translation of Yu Yonghe’s journal and essays from his trip to Taiwan in the 17th century by Macabe Keliher. It’s a quick read and different parts of the book will be interesting to different readers. Some of my favorite parts of the book were to be found in the appendixes following the main journal entries. At one point, for example, the author displays an interesting sense of humility about what is traditionally thought of as the Middle kingdom.

The place we all live we call the great Zhonghua Kingdom [中華大國]. But people have never seen big [大], still they just say “big.” We do not know if this “big” has any proof, and we are not really in the middle. The body of the sky is round, and people within the universe all wear the sky on their head while their feet walk on the land. How can we not be in the middle? If we insist on being in the middle of heaven and earth, then we can only be standing under the North Star. This point is like the axle of the wheel, like the navel of a grinding wheel, like the heart of a person; these points can just about serve [as the center]. The heavens pivot is to the north of the northern desert, far away from the prints of Yu.

China’s area is vast, but if considering it from the heavens pivot, it lies to the southeast, and everything further southeast is all ocean…1

  1. Yu, Yonghe, trans. Macabe Keliher Small Sea Travel Diaries (2004) SMC publishing, Taipei, 2004, 203. []

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