This book discusses examples of how the U.S. Founding Fathers were influenced and inspired by Chinese agriculture, architecture, and philosophy. China, then one of the most stable and powerful civilizations in the world, offered unique perspectives on various aspects of society which were distinct from the Founding Fathers’ European heritage. China provided an alternative set of social and political frameworks which supported the Founding Fathers’ efforts to craft a unique heritage for their young nation. These Founders sought to establish a political identity that was distinct from European aristocratic traditions.
Dave Xueliang Wang has taught at the University of Arizona and St. John’s University.
List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter 1: Ideas from the East: The Founders Used Chinese Wisdom to Build a Flourishing Society
Chapter 2: Technologies from the East: How the Founders Leveraged Chinese Technologies in the North American Colonies
Chapter 3: Plants from the East: The Founders’ Efforts to Transplant Chinese Plants to North America
Chapter 4: The Influence of Chinese Material Culture on Early US History
Chapter 5: Trade with the East: The Founders’ Efforts to Open China Trade
Chapter 6: Confucianism in the Making of US Democracy
Chapter 7: The Founders’ Legacy
About the Author
American history courses never breathe a word about the significant influence that China’s ideas, philosophy, and technologies played in the founding and early development of the United States. Dave Wang’s book marvelously fills this gap in the study of America’s early history. He writes of the Founding Fathers’ admiration for and use of many aspects of Chinese culture. Who of us knew that George Washington, Benjamin Franklyn, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and others were so familiar with and so valued the achievements of Chinese civilization? Wang’s book is original, well written, and very timely at this particular period of history.
In view of the current political climate between China and the United States, Dave Wang's fascinating study offers an alternative of cooperation based on the decisive influence of the Chinese sage Confucius on the Founding Fathers in shaping the moral constitution of the American political system. To read Wang's illuminating account of this amazing cross-cultural history reaffirms the importance and value of learning from other civilizations for the benefit of creating a universal understanding. Wang has unearthed and covered an impressive range of Chinese, European and American sources to document the adoption of Chinese achievements in the areas of moral and political philosophy, educational goals, agriculture, technology, and nutrition, facilitated by trade relations between China and America since 1784. The impact of his extensive material and thorough research support powerfully Wang's convincing argument that Chinese ideas determined the making of the United States as a new nation and that their recognition might serve as a guideline for contemporary transcultural relations.
Everyone interested in American history, and the global circulation of ideas and technologies, should read Dave Wang’s remarkable book. It demonstrates that the framers of the American constitution were inspired not only by British liberal thinkers like John Locke—as is well known—but also by Chinese Confucian ideals—as is little known. Such global exchanges were encouraged by increasing travel in the eighteenth century. And ideas flowed from East to West as well as vice versa. Pioneers of the American Republic, like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, wanted to create a New World that differed from Old Europe. So they looked elsewhere for inspiration. And they saw… Confucian China: its plants; its technologies; and its ideals of responsible government, virtuous citizenship, and promotion by merit. This remarkable book shows how nations make their own histories—within a world of circulating ideas and technologies.
Dr. David Wang has unveiled a forgotten chapter of American history which showcases how the founders of the world's first republic were inspired and shaped by the best teachings of the world's oldest living civilization. A tour de force coming at a time of tension and ignorance when it is most needed.
In China and the Founding of the United States, Wang skillfully argues that America’s Founding Fathers, with their ardent appreciation of ancient Chinese civilization, incorporated a wide range of positive Chinese cultural elements in the making of the early republic. While an enormous body of scholarship has been devoted to the intellectual connection between the European Enlightenment and the American Revolution, Wang goes beyond the traditionally favored transatlantic discourse and provides a refreshing perspective on the complex circulation of global ideas in the formative era of the United States. Wang’s thought-provoking work makes great contributions to early American history, American Studies, and transcultural studies. Given its clear-cut thematic divisions and easily located subheadings, the book could also be a resourceful text for undergraduate or graduate courses. Wang’s fascinating study is a remarkable achievement that will undoubtedly push early American scholarship in new directions at the same time it invites future researchers to uncover the influence of global culture on early American life.