America "loved" China at first sight (双语)

L
LYJiang
楼主 (文学城)

In The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, author and history professor Paul Kennedy claims that China’s power peaked around 1600. Meanwhile, Western Europe was rising and surging, thanks to the Renaissance, scientific breakthroughs, and empire-building around the world.

Historical facts, however, do not agree with Paul Kennedy where the decline of China is concerned. 

In 1800, the Middle Kingdom was still the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. Globally, as much as one-third of all goods came from China (28% in 2018).

Chinese porcelain earned America's envy. Chinese tea filled Americans’ pots. That’s why the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, was such a big deal to Americans from all walks of life, who fiercely opposed tea tax and monopoly imposed by the British. Chinese tea, in a sense, was a catalyst for the American Revolution. As a matter of fact, the tea dumped into Boston Harbor’s cold water was shipped from Xiamen, Fujian, a busy trade port in southern China.

The Boston Tea Party was actually a Chinese Tea Party.*

Chinese tea and porcelain symbolized as much as substantiated Americans' wealth and status at the turn of the 19th Century. Before that, bragging rights went to any American household having more chairs than its immediate neighbors.

Newly-independent America had a crush on millennia-old China. This was puppy love on the part of the Yankees, however. When America became more mature and much more powerful as a nation, it started wondering if China was really an ideal object of its love.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Once the beholder changes, so will beauty.

Still, as Chinese tea had never really left a bitter taste in America's mouth, the Middle Kingdom's seductive fragrance lingered on. Before long, America would romance China again. Old flames die hard.

 

*It is a popular myth that American colonists, in defiance of their British overlord, switched from tea to coffee overnight following the Boston Tea Party. Truth be told, in 2014, 80% of American households still had tea in their kitchens (The Washington Post, September 3, 2014).

 

美国对中国 "一見钟情"

 

在他所著的《大国兴亡》一书里,历史教授保罗·甘迺迪宣称中国国力在1600年达至巅峰,继而下坡。与此同时,西欧因得力於文艺復兴、科技突破及环球建立帝国而崛起、猛进。

然而,在中国盛极而衰方面,甘氏论说不符史实。

在1800年、中国仍然执世界制造业之牛耳,其产量占全球三分之一 (2018年則占28%)。

中国瓷器令北美既羡且妒,中国茶备受洋基们热捧。有此背景,就不难理解为什么1773年12月16日波士顿茶派对能够如此激起社会各阶层、来同声合力反对英人专利经营茶贸及征收茶税。可以说、中国茶不啻成为美国独立革命的一股推动力。在此必须补充一句:当日被丟进波士顿港湾冷水里的茶,正就是从华南福建夏门哪繁忙港口舶來的。

波士顿茶派对其实是个中国茶派对。*

以当时洋基们的角度来看,中国茶茗与瓷器是财富与地位的象征及证明。在未有中国舶来品之前,只要家里的椅子数目比邻家多,就足以自夸了。

美国在独立之初,羽翼未丰之际,即傾倒於有数千年历史的中国之下;這是不折不扣的洋基少年单恋情怀。当日后羽翼漸丰,"鹰击长空" 的时候,美国就开始怀疑自己是否找錯了初恋对象。

情人眼里出西施。情人变,西施就变。

话说回来,中国茶香不绝,魅力不消。未几、洋基们又再心动起来。情不了,不了情。

 

*美国坊间有此佳话:波士顿茶派对翌日,反英的美土殖民即弃茶而改喝咖啡。現实是、近至2014年,80%美国家庭的廚房里仍然备有茶茗 (详見2014年9月3日华盛顿邮报)。

 

--- Lingyang Jiang

 

The Boston Tea Party of 1773