K'ung Yuan Ku'suh.

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The Judgment of the Orient

The Judgment of
the Orient

Some Reflections on the Great War Made by
the Chinese Student and Traveller

K'ung Yuan Ku'suh

Edited and Rendered into Colloquial English

Ambrose Pratt

E. P. Dutton & Company

681 Fifth Avenue

New York



WHERESOEVER I have wandered in the
Occident I have found the peoples earnestly
seeking to discover whom a remote pos-
terity shall blame for the Great War. It
is very strange to a simple Oriental that
the subtle and cultivated minds of Euro-
peans should be interested in the judg-
ment of their probable grandchildren. We
Chinese, who are taught to rule our actions
in conformity with the admirable precepts
of our venerable forebears, are not con-
cerned hi speculating what our descendants
may think of us, for it is very certain we
shall be judged in comparison with our
ancestors and accounted worthy or un-



worthy as our conduct shall approximate
or recede from the flawless standards of
antiquity. I am of opinion that the East
differs from the West in nothing more
decisively than in this outlook of the soul.
The East looks into the past for its direc-
tions, and its course is shaped accordingly
with tranquillity and certitude. The West
has no historic sense deserving of the name.
It is impatient of all mortmain restrictions.
It scorns experience and revels in experi-
ment. It searches constantly for change,
and it looks forward with an unappeasable
ambition and an optimism as resolute as
it is unwarranted for a favorable outcome
of its vague and poorly charted strivings.
The spirit of the West is, says the West,
undauntedly progressive: and the West
observes derisively of the East that the
spirit of the Orient is static a courteous
euphemism for "retrogressive." It is true
that we hasten slowly in the Orient, for
our mood is patient and our minds are
contemplative. But all change is not pro-


gress, and the restless West is now at war.
What does that signify if not that the theory
and practice of Western civilization have
broken down and that progressive Europe
has reverted to the conditions of a primitive
and savage era? The only feature which
pleases in the cataclysm is that every
Western nation recognizes equally that a
monstrous crime has been committed. It
matters not that they agree on little else and
that each belligerent group is desperately
eager to fasten the entire guilt on its

We perceive in this universal shrinking
from censure an underlying common sense
of culpable responsibility which is forced
into expression by the forward-looking
spirit of the Occident. The warring nations
care not greatly how living generations
shall regard then* conduct, and they offend
each other with unbridled recklessness:
but all alike betray a passionate anxiety
to be held blameless by generations yet
unborn. There is something almost


pathetic in the faith they unconsciously
evince in the competence of a future world
to dispense justice: and also in their
evidently shared belief that the judgment
of posterity will be lucid, decisive, and
unanimous. This faith and this belief are
in no wise to be discounted by the pains
each warring Power is at present taking
to confuse the judgment of posterity by
special pleading and by building up great
official libraries of distorted facts and
twisted evidence. These are purely instinc-
tive and therefore unavoidable develop-
ments, and it is not difficult to perceive
that each nation is infused with the con-
viction it is laboring in vain, and that
some day in the distant future it will be
stripped of its pretensions and required
to pay the penalty of its misdeeds.

THE Germans are a rarely gifted people
also they are strangely limited. They have
large and highly cultivated brains, small
and imperfectly developed minds. The soul
of the nation is young, almost infantile.
It has not been allowed to mature and it
has been forcibly prevented from expansion
by a despotically perverted and effectively
organized dedication of the whole energies
of the people to the pursuit of material
success. During the time I spent in
Germany I was oppressed with a dis-
tinct and unescapable consciousness of
being unassimilatively alien, of belonging
to an older and more genial age, and
to a race of human beings animated with
a wiser and a gentler spirit. For a period
I experienced much difficulty in liking
my hosts, despite their unaffected anxiety
to please me: for their manners are crude
and unlovely and their aspirations narrow


and sordid almost past belief. But under-
standing is incompatible with anger and I
came at length to understand the Germans.
Psychologically, they are a nation of little
children. Those big bodies, those capable
and skillful brains, those clever hands, are
all inhabited and ruled by immature and
stunted souls. It has been my fortune to
meet and know two giants. I encountered
the first, when still a young man, atPol'ii-
hi. His name was Tchen-Ah-Quam. He
stood more than seven feet high and he
weighed as much as four ordinary men.
He was a gardener by trade and he worked
with many other coolies on the plantation
of my father's cousin. Now, the strength
of T'chen-Ah-Quam was so great that he
might very easily have made himself master
of his fellow workmen, and compelled
them to perform his tasks or to pay him
other tribute. But that was not his way.
On the contrary he seemed the least asser-
tive of all the laborers in my father's
cousin's service, and not only did he per-
form his allotted duties with industry and


perfect honesty, but he was always ready
to take upon his shoulders the burden of
some weaker associate. Astonished by the
humanity and orderliness of his conduct,
1 questioned him, upon a time. " T'chen-
Ah-Quam," said I, " it surprises me that
a man so vigorous and capable should
be content to pass his days in so common-
place a servitude."

" Do you think, Master," he replied,
" that in some other occupation I could
acquire riches? If so, it would be to give
money to those I love where I now give
services. But, indeed, Master, you are
wrong. I am big in body but my brain is
not big. I am very fit to dig the fields."

This answer, and the man's life, taught
me that a full-statured soul inhabited
T'chen-Ah-Quam's tremendous frame, and
I was content to chide him no more,
for is it not better to be God-like than
grasping? Germany, the second giant I
have known, is a monster of a different
species. Germany is a giant possessed of
the soul of a dwarf a childish, self-seeking


soul, not intent on benefiting mankind,
but infatuated with the greed of gain, and
resolute to concentrate all the powers of
its enormous body on the acquisition of
material advantages. When a little child
sees a shining thing in the hand of another,
does he not covet it and cry for it? Does
he pause to consider that it belongs else-
where? No child of my acquaintance acts
other than to get the bauble he desires
by any means he can. I, too, was such a
child. Did I not make a promise to my
mother not to use or touch her fret saw
and sharpened chisels: and did I not
fly, a perjured rascal, to her pretty cabinet
the moment after her departure to join
my sickened father at Ze-chan? As a
grown man, I must needs look back on
the incident with a smile of shame and
pity for the petty soul which then infused
my carcass. Will not Germany, perhaps,
some day look back with sorrow and con-
cern on the puerile wickedness of soul
which drove her corporeal greatness to
chastise the helplessness of Belgium?



I HAVE not lived with the Italians long
enough to understand them. I fear to wrong
them, therefore, should I pronounce an
estimate of them without a reservation.
They seem to me an old race a race that
has matured its every faculty and allowed
some of its finer spiritual attributes to
mortify or, maybe, to assume a twisted
form that simulates morbidity. When
Germany forced war on Europe, the
Italian people cried out with a single voice
against the outrage, and their Government
immediately affirmed its right to denounce
the Treaty which had for decades bound
the country in a military partnership with
Germany and Austria. Now it is very
certain that Germany and Austria were the
first to violate this Treaty; for they de-
clared war on France and Russia without


consulting Italy, and the Treaty pledged
them to such prior consultation. But
why did Italy pause so long before ter-
minating the alliance: and why did Italy,
before denouncing the Treaty, exhaust
every means of exacting material compen-
sation for her partners' breach of faith?
Her conduct suggests that she was willing
to condone the Austro-German conspiracy
against Europe, provided only that she
should reap a territorial advantage. Italy
fights now with the enemies of Germany,
but would she be fighting on their side if
Germany and Austria had conceded her
demands? I dare not say. The wrongs
of Belgium, as I saw with my own eyes,
filled the people of Italy with a noble
indignation; but I think the soul of Italy
is as crafty as it is emotional. The nation's
soul desired to behave nobly, but was it
unwilling to accept an adequate material
reward for acting wrongly? I confess it
terrifies me to envisage a nation which is
able simultaneously to recognize an over-

powering duty to mankind and to delay
performance until non-performance has
become unprofitable. With incomparably
more urgent reasons to temporize with
Germany and to sanction courses of dis-
honor, Belgium did not hesitate an
instant. I admire the Italian people. I
do not understand them. I am afraid of
them. They are the wisest of all nations:
the subtlest thinkers, the shrewdest bar-
gainers; and withal they are energetic,
brave, and chivalrous. Are they a race
of Bayards or a race of politicians? I
have looked into the nation's heart but
cannot read it. The outer chambers teem
with dazzling purposes, but there are
cavernous recesses, too, which hide
mysterious authorities of malformation
and restraint. It is the heart of a classical
and pagan God, powerful for either good
or ill, cunning, prudent, avaricious.


THERE are two Frances the France which
bubbles gaily hi the sunlight and works
and wantons with an equal verve when all
goes well, or seems to go well, with her:
and the France which, smiling still, un-
grudgingly prepares to die that France
shall live when her sacred soil is desecrated
by the tramp of hostile legions. I like
better the second France, the France of
to-day. Least of all the world has this
splendidly regenerated nation cause to
grieve that Armageddon has appeared.
War only could have transmuted the dross
of self-indulgence and the sordid aims of
bourgeois industry into the refined gold
of patriotism which is now the universal
spiritual currency of France. Do not
repine, oh people of France, that so many
of your cities have been demolished, that


so many of your gallant children have
been slain! You who survive and your
descendants are and will be infinitely
richer for the cruel chastening; and the
treasures you have already won and are
destined to acquire will not decay, for they
are treasures of the soul. Do not ask for
pity. Your right is to be praised. From
a far country a simple Oriental sends you
this humble word of greeting and lays
this tribute at your feet: You have
changed to good your worst defects and
blemishes, and out of frivolity you have
created a steadfastness of character which
terrifies your enemies and fills your friends
with admiration. March on to victory ! The
way is rough and your foes are strong and
merciless. You will suffer greatly, but your
triumph is assured.

I SEE in Russia a race of kin with mine,
immense in population, immense in the
primitive and latent virtues, immense in
ignorance and vice. But China sleeps
still, and Russia Las been galvanized.
Her virtues are becoming active: her vices
are hi process of suppression and elimina-
tion. The vast simplicity, the transparent
guile of Russia are forces too enormous
to be measured even by the Russians.
Germany comprehends them not at all,
or there had never been this war. The
Germans thought to batter Russia to
humility, seeing often Russians prostrate
to such treatment dealt them by their
kind. But the Russian people can be
humbled only by their kind. Foreign
blows arouse their pride. They accept such
chastisement with momentary patience


when retaliation is not possible, and when
hurt sufficiently it is their custom to re-
treat. But they have brooding minds and
a physical capacity that thrives on suffering.
If they retire to-day it is that they shall
return to-morrow invigorated and revenge-
ful. Germany is passionately hated by
the whole Slav race. This is Russia's
first national war in the sense that Germany
is the first foe that the entire Russian
people ever have been glad to fight, and
are anxious to destroy. It is a racial war.
Of their own will the Russians will never
cease from fighting while they have the
wherewithal to build an army and while
their enemy survives.


ENGLAND entered the war in a very different
spirit from that animating the other belli-
gerent nations. To France, Russia, Servia,
and Belgium the issues at stake were vital
touching and threatening then* exist-
ence. Germany and Austria had risked
their all to grow greater: therefore they
too, perforce, were serious. But England
had no similar cause of apprehension.
An Island nation protected by an all-
powerful navy, he was hi a position at the
outset of the trouble to stand aloof and
watch Europe commit hari-kari without
fear of fatal consequences to himself; for
it was perfectly clear that whichever side
should win, the ultimate Continental victor
would be, if not exhausted, certainly in
no condition to challenge the unimpaired


resources of the British Empire. Self-
interest, therefore, suggested that England
should refrain from any sort of active inter-
vention until the final stages of the Conti-
nental struggle, when he might play the
part of arbiter, perhaps, without firing a
shot and dictate any settlement he pleased.
That he did not wait but flung himself
into the firing line within a few days of
the commencement of hostilities on the
mainland of Europe, proves one of two
things. Either as the Germans plausibly
contend he felt unable to resist seizing
so apparently favorable an opportunity to
advance a long-cherished secret ambition
to crush Germany: or his intervention
was disinterested. Which is the truth?
England, of course, insists that he inter-
vened and joined forces with France and
Russia from the noblest motives. His
honor was pledged to Belgium, and
when Germany lawlessly invaded Belgium,
England was in duty bound to fly to that
little Power's assistance, which he did


having no honorable alternative. Germany
admits the technical grounds of England's
claim, but scoffs at the deduction. England,
says Germany, has not always been so
prompt to respect his treaty obligations;
and Germany declares, with the passion
of sincere conviction, that England would
have watched the violation of Belgium,
without venturing a protest, If Germany
had been matched against a less powerful
combination than that of Russia and France.
My opinion is that Germany is wrong,
and that her contemptuous estimate of
England's motives is untenable. The
basis of my judgment is purely psycho-
logical. On the physical plane there is
an infinity of evidence, documentary and
historic and political, both pro and con
the issue. But this sort of testimony is
bewildering to simple minds, and I leave
it to the lawyers. The psychology of a
people, on the other hand, is always clear
and truthful. The mind often deceives:
the soul never. And here is a fact which


cannot be disputed: The people of
England (I say nothing of their rulers, for
England is a democracy, and the people
are only nominally ruled by then* King
and Parliament) forced their country into
war with Germany. They made the war
not the British Government. The Govern-
ment would have kept England wholly
neutral if it could. But it could not. The
people saw Belgium violated by Germany,
and, on instant, they took fire with indigna-
tion. The world has heard a great deal
of the treaty which pledged Germany not
to invade Belgium, and pledged England
to fight for Belgium if invaded. But the
people of England knew little of that
treaty and cared less before the war.
What inflamed their breasts was not the
breaking of a treaty, not the tearing up of
" a scrap of paper," but the sight of inno-
cent weakness trampled beneath the heel
of guilty strength. The right of little
nations to live was an ideal very dear to
them, although they did not guess how


dear until the right was brutally assailed
before their very doors. Then they knew.

The people of England were utterly
unorganized and unprepared for war, and
they were perfectly aware of their unpre-
paredness. Nevertheless they declared
with one voice for war, and for immediate
war. Their hearts, their souls declared it:
not then* brains. The English brain moves
slowly, by deliberative ratiocinative pro-
cesses. The soul of England travels like
a lightning flash when it is stirred, and
its mandates cannot be restricted nor its
will. The soul of England ordered war.
The Government of England submissively

When the die was cast, the people
stubbornly refused for quite a time to
measure the abyss into which they had
so impulsively and swiftly cast then* lives
and fortunes. Upheld by a sense of having
acted finely, they were gay and wonder-
fully cheery. They were instinctively
impelled to transfer the responsibility for


further moves to Providence. " We have
done our duty, therefore everything must
turn out well. It is * up to ' God to see
that we succeed." Such was the general
feeling of the nation throughout the earlier
stages of the combat. They adopted for
their rule of life " Business as usual," and
not until necessity had sheathed its black
fangs in their bosoms could they be induced
to lay aside this foolish optimism and
approach the task which they had under-
taken with the vigor and concentrated
industry and resolution requisite to insure
its satisfactory performance. This awak-
ening was tedious and painful, but it came
at last. It is a nation, this England, which
cannot be conquered. It may be broken,
bruised, defeated, crushed, and ruined,
but it cannot be subdued. I am asked
Why? I reply its soul is too great. My
fathers, what a soul! It is hypocritical,
but it willingly exposes and laughs gleefully
at its own hypocrisy. It is a smug soul,
but it candidly despises itself for its smug-


ness. It is instinct with reverence for
principles, even the principles it most
usually offends. It is full of sympathy for
all weak and little things, and will not let
other people beat them, though it may
abuse them itself. It is continually pur-
suing the path of self-improvement, striv-
ing earnestly for better things : often failing,
but always aware of and ashamed of its
defects and non-success. It is an under-
standing soul, and therefore tolerant
and humorous. It always smiles under
punishment, believing its punishment de-
served. It is a covetous soul: but it
admits the right of other nations to be
covetous. In a word it is a humane and
human soul, a soul that passionately de-
sires justice, and is anxious, on its part,
to be just. Did you know that souls have
sex as well as stature? It is a fact. The
soul of England is not hermaphroditic:
it is intensely, arrogantly masculine.



I SUPPOSE it is inevitable that, for many
years to come, the unlettered masses of
mankind will industriously debate the
surface causes of the war: Germany's
world-empire ambition: her far-seeing or-
ganic preparations to realize her aims:
her anxious quest of pretexts to precipitate
a crisis: the adventitious murder of the
Austrian Archduke: the brow-beating of
Servia: the blood-call of the Southern
Slavs to Russia: the minatory conversa-
tions of the Greater Powers: England's
stupidly conceived attempts to pacify a
terrified and angry continent: England's
fatal failure to notify Germany in direct
and simple language that he would fight
on the side of France and Russia if Ger-
many persisted in going to extremes:
and, finally, the invasion of Belgium. But


how can these historic happenings, these
governmental sins of commission and
omission, aye, or a hundred such in com-
bination, satisfy intelligence that the
originating causes of the war have been
revealed? Causes: they are not causes
of the war at all. They are effects ; merely
the outer symptoms and external instru-
ments of causes operating infinitely nearer
to the core of life; unseen forces of de-
velopment, disorder, and disease. The
war was fanned into a flame by some or
all, but it sprang from none of the events
or aims or failures I have catalogued, nor
from cognate others I have left unnamed.
It was born and fabricated in the souls
of the contesting nations. It is a war of
souls. If we look deeper still we shall see,
provided that our sight is strong and clear,
it is a war of sex.



THE sentient world consists of men and
women. Men have souls. Women have
souls. Men are differentiated from women
by sex: so too are the souls of men and
women differentiated. The souls of men
have little in common with the souls of
women. They are just as like and just as
radically unlike each other as the bodies
of the men and women they inhabit and
control. Certain ancient philosophers be-
lieved that woman has no soul because
the female race largely functionates by
instinct and is, at heart, unmoral. Their
opinion has been tested by the ages and
discarded as unsound. Science observes
more shrewdly in these later days, and
pronounces less prejudiced and truer
judgments. We all admit, now, that
woman has a soul: but the cynical philo-


sopher of modern times compounds for
his concession by despising woman's soul
as a mean and petty spirit. Those of us
who wish not to be cynical state merely
that the soul of the typical woman is meaner
and pettier than the soul of the typical
man. We prefer no charges. We record


THE soul of a woman does not always
inhabit the body of a woman: nor the soul
of a man the body of a man. History teems
with instances of women possessed and
governed by virile souls. Life teems with
instances of men effeminated by the souls
of women. Yet the rule holds good despite
exceptions. The average man has a male
soul: the average woman has a female


THE individual human being has a soul.
The community also has a soul. The soul
of a community is the fused sum of the
souls of its constituents. To say this is at
the same time to employ a figure of speech
and to define imperfectly (yet as perfectly
as is possible) the very greatest of all the
metaphysical and political forces known
to and recognized by human science. It
is customary to call the soul of a nation
" the national consciousness," " public
opinion," etc. We prefer speaking loosely
to thinking closely. It saves trouble.
Human beings are intensely indolent in


JUST as each individual human being has
a sex, each community has a sex: and just
as the soul of each being has a sex, the soul
of each community has a sex. The sex of a
community and of the soul of a community
is determined by the predominance in the
community of masculine or feminine soul
characters. From the earliest times, this
truth has been more or less vaguely recog-
nized by historians, politicians, and philo-
sophers; and the proof is, that nations
have always been regarded and described
in bulk as belonging to a distinct gender.
In the primitive world when most strong
peoples were warlike and lived, except by
fits and starts, on prey and plunder, it was
usual to designate such a nation as of the
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male sex. As civilization advanced, a crude
discrimination was drawn between belli-
cose and peaceful nations; and while the

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Online LibraryK'ung Yuan Ku'suhThe judgment of the Orient, some reflections on the great war → online text (page 1 of 3)