Mr. Kung Interview

InterviewA StubbornThings Interview by The Editor1/22/16
We take a moment out of our daily Trumpmania to ask a few questions of one of StubbornThing‘s more erudite members. Mr. Kung has traveled widely outside the United States, particularly in Asia, and has not only a respect for many aspects of Asian cultures but such experience has given him insights into our own.

StubbornThings: Mr. Kung, I understand that you have traveled extensively in the Orient, living there for some time years ago. You thus have a unique perspective on witnessing the changes that had occurred in America having been out of the country for a time and then having come back in. This needn’t be a short answer. What kinds of little things struck you that told you that you weren’t in Kansas anymore?

Kung Fu Zu: Let me start out by saying that very soon after my return to the USA I can remember thinking to myself, “What happened to this country?” Things had changed so much.

Perhaps the most striking thing was the degree to which Political Correctness had wormed its way into every nook and cranny of American life. People had become circumspect in their conversation. They hesitated to express firm opinions before getting hints from their interlocutor as to his position on almost any subject. Thus a certain amount of extra dishonesty entered into American’s daily life. I did not like this.

PC also destroys the beauty of language. I hate terms like Chairperson and Businessperson. One is a Chairman or Chairwoman.

Another major change, which I believe is related to Political Correctness, was the country had become much more bureaucratic. Lawyers, accountants and government regulations had taken over.

Around the world, America has always had the reputation of being a “can do” society without a lot of red tape. Is something difficult? No problem, we can do it. But things had changed drastically.

That America had changed was obvious to others besides me. A Chinese colleague, who knew the USA from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, visited the USA a few years back on a business trip. He was stunned. My friend summed things up by saying, “The U.S.A. is becoming more communist and China is becoming more capitalist.” How sad is that?

Of course, there are other things which stand out, such as the sorry state of education or the proliferation of tattooed idiots with holes in their ears, cuff-links in their pierced eyebrows and the like. But that would take too long to discuss in detail.

ST: I understand that you have great affinity for the East and its cultures. The tendency is to over-glamorize that which is different, much as mindless multiculturalists do. Before asking about the good stuff, tell us some of the things you found hard or difficult about the Orient.

KFZ: The Orient is a large place and there are some big differences between cultures. But there is no doubt that there are some commonalities which are apparent across the vast area. High on that list must be insane drivers.

Further down the list, it should be said that less value is placed on the individual human life than in the West.

Governments have always been more centralized and autocratic than in America. Citizens have less say in what happens, which I found annoying. Unfortunately, we seem to be tending in the Asian direction.

Asian cultures demand conformity much more than ours. One result of this is that the people are forced to find ways to get around the powers that be. This tends to engender some un-praiseworthy characteristics.

Sadly, many Asians have little concern about the environment outside their immediate area. By this I am not talking about Global Warming. What I mean is that they might keep their homes clean, but have no problem littering once they go out their front gate. This is one reason Singapore is so amazing. They created civic consciousness and the cleanest spot in S.E. Asia.

Finally, Americans complain about poverty here, but they have no idea what poverty really means. I have seen beggars in India who were so deformed and filthy that they looked like feral animals.

ST: I’ve come to learn that we both have an affinity for Asian women. From your perspective, why do you think they are superior? And are those special traits being diminished with the spread of Leftism in Asia? How americanized are Asians becoming, if at all?

KFZ: Again, we are speaking of many different types. Japanese women are different from Chinese women. You rarely hear of the stereotypical “Dragon Lady” among Japanese, but it is common among the Chinese. I am most familiar with the Chinese of S.E. Asia so I will comment about them.

Without going into comparisons, let me give you some of the characteristics I find attractive in such females. They do not operate under the illusion that life is fair. They know life is a battle and one needs to work hard and get along with others to make it through. They are very feminine and take pride in their appearance and take care of themselves. They are patient and able to control their desires. They can put off immediate gratification for long-term goals. They do not complain a lot. They do not fold easily under pressure. They are loyal and put great store in the family.

ST: I’ve always heard that a foreigner can live in Japan for years but never become Japanese. There will always be a distance. That said, do you think Asians (or Japanese) treat white people with more respect than is given them on today’s college campi in America where white males, in particular, are degraded and the common object of ridicule? What are your general impressions of all this?

KFZ: Absolutely! The Japanese are a very polite people, but very insular. They have a general idea that foreigners are American and Americans are somewhat strange. We are endured. But there is a saying that the Japanese are polite to a foreigner for three weeks, after which time they tend to wish you would leave.
The Chinese tend to treat Westerners in one of two ways. On the one hand, they treat us with the respect due a visitor, and on the other hand as a potential sucker who has no understanding of what is going on and is unlikely to find out. Of course, these two approaches can become intertwined. Asians are very good at telling us what they think we want to hear as this is less troublesome and often to their advantage.

As regards the way White Males are treated at American Colleges, there is no doubt in my mind that this is done by those who are jealous of white males as they know that the White Male has had the greatest success in, and contributed the most to, the modern world. Everyone is copying him, but don’t want to take on the culture and live by the mores which helped create the modern world. These types want the cake, but do not want to go to the trouble of figuring out want goes into baking it. They won’t even admit that there is a recipe for said cake. It came from magic.

ST: We see our country’s flaws from the inside. But sometimes it requires a view from the outside for real understanding. What do Asians (pick your country or countries) think are America’s biggest flaws? Do they also have a respect for certain things American?

KFZ: I would say international arrogance is probably seen as America’s biggest flaw. From afar, they see a sometimes lumbering giant who wreaks havoc around him.

On the other hand, the American people have a reputation as being good-hearted, if a little naïve. In my experience, it is not unusual for Asians to trust Americans more than they would other Westerners or even other Asians.

ST: Your nom de plume might just as well have been “Kung Fu Panda.” Why did you choose Kung Fu Zu, which I believe is another name for Confucius?

I like the sound of many Chinese names, but have a special fondness for this one. Kung Fu Zu, aka Confucius, was probably the person most responsible for the formation of Chinese society. That means his teachings were also very influential in Korea and Japan. His writings were not of a religious nature, rather they were a social guide.

He is still respected and his direct descendents are with us. I think it is something like the 70th generation or so. He was a wise man and I like to think that I am constantly seeking wisdom.

ST: I understand that you have an interesting religious background. That is, your journey has taken a few turns and I gather is still continuing. What can you tell us about that and what is your general philosophy of life as well as your general religious beliefs at this moment? (Reverence for “The One” is, of course, not allowed or I will halt this interview immediately)

KFZ: It would take many too many words to answer this question properly. Let’s just say that I was raised in a very conservative Protestant denomination and moved away from it. I have studied other beliefs, but none have quite convinced me.

On a rational basis, I think it pretty clear there must be a God, creator, prime mover or whatever term one wishes to use. I suspect it may be impossible to know this creator on any level. There is certainly observable order in the universe. But beyond that, I think standard intellectual enquiry breaks down.

On basis of this, it would appear the only possibility of coming close to understanding would be through the use of “mystical” methods, which is what “belief” is actually about.

The whole Christian story is a mystical one. I am sometimes surprised by Christians who try to “prove” Jesus did this or did that. Proof is not the point. Faith is.

ST: Why don’t you cover your body with tattoos, pick your nose, eat nothing but sugary drinks, play video games all day, laugh at Cheetos commercials, and watch “The Big Bang Theory” on TV? Why do you instead immerse yourself in long biographies of Winston Churchill, read Theodore Dalrymple, and enjoy the classics such as those written by Charles Dickens? Have you no respect for pop culture? Are you a mutant and have no “hip” gene?

KFZ: As to tattoos, I could not stand the thought of that picture of a beautiful curvaceous girl in a bikini on my chest, becoming Jabba the Hut, which is what too often happens.

Actually, I was brought up with the belief that the body is God’s temple and to do such things as getting tattoos or piercing one’s ears even, (forget about one’s nipples, navel or genitalia as that was not heard of when I was growing up) was a sin. It was disrespectful to God and one’s self.

These days, I am simply inclined to see such behavior as a sign of the desire to be “cool” and “special”, or a mental deficiency to one degree or another. The two are not mutually exclusive however.

I find most of that which is called “popular entertainment” to be boring, incredibly silly and often downright stupid. I also get tired of the constant propaganda discharged via TV and movies. I, like Tim, sometimes pay attention to commercials just to see the latest propaganda being foisted on the inattentive.

As to music, rap is merely the logical result of a culture which does not value excellence and lets any fool pretend he has talent. I tend to listen to so-called
classical music and some pre-1990 pop.

Since there is so little wisdom to be found in the popular media, and since I am someone who wants to continue learning until I die, I am forced to resort to that old-fashioned act called reading. The good thing about reading classics is that if a book is still around after a hundred years the odds are that it has some worth. At my age, I don’t have time to waste on delving into the subtleties of such modern-day page turners like “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

ST: Back to Asia. Which countries or cultures did you enjoy most when you traveled and lived there? What did you most like about them? And which country in Asia do you think today has best resisted the modern onslaught of Leftism (a religion which Dennis Prager says is the most dynamic in the world)?

KFZ: On a sentimental level, I think I am most attached to Japan. It was the first Asian country I lived in, and the first time I lived there I had contact with very few Westerners as there weren’t many there. I was young and eager to learn and there was much to learn.

The Japanese people have a wonderful artistic sense. I think they are the most artistic nation in the world. What they can do with a minimum of material and motion can be extremely beautiful.

On a day-to-day basis, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan are places I could live in, still today. Singapore has, unfortunately, become over-crowded, but things work very well there.

ST: Why do you consider Karen Carpenter to be a better singer than Miley Cyrus? Is that some defect of your character?

KFZ: I admit it! My failure is that I have a good ear and taste in music. Forget the whorish actions of Miley and her ilk. Such low-talent types must rely on vulgar and imbecilic externalities to catch and hold the attention of the puerile, whose only taste is in their mouths. There has always been a demand for salacious freak shows.

Karen Carpenter, and many others for that matter, did not need to play the poseur. She had talent. What I particularly love about Karen Carpenter’s voice is its smooth golden tone. Pure warm honey flowing over my senses. She didn’t have to resort to vocal acrobatics to impress. She simply had to sing and one was hooked.

ST: What is your single favorite book, and why? And which book would you, if you were the All-Powerful Master of Education in DC (aka “Kommon Kung”), require all children to read in order to try to bolster their minds and characters and prepare them for the real world?

KFZ: I will answer this question under protest.

If I go by the measure of having read a book numerous times, I would have to go with “The Lord of the Rings”, which I have read five times.

It was an amazing tour de force by Tolkien. He created a completely new world with a history, multiple languages, special geography and different beings. And he united all this, and more, in a wonderful epic tale of good vs. evil, which holds one spellbound for hours on end. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.

Being Kommon Kung is difficult. I know I will be pilloried (metaphorically) for saying this, but I think the New Testament would be a very good basis for young people to work from. It pretty much covers the human condition in relatively few pages.

Knowing the above idea is impossible in today’s climate, and that attention spans are short, I would probably require every tenth or eleventh grade student to read Orwell’s Animal Farm. It may not be the greatest novel in history, but it doesn’t require a teacher to explain its meaning. I believe this is important.

As an aside, I think Kipling’s Captains Courageous should be required reading for junior high school aged males.

ST: Which question haven’t I asked that I should have? And your answer?

KFZ: What’s your favorite city in the world?

Large city: Vienna, Austria
Small city: Lucerne, Switzerland

Margarine or butter?

Butter. It tastes better and is better for you. I recall reading that margarine is one molecule away from some sort of plastic.

I’ll stop there. • (2040 views)

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56 Responses to Mr. Kung Interview

  1. Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

    Thanks, you guys. It is sure welcome to end up reading an article with a smile on my face. Butter!

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Kung Fu Zu’s comments on the desire of some people to be “cool” resonate in me. My high school yearbook had photos of all the seniors with a quote — they could choose one or let one be chosen for them. I chose Emerson’s “Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.” Of course, there are many other similarities between us, including a mutual appreciation of the beautiful singing voice of Karen Carpenter (even if I do in the end choose Dame Petula as my favorite).

    A friend of mine who recently retired (for health reasons) from teaching history at Laredo Junior College (and provided many horror stories over the years) once told me of a comment by a professor of his from Hong Kong. His conclusion was that the United States was the only country in which the people valued freedom more than security. I doubt that’s true anymore, and when security is more important, over time it tends to displace freedom completely. Hopefully I’m dead before that happens.

    I had heard of The Lord of the Rings before college, but decided to get and read it because I was buying lots of books (aside from classwork), and had heard how long it took to read it. So I read it and The Hobbit in 4 days, which probably gives you an idea how intensely I didn’t concentrate on my studies. (Hey, I didn’t really need to. My GPA that semester was 5.43 on a 3-6 scale.)

    It would be nice to get Elizabeth to discuss her Japanese experiences here, if only through dictating comments to me. She spent many years there as a child, and later teaching English to Japanese students at the school in Kokura where her parents had both taught earlier. (During the war it was an army headquarters, and probably the intended target of the second atomic bomb. Fortunately Kokura was socked in and Bock’s Car flew to the secondary target, Nagasaki.) One of her brothers is a permanent resident alien there, preaching at a Baptist church with a Japanese congregation.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I had heard of The Lord of the Rings before college, but decided to get and read it because I was buying lots of books (aside from classwork), and had heard how long it took to read it. So I read it and The Hobbit in 4 days

      I heard of it in 11th or 12th grade. I don’t recall how long it took me to read it, but I can empathize with getting involved in a book and not being able to quit reading.

      When I was in 9th or 10th grade, I read “Dracula” in one sitting. I can’t recall exactly how long, but I think it was something like six or eight hours. My sister could not understand it and thought I was nuts. I have read it since and it is still a good book. It was the first book I had ever read which was written “journal” form.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Incidentally, Leslie Klinger (who did a multi-volume annotation of all the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels some years ago) has also done an annotated Dracula (which also includes the short story “Dracula’s Guest”). I understand he’s now working on (or may even have completed) an annotated Lovecraft.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I have heard of both the Holmes and Dracula annotations. I have not seen them, but may search them out one day.

          I have read all Holmes stories several times as well.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      including a mutual appreciation of the beautiful singing voice of Karen Carpenter (even if I do in the end choose Dame Petula as my favorite).

      I only recently learned that Dame Petula and Karen Carpenter were close. How great would that be to hear those two sing together?

      It would be nice to get Elizabeth to discuss her Japanese experiences here

      Yes, it would be. I would love to hear about Kokura in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I visited Kitakyushu only once in the mid-1980’s. I recall it as being over industrialized. But I was visiting a steel mill, so maybe that’ not surprising.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        In A Sign of the Times, a live CD of her 2002 appearance at the Virginia Arts Festival, Dame Petula appears with Richard Carpenter, and her mutual admiration of Karen comes up.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It’s as much fun to ask the questions as it is to read the answers. My favorite part of Mr. Kung’s answer was this:

    As to music, rap is merely the logical result of a culture which does not value excellence and lets any fool pretend he has talent. I tend to listen to so-called classical music and some pre-1990 pop.

  4. Bell Phillips says:

    +10 Karen Carpenter. Ditto Animal Farm. 1984 should be mandatory as well. I can’t read it anymore, it’s just too upsetting.

    More Fascinating reading. Thanks Brad and Kung.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I tread Animal Farm on my own (my family had a copy) when I was in grade school. We had 1984 and Brave New World in the tenth grade, and I had read at least a portion of 1984 already. (Later, when I was in college, I read Zamyatin’s We from the library. I currently have my own copy, as well as my old high school copies of the other 2 dystopias. My copy of Animal Farm I bought more recently.) My term “goodthinkful well-doeer” mixes terms from 1984; and We.

    • Rosalys says:

      I read “Animal Farm” (as well as “1984”) for the first time only about five or six years ago. “Animal Farm” would have been a good one to have read in my younger years, but I believe that the impact of “1984” was greater having read it when I did, in the midst of the Obama years. As teenager, it would have read too much like science fiction. Nowadays it doesn’t even read as fiction!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It’s clear that Inner Party liberals have chosen to use 1984 as a guidebook, though so far there’s no evidence that they share the sadism of O’Brien.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I read “Animal Farm” (as well as “1984”) for the first time only about five or six years ago. “Animal Farm” would have been a good one to have read in my younger years, but I believe that the impact of “1984” was greater having read it when I did

        This is why I recommended “Animal Farm” for young people. I believe 1984 is more appropriate for, and makes a greater impression on, more mature minds.


    Fine interview – I was glad to learn more about KFZ and his journey through the Orient – and a nice change-of-pace.

  6. Brian Morgan says:

    Mr. Kung: “High on that list must be insane drivers.”

    Please check out this wonderfully talented South Korean woman on her YouTube channel:

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I like her. But I guess that should not be a surprise as I always thought very highly of Korean women. I don’t understand what she is singing but she is clearly saying something about driving as she keeps steering and honking, figuratively.

      I can recall when Korean streets had very little auto traffic. I saw this change dramatically in the mid-1980’s.

      It was not unusual to see fist-fights between drivers after small fender-benders.

      But then again, it was not that unusual to see fights between people walking in Itaewon.

      • Brian Morgan says:

        Mr. Kung,

        I am a student of the Japanese language: こんばんは。

        My friend traveled extensively in Asia. He is German and his wife is South Korean. They are “Tiger” mom and dad. I only wish I had such superb parents growing up!

        Here is a wonderful song:

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (Sorry, I don’t have a keyboard which will write hiragana)

          Of course I have a soft spot for mixed Asian/American marriages. Besides mine, I have friends from Germany, England, America and France with Asian wives. The children are very well taken care of and raised properly.

          Thanks for the video. This gives you an idea of how popular Chinese pop songs (especially love songs) have become in Asia. Koreans singing Chinese songs. Who would have thunk it 30 years ago?

          • Brian Morgan says:

            Yes, of course, I will be kind to you! (you have to love Japanese!)

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              The thing about Japanese is that the same statement can mean different things in different circumstances. Interesting language when “please be kind to me” can also mean “pleased to meet you”. Sometimes it is so vague as to mean whatever the listener wants it to mean.

              Alas, I was never fluent and it has been many years since I studied it.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                One very famous example of this sort of multiple meaning was Japanese Prime Minister saying that their response to the Potsdam ultimatum was “mokusatsu” — by which he meant to refrain from comment, but the more common meaning was to ignore.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Elizabeth translated that as “May it be well with you.” I think I could say that to everyone here.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Japanese can be pretty formal and I think Elizabeth’s translation captures this.

              I think the greeting Yoroshiku onegaishimas is used something like a common greeting in Christmas and other holidays, i.e. “I hope things are going well with you”, but the Japanese it daily.

              Having thought a little more about it, I think the intent is a something like our, “How do you do?”

              • Brian Morgan says:

                I agree, I was taught in NYC language schools that よろしく おねがいします should be spoken in formal situations: like for students, introducing oneself to a new class, or for business. It literally means “please be kind to me.”

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                As I recall, I often heard Yoroshiku onegaishimas when exchanging business cards.

                The subtleties of Japanese are what makes mastery of the language so difficult.

          • Brian Morgan says:

            Mr. Kung,

            Thank you for the links. I glanced at it but quickly realized the wealth of information contained within. I may need more time to fully appreciate. Thank you!

  7. Brian Morgan says:

    Final thoughts:

    If you are serious about learning the Japanese language, find a tutor, particularly someone who is native Japanese but be careful:

    The language has many gender-specific and class-specific features. For example, common women may say “nano”, and common men may say “da” but polite people say “desu”.

    You cannot go wrong learning “polite” Japanese.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Like females say “desu ne” and males “desu na”? It was an old joke in Japan that one could tell a man who learned his Japanese in bars/nightclubs where females poured drinks. The men would pick up the feminine vocabulary and intonation as opposed to the masculine.

  8. Brian Morgan says:

    The Greatest Japanese Girl Group of All Time: CANDIES

    Haato no Eesu ga Detekonai
    Haato no Eesu ga Detekonai
    Yamerarenai kono mama ja.

    The Aces of Hearts will not turn up.
    The Aces of Hearts will not turn up.
    Well, as it is, it will not stop.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      They disbanded the year before my first spell in Japan. I was never a big follower of Japanese pop so I don’t know them.

      I think following groups like this is something a foreign language student does when serious about learning the language and to have a feel for a country’s culture.

      I generally found Japanese cinema more interesting than their music.

      I loved Kagemusha and Ran. The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo are also very good.

      I found Japanese comedians a bit corny, but there was one who was very popular while I was there who often said, “Tako desu.” I can’t recall if his nick name was Tako or what.

      In my case it would be more like Udo Lindenberg for German pop. Luckily, I had a lot more serious material to work with from Pachelbel and Bach to Wagner and Brahms.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It’s Seven Samurai; Japanese doesn’t have the definite article. (Elizabeth is next to me, and confirms this.) I suspect the title also tended to suggest that the samurai (or, technically, ronin since they no longer had a regular employer) were somewhat generic.

    • Brian Morgan says:

      Lyrics (cont’d):
      Aitsu no kimochi ga wakuru made

      That guy’s mood, so far as I understand, …

      (Sorry, Mr. Kung, when my friends in high school were listening to music of the 1960s/1970s, I was listening to my father’s music. I grew up listening to Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, as well as my grandfather’s music: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, et al. Why? I played a brass instrument. First, a Cornet, then a Trumpet, and then a Trombone, my favorite instrument. So when you hear me talk about music, please know that the common thread is “live instrumental music”.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        By any chance do you know James Pankow?

        • Brian Morgan says:

          I do not. Mr. Pankow of the band Chicago born 1947, 10 years my senior. I do know Jimmy Hynes, trumpeter extraordinaire, and Bill Wilson, son of Teddy Wilson, piano player in the Benny Goodman Quartet. These gentlemen I attended school with and played with every day.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Thanks. Much of your background sounded like that of someone I know and I was not sure if Brian Morgan was a pen name or not.

  9. Rosalys says:

    I love Japanese architecture, paintings, textiles, and kimonos. I also love the clean elegance, fine craftsmanship, and uncomplicated beauty of Japanese furnishings. Perhaps because it is so different from my own surroundings – I’m a bit of a pack rat and I’ve too much unorganized stuff around. I wish I had what it takes to create peaceful decor. But for my absolute, favorite for all time, oriental art it has to be the Chinese T’ang Dynasty pottery animals – and of those it is the horses! So expressive! They capture the essence of “horse” so wonderfully.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The Japanese borrowed heavily from China early on. It might interest you to know that much of what is considered typical Japanese culture, came from China during the Tang period. This includes dress and art. So it is not surprising you like both.

      • Brian Morgan says:

        My first native Japanese language instructor, Yuko, expressed a deep distrust of the Chinese. When I asked why, she explained that the Chinese consider themselves the “Center of the Universe.” In Yuko’s mind China views Japan as a “barbarian state.” She went on to explain that throughout the ages, China invaded Japan, raped and pillaged. To her the “Nanking Massacre” was simple payback.

        My second native Japanese language instructor, Kazuko, is the opposite. She readily admits the sins of the past on both sides but is optimistic for the future. Kazuko and I are of the same age: 58 almost to the day. It still amazes me that she and I have so much in common culturally even though we grew up on opposite sides of the world. As she tells me, her mother insisted that she follow tradition and find a man to marry upon graduating the equivalent of our high school. But her father defended her choice to pursue higher education. As Kazuko explained, her father had aspirations himself but then WWII broke out. Fortunately he survived but he wanted his daughter to have what was taken from him, a higher education.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          In Yuko’s mind China views Japan as a “barbarian state.”

          She is correct. But she should not feel alone. The Chinese view everyone else as barbarians. They are some of the biggest racists in the world. It is quite common for them to refer to foreigners as “devils”. What type of devil depends on where one is from.

          Many of the local boys also didn’t like Chinese women going out with Westerners. One of the more pleasant names they called such women was “banana”, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

          She went on to explain that throughout the ages, China invaded Japan, raped and pillaged. To her the “Nanking Massacre” was simple payback.

          I must question her history. One of the things Japan was so proud of, pre-WWII, was that the islands had never been invaded. In fact, the term Kamikaze (divine winds) was coined about the typhoon which destroyed the invading Mongol fleet of Kublai Khan in the late thirteenth century. Certainly no country invaded Japan from that time until MacArthur stepped off his plane in 1945.

          To her the “Nanking Massacre” was simple payback

          This is rubbish. There was no pay back involved. It was simply rape and pillage on an incredible scale. A huge war crime.

          My second native Japanese language instructor, Kazuko, is the opposite. She readily admits the sins of the past on both sides but is optimistic for the future

          Kazuko sounds more reasonable, but I would ask what past sins the Chinese have on their collective conscience? I do not count the historic argument about the Ryukus as a sin on either side. I also do not count Chinese pirates who might have raided coastal villages as representative of China in general. The Japanese had a good number of pirates bothering people along various coasts as well, and they didn’t represent the Shogunate.

          If any people in the area have reason to have a grievance it would be the Koreans, who were invaded and slaughtered by both the Chinese and Japanese.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Hitler was admittedly no expert on Oriental history, but when Japan attacked the US he pointed out that Japan had never been defeated in war. (The Koreans who held off a Japanese invasion in the 1590s with the help of the first ironclads might have disagreed. So might the Europeans who forced their trade treaties on Japan.)

            The only prior war between Japan and China (as opposed to Japan and the Mongol Empire, which in any case, as you say, failed twice due to convenient typhoons) was won by Japan in 1895. They gained Taiwan out of it, and would have gotten even more without the Tripartite Intervention of Russia, France, and Germany.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              The Koreans who held off a Japanese invasion in the 1590s with the help of the first ironclads might have disagreed. So might the Europeans who forced their trade treaties on Japan

              Hideyoshi finally withdrew from Korea due to lack of success, so one could claim Japan had been defeated.

              I am not sure I would call Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan and the later trade treaties a war defeat. Discretion being the better part of virtue, the Japanese decided to bend instead of going to war. The eventual war came some 80-odd years later. I only count the Russo-Japanese War as a preparation for the main event.

          • Brian Morgan says:

            Yuko was always a kook in my mind. Kazuko is an idealist.

            Call me Evil, but I do not hold the current generation accountable for the sins of their fathers. At some point we have to move beyond the generational hatred.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I do not hold the current generation accountable for the sins of their fathers. At some point we have to move beyond the generational hatred

              If life were so simple. Time can erase a lot of memories, but when there are people still alive who remember the Japanese invasion or Chinese involvement in the Korean War, things will not be forgotten.

              That being said, I don’t think young people invest a lot of thought in such things.

              • Brian Morgan says:

                I don’t think a lot of young people invest much thought in anything these days.

                That’s true of American young people but what of Chinese?

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


                I wasn’t even thinking of American youth when I wrote that. I was thinking of Asia.

                With the ever increasing ability to distract oneself from reality, Asian youth are spending more time in escapism, just like their Western counterparts.

                Of course, nations have national memories and foreign invasions, slights and suffering under the yoke of others leave a residue.

                There are many Chinese alive who suffered under Japanese cruelty, both in China and Southeast Asia. I know a good number of such people. Frankly, I cannot recall any of them who hold an animus toward Japan or the Japanese. Japanese products and culture have been spread throughout Asia for over fifty years.

                That being said, I believe there is a deeper problem with Chinese perceptions of the world. This is the fact that China was once the unchallenged great power of the world with a continuous culture going back over two thousand years. And this great culture was brought to its knees by barbarians from across the sea who forced China into humiliating treaties starting in 1840.

                This humiliation still weighs upon the Chinese mind and can be used by the government to arouse passions against this or that foreign nation, as the government decides necessary.

        • Brian Morgan says:

          Often I am asked why the Japanese Language? Why not Spanish or Italian? Well, my answer is simple. I already speak German, thanks to my high school education.

          So, what do Germany and Japan have in common? WWII.

          Please, I would encourage everyone to learn a foreign language. To me, Japanese is simple, except for the written language, but that is OK, your success does not depend on it.

          But really, why Japanese?

          Years ago, when I had a Netflix subscription, I discovered Asian movies with subtitles. I first tried Thai movies; I liked the movies but I could not fit the sounds to the subtitles. Second, I tried Chinese movies; I liked the movies but I had the same problem. Ditto with Korean movies even through I have to say that I REALLY like Korean movies.

          Japanese movies were the answer! Why? It was the cadence of the sounds, particularly the preponderance of consonants and vowels like “ka-ki-ku-ke-ko” and “ma-mi-mu-me-mo.” To my ear, it was hypnotic. The Japanese language may not be right for you, but another may.

          So get out there people and learn a language! Recently my wife and I wanted to learn Italian. We found an opportunity at a continuing education program at a local school. Today, we happened to be driving though a town named Somers. We’ve driven there many times before. My wife asked me to pull in and buy some groceries.

          “Fratelli’s Pizza and Pasta”

          I’ve seen that establishment before but never like this! “Fratelli” in Italian means “Brothers”. Up until then I had assumed that it was a family name!

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            You speak German?

            Here is another of my stories which might interest you.


          • Timothy Lane says:

            Well, actually it could be, since many surnames have regular meanings. (Leonardo’s original surname is unknown; he simply called himself Leonardo from Vinci, and so he is known today.)

            I have a modest knowledge of French from my school days, but I’ve lost a lot in all the years of not using it. I have a smattering of several other languages, enough to use them occasionally. (E.g., I once referred to the “terrible war for Grozny” as a pun on grosny, Russian for “terrible” — as in Tsar Ivan Grosny.)

  10. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    This is how a traditional society says farewell to its king.

    One can say that it is wasteful, etc., etc., but King Bumibol ruled his country for 70 years and was the single most important unifying symbol in Thailand aka Siam.

    The rites are certainly beautiful and spectacular.

    Seeing this, one can readily understand why the movie “The King and I” was not popular amongst Thais. In fact, it was illegal to show it there.

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