[FOUNTAIN]Grand tours and thoughts of revolution

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[FOUNTAIN]Grand tours and thoughts of revolution

Yukichi Fukuzawa, the face on the 10,000 yen bill in Japan, is considered “the teacher of the Japanese citizens.” A spiritual pillar of Japanese modernization, Mr. Fukuzawa asked what had become of the descendants of George Washington when he first visited the United States in 1860. When someone said, “If he had a daughter, she must have become someone’s wife.” Mr. Fukuzawa was shocked by the disinterested answer. “It is a mystery,” he said. “I thought the Washingtons were on the level of the Tokugawas.” In the 19th century, Japan was ruled by the shogunate of Tokugawa.
Mr. Fukuzawa returned from the United States with a trunkload of English books. He studied them himself and taught students. As the number of his students increased, he founded Keio University, the first college in Japanese history. Mr. Fukuzawa traveled in Europe for a year in 1861 as an interpreter. His accounts of Europe were published as “Conditions in the West” and “An Outline of a Theory of Civilization,” the texts that became the mental cornerstone of the modernization of Japan. Following the lead of Mr. Fukuzawa, many future stars of the Meiji Restoration left for Europe and learned from Prussia, a rising power in Europe at the time. Modern Japan was based on Germany’s experience.
China caught up with the Japanese boom to study abroad in the late 19th century. Until the revolution of 1911 by Sun Yat Sen, the most popular destination for Chinese students was Japan. As World War I broke out, the students began to head for France. France needed a cheap workforce because of the war, and Chinese intellectuals wanted to learn from France, “the birthplace of revolutions.”
Deng Xiaoping was the most notable Chinese to study in France. He left for Paris in 1920, worked as a laborer for four years and spent over a year as a member of an underground communist group. He spent his last year abroad studying in Moscow, “the Holy Land of the communist revolution.” His utilitarian philosophy was not unrelated to his experiences in his youth.
In Europe, a long journey to foreign lands to study cultures and civilizations is called a “Grand Tour.” Goethe traveled in Italy, Herman Hesse went to India, and Rainer Maria Rilke toured Russia. Let’s hope North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to China was a grand tour for reform and opening.


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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