Welcome to the module, American Through Chinese Eyes. Throughout this module, we will look at the history of the interactions between the American and the Chinese people. In particular, we will focus on how America and the Americans have been perceived by the Chinese at different points in time. Americans first arrived in China in the 18th century and were engaged in trade and missionary work. The relationship between America and China has since then evolved into long and colorful history. One of friendship and collaboration as well as antagonism, suspicion, and grudging respect. It is important to remember, that the Chinese understanding of America and its people has always been contingent upon the political, social, economic, cultural, and intellectual climate in China at a given historical moment. And that this understanding is also a product of available information including both text and images. Therefore the Chinese perception of America, and of other countries as well, is in large part a projection of an imagined other at times demonized and at times idealized. The best way to make sense of how the Chinese see America is to understand how they see themselves in the world which is an extension of the way they relate to their society and to their government. Two broad concepts that provided a general framework for a Chinese world view up to the 20th century are the Confucian way of life and a system of managing foreign relations called, the Tributary System. Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 BCE was a political philosopher from the Kingdom of Lu. He traveled widely to advise rulers in other kingdoms during the Spring and Autumn period, circa 772 to 481 BCE. His teachings were embodied in the four books and five classics which became the canonical texts for Chinese civil service exams for many centuries. According to the Confucian philosophers, the Sage Kings in ancient times exemplified moral perfection and transmitted their political wisdom down to their descendants. They perceived a fundamental spiritual unity between the mind of heaven, Tianxin, and the mind of man, Renxin. The role of the ruler was to bring about the moral transformation of the people by his own moral rectitude and proper ritual performance. Ren, defined as compassion, altruism and reciprocity is the essence of human existence. And ritual is its physical manifestation. Ritual also preserves political, social, and moral order. In this orderly society, every person has a hierarchical relationship to another. Ruler to subject, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and senior friend to junior friend. And no one occupies a place of equality with another. By studying rigorously the classics and practicing precisely coded rituals, a person can become cultivated and in turn transform the world. One of the four books, The Great Learning, explains. When thoughts are made sincere, the mind can be rectified. When the mind is rectified, the self can be cultivated, when the self is cultivated, the family can be regulated. When the family is regulated, the state can be ordered; and when the state is ordered, all under Heaven can be at peace. A sense of continuity with the past is essential for a harmonious society. A filial piety and reverence for one's ancestors are essential elements of the Confucian world order. The metaphor of the official serving as the father and mother of the people suggests the paternalistic character of the Chinese governance. Because of the strong emphasis on scholarly attainment, scholars occupy the uppermost social stratum, followed by farmers, artisans, and merchants. In the Confucian world order, earning a living by one's labor and one's hands, is respected above profiting from commercial activities. Since the days of the Shang Dynasty circa 1600 to 1050 BCE, if not earlier, China has considered its civilization superior to all others. The Chinese, therefore, developed a complex but flexible set of foreign, feudal style relations called the Tributary System. According to this system, which lasted well into the 19th century, all foreigners were considered vassals, subordinate to China as the lord. They brought gifts from their native lands as tribute, and the emperor observing the principle of civilizing man from afar, Huairou yuanren, endowed them with their own territories. Gave them official titles, bestowed expensive gifts upon them, and promised them trading privileges and military support. The visitors dutifully performed a katow, prostrating themselves on the ground as a sign of submission to the emperor. Neighboring states that paid tribute on a regular basis in the heyday of the system were Korea, the Islands which is modern day Okinawa, Annam, modern day Vietnam, Siam, modern day Thailand and the southeast Asian states of Java, Malaya, etc. The arrangement suited both parties. The Chinese emperor received ritual affirmation of his position as the ruler of all under heaven, tianxia, while his vassals were amply rewarded with expensive gifts and permission to conduct trade. To be sure the actual details of the tributary exchanges varied according to the relative power of the respective parties. And so some historians have questioned whether the term tributary system is an apt description of the arrangements. But Chinese primary sources abundantly attest to the institutionalization of tribute giving in China for well over 2,000 years. In this chapter, we have reviewed two basic concepts that undergird traditional Chinese society. The Confucian teaching that advocated ideals of compassion, filial piety, and ritual as operating principles, and the tributary system that gave China a sense of cultural and moral superiority in its foreign relations. In the next chapter, we will turn to the activities of the first Americans to reach China.