Chinese & Western Civilisation Contrasted (Abridged)

Chapter Ⅺ of The Problem of China by Bertrand Russell 1922.
1922年伯特蘭.羅素所著之《中國的問題》一書之第十一章。

There is at present in China, as we have seen in previous chapters, a close contact between our civilization and that which is native to the Celestial Empire. It is still a doubtful question whether this contact will breed a new civilization better than either of its parents, or whether it will merely destroy the native culture and replace it by that of America. Contacts between different civilizations have often in the past proved to be landmarks in human progress. Greece learnt from Egypt, Rome from Greece, the Arabs from the Roman Empire, mediæval Europe from the Arabs, and Renaissance Europe from the Byzantines. In many of these cases, the pupils proved better than their masters. In the case of China, if we regard the Chinese as the pupils, this may be the case again. In fact, we have quite as much to learn from them as they from us, but there is far less chance of our learning it. If I treat the Chinese as our pupils, rather than vice versa, it is only because I fear we are unteachable.

像我們在前幾章中看到的那樣,目前在中國,我們的文明正與天朝本土文明發生著緊密的接觸,然而這一次的接觸是否能够孕育出比任何一方都更好的文明,抑或只是將摧毁本土文明而由美國的取而代之,仍是未定之天。在過往的歷史當中,兩個文明的接觸通常會成為人類前進的里程碑,希臘之就埃及,羅馬之就希臘,阿拉伯之就羅馬,中世紀歐洲之就阿拉伯,文藝復興的歐洲之就拜占庭。在這些例子當中,很多時候學生最終青出於藍。而就中國這個例子而言,如果我們把中國人視為學生,那歷史或將重演。其實,我們需要向他們學習的,和他們需要向我們學習的一樣多,但我們能够學習的機會卻少之又少。如果我們把中國人看作是我們的學生,而不是倒過來,我怕那只是因為我們冥頑不靈。

Lao-Tze’s book, or rather the book attributed to him, is very short, but his ideas were developed by his disciple Chuang-Tze, who is more interesting than his master. The philosophy which both advocated was one of freedom. They thought ill of government, and of all interferences with Nature. They complained of the hurry of modern life, which they contrasted with the calm existence of those whom they called “the pure men of old.” There is a flavour of mysticism in the doctrine of the Tao, because in spite of the multiplicity of living things the Tao is in some sense one, so that if all live according to it there will be no strife in the world. But both sages have already the Chinese characteristics of humour, restraint, and under-statement. Their humour is illustrated by Chuang-Tze’s account of Po-Lo who “understood the management of horses,” and trained them till five out of every ten died. Their restraint and under-statement are evident when they are compared with Western mystics. Both characteristics belong to all Chinese literature and art, and to the conversation of cultivated Chinese in the present day. All classes in China are fond of laughter, and never miss a chance of a joke. In the educated classes, the humour is sly and delicate, so that Europeans often fail to see it, which adds to the enjoyment of the Chinese. Their habit of under-statement is remarkable. I met one day in Peking a middle-aged man who told me he was academically interested in the theory of politics; being new to the country, I took his statement at its face value, but I afterwards discovered that he had been governor of a province, and had been for many years a very prominent politician. In Chinese poetry there is an apparent absence of passion which is due to the same practice of under-statement. They consider that a wise man should always remain calm, and though they have their passionate moments (being in fact a very excitable race), they do not wish to perpetuate them in art, because they think ill of them. Our romantic movement, which led people to like vehemence, has, so far as I know, no analogue in their literature. Their old music, some of which is very beautiful, makes so little noise that one can only just hear it. In art they aim at being exquisite, and in life at being reasonable. There is no admiration for the ruthless strong man, or for the unrestrained expression of passion. After the more blatant life of the West, one misses at first all the effects at which they are aiming; but gradually the beauty and dignity of their existence become visible, so that the foreigners who have lived longest in China are those who love the Chinese best.

老子的書,或至少被傳是他所寫的書,非常短,但他的理念由他的學生莊子繼承發揚,莊子比他的老師更有趣些。他們倆所崇尚的是一種自由的哲理。他們視政府和一切干預自然的行為為造作。與他們所謂的那些「上古真人」的平靜生活相比,他們抱怨現代生活的匆忙。在道的教義中存在著一抹神秘的色彩,因為撇開芸芸眾生的千差萬別不講,道在某種意義上是一,因此如果所有生命都能依道生活,那世間就不會有衝突。但是兩位賢人己經具備了中國風格的幽默、節制和低調。他們的幽默可見於莊子對伯樂,那個善於相馬,以致於訓練到每十匹死五匹的人的描述。當與西方神話相比時,他們的節制與低調是明顯的。中國所有的文學與藝術以及在今日與有素養的中國人對話中,都含有這兩個特點。所有階層的中國人都鐘情於歡笑,從來不放過任何開玩笑的機會。在有教養的中國人階層裏,幽默是巧妙且細膩的,以致於歐洲人時常無法察覺,這也增添了中國人的樂趣。他們低調的習慣是可圈可點的。一天,我在北京遇到一個中年人,他說他在學術上對政治理論很感興趣;初來乍到的我,只聽取了這話的字面意思,但後來我發現他曾是一個省的省長,而且是一個多年在政壇上有頭有臉的人物。在中國的詩歌中,也恰恰是因為這份低調的習慣而不見亢奮的踪影。他們認為一個有智慧的人應該時刻保持平靜,雖然他們有他們激昂的時刻(話說他們其實是一個非常易於興奮的民族),然而他們並沒有要將其貫彻到藝術中去的意願,因為他們覺得那是不恰當的。我們引導人們嚮往激情所用的浪漫手法,就我目前所知的來說,在他們的文學中沒有相似的成份。他們有一些非常美妙的古老音樂,聲音只能剛剛被聽見。在藝術中,他們追求細膩,在生活上則適可而止。他們不贊賞放蕩不羈的強者與無節制地表現激情。在經歷了更為張揚的西方生活後,一個人一開始會錯過他們所希望達到的效果;但逐漸,他們存在的美與莊嚴會顯現出來,以致於那些在中國生活得最長久的外國人恰是最愛中國人的人。

On Pacificism|談和平性

If any nation in the world could ever be “too proud to fight,” that nation would be China. The natural Chinese attitude is one of tolerance and friendliness, showing courtesy and expecting it in return. If the Chinese chose, they could be the most powerful nation in the world. But they only desire freedom, not domination. It is not improbable that other nations may compel them to fight for their freedom , and if so, they may lose their virtues and acquire a taste for empire. But at present, though they have been an imperial race for 2,000 years, their love of empire is extraordinarily slight.

如果這世界上有任何一個國家可以是因為「太自豪了而不屑與戰」,那這個國家定是中國。中國人的本然態度是一種包容和友善,以禮相待並期待相同的回饋。如果中國人選擇,他們可以成為世界上最強大的國家。但他們所響往的只是自由,而非征服。其它國家也不是不可能迫使他們為他們的自由而戰,如果是這樣,那麼他們很有可能會喪失他們的美德而換上一種帝國的氣味。但就目前來說,雖然他們作為一個帝國性的民族己經兩千年了,但他們對於帝國的忠愛卻不同尋常的微弱。

Although there have been many wars in China, the natural outlook of the Chinese is very pacifistic. I do not know of any other country where a poet would have chosen, as Po-Chui did in one of the poems translated by Mr. Waley(1), called by him The Old Man with the Broken Arm,(2) to make a hero of a recruit who maimed himself to escape military service. Their pacifism is rooted in their contemplative outlook, and in the fact that they do not desire to change whatever they see. They take a pleasure—as their pictures show—in observing characteristic manifestations of different kinds of life, and they have no wish to reduce everything to a preconceived pattern. They have not the ideal of progress which dominates the Western nations, and affords a rationalization of our active impulses. Progress is, of course, a very modern ideal even with us; it is part of what we owe to science and industrialism. The cultivated conservative Chinese of the present day talk exactly as their earliest sages write. If one points out to them that this shows how little progress there has been, they will say: “Why seek progress when you already enjoy what is excellent?” At first, this point of view seems to a European unduly indolent; but gradually doubts as to one’s own wisdom grow up, and one begins to think that much of what we call progress is only restless change, bringing us no nearer to any desirable goal.

雖然中國在歷史上有過很多戰爭,然而中國人本然的展望卻是非常和平的,我不知道有任何其它的國家會有像威利先生(1)在他所譯的,被他稱之為《斷臂老人》(2)的詩的作者白居易那樣,選擇一個為了逃避兵役而自殘的人來塑造英雄。他們的和平觀根植於他們深邃的見解,他們不響往於改變他們所接觸的一切。他們像他們的畫所展示的那樣,從觀賞千姿百態的生活中得到快樂,他們沒有將事物約束成某一預設規律的意願。他們沒有那種占據西方國家所謂進步的觀念,並為此激越的衝動尋找一個理由。當然,進步即便是對於我們來說,也是一個新興的觀念,這要歸功於科學和工業。今天有素養的中國人仍舊會像他們往聖先賢所寫的那樣說話,如果有人向他們指出說這樣進步是微乎其微的,那他們會回答:「如果你所受用的已經是優越的了,又為什麼要去追求進步呢?」一開始,對於歐洲人來說,這個觀點是消極不堪的,但漸漸地,一個人會對他自己的智慧産生懷疑,他會開始想到那些我們所謂的進步,只不過是無休止的變動,絲毫沒有使我們能够靠近任何理想的目標。

On Tolerance and Happiness|談包容與幸福

I think the tolerance of the Chinese is in excess of anything that Europeans can imagine from their experience at home. We imagine ourselves tolerant, because we are more so than our ancestors. But we still practise political and social persecution, and what is more, we are firmly persuaded that our civilization and our way of life are immeasurably better than any other, so that when we come across a nation like the Chinese, we are convinced that the kindest thing we can do to them is to make them like ourselves. I believe this to be a profound mistake. It seemed to me that the average Chinaman, even if he is miserably poor, is happier than the average Englishman, and is happier because the nation is built upon a more humane and civilized outlook than our own. Restlessness and pugnacity not only cause obvious evils, but fill our lives with discontent, incapacitate us for the enjoyment of beauty, and make us almost incapable of the contemplative virtues. In this respect we have grown rapidly worse during the last hundred years. I do not deny that the Chinese go too far in the other direction; but for that very reason I think contact between East and West is likely to be fruitful to both parties. They may learn from us the indispensable minimum of practical efficiency, and we may learn from them something of that contemplative wisdom which has enabled them to persist while all the other nations of antiquity have perished.

我想中國人的包容超越了歐洲人就其本土所歷能够想像的一切。我們自以為自己是包容的,因為那是與我們的祖先相比。但是我們仍舊操持著政治性和社會性的迫害,更有甚者,我們堅信我們的文明與我們的生活方式相對於其它人的來說是無與倫比的,所以當我們遇到像中國這樣的國家時,我們認為我們對他們所能做的最仁慈的事情就是讓他們像我們一樣。我認為這是一個極大的錯誤。在我看來,一個普通的中國人,哪怕他已窮困不堪,也要比普通的英國人快樂,之所以快樂是因為這個國家是建立在比我們更加人道且文明的展望之上。躁動與好鬥不但會導致顯而易見的罪惡,同時也會使我們的生命充斥著不滿,使我們喪失感受美好的能力,讓我們幾乎無法擁有沉思的美德。出於這個原因,在過往的百年中,我們迅速地惡化著。我不否認中國人朝著另一個方向走得過遠;但正因如此,我才認為東西方的接觸,會給雙方都帶來收獲。他們能從我們這裏學到事功不可或缺的最低效率,而我們則能從他們的身上學到那使他們在其它古老國家已經煙消雲散的時候仍舊生生不息的深邃智慧。

Ending|結語

When I went to China, I went to teach; but every day that I stayed I thought less of what I had to teach them and more of what I had to learn from them. Among Europeans who had lived a long time in China, I found this attitude not uncommon; but among those whose stay is short, or who go only to make money, it is sadly rare. It is rare because the Chinese do not excel in the things we really value—military prowess and industrial enterprise. But those who value wisdom or beauty, or even the simple enjoyment of life, will find more of these things in China than in the distracted and turbulent West, and will be happy to live where such things are valued. I wish I could hope that China, in return for our scientific knowledge, may give us something of her large tolerance and contemplative peace of mind.

我去中國是去教書的,但我在那裏呆著,一天一天過去,我想得越來越少的是我有什麼能教他們的,越來越多的是我有什麼能向他們學習的。在那些長年居住在中國的歐洲人中,我發現這一態度並不少見,但在那些來去匆匆,或只是來賺錢的人身上,這一態度卻少得可憐。少是因為中國人並不擅長那些我們所重視的東西——武力與工業。但那些欣賞智慧與美的,或甚至只是生活中的簡單樂趣的人,能在中國找到比紛擾動蕩的西方更多像這樣的東西,而且會樂於生活在一個欣賞這些事物的地方。我希望中國,就我們所給予的科學知識,能回饋我們一些她那博大的胸懷與沉靜安定的心靈。

Notes|注釋

  1. Arthur David Waley (1889 – 1966) ^ return to body|返回正文
  2. 白居易《新樂府》其九《新豐折臂翁》 ^ return to body|返回正文

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