Friday, September 12, 2008

Martha on China

China-ward, II

By John Taylor; 2008 Sep 12, 05 Izzat, 165 BE

Hand of the Cause Martha Root had her eye on China from the very beginning of her teaching mission. In May of 1924 the following was reported in Star of the West (SW, Vol. 15, p. 47),

"Baha'u'llah's son, 'Abdu'l Baha, always wished to come to China. He said if these principles for world peace could be explained to a few of the thinkers of China, they themselves would take them to their people. He stated that the Chinese had a great capacity and China would be the country of the future. `When Religion,' 'Abdu'l-Baha said, 'shorn of its superstitions and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then there will be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world, which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements discords and struggles, and then will mankind be united in the love of the love of God.' Sons of the earnest young Chinese, Miss Root said, were writing to Shoghi Effendi, grandson of Abdu'l-Baha and guardian of the Baha'i work, asking him to come to China and lecture in universities and normal schools on the universal principles... " "In writing of her work she says, `I know of no country in the world where the people are so ready and where the opportunities are so vast. It is a favor and bounty from God to have the privilege to do anything for China. I do not think one of you will ever come here who will not love the Chinese.'"

Toward the end of her world-embracing teaching campaign, in the 1930's Martha Root spent about a year in China. At around this time she wrote the following article:


Chinese Culture and Baha'ism, by Martha L. Root from: Star of the West, Vol. 21, pp. 262-267

The Baha'i Movement is beginning to bring a new orientation in China, this wonderful nation with 500,000,000 souls. What China does later, may have its effect in every country of the globe. If she should become a military nation, who can say, how with one fourth of the population of the globe involved, she might be the balance that would sink all civilizations.

If China comes out strongly for Baha'u'llah's universal principles she might lead the world, in a century or two, to a new undreamed of international cooperation! Dr. Sun Yat sen, the "George Washington of China," the immortal Father of the new Republic, listened with interest to the Baha'i Teachings when I met him in Canton in 1924. He asked to have two Baha'i books sent to him. He was a great idealist; his program was based on cooperation rather than on competition, and his ultimate aim was universal peace.

Visiting Canton again in September, 1930, five years after the passing of this great man, I had the honor to meet His Excellency Chen Ming Shu, the Governor of Kwangtung Province. He was formerly one of the great generals of China; he has stood at the front and faced death many times. He is a man of vision and one who thinks deeply. He said:

"I did not know much about this Baha'i Movement until you sent me a booklet two days ago, but as I read it, I believe Baha'u'llah was a Prophet and China has need of a Prophet in these days. Such Teachings at their lowest estimate could not harm any nation and at their highest they could do a great good in China and in every other country. No nation is more fitted to receive these Teachings than China, for the base of Chinese civilization is universal peace. Just now we are going through great disturbances, but when China is righted and we are on an equal footing with other nations, China will take her place in all international welfare."

Governor Chen Ming Shu, although he is such a busy man, visits the schools and sometimes speaks to the students just as did the late Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Governor Chen knows which schools are the most progressive, which teachers have the broadest outlook, and no one realizes more than he that force (cannot) convert China (but) peace. The ideal alone can conquer in the end.

While in Shanghai, the writer had the joy of meeting again Dr. Y. S. Tsao, former President of Tsing Hua University (this is the Boxer Indemnity Institution) He is one of the keenest educationists in China and a distinguished writer of Chinese affairs. Speaking with him about the relation of Chinese culture to the Baha'i Movement, he stated among other points:

"An analysis of Chinese culture shows that the Eastern philosophers when in trouble dig deep down into their souls. This Baha'i Movement is a new way of 'digging down' and the Teachings supply the help they are seeking.

"China is calling, in fact the whole world is calling for Light. That is why people are taking such an interest in these Baha'i Principles and the books explaining them. There is a need, there is an approach, and there is a fulfillment.

"This is a new Message of great value; it is liberalizing, quickening. It makes religion more dynamic to solve world problems. For all this there is a need, and the deep thinking men of China all realize this great necessity; for we cannot go back to the old stereotyped, half dead creeds. This Baha'i Message supplies a new ideal and the world cannot win against it. The older religions may struggle on till they are dead: they may never attain to the goal of accepting this. The world may sink farther and farther down until it drinks the last dregs and then it will come up again. Chinese history has been like that. After a number of years of suffering some ruler or teacher appears and for several hundred years there is progress. Then a relapse comes, but in these modern times China cannot afford a relapse. Confucius himself taught that about every five hundred years or so a great teacher or reformer will come.

"These Baha'i Teachings carry universality and supply the educational, the economic and the social solutions for this new epoch," said Dr. Tsao. "Not alone China, but the whole world needs these Teachings. China needs them specially because her leaders are groping for Light."

"How will the Chinese people take these Teachings? I sometimes ask myself," he continued, "among the Eastern people there are some that take religion much more seriously than does the West or China. People of the Near East and many in Central Asia make religion their very life, they are desperate in their religion. My question is will the Chinese people take this Baha'i Movement so seriously as the peoples of the Near East? According to history in the past, the Chinese people have rarely taken religion so very earnestly unless it was encouraged by government or by some sovereign.

"Judging from the modern spirit of the new rulers in China, they have learned so many and modern Western ideas that the present Government and its leaders have not yet looked to a religious teacher or a new religious movement to help in the solution of China's affairs. However, they have not made as rapid improvement in the direction of the affairs of state as they had hoped, so the earnest thinkers and leaders who are endeavoring to dig deeper into the human soul, and looking for a guiding spirit from the spiritual Heaven, appreciate and understand the value of this new Message from Baha'u'llah, inasmuch as this new movement not only fulfills the needs of the present day, but supplies as well an ideal for the future of mankind. Through their sufferings, through their wanderings, the Chinese people may see a Light here.

Dr. Tsao graciously is assisting in the publication of the Chinese version of "Baha'u'llah And The New Era," a Western book written by Dr. J. E. Esslemont, giving the history and the Teachings of the Baha'i Movement.

"Common sense, which runs like a thread through China's long history shows that the common ideal of China is the peace of the world. Much literature condemning war had been written by China's thinkers. She entertains no wild ambitions towards any other country, so when her house is put in order, she will stand ready to cooperate with the world in material and human resources according to her former traditional spirit and morality."'

Dr. C. T. Wang, Minister of Foreign Affairs was in his office in the capital, Nanking, and when I asked him about China's aim for world peace he answered,

"We have always stood for world peace. We have never been an aggressive power, this has been an historical fact for four thousand years. We have stood for cultural and peaceful development; the Mongolian race fought, but not the Chinese. If we have something good, we let the world have it, if it wishes, but we have never forced our customs or laws on other people. We never conquered Japan, never intended to, but they took our written language and our culture."

When I spoke of the French Revolution by way of comparison, saying that it took that country small as it is when one thinks of China's vast millions, one hundred years to restore peace, he said:

"Times are different now, it will not take China one hundred years to develop peace in her domains."

Dr. Paul Linebarger, legal adviser to the National Government of China called upon me at my hotel in Nanking. He said that he had worked for eighteen years with the late Dr. Sun Yat sen and that the latter's great
aim was universal peace. Dr. Linebarger, who was given the degree of Doctor of Laws in the National Central University the week I was in Nanking (and this honor has only been bestowed upon one other scholar either Chinese or foreign in this young University) said to me:

"You Baha'is are most welcome in China. We like to see you introducing the Baha'i Teachings here."

The Minister of Education, Dr. Mon lin Chiang, who studied in the University of California in 1912 and took his Ph. D. degree in Columbia University, has always specialized in education. He said that since the revolution in 1911, several times there have been two governments, but education has never disintegrated. During all this time instructions about education could be sent to any province.

I asked Dr. Chiang about the teaching of religion in the schools, because at the moment there is a great furor among the foreign missionaries.

He answered: "So far as the public schools are concerned there is no teaching of religion in these schools; it is the same as in America. We go a step farther and include the private schools no matter by whom established, whether by private individuals, societies or missionary organizations; in the lower schools below junior middle school no religious training shall be given. However, above junior middle school, and this means the normal schools, colleges and universities where students are old enough to think for themselves religious teaching is optional. Teachers cannot enforce attendance. The missionaries are too drastic, but our program is much more moderate than in some countries."

I gave Dr. Chiang one or two books about the Baha'i Principles and we spoke of Baha'u'llah's Teachings and what the new universal education should be. All great educationists are interested in these Teachings which proves what Dr. Tsao said that the Teachings of Baha'u'llah offer a new solution for education, and the economic and social welfare of mankind.

These solutions have not been brought forward in former religions.

The great universities of China just as the Western universities were opened to lectures on these Principles. Their International Clubs also arranged for more talks. The writer spoke to two thousand young men in the National Central University in Nanking, October sixth, on "International Education For the New Age," a lecture based on Baha'u'llah's plan for the new universal education. The Chancellor in his letter said: "You are heartily invited to give us a speech." After the lecture in Hong Kong University which was well attended and enthusiastic, a beautiful girl of nineteen years came forward and asked what she could do to promote the Baha'i Cause in Singapore, her home city.

They said she is one of the brightest girls in the university, and whatever life work she undertakes she will bring to it extraordinary capacity. There is absolutely no prejudice in China. They are open to investigate truth. The Director of Broadcasting in Canton said that the people of China would be very interested in these universal principles. Three lectures were given over the radio, and the "Canton Municipal Daily News" in its issue of September 23, 1930, had two full pages with photograph of 'Abdu'l Baha in the Special Supplement Section.

On these two pages were (1) a story about the visit to Canton; (2) Lecture broadcast on "New Universal Education; (3) "Esperanto As a Universal Auxiliary Language" and (4) the broadcast speech on "What Is the Baha'i Movement?" Each Baha'i broadcast in Hong Kong was given in full in six newspapers the following morning. The West on the other hand, could with profit examine the basic foundation of Chinese culture and ask itself whether the great civilizations of China contain elements which can contribute toward international co-operation. China has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties, China has had her discoverers and inventors, men of fine arts, philosophers and poets and scholars, while we in the Occident were still savages on the plains.

Highest of all, China had the great sage and Prophet Confucius, born in 551 B. C. who taught the central doctrine of being sincere in thought so as to rectify the heart, to cultivate the person, to order well the state, and to pacify the world. He taught also that `all within the four seas are brothers.'

According to the School of Physiocrats, one writer says: "The whole teaching of Confucius aimed at restoring to human nature that first radiance that first beauty, which it had received from Heaven, and which had become obscured by ignorance and passion. He therefore exhorted his countrymen to obey the Lord of Heaven, to honor and fear him, to love their neighbors as themselves, to overcome their inclinations, never to make passion the measure of action, but rather to subject it to reason, and not to do or think or say anything contrary to reason."

The essential part still remains to be done, to bind it upon the brows of earth, and this was the task of Confucius, to bring men back to the original divine state of nature. What has happened to China in the lapse from Confucius' teachings, has similarly come upon the West in its neglecting to live the teachings of Jesus Christ. These great Prophets and Manifestations and such an One is Baha'u'llah come to this earth from age to age to "renew religion," and Their Teachings carry the great Creative Power to change men's hearts and lead them up. Just as I am finishing this thought, at six o'clock this morning, here in Shanghai, I see with my very eyes a symbol of what the Bahai Teachings will do for China.

From my high window, I view the black clouds over China, over the sea and over the Yangtse River. It looks as if it would be a day of "night" and depression; but something is happening behind this grim, floating blackness: a mighty orb of light steadily arises behind all this, and slowly but surely the black clouds drop down out of sight or are melted through magic, into white beauty. It is the glorious full sun uprising in dazzling brilliance!

What can withstand the rays of such a light! Today breaks into glad sunshine and all the blackness passes away and will be remembered no more. So arises Baha'u'llah to these thinkers of China who, in the early morning watch of a new epoch just breaking, glimpse the Sun of Truth!


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