II. THE GENIUS OF JAPANESE CIVILIZATION

I

Without losing a single ship or a single battle, Japan has broken down the power of China, made a new Korea, enlarged her own territory, and changed the whole political face of the East. Astonishing as this has seemed politically, it is much more astonishing psychologically; for it represents the result of a vast play of capacities with which the race had never been credited abroad, - capacities of a very high order. The psychologist knows that the so-called "adoption of Western civilization" within a time of thirty years cannot mean the addition to the Japanese brain of any organs or powers previously absent from it. He knows that it cannot mean any sudden change in the mental or moral character of the race. Such changes are not made in a generation. Transmitted civilization works much more slowly, requiring even hundreds of years to produce certain permanent psychological results.

It is in this light that Japan appears the most extraordinary country in the world; and the most wonderful thing in the whole episode of her "Occidentalization" is that the race brain could bear so heavy a shock. Nevertheless, though the fact be unique in human history, what does it really mean? Nothing more than rearrangement of a part of the pre-existing machinery of thought. Even that, for thousands of brave young minds, was death. The adoption of Western civilization was not nearly such an easy matter as un-thinking persons imagined. And it is quite evident that the mental readjustments, effected at a cost which remains to be told, have given good results only along directions in which the race had always shown capacities of special kinds. Thus, the appliances of Western industrial invention have worked admirably in Japanese hands, - have produced excellent results in those crafts at which the nation had been skillful, in other and quainter ways, for ages. There has been no transformation,

- nothing more than the turning of old abilities into new and larger channels. The scientific professions tell the same story. For certain forms of science, such as medicine, surgery (there are no better surgeons in the world than the Japanese), chemistry, microscopy, the Japanese genius is naturally adapted; and in all these it has done work already heard of round the world. In war and statecraft it has shown wonderful power; but throughout their history the Japanese have been characterized by great military and political capacity. Nothing remarkable has been done, however, in directions foreign to the national genius. In the study, for example, of Western music, Western art, Western literature, time would seem to have been simply wasted(1). These things make appeal extraordinary to emotional life with us; they make no such appeal to Japanese emotional life. Every serious thinker knows that emotional transformation of the individual through education is impossible. To imagine that the emotional character of an Oriental race could be transformed in the short space of thirty years, by the contact of Occidental ideas, is absurd. Emotional life, which is older than intellectual life, and deeper, can no more be altered suddenly by a change of milieu than the surface of a mirror can be changed by passing reflections. All that Japan has been able to do so miraculously well has been done without any self-transformation; and those who imagine her emotionally closer to us to-day than she may have been thirty years ago ignore facts of science which admit of no argument.

Sympathy is limited by comprehension. We may sympathize to the same degree that we understand. One may imagine that he sympathizes with a Japanese or a Chinese; but the sympathy can never be real to more than a small extent outside of the simplest phases of common emotional life, - those phases in which child and man are at one. The more complex feelings of the Oriental have been composed by combinations of experiences, ancestral and individual, which have had no really precise correspondence in Western life, and which we can therefore not fully know. For converse reasons, the. Japanese cannot, even though they would, give Europeans their best sympathy.

But while it remains impossible for the man of the West to discern the true color of Japanese life, either intellectual or emotional (since the one is woven into the other), it is equally impossible for him to escape the conviction that, compared with his own, it is very small. It is dainty; it holds delicate potentialities of rarest interest and value; but it is otherwise so small that Western life, by contrast with it, seems almost supernatural. For we must judge visible and measurable manifestations. So judging, what a contrast between the emotional and intellectual worlds of West and East! Far less striking that between the frail wooden streets of the Japanese capital and the tremendous solidity of a thoroughfare in Paris or London. When one compares the utterances which West and East have given to their dreams, their aspirations, their sensations, - a Gothic cathedral with a Shinto temple, an opera by Verdi or a trilogy by Wagner with a performance of geisha, a European epic with a Japanese poem, - how incalculable the difference in emotional volume, in imaginative power, in artistic synthesis! True, our music is an essentially modern art; but in looking back through all our past the difference in creative force is scarcely less marked, - not surely in the period of Roman magnificence, of marble amphitheatres and of aqueducts spanning provinces, nor in the Greek period of the divine in sculpture and of the supreme in literature.