Monday, April 19, 2010

Isolation: 1858

As the only foreigners of whom the untraveled inhabitants of Yedo have ever heard are the Chinese, we had the very high compliment paid us of being supposed to belong to that favored nation; so that, as in China you are called, as you ride along the streets, a barbarian or a " foreign devil," in Japan the gamins run after you and say, " Look at the Chinamen!" " There go the Chinamen!" while their commercial instinct is betrayed by the shout, "Chinamen, Chinamen! have you any thing to sell?"

This trifling circumstance enables us forcibly to realize the extent of that entire exclusion of strangers which has been for so long so jealously and successfully maintained.
--From Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's mission to China and Japan--

It is hard to imagine this situation occurring today, but on the other hand, I wonder if someone from East Asia walking through the streets of America today could be assured of having their nationality correctly identified by passersby.

2 comments:

ricpic said...

Not to brag or anything but I find it relatively easy to distinguish between Japanese and Chinese. In the most general sense the Chinese face is rounder and the Japanese face is less full, more angular. Of course there are exceptions but in general that rule holds.

Windbag said...

Precious few, I'd wager, could even name five Asian countries, let alone identify someone from there.