Koakai hokoku, Issue 11, 1880, October 9 (p. 74) 

 

Letter from Hirobe Kuwasi (1854-1909) to three officials of 1880 Korean Mission: Yi Yongsuk, Yi Joyŏn, Kang Wi

 

To three esteemed teachers, Yi, Yi, and Kang. I have read about you in newspapers before, and for the long time have admired your glorious names. Afterwards, I reached the place of your stay [in Tokyo] and was honored with seeing you personally. My joy was increased, as well as my admiration for you. I am only afraid that, as a silly student crazily attached to the Oriental [affairs], poorly talented and superficially educated, unable to follow the past sages in practice, awkward in speaking and ignorant about the neighboring countries, I have greatly lost your respect and behaved inappropriately during the long-desired time of meeting with you. Still, now I console myself with the remembrances of the sincere joy of our meeting, and at the same time feel strongly ashamed. When I was honored with your audience last time, you graciously did not rebuke my hastiness. For a scholar from a faraway region, it is a great honor even to be once acquainted with you, my lords! But you, with elegant and refined magnanimity, pardoned my vulgarity and rusticity, and praised me. (). Thus, I intend to offer you a plan, and beg for your attention:

Your servant has long observed that, among the five continents, Asia is the vastest and most populated. In antiquity, Asia was the cradle of ethics and culture, but now its fortunes are in decline, and Europeans humiliate it. Europe is the smallest continent, which had been a land of barbarism in the antiquity. But today, its resplendence is growing daily, intelligence and skills match each other, technique and arts compete in excellence, and there is no place inside the five continents where its boats, vehicles and electrical devices did not reach. But it does not just reach this or that land. First, it reaps profits, then continues with exploiting the people, and in the end ruins the country in question. That is what had been down with the Indian states in the southeast [of Asia], and all other cases are like that. Past days have already seen the terror of smaller and bigger Asian states being annexed, ruined or destroyed, and today these who did not experience it yet are being annihilated. By luck, only several states of Eastern part of Asia are remaining independent.

What are the reasons for that? Is it fault of Asian people? Or is it fault of Asian land? Or should we blame the Asian Heaven? No, it is not the work of Heaven, and the land is not to be blamed. Asian people brought the calamity themselves. It became a custom in Asia that the states do not rely on each other, and the peoples do not assist each other, just cultivating themselves in self-satisfied ways. [Asians of today] closely resemble hermits, just sitting all the day long and waiting for the hungry death to come. Alas! It is difficult to prop a big house with a wooden plank, while one hundred-legged insect does not lean to one side. If we wish to reverse the decline in fortunes, and defend our selves from the other sides insults, what should we do?

Recently, the gentlemen of lofty intentions in our country came together to establish an organization under the name of <Rise Asia Society>. The society intends to bring together as many superior gentlemen from all Asian lands as possible in order to retrieve the declining fortunes, and then together enjoy the Great Peace. It has already acquired altogether more than three hundreds members, among them scholars, peasants, artisans and traders being represented. It includes both governmental officials and scholars, and also officials and subjects of Ching. I am also one of its members. If you, gentlemen, are interested in it, I would like you to join the Society too, and help it. In this connection, I respectfully present you a book of Societys regulations, and a list of its members, as well as my <Research on Asian Languages> in nine volumes. I will be very happy if you will deign to read it, in spite of your busy lives. In my unpolished composition, the words do not express the intentions fully, and the characters do not make sentences. I am again afraid of losing the honor of your respect and committing disgraceful deeds. I beg you to take pity on this mad fool and do not fault him for his recklessness.   

Autumn sun is still burning-hot. [I expect] the grace of your return soon. Respectfully bowing to you,

 

Hirobe Kuwasi.                        

 

 

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