Does Japan both hate and envy China at the same time?

Poor relations with Japan started as far back as 1840, when Japan joined the British, French, and Americans during the Opium Wars to gain concessions to sell opium to the Chinese.

In 1843, under the agreement of the Nanjing Treaty, Shanghai became one of 5 treaty ports to be turned into a colonial city under the control of foreign countries: Great Britain, France, America, and Japan.

Imagine New York City divide and governed by Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran.

Until 1871, most Japanese had no contact with the Chinese. Then getting to know the Chinese caused many Japanese to think that the Chinese were ethnically inferior since they were different from the Japanese, and most Japanese haven’t changed their minds to this day.

In 1884, Japanese and Chinese troops faced off in Korea, which ended in a lopsided stalemate in Japan’s favor.

In 1894, Japan and China fought their first war over Korea. Like Tibet, Korea had been a tributary state of China for centuries.

China was defeated in 1895, lost Korea, and a large portion of Eastern Manchuria to Japan. Then in 1870, Japan annexed the islands of the Ryukyu Kingdom that had also been a tributary to China during the 17th century.

A Ryukyuan envoy begged England for help, but the British ruled that the islands belonged to Japan instead of China.

On July 7, 1937, Japan launched a war to conquer China. Over the next 8 years, Japan occupied a large portion of China. To this day Japan has never apologized for The Rape of Nanking and other atrocities in China during World War II that resulted in millions of Chinese deaths. The Chinese estimate that they lost about 15- 20 million people in World War II, and most of those deaths were civilians. An additional 2.2 million deaths were Chinese troops who fought to resist Japan’s invasion.

“The Chinese have resented the Japanese ever since Japan conquered and occupied China in the 1930s and 40s. The Japanese prime minister’s yearly visits to a Tokyo shrine for war veterans has always played in China as a reminder of Japan’s wartime brutality and continued lack of remorse.” U.S. News & World Report

Long memoires and hard feelings still smolder and sometimes ignite into flames.

Since China has risen from the ashes, Japan should walk softly around the mighty reborn dragon, and remember where its architecture, written language, and one of its major religions came from. says, “Japanese writing is clearly taken from Chinese.”

Japan’s ancient architecture also came from China. The introduction of Buddhism in Japan (from China) during the sixth century was a catalyst for large-scale temple building using complicated techniques in wood. Influence from the Chinese Tang and Sui Dynasties led to the foundation of the first permanent capital in Nara. Its checkerboard street layout used the Chinese capital of Chang’an as a template for its design.

In The Spread of Chinese Civilization to Japan, Peter Stearns writes, “its full impact on global history has not been felt until the last century or so, the transmission of key elements in Chinese culture to the offshore islands that came to make up Japan clearly provides one of the most important examples of the spread of civilization from a central core area to neighboring or overseas peoples. In the 1st centuries A.D., the peoples of Japan imported a wide range of ideas, techniques of production, institutional models, and material objects from the Chinese mainland.”

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.


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