Daily Archives: 13 February 2004

Germans in Hawai‘i: Beer, Bible, Music, Commerce, Grammar

In 2000, the Lutheran Church in Hawai‘i celebrated its 100th anniversary. But Germans in Hawai‘i go back much farther than that.

  • Heinrich Zimmerman, who arrived with Captain James Cook in 1778, published his own journals in Germany three years before Captain Cook’s official English version was released.
  • Ship captain Henry Barber from Bremen, Germany, made his name by running an English ship aground at Kalaeloa (‘the long cape’) on O’ahu, later named Barber’s Point (and now renamed back to Kalaeloa).
  • The German scholar Adelbert von Chamisso, a naturalist who arrived in 1815 aboard Captain Otto von Kotzebue’s Russian brig Rurik, wrote one of the first Hawaiian grammar books.
  • Claus Spreckles, a California sugar refiner, found his business greatly threatened by the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s 1876 reciprocity treaty with the United States. Rather than fight the treaty, he sailed to Hawai‘i and immediately bought half the sugar crop of 1877 just before its value skyrocketed. His innovations in sugar planting included steam plows, electric lights, railroads for hauling cane, and controllable irrigation.
  • Sprecklesville in Maui, and Spreckles Street, Widemann Street, Hausten Street, Isenberg Street, and Hamm Place in Honolulu, all signify the heritage of Germans in Hawai‘i.
  • The Deutsch-Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinde zu Honolulu was founded in 1900. The Hackfelds and Isenbergs each donated $25,000 to build it and import a pastor and pipe organ from Germany. Henri Berger, Royal Hawaiian Band bandmaster and composer of the state anthem “Hawaii Pono‘i,” was a charter member and the first organist.
  • Rev. Arthur Hörmann who came as pastor in 1916 at the instigation of his brother-in-law, who managed the old Primo Brewery, would later tell people he came to Hawaii “for beer and the Bible.”

World War I changed everything. According to “The Effect of World War I on the German Community in Hawaii” by Sandra E. Wagner-Seavey in The Hawaiian Journal of History 14 (1980): 109-140:

  • In October 1914, two Japanese warships, the Hizan and Asama, arrived off Honolulu to intercept the German warship Geier and its collier Locksun, which were then interned in Honolulu under very friendly conditions until February 1917, right after the U.S. severed relations with Germany, when Honolulu authorities discovered that the German crews had sabotaged much of the machinery aboard their ships.
  • In June 1917, U.S. Army Private Luisz Sterl was sentenced to hard labor and dishonorably discharged for treasonously refusing to fight in France and disparaging U.S. troops sent there to fight.
  • A devastating anthrax epidemic aroused suspicions (never proved) against Max Weber, a German timekeeper at Pioneer Mill.
  • Many Germans lost their jobs, including Minna Maria Heuer, an assistant professor of German and French at the College of Hawaii, who failed her loyalty test. She then taught at the German language school in Lihue until it was forced to shut down in 1918.
  • Under the Rev. Dr. Arthur Hörmann’s guidance, the Lutheran church changed from a German-speaking, foreign-based congregation to an American church. English services were introduced gradually and both languages were used in the ministry until 1941, when the U.S. entered World War II and the church legally became “The Lutheran Church of Honolulu.”
  • In 1918, H. Hackfeld & Co. was reorganized as American Factors, and the B. F. Ehlers & Co. department store was reorganized as Liberty House (which lasted until Macy’s bought it out in 2001).

“By the end of the war, there was no longer a German community in Hawaii, as there once had been. Germans had lost their jobs, church, leadership, and the respect of their neighbors. Many had migrated to the West Coast to escape persecution. Those who remained assimilated into the greater haole community, some by anglicizing their names. Young Germans after the war did not renew their cultural ties to Germany. They kept no German publications or customs, spoke no German, and did not even use German gestures. Their homes were 100% American and so were they. The German community simply disappeared.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Germany, Hawai'i

Traditional China: Multiethnic

The following excerpt from the introduction by Victor H. Mair to a new reader in traditional Chinese culture now in the works emphasizes the multiethnic nature of traditional China.

Linguistic multifariousness is only one of the more obvious features of “the Chinese mosaic.” The same may be said of almost any other aspect of Chinese culture and society. Perhaps the most obvious symbol of Chineseness in the larger world is cuisine. Yet it is impossible to point to any particular type of fare that stands for Chinese cooking in general. Hot pots have a Mongolic ancestry, pasta products are derived from Central and Southwest Asia, tea is ultimately from the hills of the Assam-Burma-Yunnan “Golden Triangle,” and so forth. Milk products are anathema to most lactose-intolerant denizens of the Central Kingdom, yet they are a staple of the people living along its northern reaches. The more sophisticated American aficionado of Chinese cooking knows very well the difference between Szechwanese and Cantonese cooking, staying clear of the former if he or she does not like spicy hot food and avoiding the latter if his or her palate is not attracted to gelatinous, gooey comestibles.

When we watch a Chinese film and see the heroine encased in a tight sheath slit to the thigh, she is basically sporting an item of Manchu dress. Some Chinese (those who wanted to ride horses) began to wear trousers in the latter part of the fourth century B.C.E., but only because they wanted to ward off the steppe peoples who introduced the domesticated horse (and the trousers) to their land, with devastating consequences. In premodern times, it would not have been difficult to recognize the ethnicity of a citizen of the Chinese empire by his or his costume.

As for Chinese empires, there was not one of them, but a long series of dynasties, more often than not erected on the ashes of their predecessors. Also more often than not, those who established new dynasties were–a supreme incongruity–groups from the north and northwest who either were themselves “barbarians” dreaded for their awesome military prowess or who had exceptionally close affinities with them. Numerous recent archeological discoveries have led to a salutary reconsideration of the nature of the millennial interactions between the inhabitants of the East Asian Heartland (EAH) and their septentrional neighbors. As a result, it is no longer possible to think of the latter only as “traders or raiders.” Instead, what we are finding is that–already at least from the late Neolithic period and continuing right through to the twentieth century–the northern peoples were involved not only in state formation, but also in the importation of vital cultural elements such as bronze metallurgy and the chariot. Consequently, in this Reader we place far greater emphasis than is usual upon the northern peoples, for we believe that, unless one takes them duly into account, one’s comprehension of Chinese history and appreciation of Chinese culture are bound to be flawed.

The intricacy of Chinese involvement with wide-ranging steppe peoples can be demonstrated by the derivation of Gesar … from Caesar. How, why, and when this originally Etruscan title of the Roman emperors came to be applied by the bards of a Central Asia nomadic confederation to their greatest hero is an intriguing story. What is not in doubt is that the Tibetans contested with the Chinese for hegemony during the Tang period (618-907). Indeed, the Tibetans not only occupied the strategically crucial Gansu Corridor for a century, but even invested the capital, Chang’an [= Xian, see map], for a while during the year 763 in western China and were dislodged only when the Tang authorities pleaded with the Uyghurs … to drive them off. Thus, a dynasty that was initially founded by individuals in whose veins ran nomadic blood and who maintained intimate ties with their northern ancestors found temporary salvation from destruction at the hands of northwestern nomads by a confederation of Turkic tribes (whom the Tang actually detested)–a typical series of events that recurred over and over again during the more than three thousand years of known Chinese history. We should remember, moreover, that the Tang dynasty represents the acme of cultural cosmopolitanism in East Asia. It should further be noted that the location of the Tibetans was by no means restricted solely to that of their current nation, which is occupied by Chinese troops. During the medieval period, they were also identified with the border areas to the northwest of the East Asian Heartland, and still today there are large concentrations of Tibetans in the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai.

Just as due consideration of the non-Sinitic peoples of the north and northwest is essential for any adequate study of the development of Chinese civilization, the same may be said for the non-Sinitic inhabitants of the south. Chinese culture (including Sinitic languages) marched southward slowly during the latter part of the first millennium B.C.E., gained momentum during the first millennium C.E., and was far from reaching its culmination even by the end of the twentieth century. The large and small pockets of non-Sinitic speakers that pepper all of the provinces south of the Yangtze River attest to the ongoing presence of peoples from radically different traditions within the territory of the modern Chinese state. The fusion of Chinese culture with the indigenous populations has led to a distinctive mix of regional cultures and ethniticities that is conspicuous in customs, languages, surnames, and physical types.

Leave a comment

Filed under China

Traditional China: Multilingual

A new reader in traditional Chinese culture is in the works that places long-overdue emphasis on just what a complex, multilingual, multiethnic, and multireligious place it always has been and will continue to be. Here’s an excerpt about China’s multilingualism from the introduction by the indefatigable Victor H. Mair:

For many students, this book will be part of their first systematic exposure to learning about China. As such, we wanted to make it as comprehensive as possible within the limits naturally imposed by the amount of material that can reasonably be absorbed within a single semester. One of our main goals has been to help the student realize that China is not a monolithic state with a monotonous culture and a static past. The myth of a thoroughly homogeneous, ultrastable empire, although widespread and persistent, is far from true. China never existed as a “nation of uniformity.” To the contrary, we are faced with a multifaceted country that possesses an extremely complicated history and a richly varied mix of regional and ethnic traditions.

Take language, for example. When one thinks of what defines “China,” perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a place where the people all speak “Chinese.” But what is this “Chinese” that everyone is supposedly speaking to each other? Unfortunately, China does not today possess, nor has it ever in the past possessed, such a universally understood tongue. For starters, we have to take into account the tens of millions of speakers of non-Sinitic languages who make up a significant proportion of the population of the Chinese nation as it is currently configured…. These languages belong to such disparate groups and families as Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Turkic, Tungusic, Iranian, and Slavic. These are the “minorities” of the Peoples Republic of China, all of whom have roots that lie deep in the past of East Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia.

And then there is the so-called majority group who, it is claimed, speak a language called “Hanyu” or “Chinese.”…

However we ultimately choose to define it, Hanyu is related in some fashion (not yet well understood by scholars) to Tibeto-Burman. Since the combined family is customarily styled Sino-Tibetan, we may–for the sake of linguistic precision–refer to Hanyu as “Sinitic” in English. Sinitic is often said to have eight (or more) major fangyan (‘topolects’ …). Among these fangyan are “Northern” (i.e., Mandarin in the broadest of terms; it actually stretches to the far southwest), Wu (typified by Suzhou and Shanghai), Xiang (Hunanese), Gan (spoken in Jiangxi), Hakka (the language of those displaced “guests” from the north who have played a particularly important role in modern Chinese history), Northern Min, Southern Min (including Amoy and Taiwanese), and Cantonese. If analyzed by the standards applied to languages in Europe or South Asia, these fangyan would be classified as branches of the Sinitic group.

Speakers from any one of the major fangyan are incapable of conversing with speakers from those of any of the other major fangyan. Even within the major fangyan or branches of Sinitic, there are numerous more or less unintelligible varieties of speech. What is more, it is essential to note that, throughout history, the fangyan have never been written down in their unalloyed form, except latterly by missionaries using alphabets. Traditionally, there have been only two acceptable forms of writing in China: Literary Sinitic (wenyan or Classical Chinese), strictly a book language …, and Vernacular Sinitic (baihua[wen]), a written manifestation of Mandarin that developed–largely under the influence of Buddhism–out of a presumed Tang-period koiné. Despite their lack of a written form, the fangyan are still vibrant. As clear indications of the continuing vitality of fangyan, Taiwanese is now the preferred mode of expression on Formosa, and the Chinese government on the mainland is constantly threatening to cashier officials and teachers who fail to learn Mandarin.

As an aside, let me note that during the graduation ceremony at Sun Wen [= Sun Yat-sen] College (now affiliated with Sun Yat-sen University [= Zhongshan University]) I witnessed in 1988, all of the administrators and teachers spoke in Mandarin, while the mayor and other local politicians spoke in Cantonese (Sun Wen = Sun Yat-sen = Sun Zhongshan).

Sinitic evolved through a complex process of interaction with the non-Sinitic languages mentioned above, borrowing (and lending) not only words, but also structures and phonemes. The internal development of Sinitic is equally intricate, such that historical linguists are still seriously puzzled over the relationships among the various fangyan, the phonology of their earlier stages, and the identification of the fundamental etyma for the group en masse.

UPDATE: Language hat adds, “Incidentally, anyone who wants a more detailed look at the linguistic situation should get hold of S. Robert Ramsey’s The Languages of China (reviewed here).” I second that endorsement. Ramsey’s book (Princeton U. Press, 1987) gives a lot of attention to the minority languages. Language hat‘s entry has also attracted a nice range of comments. See also the follow-up entry above, The “Cultural Glue” of Chinese Writing.

Leave a comment

Filed under China