Saving Face Without Words: A Confucian Perspective on The Strike of 1867

International Journal of Humanities, Art and Social Studies (IJHAS), (May 2022, Forthcoming)

15 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2022 Last revised: 16 May 2022

Date Written: May 11, 2022

Abstract

The Chinese came and built the railroad and then were sent home; we have no written records from the Chinese from the time, and there is very little understanding of how they lived or how the Chinese workers negotiated their working conditions with the railroad bosses. This essay builds on suggestions made in lectures by Professor Gordon Chang and Professor Sue Fawn Chung that the Chinese workers turned to the teachings of Confucious as a way to confront their employers and negotiate better conditions, even while stripped of legal protections. The behaviors of the Chinese workers during this strike reflected values from the teachings of Confucius, allowing us to understand the strike from a fresh perspective. In the absence of a first-person recounting, evaluating the behaviors and approach provides something more profound albeit less tangible than written words or any first-hand accounting—a view into the workers' beliefs. The reports from the railroad bosses about the Chinese workers demonstrated that, despite the lack of any written record from the Chinese themselves, the Strike of 1867 was carried out in a demonstrably Confucian manner. We use the Analects and the teachings of Confucious to help fill in the gaps in areas where the Chinese workers themselves left us no written record.

Keywords: Confucius, collective action, labor dispute, Chinese workers strike of 1867

JEL Classification: B12, J3, J4, J5, J7, J8, N11, N19, L92

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Patrick Spaulding, Saving Face Without Words: A Confucian Perspective on The Strike of 1867 (May 11, 2022). International Journal of Humanities, Art and Social Studies (IJHAS), (May 2022, Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4067005 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4067005

Patrick Spaulding Ryan (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

United States
5127515346 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://web.stanford.edu/people/patrickryan

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