Esperanto as language and idea in China and Japan
For the past hundred years Esperanto has found adepts in China and Japan. Outside Europe and the Americas, nowhere has Esperanto spread as much as it has in East Asia. The Chinese and Japanese were drawn to it through their desire to learn from the west; they hoped to use Esperanto as a bridge between east and west or they found in it a link to anarchism and communism. Often the Esperantists used their language for campaign purposes, for example in the battle against the Japanese invasion of China beginning in the 1930s (“For the liberation of China through Esperanto”) or for the popularization of pacifism in postwar Japan. As in the west, many Esperantists in China and Japan based their connection with Esperanto on the idea of the harmony of all humankind. The movement progressed thanks primarily to those who avoided too much missionary zeal and preferred to recruit on the basis of Esperanto as a neutral device. Given the lack of opportunity to use the language in practical ways, for more than half of the past hundred years the Esperantists of East Asia tended to emphasize Esperanto as an idea; but the economic prosperity of Japan and the opening of China, by allowing greater contact with the outside world, have given Esperanto the opportunity to demonstrate more strongly its usefulness as an easily learned means of communication, also for direct contact between Chinese and Japanese.
Keywords: history, Esperanto, Japan, East Asia, China, internationalism, international communication, modernization
Published online: 07 April 2008
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