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Warning. Most italics and other font variation in the book died in transplantation & citations are missing.  Please note this if you quote it!

Here are 2 of Frois’s 611 contrasts (not necessarily the best, which tend to be longer) between Europe & Japan, with a sample from the Annotated Bibliography sandwiched between.   An outline of the Foreword & Midword as well as the entire list of 611 contrasts  is  here.


1-30+    We use black for mourning;
Nós uzamos do preto por dó;

The Japanese white.
E os Japões do branco.

Today, white is far less prevalent than black at Japanese funerals.  This is partly because of the Western influence and partly because the use of white in Japan was never as absolute as in neighboring Korea, where it is still the color of bereavement (and worn all the time by the elderly as if to say “I’m ready to go!”) or China, from where, Rodrigues wrote, the custom came.  Even in Frois’s time, Japanese men of the bushi (samurai) class, at least, only wore white to their own funeral, i.e., when committing seppuku (formal harakiri).  Otherwise, they tended to wear dull-black hemp (Okada) and, as Frois himself noted in a letter Englished by Willis, the bonzes wore fine black upper garments to funerals.  This makes sense, for the dark=sad metaphor is as much part of the Japanese language, as it is part of ours (One even finds a cherry tree blooming with ashen colored blossoms in the Kokinshû collection of poems (c.900)).  White, on the other hand, as befits a color made of the entire spectrum of light, boasts a more complex semiology.  It is both the color of the purity at the heart of Shinto and the metaphorical “unknowing”  (shira as in shira-tsuyu: “white-dew”, or “dew, not knowing it will soon evaporate” – think of our going blank) of the Zen Buddhist poet.  Together with red, white comprises the male half of the traditional pair of festive colors.  Sometimes both the pure, festive aspect and the mourning aspect of white could and was fused, for the

Japanese bride goes to be married in a pure white mourning robe, which is intended to signify that henceforth she is dead to her old home and her parents, and that she must henceforth look upon her husband’s people as her own” (Lorimer in S:MQTJ)

This marriage-as-death idea was developed much farther in parts of China and South East Asia.  Today, Japanese have little or no consciousness of it.  The white veil or cap over the head, which once was “her destined shroud” (B:MCJ), is now known only as a “horn-hider,” (tsuno-kakushi), a visible reminder that the bride is studying to be good despite her devilish female nature (whether from the Buddhist idea of women as bundles of desire or some part of Shinto, I do not yet know – anyone?), as in the West, it is the purity aspect of the color that is dominant and recognized. Given this complexity, it is ironic that black and white contrasts became so black and white. Montanus, in 1670,  may have been the first to proceed one logical step forward and claim that –

To be clad in Black or Scarlet, amonst them signifies Triumph or Joy, but their Mourning for loss of Friends and other Disastors, is White. (M:EEJ)

I have never found black so described by Japanese and they would have found it ludicrous.  On the other hand,  I have found white mourning in the West.   Plenty of it.    First,  Montaigne:

Argive and Roman ladies wore white mourning, as ours used to and should have continued to do, if they had taken my advice. But there are entire books written about this question. (M(F):CEM) (1)

And A. H. Oliveira Marques, writing about Frois’s Portugal(!), suggests that one hardly need to go back to classical times:

Because unbleached and undyed homespun and sackcloth were whitish or yellowish, just as is burlap, white became a badge of mourning during the Middle Ages . . . Only the king and queen could wear black as a sign of mourning. When Fernando dies (1383), the Count of Ourém, perhaps following a foreign custom, appeared dressed in black when all the other nobles were in homespun. That was criticized and reprimanded to such a point that the count had to resign himself to covering his black clothing with the customary white cloak. . . . Black had begun to vie with white as an indication of mourning toward the close off the Middle Ages. . . . But only in the reign of Manuel I (1495-1521) was it adopted as the official color of mourning in clothing. (M:DLP)

When Philip (Felipe) II (King of Spain, Portugal (and mucho more)) died five years after TRATADO, his lasting black legacy proved to be a problem, for after the civic officials purchased their black gowns and black draperies for the buildings at public expense, the fabric “began to fetch black market prices.” In Seville, “poor people who could not afford the appropriate black mourning garb were thrown in prison.  Apparently, the number of arrests was so high that Philip III had to modify the requirements, allowing the poor simply to wear unadorned hats.”(E:MP) We tend to think of dark as natural and light as artificial, but the fact most fabrics are naturally closer to white than black probably ensures that the crude clothing favored by most cultures for mourning will be whitish.  Indeed, Nieuhoff in 1672 cited just that argument by Semedo.  Namely, silk and cotton were too fine for mourning, so hemp was de rigor in China; and, hempen white being “a naturally unpleasing colour,” he argued, white came to be chosen as “the Colour of their Mourning.”  Nieuhoff also cites Martinus to the effect that the Chinese “themselves say” that it is because only

White is Natural, when all other things are Dy’d, or Artificial, by which they say, is signifi’d that in Sorrow, neither Art nor Pride must be shewn, for where a true Sorrow is, Nature sufficiently expresses it. (N(O):EC)

The relationship of this natural raw white and brilliant white in the East is, however, a matter for debate.  Lee O-Young has argued the Korean predilection for white clothing in terms of his countrymen’s long-term poverty.2  I contested in print, that, no, it takes a hell of a lot of labor to make and keep clothing as white as that  –  I did not know it at the time I wrote my article, but Bird had written a large paragraph on just that a hundred years before me!

Washing is her manifest destiny so long as her lord wears white. She washes in this foul river, in the pond of the Mulberry Palace, in every wet ditch . . .  . The women are slaves to the laundry, and the only sound which breaks the stillness of a Seoul night is the regular beat of their laundry sticks.  (B:KHN)

True white (as opposed to undyed cloth), then, is no more a default color than black.  Koreans may have originally adopted it because they had so much interest in the dead and the other world that life became a perpetual period of mourning, and as the white brightened, it became a necessary proof of spiritual purity, as black became identified with spiritual sobriety in the West. 

1. Montaigne Citation.  I lost the page and thus the name of the essay.  You would not go wrong searching for it, for Montaigne’s Essays are full of fun at every turn and even if you fail to find it you will find something!
2. Lee O-young.  I think it was in In This Wind and on this Earth.  But it might have been in another book he wrote about Korea published in Japanese.  My article was in Chuo-koron  May 1990.


A snippet from the 30 page Annotated Bibliography.   I gave much more space to rare books than to known ones. 

C:TJJ = Cornwallis, Kinahan: TWO JOURNEYS TO JAPAN.   1859. I found this book in Alcock, who mentioned someone having sent it to him for an opinion, which was that he doubted the author had ever been to Japan, for “if so, I felt I ought to lay down the pen in despair, for I had not even a hope of having anything half so wonderful to narrate, were my residence in Japan to be prolonged a hundred years – which Heaven forbid!” (A:COT – Alcock found the deprivation of beef and mutton hard on his “English constitution” and was ready to return.) It is true that Cornwallis’ book begins with a series of happenings that remind one of Pinto.  In a few dozen pages a bronze casting of a Japanese sea-god is found in a sea-cave and later stolen by the Yankee Yahoos who don’t know “the laws of Meum and Tuum,” a samurai commits hara-kiri on the spot when a gruff Yankee skipper “performed with his heavy expedition boot a violent ceremony” on his backside (the man was only  doing his duty of following them), and the author himself shoots a rare Japanese wolf (not knowing it was rare when he did so) now found, he claims, in the Smithsonian (Can any one check this for me?) Yet, most of this two-volume book – which does not continue in so Pinto-esque a vein – seems as trustworthy as . . . Alcock.  Many of the little details (“My host introduced me as America,” being invited to a home after someone noticed him sketching, and so forth) are perfect. Cornwallis also deserves to be remembered (Alcock doesn’t even give us his name and subsequent authors don’t mention his book) for his bold humanist stance: “Why send your money to convert the heathen, when you have a community at home more vicious and depraved, and destitute, both morally and physically . . .” than in Japan, which “affords a heaven of contentment as compared to our own.”  His specific criticism of the wretchedness of many in London –  still true today, in the year 2000! (I had to pass through beggars to make it to the BL) –  is identical to that made by the first Japanese visitors to the West. The book  ends with anti-missionary, pro-Japanese poems. “Japan! let not invaders desecrate thy land; / Why should the idols which thy people serve./ As thy forefathers served be now cast down? . . .”  There is also a description of a Pacific island, which ends:  “Nookoora will soon be laid desolate and its people wither away . . . all the wretchedness and calamity of our enlightened system of society will hiss upon the yet unpolluted air of that far-off Eden.”  I write at length partly because I think it a good bet that young Lafcadio Hearn read and was influenced by this forgotten book.  Still, Cornwallis has one serious shortcoming: he never cites the work of others (Touché for Alcocks).  After a long bath episode at his Japanese friend’s house, he concludes “The act of taking a warm bath in the presence of witnesses, was another new feature in the order of things. But it was the custom of the country. What black is to us, white is to the Japanese in more matters than mourning garments.” This is the earliest post-Opening topsy-turvy statement published in book form that I know of, but both the “customs of the country”  and the bath connection suggest the author read Alcock’s report with the material cited in the foreword of this book.

C:TAJ = Crosland, T.W.H.. THE TRUTH ABOUT JAPAN. London 1904. This author had already written THE UNSPEAKABLE SCOT and LOVELY WOMAN, both savage attacks of wit upon types he considered grossly over-rated. With a tremendous volume of work painting Japan and the Japanese culture in glowing colors, Crosland’s poison pen aimed to even the score. Unlike the other two books, however, this book had some serious political implications. He argued that Japan’s victory over Russia had dire implications for Great Britain’s Far East interests, quoting a Professor K. Ukita to the effect that it was Japan’s mission to set up a confederation of Asian nations. “Asia for the Asiatics” he warns, “might become a fait accompli in far less time than the European thinks for [sic]. Furthermore, we might hear something about “Europe for Asiatics,” and the yoke might change necks.” Crosland was right to be concerned about new brooms sweeping clean, for Japan did prove to be an authoritarian colonial power. But his argument is hopelessly stained with racism: “Russia, after all, is a white nation. It is not seemly that a yellow race, however “plucky” and however “sturdy” should be permitted to bait her.”  “The ha’penny papers have vied with one another in the invention of endearing epithets for him –  “little Jappy Atkins”, “little Jap Tar,” “the Englishman of the Orient,” . . . “A stunted, lymphatic, yellow-faced heathen, with a mouthful of teeth three sizes too big for him, bulging slits where his eyes ought to be, blacking brush hair, a foolish giggle, a cruel heart, and the conceit of the devil – this, O bemused reader, is the authentic dearly-beloved “Little Jap.” I quote this at length because its attitude was very rare and represents a reaction against what we might call friendly Orientalism.  I wonder if Crosland’s devil’s advocate exercise had a major influence on the political betrayal of the Japanese by the British which was soon to follow and which, more than anything else, put Japan on the route to Pearl Harbor.

C:TCC = Cruz, Frei Gaspar da (Rui Manuel Loureiro ed.): TRATADO DAS COISAS DA CHINA (Evora 1569-70). Cotavia (Lisboa), 1997. After struggling through this in Portuguese, I was half-disappointed to find it in Boxer:SCSC!  The first book on China published in Europe. As obvious from my quotes in this book, Cruz was overwhelmed by the scale of the commerce and the depth of the industry of the people.


1-10      We consider it filthy and uncouth to have long finger-nails. 
Antre nós trazer as unhas compridas se tem por sujidade e pouqa criasão;

                        In Japan, men as well as well-bred women sport some nails like talons.
Os Japões, asi homens como molheres fidalgas, trazem algumas como de gaviões.                           

Okada protests: “It is an exaggeration to write that our country has the custom of growing long nails. There were just days when nail-cutting was taboo; it was considered inauspicious to cut them at night or [for punning reasons] before departing on a journey.”  Indeed, most Japanese depicted in ukiyoe  prints show nails cut so short the meat of the finger-tip bulges up.  But, I beg to point out that while Okada and others translate Frois’s second sentence as “sometimes have nails” or  “. . . some men and ladies have nails . . . ,” strictly speaking, the “some” (algumas) should refer to the nails (unhas), and may refer to the fact that priests, literatae, wealthy merchants and nobles in Japan often boasted long fingernails on at least one pinkie, i.e., some finger. (1 ) The practice is originally Mandarin-Chinese. (2) Since the Japanese adopted/adapted many Chinese practices.  Rada and Cruz, respectively, on 16th century China:

The men often let the fingernails of one of their hands grow very long, and are very proud thereof, as we saw by many of them whose fingernails were as long as their fingers. (trans. Boxer:B:SCSC)

There are some Chinas who wear very long finger-nails, from half a span to a span long, which they keep very clean; and these finger-nails do serve them instead of the chop-sticks for to eat withal. (ibid)

            The Portuguese editor for the Cruz reprint writes that the nails were coated with silver (baínhas de prata).  He also notes that no other documentation on eating with nails has been found.  No documentation, perhaps, but the idea got around.  Here is Bulwer a century later:

In China  some of them weare Nailes of half a quarter and a quarter long, which they keep very cleane; and these Nailes do serve them instead of Forkes to eate withall; the use of silver Forkes which our Gallants so much used of late was no doubt an imitation of this. (B:A)

Bulwer writes tongue-in-cheeke, but chopsticks – called just “sticks” by the Portuguese and Spaniards –  were often Englished as forks.  Dyer Ball, mercifully drops the chopstick idea, and gives a late-19th century explanation:

Long finger-nails are not considered a sign of dirtiness, but of respectability, and of being above manual labour, which, if necessary, would of course prevent them from attaining such length as an inch and a half, two inches, or even three, though it is seldom one sees them all of equal length on all the fingers. It is well that such is the case, as two or three on one or both hands give such a claw-like appearance to the fingers as to make them sufficiently repulsive; fortunately hand-shaking is not in vogue in China, as it would be extremely unpleasant to feel the long talons gripping one’s hand. (THINGS CHINESE)

Viewed in retrospect, there is no little irony in the contrast, for in Japan, where the same word was used for “fingernail,” “claw” and “talon,” having long nails had a strong beastly significance and, as it turns out, identified with Europeans!  The retrospective folk-description of the kind and gentle Japanophile Organtino S.J., the nose of which we have already seen includes some animal metaphor:

His teeth are like a horse’s, whiter than snow.  His finger-nails the claws of a bear. (J/E:NBJ)

Since the same word is used for nails and claws in Japanese, it might be overdoing it to  say that Furukomu (Frois or Valignano) lit his tobacco by striking fire from his own claws” (As it is usually translated), but the practice of depicting the other side with spooky fingernails is undeniable. These “claws” disappeared with the opening of Japan, but were returned to the hands –  or, rather, paws –  of Churchill, Roosevelt and other Anglo-American enemy in WWII Japanese propaganda art! (D:WWM)  This art reminds us that we should be careful about equating nails and elegant femininity. (3)

1. One Long Nail   Some elderly Japanese –very few today – still keep one long fingernail, and claim it is useful for removing ear wax, which it certainly is (I keep one long for that reason – and to remove cotton from my ear – and find the only problem with it is that the drug-on-the-brain people of my native Usania (America should refer to the continents) are constantly asking me if it is for coke!).

2. China May Be India    Just because I trace back Japanese practices to China doesn’t necessarily mean China is the original origin.  Here is Âl-bîrûnî on  India/ns:

They let the nails grow long, glorying in their idleness, since they do not use them for any business or work, but only, while living a dolce far niente life, they scratch their heads with them and examine the hair for lice.” (A(S):AI)

The unwritten contrary are Muslims who keep them short.   Is it possible that long nails traveled North with Religion? 

3. A Second Nail Tradition.  In examining history, we must take care not to allow ourselves to conflate long nails with idleness and femininity.  A Sung dynasty paint-ing of Fu-hsi, legendary inventor of the eight trigrams of Taoism, by Ma Lin, is described by Anthony Christie as follows: 

In addition to their role in divination the pa kua were the basis of Chinese calligraphy, so scholars especially revered Fu-hsi who, despite his ‘archaic’ dress, is seen with the long nails worn by scholars.”  (C:CM – oops, I forgot to put this in the bibliography!) 

Though a total amateur in mythology and art history, I  can see the  “despite”  here is wrong.   The man’s  nails (finger and toe) do not look at all like those of scholars but seem a perfect match for his dress comprising two furs, probably bear and leopard.  They look terrifying, a perfect match to the fur.  Moreover, Fu-hsi has hair on his feet!   To me, this suggests a second tradition of nails, a ferocious one, diametric to the effete one.  Here, too, there may well be an Indian connection.  In 1659, an unarmed Hindu leader (Sivaji) assassinated a Mogul General (Afzal Khan) using “steel ‘tiger-claws,’ which he had secretly attached to his fingers” which resulted in a decisive battle win and the  liberation of Maratha. (C:TTM this, too lost in my room!) It is possible this creative guerilla fighter invented his nails from scratch, but I would guess we have a tradition.  It is not irrelevant that in the Americas, real nails were used for tools by the Tehueco in Sinaloa (Mexico).

If they do not have a knife to cut the meat [flesh of human’s they kill] , they do so with their thumbnail, which they grow long.   PDR:HTHF 2-16  

I believe what Andrés Péres de Ribas S.J. reports in the  seventeenth century because nails can be strengthened by use because of the effect of pressure on their growth and because I have peeled oranges with my thumbnail . . .

If, after you have read TOPSY-TURVY 1585, you feel I must post  a certain page or paragraph here, please tell me.  With 740 pages, I need not fear giving away too much!   rdg

As is the case for all books written by Robin D. Gill, TOPSY-TURVY 1585 is full of tidbits guaranteed to interest the intelligent reader, that may or may not bear directly upon the text.  This is because the author feels obliged to introduce his discoveries.   The following discovery, in a word, the article which probably influenced Malthus to write what he wrote (which still holds true), is a good example.  Because we want you to buy the book, the names and exact dates have been removed.  The underlined part (not underlined in the book, though) is the proof, but the main reason for the note is because it is both hilarious and has to do with something we might call “face-value” or, the significance of looks.   For the reader who likes ideas, a single footnote such as this is worth the $33.33 price of the book.  Right?

2. Backwards Occident   In respect to the slowness of the West to adopt vaccination, Morse lamented Christian fundamentalism that prevented the rational spread of scientific knowledge in the USA.   It is depressing to consider how little progress has made in fundamentalist Usania even today at the start of the 21st century.  We need the help of humor such as ____________’s  __ June, 1755 article, published in his magazine _____________  wherein four objections were made to the practice.  First, it was Turkish or Persian and “speaking as a man, I dread lest it should be a means of introducing, in these opera days, some more alarming practices of the seraglio.” Second, it might work too well:  i.e., “the world . . . is certainly much over-peopled” and the “inconvenience” born of this (which he elaborates) “had in a great measure been prevented by the proper number of people who were daily removed by the small-pox in the natural way” and without this help “unless we should speedily have a war upon the continent, we shall be in danger of being eaten up with famine at home, through the multiplicity of our people . . . .” (Yes, yes,  Malthus wasn’t born yet.  He was, however, 22 when the multi-volume 3rd ed. of the I quote was published: 1789. I’ll bet he read it.). Third, it would mean a greater percentage of beauties, who “are naturally disposed to be a little insolent” and give rise to a shortage of “fit and ugly women,” whose work kept the commonwealth prosperous, so that “this modern invention for the preservation of pretty faces ought, no doubt, to be abolished.” And, fourth, without fear of disease the country gentry – especially their wives – will “evacuate their hospitable seats and roll away with safety and tranquility to town to the great diminution of country neighborhood . . .”  –  I’d guess that __________ actually favored  “the unnatural and unconstitutional practice of INOCULATION;” but the fact that many people seriously divided the world into things natural and unnatural in the West kept the resistance alive until the twentieth century.  No, the twenty-first.  It should be noted that he was referring to the longstanding African and Asian practice of inoculating people with a bit of pus taken from the pox marks of a sufferer that Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was the first to succeed in getting established in Europe.  It was said to have a mortality rate of  about 2-3%,  far better than odds the disease gave you.