thumbnail of You, Me, and Technology; No. 9; China, Japan, and the West
Hide -
<v narrator>This device measures a precious commodity we call time. <v narrator>It does no other work. <v narrator>And yet it's one of the most important machines ever invented. <v narrator>In this program, we'll use time and the mechanical clock to show <v narrator>how technology can spread from one society to the next and how the same <v narrator>technology can influence different cultures in different ways. <v Speaker>[intro music] <v narrator>Technology is an extension of the human being. <v narrator>It is our way of reaching out into the world using knowledge and creativity <v narrator>to expand human potential and modify the environment. <v narrator>Of all the inventions that illustrate the differences between Eastern and Western
<v narrator>approaches to technology, the mechanical clock is perhaps the most revealing. <v narrator>From the time mechanical clocks were invented, Western society has had a love <v narrator>affair with them. <v narrator>Clocks do more than keep the time they are ornaments, artwork <v narrator>and even forms of entertainment. <v narrator>To find out how this technology came to mean so much to Western society, <v narrator>we have to return to the Middle Ages before the mechanical clock was invented. <v narrator>In those days, society moved at a slower pace. <v narrator>The chief occupation was farming. <v narrator>And religion was the dominant force of daily life.
<v narrator>The religious tradition taught that God had given humanity stewardship over <v narrator>forests, fields, and all living creatures. <v narrator>According to this belief, it is the moral duty to find, extract <v narrator>and put to use all the resources the Earth has to offer. <v Speaker>[hymms] <v narrator>This teaching was especially influential in monastic life <v narrator>in monasteries throughout Europe. <v narrator>Monks worked very hard to put it into practice. <v narrator>They till the fields, built churches and even produced fine wines and <v narrator>brandy. <v Speaker>[bell tolling] <v narrator>Monks worked according to a very strict daily schedule. <v narrator>Their day was divided into periods set aside for work, meals and
<v narrator>prayer. Bells marked every period of monastic life. <v narrator>But the monks were not the only ones who were working hard, <v narrator>tradesmen in cities throughout Europe were acquiring wealth through the manufacture and <v narrator>sale of textiles and other goods like everyone else in their society. <v narrator>They, too, relied on church bells to help them regulate their daily lives. <v narrator>More and more time itself came to be regarded as a precious resource. <v narrator>For the monk, wasting time was a deadly sin. <v narrator>For the tradesman, wasting time and wasting money. <v narrator>Of course, the more precious resource is, the greater the need to measure it carefully. <v narrator>And So it was with time. <v narrator>No one knows exactly who invented the clock or precisely when it was invented. <v narrator>But by the end of the 13, hundreds mechanical clocks like this one were already
<v narrator>ticking in Europe. <v narrator>They used an ingenious device called an escapement. <v narrator>To mark the time, the rhythmic beat of the escapement divided time into separate <v narrator>pulses. <v narrator>In the towns and villages of Europe, the clock was soon accepted as the regulator <v narrator>of the day's activities. <v narrator>Many communities installed a town clock even before they had organized sewage disposal <v narrator>or water supply. <v Speaker>Along with its new machine, Western culture got a new virtue, punctuality, <v Speaker>the virtue of being on time. <v Speaker>We have never gotten over it.
<v Speaker>But the invention of a mechanical clock gave us more than punctuality. <v Speaker>It also played an important part in the rapid growth of technology in the Web's. <v Speaker>As it became more precise, the clock helped usher in a new age of science. <v Speaker>The tools and the skills that went into Clarke making were used to fashion precision <v Speaker>instruments of all kinds. <v Speaker>The story of the clock in Europe shows how a particular technology can spread <v Speaker>quickly through a culture helping to transform it. <v Speaker>There are a few other technologies which, like the clock, have had a profound impact <v Speaker>on our culture. <v Speaker>The stern rudder and compass are such technology. <v Speaker>The compass allowed sailors to venture safely out onto the open sea. <v Speaker>The stern rudder provided reliable steering control. <v Speaker>Together, they made it possible for Europe to embark on the great age of discovery.
<v Speaker>Another basic technology was printing with movable type Western <v Speaker>society, used printing to distribute news, literature, political views, <v Speaker>religious ideas and scientific and technological information. <v Speaker>Printing became one of the cornerstones of Western culture. <v Speaker>Gunpowder was another invention of monumental importance. <v Speaker>It radically altered the technology of warfare and placed in European <v Speaker>hands. It changed the entire course of history. <v Speaker>All these basic technologies share one trait in common. <v Speaker>All of them, except for the mechanical clock, were first invented in China <v Speaker>and brought back to Europe by Marco Polo in the thirteen hundred. <v Speaker>Why didn't the Chinese fully develop inventions like gunpowder printing
<v Speaker>and the compass? Why did Western culture adopt such technology so <v Speaker>readily? And why did China resist their development? <v Speaker>To understand the answers to these. <v Speaker>One must understand the nature of Chinese society. <v Speaker>Down to the present day, China's survival has depended on peasant farmers <v Speaker>cultivating every available piece of land. <v Speaker>From the earliest times, flood control and elaborate systems of irrigation <v Speaker>were a necessity in China. <v Speaker>Such large projects demanded efficient organization. <v Speaker>And a centralized government. <v Speaker>These were provided by the emperor and his bureaucracy. <v Speaker>In effect, the emperor controlled all the land, which he could seize at any time <v Speaker>for the common good. He also controlled the calendar, which was used <v Speaker>to determine the most favorable times to begin planting, harvesting and <v Speaker>other major projects. No one else in China was allowed to dabble in calendar
<v Speaker>making. To do so was treason punishable by death. <v Speaker>The calendar was an imperial tool reserved for the exclusive use of <v Speaker>the emperor himself. He alone was the son of heaven. <v Speaker>He alone was the Lord of time. <v Speaker>The first official act of any new emperor in China was to devise a calendar of <v Speaker>his own, to be used in calculating changes in celestial phenomena. <v Speaker>So it was not strange when nearly 300 years before the first European clock <v Speaker>would be built, that the emperor commanded a royal adviser named Sue Song <v Speaker>to fashion a great machine for mapping the heavens to <v Speaker>sun used water to regulate his machine. <v Speaker>The flow of water turned to mechanism in precisely measured intervals. <v Speaker>The turning wheel not only indicated the passage of time, <v Speaker>but also operated several astronomical instruments.
<v Speaker>Like this, more modern clock Sue Song's device could foretell eclipses, <v Speaker>mark the phases of the moon and perform other complicated astronomical tasks <v Speaker>as far as we know. There was nothing else like it in the whole world. <v Speaker>The Chinese were largely concerned with agricultural tasks regulated by the <v Speaker>motion of the sun and the passage of the seasons. <v Speaker>They did not share the eagerness on Westerner's to control and regulate the hours of each <v Speaker>day. Nor did they share the Western passion for exploiting nature. <v Speaker>Rather, they held to the wisdom of Confucius, which taught that humanity should <v Speaker>seek harmony with nature, not mastery of it. <v Speaker>In the Chinese view, even technology is supposed to follow the laws of <v Speaker>harmony and balance. <v Speaker>The Europeans who entered China in the fifteen hundreds were coming from a civilization <v Speaker>that had surged forward on a tidal wave of Chinese inventions, gunpowder
<v Speaker>printing and the stern rudder among them. <v Speaker>But the Chinese reaction to Western technology was not encouraging, <v Speaker>though they were amused and intrigued by clocks, for example, they regarded them as <v Speaker>little more than elegant toys. <v Speaker>This view prevailed in the late 60s, hundreds. <v Speaker>China once again expelled all foreigners and closed its borders to <v Speaker>outside contact this time. <v Speaker>The quarantine lasted nearly 200 year. <v Speaker>Ironically, the Europeans who reopened contact with China in 1841 <v Speaker>used a Chinese invention to do it gunpowder. <v Speaker>Or the Chinese, the obvious superiority of Western technology implied <v Speaker>the inferiority of Chinese culture. <v Speaker>And this they refuse to accept. <v Speaker>They feared that adopting Western technology meant adopting Western values
<v Speaker>as well. <v Speaker>Many simply preferred to wall themselves off from Western influence as much as possible. <v Speaker>It was a reaction that has had a long standing effect on Chinese life down <v Speaker>to modern times. <v Speaker>Although China is the world's most populous country and its oldest continuous <v Speaker>civilization, it remains technologically undeveloped. <v Speaker>It seems odd to call this oldest of civilizations a developing nation, <v Speaker>a nation that has decided to catch up with the technological world that it rejected many <v Speaker>years ago. <v Speaker>It's a contradiction at the very heart of China, whose history is filled with wonder <v Speaker>and whose future is clouded by uncertainty. <v Speaker>Anyone searching for a technological success story can focus on Japan, <v Speaker>efficient, prosperous and very up to date. <v Speaker>This small island nation, unlike China, has chosen to become
<v Speaker>a modern economic powerhouse. <v Speaker>But it wasn't always that way. <v Speaker>Four at one time, Japan faced the same decisions about Western technology <v Speaker>that China had to make. <v Speaker>Like China, Japan had expelled all foreigners in 16, 36 <v Speaker>military rulers feared that introducing Western influence. <v Speaker>Especially Western armaments would upset the delicate balance of power that the ruling <v Speaker>Shogun maintain among various elements of Japanese society. <v Speaker>In 1853, an American fleet thunder Commodore Perry <v Speaker>ended over 200 years of Japanese isolation while the West had <v Speaker>become a mighty technological civilization. <v Speaker>Japanese society had barely advanced from its medieval state. <v Speaker>The shock was profound. <v Speaker>The Japanese had no desire to change their way of life. <v Speaker>But at the same time, they realized that if they did not modernize, they would
<v Speaker>eventually be swallowed up by the Western powers. <v Speaker>The Japanese elite decided to transform the country. <v Speaker>They initiated an all consuming national effort to build a modern society. <v Speaker>They changed traditional institutions and they adjusted the habits and patterns <v Speaker>of centuries in favor of Western. <v Speaker>Less than 50 years later, in nineteen hundred and five. <v Speaker>The transformation was so complete that the Japanese inflicted a stunning military <v Speaker>defeat on the forces of the Russian empire. <v Speaker>They had developed from an isolated society to a technologically modern world power <v Speaker>within the span of a single lifetime. <v Speaker>It was an astonishing cheap. <v Speaker>But Japan's dreams of military glory were eventually shattered by World War Two.
<v Speaker>After the war, Japan was a devastated country. <v Speaker>Its industry was destroyed, its cities in ruins and its economy <v Speaker>collapsed. <v Speaker>But once again, the Japanese gift for adaptation came to the rescue. <v Speaker>Supported by America's occupation policy in the 1940s. <v Speaker>And large scale American economic aid and investment after 1950. <v Speaker>Japan saw the value of imitating American business method, as <v Speaker>they had before, the Japanese once again modified their society with a single <v Speaker>minded and communal effort. <v Speaker>Today, the words made in Japan stand for quality products <v Speaker>at a reasonable price. <v Speaker>The Japanese success has been so overwhelming that in the 1980s they opened <v Speaker>factories in the U.S.. <v Speaker>Perhaps what is most amazing is that the Japanese have managed to imitate the Western <v Speaker>and particularly American technology while remaining uniquely Japanese.
<v Speaker>They have not abandoned their group outlook or their dedication to community goals. <v Speaker>Equally amazing is the Japanese ability to take what is most useful from other cultures <v Speaker>and apply it to their own purposes and to do so on a massive national <v Speaker>scale. They accepted the changes demanded by technology <v Speaker>and in a way that is uniquely Japanese. <v Speaker>They have reconciled modern technology with ancient traditions. <v Speaker>Time and the clocks that measure it have already told us a great deal about the relation <v Speaker>of China, Japan and the West. <v Speaker>Today, the clock is still a reflection of the complexity of modern technology. <v Speaker>Extremely accurate watches are no longer an expensive rarity. <v Speaker>In developed countries, at least, practically anyone can own a watch. <v Speaker>Whatever style might suit their fancy.
You, Me, and Technology
Episode Number
No. 9
China, Japan, and the West
Producing Organization
New Jersey Network
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
New Jersey Network (Trenton, New Jersey)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-259-bg2h9d8j).
Series Description
"You, Me and Technology is the first TV series of its kind, a complete curriculum for technology literacy for students in seventh throughout twelfth grades. The series is concerned with how the interactions of technology affect individuals. It aims to help young viewers achieve technological literacy and an objective attitude toward technologies. "'China, Japan and the West' is one of twelve programs in the series which deals with western visits to China in the Fifteenth century, where they found Chinese Technology at a high level. The 'Technology Transfer' was from China to the West, but the levels of technologies were reversed when the Americans visited China in the nineteenth century. A comparison of world views, philosophy, and expectations of the two cultures provides understanding of the different results of the two societies interacting with technology. A) SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM Provide a general description of the comparative technology of China and the West, first in the fifteenth century and then in the nineteenth century. Describe 'technology transfer' with examples of technologies transferred from China to the West in the fifteenth century. Explain briefly how three cultural developments promoted the rapid development of technology in the West. Compare the differences in the response of Chinese and Japanese societies to western technologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Summarize the view of the world that is basic to 'scientific revolution.' "The program 'China, Japan, and the West' has been broadcast and reviewed and has tested extremely well. The production and technical quality of the film and series, we feel, are exceptional."--1987 Peabody Awards entry form.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: New Jersey Network
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-e81f5d967a3 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 00:20:00
New Jersey Network
Identifier: cpb-aacip-a47db1d5419 (Filename)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Dub
Duration: 00:30:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “You, Me, and Technology; No. 9; China, Japan, and the West,” 1987-09-08, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Jersey Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “You, Me, and Technology; No. 9; China, Japan, and the West.” 1987-09-08. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Jersey Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: You, Me, and Technology; No. 9; China, Japan, and the West. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Jersey Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from