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Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West [Kindle Edition]

T.R. Reid
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Those who've heard T. R. Reid's weekly commentary on National Public Radio or read his far-flung reporting in National Geographic or  The Washington Post know him to be trenchant, funny, and cutting-edge, but also erudite and deeply grounded in whatever subject he's discussing. In Confucius Lives Next Door he brings all these attributes to the fore as he examines why Japan, China, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries enjoy the low crime rates, stable families, excellent education, and civil harmony that remain so elusive in the West. Reid, who has spent twenty-five years studying Asia and was for five years The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief, uses his family's experience overseas--including mishaps and misapprehensions--to look at Asia's "social miracle" and its origin in the ethical values outlined by the Chinese sage Confucius 2,500 years ago.
When Reid, his wife, and their three children moved from America to Japan, the family quickly became accustomed to the surface differences between the two countries. In Japan, streets don't have names, pizza comes with seaweed sprinkled on top, and businesswomen in designer suits and Ferragamo shoes go home to small concrete houses whose washing machines are outdoors because there's no room inside. But over time Reid came to appreciate the deep cultural differences, helped largely by his courtly white-haired neighbor Mr. Matsuda, who personified ancient Confucian values that are still dominant in Japan. Respect, responsibility, hard work--these and other principles are evident in Reid's witty, perfectly captured portraits, from that of the school his young daughters attend, in which the students maintain order and scrub the floors, to his depiction of the corporate ceremony that welcomes new employees and reinforces group unity. And Reid also examines the drawbacks of living in such a society, such as the ostracism of those who don't fit in and the acceptance of routine political bribery.
Much Western ink has been spilled trying to figure out the East, but few journalists approach the subject with T. R. Reid's familiarity and insight. Not until we understand the differences between Eastern and Western perceptions of what constitutes success and personal happiness will we be able to engage successfully, politically and economically, with those whose moral center is governed by Confucian doctrine. Fascinating and immensely readable, Confucius Lives Next Door prods us to think about what lessons we might profitably take from the "Asian Way"--and what parts of it we want to avoid.

Editorial Reviews Review

Despite setbacks, the economic "miracles" achieved by many Asian countries in the latter 20th century have been impressive. This entertaining and thoughtful book invites the reader to consider East Asia's other miracle: its dramatically low rates of crime, divorce, drug abuse, and other social ills. T.R. Reid, an NPR commentator and former Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post, lived in Japan for five years, and he draws on this experience to show how the countries of East Asia have built modern industrial societies characterized by the safest streets, the best schools, and the most stable families in the world.

Reid credits Asia's success to the ethical values of Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 B.C., who taught the value of harmony and the importance of treating others decently. This is not a new perception--Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and others have rather heavy-handedly invoked it to claim moral superiority over the West--but the author's vivid anecdotes strengthen its relevance. Public messages constantly remind Asian citizens of their responsibilities to society. To enhance a sense of belonging, civic ceremonies encourage individuals' allegiance to a greater good; across Japan, for example, April 1 is Nyu-Sha-Shiki day, when corporations officially welcome new employees, most of whom remain loyal to their company for life. Citing Malaysia's ideas of a "reverse Peace Corps," Reid sees a case for Asians coming to teach the West in the same way that Westerners have evangelized in Asia for over four centuries. --John Stevenson

From Publishers Weekly

In this breezy homily, Reid, an NPR commentator who was the Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief for five years, offers a look at what he calls Asia's "social miracle" (as opposed to its once vaunted economic growth). The nations of East Asia, he reports, have "the safest streets, the strongest families, and the best schools in the world." Along with their enviably low rates of crime, divorce, unwed motherhood and vandalism, countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand boast a burgeoning middle class, a general aura of civility and a more egalitarian distribution of wealth than the U.S. enjoys. Like many other Asia watchers, Reid attributes this social cohesiveness to a shared set of core values?discipline, loyalty, hard work, a focus on education, group harmony, etc.?that he traces back to the Confucian classics. Yet Reid, now the Post's London bureau chief, readily admits that the East Asian model of Confucian prosperity has glaring flaws: most cities he visited were drab and ugly; Singapore is a "self-righteous and thoroughly intolerant place controlled by a small clique." Reid, who transplanted his family of five from a small Colorado town to Tokyo, serves up amusing anecdotes and cross-cultural observations (his two daughters enrolled in a Japanese public school), but his report reads like one long radio spiel and covers well-trod terrain. After gently berating Westerners for more than 200 pages, he gets to eat his rice cake and have it, too: Confucian values and our own Judeo-Christian morality, he concludes, are basically the same, differing mainly in nuance. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1412 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B004A1VYGO
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 24, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C4BA3IC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,897 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Superficial Cross-Cultural Study April 16, 2003
This is a mostly entertaining and enlightening study from Reid, a foreign correspondent who has lived in Japan and traveled throughout Asia. Reid's concern is not the economic success of East Asia, but what he calls the "social miracle." This would be the great civility, politeness, high educational standards, low crime, and all-around successful social stability of Eastern Asian nations. Reid cites the deep cultural influences of Confucianism as the key to this success. Examples are the Confucian ideals of community, shame, and encouragement, which all contrast directly with the Western ideals of individuality, guilt, and punishment. Reid delivers these revelations in a very enlightening fashion and his writing is quite enjoyable, especially when talking about his Tokyo neighbor, the immensely polite and courteous Matsuda-san. However, Reid also learns that the most basic Confucian tenets of hard work and virtue are also core Western tenets, and that the West would be greatly improved by a return to those values. The main problem here is Reid's quite superficial interpretations of both Eastern and Western societies - he often talks like a sociologist but clearly isn't. In Japan especially, Reid probably saw mostly the politeness that the natives save for visitors, with little or no direct experience of real social problems. The book ends with very flimsy solutions, mostly concerning abstract concepts like morality, for the West to integrate Eastern concepts to everyone's social benefit. So beware of these superficialities in this otherwise enjoyable study of cultures that are both vastly different, but more alike than you might think.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More Nihonjinron December 7, 2008
The author seems to have done little investigation into all of the forces at work in Japanese society. He simply regurgitates the Nihonjinron stereotypes that make discourse on Japan all the more difficult.

Low crime? Sure. On the other hand did he once mention the abhorrent practices of police brutality, forced confessions, broken kneecaps and busted skulls, 98% conviction rates, no habeas corpus, fudging of crime statistics and prison conditions that essentially amount to death sentences?

Low divorce rate? Until recently women were not entitled to a dime of their husbands money upon divorce. Now that they are, divorce rates are skyrocketing.

Contrary to what the author claims, Japan is not a homogeneous and harmonious society as any educated sociologist specializing in Japan knows. There are very distinct regional cultures, generational differences and dialects which greatly influence people's eating habits, language, thought patterns, housing styles, culturally influenced behavior etc...

There are great income and educational disparities. Minority, ethnic and gender issues DO exist however they often do not receive the attention from the media that they might elsewhere. One reason may be that Japan's freedom of the press is very low in comparison with other developed nations and groups fighting hard battles for recognition and rights are too often swept under the rug and ignored.

Any half-educated economist could tell you the real ECONOMIC factors that were behind Japan's boom and why it was not based upon Confucianism and "Asian Values". Lifetime employment is dying because companies found out the hard way that it does not work. There have been massive layoffs and a growing unemployment rate.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No, an old Japanese guy lives next door. May 21, 2004
This is one of those books that is hard to review, particularly in terms of stars. To me it teeters on the edge of three stars to four. Three seems harsh, but in ways appropriate.
In "Confucius Lives Next Door" T.R. Reid attempts to expose and explain East Asia's 'second miracle'. The first miracle being the enormous economic gains of the last half-century that started in Japan and now encompass most of the Pacific side of that continent. The second miracle, in Reid's view, is the social stability, low crime rate, and overall quality of life that can be found throughout East Asia. Boiling a complex issue that spans billions of people, thousands of years, dozens of languages and scores of cultures, he concludes that Confucius is to blame.
If that sounds overly simplistic, it is because it is; and inherently that is the problem with the book. Once again here we have a person trying to explain another culture(s) in simplistic historical solutions that fit many and divergent facets of a large swath of people.
Yet, in certain ways Reid is on to something. Just as Western thinking finds its philosophical underpinnings in the influence of Plato, with a liberal sprinkling of hundreds of thinkers along the way, Asia -- particularly countries historically influenced by China -- owe the core of their philosophical and social thinking to good old Confucius, with a liberal sprinkling of hundreds along the way. That much is good. Reid had me at the Plato-Confucius comparison, and his chapter about the life of Confucius was educational. Most of his ideas appear to have been instigated by conversations with his next-door neighbor, Mr. Matsuda, who seems to be the wizened neighbor we all wish we had. But in this book I fear Reid has ordered more lemon chicken than he can eat in one sitting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good book for school
good book
Published 4 months ago by Fran Nance
4.0 out of 5 stars Great purchase.
Great Read. Needed this book for a class I was taking. It allowed me to read this on the go. Thanks
Published 5 months ago by kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read
Published 5 months ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars A great quick read
A great read if you're getting ready to live in Japan or have lived in Japan. The only issue I had was the spelling errors.
Published 6 months ago by Samantha Alba
1.0 out of 5 stars Lame
This book is so boring. Please don't waste your time. You will regret it, trust me. Ugh I cant believe I wasted my life on this book.
Published 7 months ago by Cheryl Franklin
4.0 out of 5 stars But don't forget the ladies
A very interesting rumination in what the West can learn from the East. We have many more women in top jobs but rely on low paid immigrant women for child rearing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by J. Dean
5.0 out of 5 stars AP World History Review
At first glance, this book may appear to be another boring textbook about Eastern society, a droll analysis masquerading as a novel. Don't let that mislead you. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
Excellent read. Opened my eyes and my heart. I have been recommending it to my friends, A must read for any thoughtful American.
Published 15 months ago by neuhart
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful
Reid provides an engaging, anecdotal read coupled with excellent insights about both Eastern and Western cultures--and the differences between them.
Published 18 months ago by Jessica S. Bethoney
5.0 out of 5 stars Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About...
Good read about a different way to look at the world. We could learn from this, I think. Asians tend to live more as a community than we do in the West.
Published on December 21, 2012 by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

T. R. Reid is a longtime correspondent for The Washington Post and former chief of its Tokyo and London bureaus as well as a commentator for National Public Radio. His books include The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door.

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