Ariets Research Blog

April 1, 2015

The Ainu Group at the Saint Louis Exposition By Frederick Starr

Filed under: Asia, Physical anthropology — Ariets @ 2:01 pm

The physical characters of the Ainu and the Japanese differ profoundly. The Ainu present a peculiar and strongly marked type. On the whole they are short; Batchelor gives 5 ft. 4 in. as the average stature for men and 5 ft. 1 y2 in. or 5 ft.

2 in. as the average for women. It is true, however, that stature varies considerably with locality — the men of Shiraoi being relatively tall and well built, those of Piratori medium, and those of Ishikari smaller and badly developed. The Ainu skin, hough dark, is white, not yellow or brown; the color appears darker than it really is because the Ainu rarely bathe. The hair is abundant both on the body and the head, and is wavy; the color is commonly black, though it may be dark-brown or even reddish; like wavy hair everywhere, it presents an elliptical, not a circular, cross-section. The beard in males is strong and abundant. The features are those of the white race rather than the yellow; the nose is prominent and well formed, the mouth is strong; the lips firm. The eyes are brown, sometimes even light brown. Mark these characters well; compare them with those of the Japanese. How profound the difference. The white skin, abundant body hair and beard, the hair wavy and of elliptical section, the horizontal eye full of expression and fire, the features combined into a strong relief — these are in strong contrast to the yellow-brown skin, hairless face and body, straight and round hair, oblique eyes and flat face of the Japanese. In all these respects in which the Ainu differs so profoundly from the Japanese, he resembles us, the whites of European race.

They are often called “the hairy Ainu” and we consider the term just. It is true that their proximity to the smooth-bodied yellow Asiatics has made their hairiness conspicuous by contrast. It is true that many writers, who have spoken of “fur” and “missing links,” have overstated facts; but it is also true that notably hairy bodies are the rule among the males. Individual Russians are no doubt common, who are as hairy as the average Ainu, but we believe firmly that taken en masse the Ainu are more hairy than the Russians, and probably the hairiest people on the globe. Of course, the Ghiliaks, living on the Asiatic mainland and undoubtedly related with them, present the same peculiarity. Hitchcock gives a lot of excellent data in regard to Ainu hairiness.

As different are the Japanese and Ainu in language. Years ago, Basil Hall Chamberlain drew up a detailed comparison between the two, pointing out fifteen points of difference, and he might have extended the list indefinitely. Nor are the differences he indicates of trifling significance. On the contrary tbey are vital and concern the most important constructional matters. Thus, in the Ainu, verbs have true passive forms like those of European languages, the Japanese in its most earnest effort to express a passive cannot get rid of an active viewpoint; the Ainu has many reflective verbs, the Japanese has none; “Ainu pronouns are used at every turn like the pronouns of modern European languages,” Japanese has no real and simple pronouns; in Ainu “honorifics” are lacking, in Japanese they abound. Mr. Batchelor’s little Grammar of the Ainu Language is interesting reading, even if it does not convince the reader that Ainu is an “Aryan language.” Years ago the Japanese government of the Hokkaido published Mr. Batchelor’s A Dictionary of the Ainu, now long out of print. During the time that has since elapsed he had added enormously to the work and his present manuscript represents the labor of a quarter of a century. It is now complete and ought to be printed without delay. As long as it remains in manuscript it is in danger; once lost, it could never be replaced^ even by the author, for the use of Ainu as a speech is passing.

Who are the Ainu? Where did they come from? What is their past? They are surely a white people, not a yellow. They are more our brothers, though they live so far away, than brothers of the Japanese, to whom, in place, they are so near. That is not to say that all men are not brothers; our meaning we think clear. We, white men, are fond of assuming an air of great superiority, when we speak of other peoples. We take it for granted that all white men are better than any red ones, or black ones, or yellow ones. Yet here we find a white race that has struggled and lost! It has proved inferior in life’s battle to the more active, energetic, progressive, yellow people, with which it has come in contact. It may be that the Ainu are but a little fragment of a once I wide-spread Asiatic white race. The Ghiliaks, the Mao-tse (“hairy”) of China, some small populations of southeastern Asia and the curious nonaggressive Todas of India with their great beards and strange customs, may be other fragments of that same old population. We cannot assert it; study and comparison will be necessary before the assertion would be warranted; but we believe such comparison may prove what we suggest. Should it do so, that old white race was broken and submerged by a great flood of active yellow Asiatics.

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