The Mother of Chinese Operas

March 31, 2015

Kun Opera is the most refined and literary form of Chinese opera with a six hundred year history.  This opera is known as the mother of a hundred Chinese operas.

Kun Opera ushered in the second Golden Era of Chinese drama and almost vanished when it was suppressed during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.


a scene from The Peony Pavilion, a classical Kun Opera

When Kun Opera was dying in China during Mao’s rule, it was still being performed in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.  Prior to the Cultural Revolution, there were over 500 classical Kun Operas. Today there are about 100 that have survived.

Kun Opera is known for the tenderness of the actor’s voices, delicate hand gestures, dramatic facial expressions, beautifully abstract movements, gorgeous costumes and stage design.


The Peach Blossom Fan is considered to be a landmark in this form of Chinese opera.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

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Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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An Art Gallery in Zhouzhang, China’s Venice

March 4, 2015

In 2008, while visiting Zhouzhang, China’s #1 Water Town for Tourists, we stopped at Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery and art studio.

 
Xu-Xiao-dong

The artist trained under a master and keeps a newspaper clipping that mentions it.

We bought several watercolors from Xu Xiao-dong, and he gave me written permission to use his art for the cover of My Splendid Concubine’s 2nd edition. The 3rd edition has a dancer on the cover (you can see it below this post).

 Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery

There’s a narrow, steep stairway in the back (left) that goes to another floor and more art. The artist also paints his art on the second floor.

Zhouzhang, near Shanghai, is almost a thousand years old—built in 1086. Unlike most tourist attractions in America, this town is still occupied with 138,000 people, and they make their living from the tourists who cannot enter unless they pay a fee.

A boat ride through the town costs about RMB 100 (US$16). Traditional Chinese folk songs sung by gondoliers are free.
At least they were when we visited.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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Liu Bolin is China’s Invisible Man

February 3, 2015

Liu Bolin’s photo art reminds me of Bev Doolittle’s paintings.  The name Bev Doolittle is synonymous with the word “camouflage art,” which is what Liu Bolin (Born 1973) is also known for except with photography.

From Shandong, China, Bolin—instead of painting on canvas—becomes the canvas, and the settings are photos of actual locations with him blending into the setting.

Oddity Central says, “Liu works on a single photo for up to 10 hours at a time, to make sure he gets it just right, but he achieves the right effect: sometimes passers-by don’t even realize he is there until he moves.”

Mike Krumboltz writing for Yahoo News Weekend Edition says of Liu Bolin, “Aside from looking cool, Bolin’s work does have a deeper meaning. Again, according to the Daily Mail, the living sculptures are ‘designed to show how we all can just disappear in today’s mass production world’.”

How is that different from prior to the industrial revolution and mass production? I’ll tell you.

Before the industrial revolution when most people were illiterate peasants and invisible, only emperors, kings and robber barons were well known. Today, many common people may gain a worldwide reputation due to the Internet as Liu Bolin has done.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

 E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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At San Francisco’s 6th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration

January 13, 2015

In 2010, I went to the 6th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration in San Francisco on Saturday, May 15, and saw my first Guzheng. No one was playing it. The band was playing with other instruments, but this stringed instrument was silent as if it had been abandoned.

The modern-day Guzheng has movable bridges and may have 15 to 26 strings.

In ancient times, the strings were made of twisted silk, but by the 20th Century most players started to use metal strings (generally steel for the high strings and copper-wound steel for the bass strings).

The Guzhen has been around since The Warring Kingdoms era (402-221 B.C.). In the video, listen to Bei Bei playing Under the White Wind.

Last year’s San Francisco Asian Heritage Street Celebration was held on Saturday, May 17, 2014. Sponsored by Hill Physicians, this annual festival is free to all attendees.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Three Journeys to the West from China

December 30, 2014

No, this post is not about immigrants, tourists or Chinese armies invading America, because Chinese troops would have to swim the Pacific Ocean since China’s navy isn’t large enough to move a military force of that size.

For instance, China has one 26-year-old used, conventional aircraft carrier with 54 aircraft. The U.S. has twenty with three under construction with almost 100 aircraft on one carrier.

But this post is about China’s classic novel, “Journey to the West”, also known “The Monkey King”.

There are four novels that are considered Chinese classics—Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of Red Chamber, Journey to the West and The Outlaws of the Marsh (some of these classics have been released with other titles), and there are three Chinese books titled “Journey to the West”.

One Journey to the West is nonfiction about K’iu Ch’ang Ch’un, who visited Genghis Khan in Persia between 1221 and 1224.

The second Journey to the West is another nonfiction account about Hsuan-Tsang (Xuanzang,  602  – 664 AD), a Buddhist monk who traveled to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures.

The third Journey to the West is the fictional romance that introduces the Monkey King and his friend the Pig. This Journey to the West is a classic Chinese mythological novel. It was written during the Ming Dynasty based on traditional folktales. Consisting of 100 chapters, this fantasy relates the adventures of a Tang Dynasty (618-907) priest Sanzang and his three disciples, Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand, as they travel west in search of Buddhist Sutra.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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More than 3,000 Years of Chinese Porcelain

December 24, 2014

Chinese porcelain originated in the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC), and Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province is a well-known Chinese city where porcelain has been an important production center in China since the early Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

From China, caravans carried its famous Chinese porcelains west: ceramic lusterware, lacquerware – snow-white vases, bowls, glasses, and dishes with sophisticated patterns. It was solely the Chinese who knew the secret of making the thinnest and resonant porcelain, making it very expensive in European markets. Silk Road Encyclopedia.com and Gotheborg.com

Chinese porcelain was also available in the American colonies as early as the seventeenth century, but it did not become commonplace until after 1730. Before the U.S. Revolution, porcelain was exported to the colonies mainly by English and Dutch traders. European traders sailed to Canton (Guangzhou) in southern China, exchanged their goods for Chinese products, and then returned to sell porcelain and other Chinese imports on the European and colonial markets. In addition to porcelain, teas and silks were also exported from China in large quantities. Mount Vernon.org

“The demand for Chinese products—tea, porcelain, silk, and nankeen (a coarse, strong cotton cloth)—continued after the Revolution. Having seen the British make great profits from the trade when the colonies were prevented from direct trade with China, Americans were eager to secure these profits for themselves.” Source: Early American Trade With China

This hunger for Chinese products, while the Chinese found little in the West to buy, led to the Opium Wars, which Britain and France started and won to force China to even the trade imbalance. Then China sold the West silk, porcelain and tea while the West sold China opium.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Private and Passionate Poetry of China

November 19, 2014

The Golden Age of Poetry in China was during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD).  One book of Chinese Love Poetry edited by Jane Portal (© 2004) was published by Barnes & Noble Books (ISBN 0-7607-4833-0).

I’m sure that most people outside of China don’t think of love poems when they think of China. However, there has to be a reason for more than 1.3 billion people, other than the Great Wall of China, the Pacific Ocean and the biggest mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas, which helped shelter China from some of the violence that rocked the rest of the world for centuries—at least until the Opium Wars.

For poetry lovers, Chinese Love Poetry imparts a sense of the private passion that beats in the Chinese heart. The three arts of poetry, calligraphy and painting, the Triple Excellence, are represented on the pages.

The following painting, lady weeping at parting from husband, 17th century, comes from the Qing Dynasty and the book says it is a color woodblock print on paper.

Chinese poetry is frequently personal and often linked to a particular occasion (page 9).

Deeply in love, but tonight
we seem to be passionless;
I just feel, before our last cup of wine
a smile will not come.
The wax candle has sympathy ­­–
weeps at our separation:
Its tears for us keep rolling down
till day breaks.

by Du Mu (803-852 AD)

As you can see, the Chinese are a passionate people—they just don’t dramatize these passions publicly as many Westerners do—at least until the West invaded China to force—if possible—a different set of values on China’s collective culture.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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