China’s eBook Explosion

May 20, 2015

The first time I visited China in 1999, we visited Book City in Shanghai. It was the largest bookstore I’d seen—ever! Book City had several floors with elevators and escalators, and at each floor I had to wait in line to get on the next escalator up.

It was that busy. Bookstore owners in the US only get to dream of such traffic.

Most of the books were by Chinese authors and written in Chinese. One small segment on the fourth floor offered books from the rest of the world and most were in English.

Then, for a few years, bookstores owned by private companies—not state owned—sprouted like mushrooms, but today, as in the United States, those brick and mortar bookstores may be struggling to survive.

The Independent in the UK said, “Hard times for traditional books as China’s digital publishing industry grows. Pity the poor paperback. The days of the traditional book in China are numbered, according to figures just released by the central government, it seems more and more people are now turning their attention to digital forms of publishing.”

And the Chinese are buying eBooks with a passion, as you may witness from the next embedded video.

It you have never been to China, you should not be surprised, because China has had a thriving publishing industry for longer than a thousand years and more than 95% of its population is literate.

Vearsa.com reported (March 30, 2015), “The eBook market, and in particular the English language eBook market, in China is still in its infancy but the scope and impact of eBooks in China is evolving at an incredible pace.” In addition, Digital Bookworld.com says, “China’s book market is growing fast. And ebooks in particular are on the rise thanks largely to the worldwide mobile boom impacting publishers everywhere.”

After all, the Chinese invented paper and the printing press centuries before it appeared in Europe. In China, the printing press was invented during the Tang Dynasty between the 4th and 7th century AD. In Europe, Gutenberg’s movable type press didn’t appear until about 1450 AD—the Chinese beat the West by about a thousand years with this innovation (hundreds of other). Computer Smiths.com

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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.

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Chinese long history is rich in calligraphy, music, poetry, and painting

May 13, 2015

UNESCO says the Guqin represents China’s foremost solo musical instrument tradition. Legend says that the Guqin has a 5,000 year history compared to Chinese writing that dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The body of the Guqin is a long and narrow sound box made of Catalpa wood with two holes, one large and one small. The large hole is called the “phoenix pool” and the small one the “dragon pond”.

This seven-stringed instrument was played by noblemen and scholars and was not intended for public performances. Twenty years of training were often required to become proficient.

Since it is known that Confucius played the Guqin, the instrument is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”.

For millennia, the strings of the Guqin were made of various thicknesses of silk.

However, in recent times, the silk has been replaced with nylon wound around steel strings. Some say without silk, the Guqin doesn’t sound as rich.

The Guqin was one of four subjects the ancient scholars perfected. The other three were chess, calligraphy and painting. For centuries many Chinese felt China was so civilized due to these practices that no other country would bother them. Why bother to study how to fight wars? Why spend what it would take to keep the military modern and strong?

Then in 1794 came the White Lotus Rebellion (100,000 rebels killed), followed by the Opium Wars (50,000 killed), the Taiping Rebellion (20 million killed), The Nian Rebellion (75 thousand killed), Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (500 thousand killed), Miao Rebellion (75,000 killed), Hui Rebellion (millions killed), the Du Wenxiu Rebellion (1 million killed), the Dungan Revolts (8 to 12 million killed), the Boxer Rebellion (more than 100 thousand killed), the Sino-Japanese War (10 thousand killed), the Xinhai Revolution (almost 200 thousand killed), China’s Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists (8 million killed), and Japan’s invasion of China during World War II (15 to 20 million killed).

Compared to what China suffered, during the 8-year long American Revolution, total casualties were less than 60 thousand, and in the 4-year long American Civil War there were 620 thousand casualties.

That explains why—when the gunpowder settled in 1949, after 155 years of revolution, civil war and war—after Mao came to power, he launched a series of reforms with the goal to make China strong again to stop the revolutions and invasions. These reforms ended with the Cultural Revolution—1965 – 1976, with about 1.5 million killed and millions of others suffering imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.

During this period, the Guqin fell out of favor as the literati were persecuted as the scape goats of China’s long suffering.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Joseph Needham, the Cambridge Don who opened the door to China’s lost history

May 5, 2015

I was once an avid reader, but then I became a writer and eventually an author. I preface this exploration of Simon Winchester’s “The Man Who Loved China” with that opening sentence, because I want to make it clear that when I decided to become a writer back in 1968, I went from reading one or two paperbacks daily to reading maybe one or two a month. It takes time to learn the craft of writing and more time to write, edit and revise.

For that reason, I’ve been aware of “The Man Who Loved China” for several years, and put off buying and reading it due to how much time I actually have to read.  Then, one recent Sunday, after eating at Herbivore in Berkeley, California, I walked to Half Price Books and also stopped at Pegasus Books where I found a used, unabridged copy of the audio book and bought it—9 hours on 8 compact discs.

I was on the last disc when I decided to buy the paperback and add it to my China collection.

To borrow the blurb on the cover of the paperback, I found this biography to be “The fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom.” I was blown away with the story of Joseph Needham’s life—he was an incredible, free thinking genius who refused to conform.

I totally agree with this pull quote for the YouTube video above: “In sumptuous and illuminating detail, Simon Winchester, the bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman (“Elegant and scrupulous” —New York Times Book Review) and Krakatoa (“A mesmerizing page-turner”—Time) brings to life the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China, long the world’s most technologically advanced country in THE MAN WHO LOVED CHINA.”

Because of what I learned about Joseph Needham and his Science and Civilisation in China (1954–2008), a series of books initiated and edited by this British biochemist and self-trained Sinologist (1900–1995), I want to share a hateful, ignorant, mean, trollish, biased, racist comment that arrived recently for one of the posts on this Blog.   The reason I’m doing this is because this one comment represents the thinking of far too many ignorant fools outside of China and specifically in the United States.

****

The post this comment was left for was Amy Chua talks to China’s Tiger Women. That comment will never be approved for that post.

“Tiger parenting is great if you want your child to be as dull-witted as the 1.4 billion people in the PRC. It is also great if your desire is to rear morally void sociopaths who walk by people dying on the streets rather than helping them. Those same people traded their children and ate them during the ‘great leap forward’. Any race which can feast on the flesh of their children should not be emulated. China has been around for 5000 years and to show for this they have ‘death by 1000 cuts’, infanticide and insolence.

“If tiger parenting is so great then what are the results? China is an innovation laggard, (sure they write patents but for the most part they are junk. See how many they write but fail to monetize those patents).

“Aside from this, where is China’s Einstein, Van Gogh, Davinci, Plato , Homer, etc. Five thousand years of history, twenty percent of the world’s population and two great thinkers. What a pathetic shit-stain.
Have a great time there you sell out piece of shit.”

****

Science and Civilisation in China deals with the history of science and technology in China, and the series was on the Modern Library Board’s 100 Best Nonfiction books of the 20th century.

In 1954, Needham—along with an international team of collaborators—initiated the project to study the science, technology, and civilisation of ancient China. This project produced a series of volumes published by Cambridge University Press. The project is still continuing under the guidance of the Publications Board of the Needham Research Institute (NRI), chaired by Christopher Cullen.

If you visit this page at Cambridge.org, you will read: “Dr. Joseph Needham’s account of the Chinese achievement in science and technology will stand as one of the great works of our time. It has been acclaimed by specialists in both East and West and also by readers with wider and more general interests. The text, based on research of a high critical quality, is supported by many hundreds of illustrations and is imbued with a warm appreciation of China. … He begins by examining the structure of the Chinese language; he reviews the geography of China and the long history of its people, and discusses the scientific contacts which have occurred throughout the centuries, between Europe and East Asia.”

Needham left us with a question that he never answered, and real China experts—not the trollish fool who left that comment on my Blog I’m sharing only in this post—are still debating that answer today, an answer to the curious fact that after centuries of scientific and technological creativity, everything in China suddenly ground to a halt in approximately 1500 AD. Needham wanted to know what happened, but he never answered his own question.

Needham’s research on China discovered that the ancient Chinese who lived before Europe’s Christian era (Before the birth of Jesus Christ), the old Chinese living when Europe had its Dark Ages, and the medieval Chinese en masse of the twelfth and thirteenth European centuries—did essentially all the inventing (an average of 15 important innovations a century for a total of more than 1,500). Then came the sixteenth century, when the Renaissances was fully under way in Europe, and the creative passions of China suddenly seemed to dry up; the energy began to ebb away and die.

Some critics claim the reason for this is because China is not a democracy, but that can’t be right because China has never been a democracy—especially during the fifteen hundred years it was the wealthiest and most scientifically and technological advanced country on the planet. Starting with the brutal Qin Dynasty (221 BC—206BC), followed by the Han (206 BC – 220 AD), then the Tang (618 – 907 AD) and Song Dynasties (960-1127 AD), China was ruled by emperors and a rigid imperial bureaucracy with a brutal legal system. To discover more, I suggest reading Duhaime’s Timetable of World Legal History—“China has the oldest continuously operating legal system in the world.”

I think the answer to Needham’s question starts with the Mongols—the first ethnic minority to conquer and rule China—that founded the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and that led to a revolt by a number of Han Chinese groups, including the Red Turbans in 1351. The Red Turbans were affiliated with the White Lotus, a Buddhist secret society. The first Ming emperor started out as a penniless peasant and a Buddhist Monk who joined the Red Turbans in 1352. As the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), he established a network of secret police from his own palace guard. They were partly responsible for the loss of 100,000 lives in several purges over the three decades of his rule. In addition, it was under Ming rule that the first Europeans, the Portuguese, established trade with China and settled Macau in 1557 as a permanent trade base in China—and this would turn out to be a horrible mistake for China.

It didn’t help that in the early 17th century, because of unusually dry and cold weather that shortened the growing season—effects of a larger ecological event now known as the Little Ice Age—famine, alongside tax increases, widespread military desertions, a declining relief system, and natural disasters such as flooding and inability of the government to manage irrigation and flood-control projects properly caused widespread loss of life and normal civility. The central government, starved of resources, could do very little to mitigate the effects of these calamities. Making matters worse, a widespread epidemic spread across China from Zhejiang to Henan, killing an unknown but large number of people. In fact, the deadliest earthquake of all time, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, occurred during the Jiajing Emperor’s reign, killing approximately 830,000 people.

Then the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912 AD)—another minority from north of the Great Wall, the Manchu—swept aside the Ming, and the Manchu were very suspicious of the Han Chinese. To avoid a revolution like the one that rid China of the Mongols, the Qing Emperors and their Manchu armies brutally suppressed the Han Chinese and deliberately kept competent people from rising to vital position in government and the military. Before the Qing, the most common method used to promote Han Chinese from within was through meritocracy using a university exam system that dates back to the Han Dynasty.

But even suppressing the Han Chinese and keeping them from positions of leadership in almost every sector of the government—note that it was mostly Han Chinese who were responsible for all of the impressive scientific and technological innovations that Needham documented taking place in China for more than fifteen hundred years before the 16th century—didn’t stop the rebellions. Under the Qing Dynasty, China suffered a series of devastating rebellions that claimed more than 60 million lives. The most devastating was the Taiping Rebellion led by a Christian convert who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ—if European Christian missionaries had not forced their way into China following the first Opium War, this rebellion would have never happened. Then there were the two Opium Wars—started by Christian countries—the Boxer Rebellion, the 1st Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) followed by the second and most devastating Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) that alone caused more than 20 million deaths in China.

How can anyone expect a country to prosper and continue to lead the world in innovation during an era starting in the 16th century that was plagued by natural disasters, rebellions, and wars that culminated with the Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists ending with Mao’s devastating Cultural Revolution that destroyed its business and education sectors?

When Mao died in 1976, China’s education system was all but gone and had to be rebuilt from scratch, and many of the country’s public school teachers were dead from suicide or execution. In addition, if you read “The Man Who Loved China,” you will also discover that during World War II, one goal of the Japanese was to destroy China’s educational system, and the Japanese armies did all they could to destroy China’s universities, burn China’s libraries, and execute China’s scholars whenever possible.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Tiger Bone Wine

April 28, 2015

Every country has poorly written laws with loopholes that allow industrious entrepreneurs to make money anyway possible, and exploiting wild animals is one way to make that money.

For instance, in May 2003, the San Diego Wild Animal Park in the U.S. came under intense criticism from animal welfare group, and in February 1999, the San Jose Mercury News published a series of articles by Linda Goldstein entitled “Zoo Animals to Go”.

Goldstein alleged that major U.S. zoos in the United States purposely overbreed some animals to produce babies that are popular with the public and bring in crowds. Older and less popular animals are quietly discarded and often end up at rundown roadside zoos and exotic animal auctions.

In addition, unwanted but healthy animals were euthanized at the Detroit Zoo during the 1990s, and a handful of dealers preferred by the major zoos have become wealthy from the sales of unwanted exotics given or sold to them by the zoos, Goldstein claimed. – Entertainment Animals – Zoos

In China, animal welfare activists allege that a wildlife park in southeast China has been farming tigers. The Guilin tiger park then claims it is a research establishment devoted to the welfare and survival of the big cat.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reported from Guilin that the tigers are declawed and defanged and threatened with sticks to perform tricks for audiences.

However, Chinese animal welfare activists claim that this is nothing more than a farm producing tigers for their valuable body parts. To support that claim, in January 2015, Yale’s environment360 reported, “The number of tigers living in the wild has dropped to the shockingly low figure of 3,200, down from 100,000 a century ago. But nearly as shocking is this statistic: An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 tigers are being farmed today in China, their bones steeped in alcohol to make tiger bone wine, their meat sold, and their skins turned into rugs for members of China’s wealthy elite.”

Hua Ning of International Fund for Animal Welfare says people hear about these farms and think that the tigers will not perish. She says the truth is this park has about 1,500 tigers and many are abused.

Al Jazeera’s Birtley says that killing tigers in China is illegal and offenders face stiff jail terms, but allowing tigers to die from starvation and neglect is not technically killing. That is the loophole in China’s law that critics say is being exploited at one wildlife park in Guilin.

The reality is that tigers are worth more dead than alive.

There are only a few hundred tigers at this park on display for visitors. Birtley was told the rest were used for research in a large section of the park closed to the public.

One product this park sells is wine made from tiger bones. One bottle may sell for $250 dollars.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses all parts of the tiger, but the bones are the most valuable part of the animal. It is believed these bones prolong life, cure rheumatism, arthritis and solve sexual problems.

Twenty-five kilos (55.1 pounds) of tiger bones will make enough wine to earn $300 thousand dollars.

Meanwhile, Animal News reports that China’s government has urged zoos to stop serving wild animal products and holding wildlife performances in an attempt to improve the treatment of tigers, bears and other animals amid concerns over widespread abuse in zoos and wildlife parks.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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There are almost 600 million Internet users in China

April 14, 2015

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Social Media in China is more powerful than it is in the United States, and if you think that what the Chinese say and think is controlled, think again.

For instance, in 2010, Keith B. Richburg reported in The Washington Post that labor unrest was spreading in China as more workers demanded higher wages. He writes, “Various economists, labor experts and activists said there were many more strikes and work stoppages rolling across China.”

How did that happen if the Chinese Communist Party controls the traditional media? Well, blogging has become the free press of China. The Chinese have more Blogs than any nation on the earth. Watch the next video to discover just how many Chinese are on line and how much time they spend on the internet.

Resonance China, a Chinese Social Media Agency, reported that the numbers of bloggers saw a huge jump in 2008. This is likely due to China’s internet hitting a critical point, combining social networks, with blog networks, with portals, and politically charged events. The drive to express online is a central motivation for the Chinese. Due to China’s strong censorship and control over the traditional media, the internet has become a major destination to receive balanced views, and see how other people think and react to events.

China may never have a political system similar to the United States but freedom of expression has arrived through the Internet and social media.


China has banned Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, WordPress, Blogger, etc. How do people connect, blog and chat in China? Watch the video and find out. You might be surprised.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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China is also an Eating Culture

April 8, 2015

China is an eating culture.  Although today’s Chinese don’t eat the huge quantities of meat the average American does, China accounts for half of global pig production because pork is the popular meat to eat.  Small farmer producers raise ninety-nine percent of pork in China.

Even when grain production falls in China that does not translate into a shortage since China has historically kept large food-grain stockpiles and those individual small farmer/producers help ensure food security. – China through a Lens

Meat consumuption in China vs US

As China continues to grow a consumer middle class, food demand and eating habits are changing along with waistlines.  To meet this demand, Chinese have set up large pork and chicken operations in Australia to meet the growing demand for meat on the mainland. – Food Crisis

To insure a dependable supply of food to feed its people, Chinese companies have also bought or leased land in Africa sending Chinese laborers to produce crops for sale on the world market and back home. The Guardian.com reports, “Africa’s population is expected to match or overtake China’s by 2050, but the paper says China will soon need to develop deeper trade ties with key African countries to help feed its 1.3 billion population.”

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Gongwangfu, a Prince’s Palace and Garden in Beijing worth seeing

April 7, 2015

I took these photos in Prince Kung’s (1833-1898) palace and garden (once called Gongwangfu). This palace is in Beijing’s Beihai district. Prince Kung was Emperor Hsein Feng’s (1831-1861) younger brother.

As Inspector General for the Emperor of China, Robert Hart, known as the Godfather of China’s modernism, lived in the same hutong that Prince Kung lived in. Robert Hart, the main character in My Splendid Concubine, often met Prince Kung in this garden.

After 1950, for several decades, the palace and garden became a communal home for many Chinese. In recent years, the garden, considered one of the best in China, was renovated and is now a tourist attraction, which attracts thousands of visitors daily. Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City are all within walking distance.

To design a proper Chinese garden one must build a big place in a small space.  Prince Kung’s garden and estate is surrounded by a high wall and outside is Beijing.

Once inside, it is easy to forget that outside the walls is a crowded city. It was also easy for the Qing (Manchu) royals to forget about what was happening throughout China.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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