Long before Romeo and Juliet there was China’s Butterfly Lovers

August 25, 2015

The legend of The Butterfly Lovers first appeared in 618 AD during the Tang Dynasty, and it’s a tragic Chinese love story similar to Romeo and Juliet.

The basic premise is of a young woman in China wanting to go to school. Since boys were the only ones allowed to attend school, this young woman, like Barbara Streisand in the movie Yentl (1983), disguised herself as a boy.

Yentl was based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s (1902 – 1991) short story Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.

When I talked to my wife about this, she found her copy of a popular theme song from The Butterfly Lovers played as a violin solo by Yu Lina. As the house filled with the music, which may also be found on the next embedded YouTube video, my wife started to dance.

She said, “This is one of my favorites. I cannot resist dancing when I hear it.”

In fact, Yentl the Yeshiva Boy and Shakespeare’s (1564 – 1616) Romeo and Juliet must be combined to become The Butterfly Lovers. What starts as a charade becomes a love story ending in the suicide of the two young lovers.

The love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is one of four Chinese folk legends and one of the most influential and best known in China.

China has traded with the West since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 219 AD). There was an overland route in the north and a sea route in the south, which the Roman Empire used around the time of Christ.

Since China traded with the West for more than two thousand years, it is conceivable that The Butterfly Lovers reached the West and was adapted by Shakespeare and then Singer after being exposed to the plot.

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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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Searching for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in China

August 4, 2015

Shakespeare’s drama Romeo and Juliet is often taught to ninth graders in US high schools. Other Shakespeare plays are studied at other grade levels and in college.

However, you may be surprised to discover Shakespeare is probably more popular in China since his work is taught in most Chinese universities, both in English and in Chinese, and Shakespearean texts are easily available in China in both languages.

When Mao ruled China (1949 to 1976), Shakespeare was banned as was Aristotle and other Western philosophers.  Mao died in 1976, and that ban was lifted in 1978.

In fact, according to Cheng Zhaoxiang, the author of Teaching Shakespeare in China, “It is no exaggeration to say that every educated Chinese knows something about Shakespeare.”

However, when produced in China on stage, the plot may not stay true to the original Shakespeare.

Writing for the The People’s Republic of Shakespeare, Adventures in Chinese Research, Meammi says, “My interest in this topic started when I noticed that many of the Romeo and Juliets performed in China are either parodies or rewrites where one of the lovers survives in the end.

“China has their own pair of star-crossed lovers (The Peony Pavilion – 1598 AD), who tragically die for love and their plight is described in a much more mournful tone than Shakespeare’s version.

“Some Chinese theater companies state in interviews that their audiences have too much sadness in their lives so Romeo just can’t die in the end of their performance.”

______________________________

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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Harbin, China’s Northeastern Winter Wonderland

June 16, 2015

Casey Chan of Gizmodo posted A Winter Wonderland in China with two photos of The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival located in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is a (minus) – 16.8 degrees Celsius (1.76 Fahrenheit). The Festival is held in January.

It is June, and you might wonder why I’m posting this now instead of December or January. The simple answer is for travelers who might want to visit China and think Harbin would be a good place to include in the trip—next winter.

Wikipedia says the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was first held in 1963, but it was interrupted for a few years during the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Mao died in 1976, and it took time for China’s economic engine to recover. The fact that the festival resumed in 1985 is a sign of the changes taking place in China.

In the comment section of Chan’s Gizmodo post, Adam wrote, “China is awesome when it comes to giant decorations and celebrations (just remember the Olympics!), but the people there still have an extremely low quality of life. Why, if they can do some things so well, do they fail at others?”

Sega8800 asked Adam, “How do you know their life is low quality?”

Adam’s answer was a Wikipedia link to a post of a 1994 book, China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. The couple who wrote the book spent five years in China (1988 to 1993) as journalists for the New York Times—not the best unbiased source about China by a long shot.

I laughed.

The content for that book was based on material that was more than 22-years old, and time in China did not freeze. During those years, China transformed itself by rebuilding the old cities while building more than a hundred new ones in addition to the explosion of a middle class that equals or surpasses the entire population of the United States. China has also crisscrossed the country with new highways, railroads that include high speed rail that doesn’t even exist in the United States yet, and it has built more than 500 new airports while America’s airports are way overdue for an upgrade.

In fact, as the standard of living for China’s still growing middle class expands, the Chinese are now buying more new cars than Americans, traveling the world as tourists (about 100 million annually), and the most popular car that’s a status symbol in China is GM’s Buick (别克).

The embedded videos with this post are of Harbin and previous festivals.

map_china_showing_Harbin

______________________________

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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Chinese Cupping Therapy—Does it work?

June 3, 2015

I have been aware of cupping for some time, because I married into a Chinese family and one of my wife’s sisters used this method of Chinese medicine.

However, I didn’t pay much attention to cupping until I wrote a post about Gwyneth Paltrow being Popular in China.

Researching the Gwyneth Paltrow post, I discovered that she believes in Chinese medicine and has used cupping. She even told Oprah, “It feels amazing and it’s very relaxing, and it feels terrific. It’s just one of the alternative medicines that I do instead of taking antibiotics.”

The history of Chinese cupping dates from 281 AD. It was an ancient Taoist medical practice and was widely used in the courts of Imperial China at the time.  Its administration was first recorded by Ge Hong in an ancient tract called Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies.

In fact, medical education in China was elevated to a higher standard in 443 AD when Qin Cheng-zu petitioned Emperor Wen of the North and South Dynasty period to appoint physicians to teach medical students. Almost a thousand years later the first medical schools appeared in the West.

By 493 AD, the Imperial Academy had expanded to include lectureships and chairs for teaching Chinese medicine. – Shen-nong.com

Chinese medicine from the beginning focused on prevention to avoid illness where Western medicine has always focused on cures for illnesses after a life is threatened by diseases such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

______________________________

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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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

______________________________

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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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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Yuan Shikai, China’s second president and its last emperor

May 6, 2015

For thousands of years, the history of China has been defined by wars, rebellion, power struggles and famine, which explains why today’s central government worries about famine and allowing dissidents a voice.

Between 1911 and 1976, three Chinese men were responsible for much of the devastation and death that swept over China causing tens of millions of deaths (not counting what the Japanese did during World War II). Those Chinese leaders were: Yuan Shikai, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung.

In 1911 when the Qing Dynasty fell, Yuan Shikai was a general and commander of the most modern military force in Imperial China. He kept his position by supporting the revolutionaries that brought down the Qing Dynasty.

After the Qing Dynasty fell, rebellion spread through the Yangtze River Valley before revolutionaries from fourteen provinces elected Sun Yat-sen president of a provisional (temporary) government and in January 1912, Sun announced the establishment of the Republic of China.

However, generals controlled China’s provinces and refused to give up power. China’s young republic was essentially the capital city of Nanjing.

On March 20, 1913, Yuan Shikai’s agents assassinated Sung Chiao-jen, who helped Sun Yat-sen become the first president. Sun demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.

Yuan Shikai resisted, sparking a “so-called” second revolution and on September 15, 1913, he ordered Sun Yat-sen’s arrest. To survive, Sun fled to Japan as a political refugee. He wouldn’t return to China until a few months after Yuan Shikai’s death.

Yuan Shikai, supported financially by the British Empire, became China’s second president, but after 1914, World War I caused a reduction in Britain’s financial support.

Weakened, Yuan Shaikai was forced to accept twenty-one demands made by Japan, which included giving up Chinese territory. He agreed on May 7, 1916, which is now considered National Humiliation Day.

Yuan Shaikai was unable to establish control beyond Nanking so he declared himself emperor. His attempt to replace the republic with a monarchy and him as emperor touched off revolts in southwestern China followed by uprisings of Sun Yat-sen’s followers in several other provinces.

This resulted in twelve years of warfare between the warlord generals of China’s provinces and the weak Republic of China.

Yuan Shikai died in 1916, then Sun Yat-sen returned to lead the republic. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, which led to the Civil War between the Chinese Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.

______________________________

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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