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.

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Barry Ritholtz and his “China The Black Box”

April 1, 2015

In China The Black Box, Barry Ritholtz demonstrates a better understanding of China than most U.S. talking heads I’ve read—at least in this piece. If you are willing to sit for a long read, I suggest clicking on the link. He does a good job explaining how China’s economy works and why it might survive for some time without an economic collapse like we saw during the 2007-08 global financial meltdown that started in the United States.

In summary, Ritholtz mentions how several prominent hedge fund managers in the United States have said China is making mistakes economically. Ritholtz says there is no way these hedge fund managers know what’s going on in the Middle Kingdom since China is half capitalist and half socialist and doesn’t fit any Western economic norms.

In addition to what Ritholtz says, I don’t know why anyone who is sane and intelligent would listen to the opinions of hedge fund managers about China. For instance, investopedia.com reports that “Hedge funds have always had a significant failure rate.”

Ritholtz continues: China is a unique civilization state, which gives it a tremendous advantage at this stage of its economic development, because China’s citizens have a singular desire to work hard and improve their material lot. It helps that the Chinese prefer to pay cash for things instead of using credit cards as many do in the United States.

Chinese civilization has periods of order followed by periods of disorder and since China recently emerged from two centuries of disorder, China’s Communist Party has a long way to go before it is their turn to leave the leadership stage.

______________________________

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

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_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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What really happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989?

February 25, 2015

Twenty-six years after the alleged 1989 Tiananmen Square incident—and three Chinese Presidents later: Jiang Zemin (1993-2003), Hu Jintao (2003-2013), and now Xi Jinping (2013 – )—the U.S. media continues to annually remind the world of what might have happened.

I’ve heard from several Chinese American friends (now US citizens), who lived in China in 1989, that the student leaders behind the Tiananmen Square protest/massacre (April 14 – June 4, 1989) were supported by the CIA, and I asked myself if this was another conspiracy theory.

However, my curiosity was stirred, so I spent hours hunting the internet for clues that this might be true, and I discovered several coincidences that raised an eyebrow.

The U.S. Ambassador in China at the time, James Lilley (April 20, 1989 to 1991), was a former CIA operative who worked in Asia and helped insert CIA agents into China. President H. W. Bush (1989-1993) served as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing (1974 – 1976), who then went to serve as Director of the CIA (1976 – 1977).

Why did President H. W. Bush replace Winston Lord as ambassador to China (1985-1989) during the early days of the Tiananmen Square incident with a former CIA agent? After all, Lord spoke some Chinese and was a key figure in the restoration of relations between the US and China in 1972.  Wasn’t he the best man for the job during a crisis like this one?

I returned to my friends and asked, “How do you know the CIA helped the student leaders of the protest?”

“It’s obvious,” was the answer. The reason, my friends explained, was the fact that it was very difficult, almost impossible, for anyone in China to get a visa to visit the United States before the 21st century. Yet most of the young student leaders of the Tiananmen Square incident left China quickly after the event and prospered in the West without any obvious difficulty. In addition, after these student leaders came to the West, many were successful and became wealthy.

I returned to my investigation to verify these claims. Let’s Welcome Chinese Tourists was one piece I read from The Washington Post documenting how difficult it was to get a visa back then to visit the United States from China. I read another piece in The Chicago Tribune on the same subject. And my wife told me her brother and two sisters were denied visas to the U.S.

After more sleuthing, I learned that Wang Dan, one of the principal student organizers of the Tiananmen incident, went to jail because he stayed in China when most of the other student leaders fled. Today, Wang lives in the West and cannot go back. Two others went to Harvard and a third went to Yale. Where did they get the money—it’s expensive to attend these private universities?

How about the other leaders who fled to the West? Time Magazine reported, “Some have reincarnated themselves as Internet entrepreneurs, stockbrokers, or in one case, as a chaplain for the U.S. military in Iraq. Several have been back to China to investigate potential business opportunities.”

Official figures of the dead during the incident ranged from 200 to 300. At the Chinese State Council press conference on June 6, spokesman Yuan Mu said that “preliminary tallies” by the government showed that about 300 civilians and soldiers died, including 23 students from universities in Beijing, along with a number of people he described as “ruffians”. Yuan also said some 5,000 soldiers and police along with 2,000 civilians were wounded. On June 19, Beijing Party Secretary Li Ximing reported to the Politburo that the government’s confirmed death toll was 241, including 218 civilians (of which 36 were students), 10 PLA soldiers and 13 People’s Armed Police, along with 7,000 wounded.

Chinese government officials have long asserted that no one died in the Square itself in the early morning hours of June 4, during the ‘hold-out’ of the last batch of students in the south of the Square. Initially foreign media reports of a “massacre” on the Square were prevalent, though later journalists acknowledged that most of the deaths occurred outside of the Square in western Beijing.

Several people who were situated around the square that night, including Jay Mathews, former Beijing bureau chief of The Washington Post, and Richard Roth, CBS correspondent, reported that while they heard sporadic gunfire, they could not find enough evidence to suggest that a massacre took place on the Square itself.

If the U.S. media annually reminds the world of the alleged Tiananmen Square massacre, why don’t they also remind us of another massacre that took place in Taiwan in 1947 where about 30,000 Taiwanese citizens were slaughtered during the 2-28 Massacre by troops of America’s ally Chang Kai-shek?

Can anyone explain why the deaths of a few hundred Chinese in Communist China in 1989 are more important than the slaughter of 30,000 civilians in 1947 by an American ally?

Thanks to a comment, I learned about another slaughter of citizens demanding democracy that took place in South Korea in 1980.

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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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A few China versus U.S. questions I have been thinking about for some time

February 17, 2015

In this post there will be a few questions I’m going to answer, but leave others for you—if you want to leave a comment.

First, the dictionary definition for Communism: a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.

What about the definition of socialism—after all, capitalists hate both communism and socialism? Socialism means a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

How many of the 1.3+ billion people in China belong to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? There are 86.7 million members in the CCP and most if not all of the millionaires and billionaires in China are invited to join the CCP after they get rich and are screened, and many of the members who are not millionaires or billionaires have secure jobs, responsibility, power and earn money legally or illegally, but taking money illegally might be dangerous. The CCP aggressively prosecutes white collar crooks if they catch them and sends some to prison and executes a few—white collar crime is not a safe  profession in China. In fact, CBS reported that “82,533 Communist Party members had been investigated. Some lost their jobs; others kicked out of the Communist Party … And no one, no matter how high-ranking, appears safe.”

With 6.7% of the population belonging to the CCP that means 93.3% are not Communists—they just live in a country where actual ownership of everything belongs to the collective and/or the state. You don’t buy property in China. In urban China, you lease it and you can sell the lease to someone else, but in most of rural China the land is owned jointly by the people and the state. There is no rent, no mortgage and no property tax. You also can’t sell the house you live or the land you farm. Rural Chinese might not earn much money, but they also don’t get evicted by the bank for missing mortgage payments.

There are essentially two kinds of land ownership in China, state ownership and collective ownership. Rural land, or housing land and the household contract farmland, is collectively owned. Farmers are part of the collective community and have property rights to their land, but with restrictions. – China.org.cn

In addition, in the last 30 years, China is responsible for 90% of global poverty reduction. Since the start of the far-reaching economic reforms in the late 1970s, growth has fueled a remarkable increase in per capita income and a decline in the poverty rate from 85% in 1981 to 6.1% below the poverty line in 2014.

At no stage over the past 30 years has the CCP relinquished control of the “commanding heights” or “levers” of the Chinese economy: agricultural pricing, heavy industry, power and energy, transport, communications, foreign trade, and finance (state banks). – Marxism-Leninism Today

China now boasts 350 million middle-class citizens (more than the entire U.S. population). In addition, China has 2 million millionaires and ranks second only to the U.S. in terms of billionaires. Some 100 million Chinese traveled outside their country this year, and spent an astounding $7,500 per person, per trip, the highest in the world. – The Middle Class: China’s Game-Changing Demographics

For the United States, keep in mind that capitalism does not equal democracy. Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. But a democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives—but these days it sure doesn’t feel like it is working that way.

It is possible for a democracy and socialism to exist in the same country.Those countries are called social democracies. In fact, three of the happiest countries in the world are social democracies: Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. The 10 most socialist countries in the world are: China, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand and Belgium.

There are more than 316.1 million Americans, and how many are successful capitalists? CNN reports that there are 9.63 million millionaires (3% of the population), and 492 billionaires (0.00015% of the population).

Is it possible that in the U.S. the 3.00015% or the 0.00015% want to rule over the remaining 96.99% like the 6.7% does in China for the 93.3%—something to think about? Are some of these U.S. millionaires and billionaires envious of the CCP’s power?

The U.S. has a poverty rate of almost 15%, and poverty has been increasing in recent years. There is also a 2nd poverty rate in the US, and it’s called Extreme Poverty. In fact, in 1900, before the Progressive era launched by President Teddy Roosevelt to make life better for most Americans, 40% of Americans lived in poverty and less than 7% graduated from high school.

Using a World Bank definition, “extreme poverty” is surviving on less than $2 per day, per person, each month. The National Poverty Center finds that 1.65 million American households (not people but families) live in “extreme poverty,” and these households include 3.55 million children.

America has protection for freedom of speech, but China doesn’t. However, the U.S.—even with freedom of speech—has the largest prison population on the planet (2.2+ million), more than China (1.7+ million) that has the second largest prison population, but more than four times the population of the United States.

To compare it another way—the United States has 707 prisoners per 100,000 versus China with 124 per 100,000 behind bars—think about it.

What about cracking down on white collar crime in the United States like China is doing? The New York Times reports, “In Financial Crises, No Prosecutions of Top Figures.” And The New York Times asks, “It is a question asked repeatedly across America: why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?”

For all the problems the U.S. has, I don’t plan to move to China, because the air is cleaner where I live in the United States—but if the Koch brothers and Standard Oil have their way that could change. I also prefer shopping at Costco, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and farmers’ markets for organic fruits and vegetables—although a few U.S. corporations are lobbying to ruin that too.

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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

E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_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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If China government isn’t a Monarchy or a Dictatorship, what is it? Part 4 of 4

December 13, 2014

Deng Xiaoping was China’s George Washington. What he did was what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted. China is a republic that combines Western thought with Chinese tradition.

However, the task to create China’s Republic fell to the Communist Party so China is a Socialist Republic with capitalist tendencies.

In China, Piety is important and advice from elders is often followed as if it is the law. Due to this, elder statesmen such as Jiang Zemin have great power in the government even after he no longer has a political title. After all, this is a Chinese tradition.

The Economist mentioned disagreements within the CCP among China’s leaders over what the country’s priorities should be—both on the economy and on political reform.

Whatever the final decisions will be, the consensus of the CCP will be guided by Chinese tradition and not Western thought.

The changes that “some” want to see take place in China will probably not arrive in a hurry if the wisdom of the I-Ching, The Book of Changes, is followed, which says change should come slowly.

In fact, China has proven it is a republic because none of China’s first four presidents are the sons of previous presidents and eventually death removes the elders. China’s presidents did not inherit that title due to heredity as kings do or the leader of North Korea did.

Return to Part 3 or start with  Part 1

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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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If China government isn’t a Monarchy or a Dictatorship, what is it? Part 3 of 4

December 12, 2014

Before we move on, let’s take a brief look at the Athenian democracy that was developed around the 5th century B.C. in the Greek city-state of Athens. Even though there is evidence that democratic forms of government existed before the 5th century, ancient Athens is generally believed to be the first democracy.

What did that democracy look like? Athens had a system of direct democracy, in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills. But participation was not open to all residents: to vote, one had to be an adult, male citizen, and the number varied between 30,000 and 50,000 out of a total population of around 250,000 to 300,000—about 150,000 were slaves.

In comparison, the membership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now 86.7 million—men make-up 77 percent of CP’s membership, while woman make up 23 percent—making the CCP the world’s largest political party representing more than 6 percent of China’s population, and slavery is illegal just like it is in the U.S.

In Part 2, I explained why China was not a monarchy or a dictatorship. In this post and in Part 4, I will show why China is becoming more like the republic Dr. Sun Yat-sen may have imagined by combining Western thought with Chinese traditions.

After Mao died, The Communist Party worked for several years to draft the 1982 Constitution, which included term limits of two five-year terms for elected government officials.

If you have read the Chinese Constitution carefully, it is obvious that the U.S. Constitution was used as a model. However, these two documents are not the same.

If the Party leadership is not happy with China’s president, he can be removed after one five-year term. There is even an article of impeachment in China’s Constitution.

China’s first president was Li Xiannian (1983 to 1988). He served one, five-year term, and then he stepped down.

From 1988 to 1993, Yang Shangkun would be China’s president for one five-year term. Deng Xiaoping (born 1904 – died 1997) was the Chairman of the Communist Party from 1983 to 1993, which was ten years—what China’s 1982 Constitution calls for, but Deng never served as the country’s president.

Due to how the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 was handled, President Yang had to step down at the end of his first, five-year term. The only other way to remove him would have been through impeachment.

In 1993, Jiang Zemin became President and Chairman of the Communist Party. Then in 2003, Hu Jintao became President and Chairman of the Party. His term ended in 2012 when Xi Jinping became president of China.

Continued in Part 4 on December 13, 2014 or return to Part 2

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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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If China government isn’t a Monarchy or a Dictatorship, what is it? Part 2 of 4

December 11, 2014

The Economist implied in the October 23, 2010 issue of the magazine, that China is a monarchy.

However, China is not a monarchy as the Kim Dynasty in North Korea has become or a dictatorship-monarchy as many in the West think.

In North Korea, what started as a Socialist Dictatorship modeled on Maoism has become a Socialist Maoist Monarchy.

China, on the other hand, started as a Socialist Dictatorship under Mao (1949 to 1976) and is becoming a fledgling republic with Western critics looking for cockroaches and slugs under rocks.

In fact, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of China’s Republic, wrote that he wanted to model China’s government after America but by combining Western thought with Chinese tradition.

He didn’t say he wanted China to be a clone of America’s Republic.

America was still a Republic prior to World War II. The US wouldn’t become a full-fledged democracy until the 1960s.

Unfortunately, Dr. Sun died in 1925 before he could finish what he started.

It wouldn’t be until after Mao died in 1976, that the leaders of the Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping would start the long journey to implement Sun’s dream of a Republic against great pressure from Western democracies to copy them.

Continued in Part 3 on December 11, 2014 or start with Part 1

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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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