Tom Carter traveled 35,000 miles in two years to capture a portrait of China’s people

February 18, 2015

“Tom Carter is an extraordinary photographer whose powerful work captures the heart and soul of the Chinese people.” – Anchee Min, author of “Red Azalea”.

Most tourists travel by jet or bus and spend nights in four-or-five star hotels sleeping on plush beds. They eat at only the best restaurants. A rare few visit countries like Sir Richard Francis Burton, the famous nineteenth century explorer and adventurer. Tom Carter is one of the rare few. Imagine backpacking for two years and walking 35,000 miles to capture the heart and soul of a nation. That’s what Tom Carter did to create China: Portrait of a People.

The consensus among ‘backpackers’ is that China is probably the single most challenging country in the world to visit on foot. That by itself says a lot.

There are more than 1.3 billion people in China. Besides the majority Han Chinese, the population includes fifty-six ethnic groups numbering over one hundred million. Carter saw it all from the teenage girl living in Chengdu dressed like an American punk rocker to the soot covered coal miner in Southern Shanxi. Carter’s camera lens captured the complexity and diversity of China.

Tom Carter is a guerrilla hit-and-run photojournalist with a camera instead of a grenade launcher.  To take the up-close-and-personal pictures in ‘Portrait of  a People’, Carter risked jail; almost froze on his way to Tibet; faced exhaustion and hunger; was beaten by drunks; plagued by viral infections, and risked being shot by North Korean border guards.  The hundreds of photos in ‘Portrait’ are priceless. I doubt if there will ever be another book about China like this one. From Inner Mongolian nomads to newlyweds in Hong Kong, Carter captured it all with his photography.

There is an old saying that a picture is equal to a thousand words. Great pictures tell stories.

In ‘China: Portrait of a People’, each picture is worth ten thousand words or maybe more. Carter’s photojournalist study of China stands alone in its genre as it focuses expressly on the Chinese people. Carter backpacked to remote areas to visit China’s minorities like the thousand year old Phoenix Village perched over the Tuo Jiang River or the seventy-five year old Pai Yao minority farmer in his red turban.

To reach some locations, Carter had to travel on foot into some seriously rugged terrain. To get an idea what I’m talking about, consider that China, almost the size of the United States, has only sixteen percent of its land for growing crops. The rest is either mountains or deserts.

Between the covers of ‘Portrait’, you will see what happens when a modern day Sir Richard Francis Burton spends two years backpacking through China’s thirty-three provinces and autonomous regions, not once but twice. During his odyssey, Carter discovered that the Chinese are a friendly, open hearted people.

If you plan to visit China, buy this book before you go. On the other hand, if you are an armchair tourist that never strays far from home, Carter’s Rembrandt ‘Portrait’ of China will not disappoint. You will chuckle when you see the young, twin boys walking out of the river after a swim or watch the eight-year-old acrobat student at Wuqiao bending herself like a folded sheet of paper.

Between the covers of ‘Portrait’, you will start a vicarious journey visiting China like few have done even among the Chinese. You will travel on this 35,000 mile journey without leaving your house, bus or jet seat.

  • The Christian Science Monitor said, Tom Carter shows us that there are actually dozens of Chinas. The American photojournalist spent two years traveling 35,000 miles through every province of China by bus, boat, train, mule, motorcycle, and on foot. – August 27, 2010
  • The San Francisco Chronicle said, Getting a full picture of China – a vast country with an enormous population, a place that is experiencing sweeping cultural and economic changes – is, of course, impossible. But Tom Carter comes close. … It’s a remarkable book, compact yet bursting with images that display the diversity of a nation of 56 ethnic groups. – September 26, 2010

As you might see, there is no way this review does justice for ’China: Portrait of a People’. To try might require a million words—seeing is believing. What are you waiting for?

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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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What Honor Means to Most Chinese: part 3 of 3

February 12, 2015

In 1935, Lin Yutang said, “Face cannot be translated or defined. It is like honor and is not honor. It cannot be purchased with money, and gives a man or a woman a material pride. It is hollow and is what men fight for and what many women die for.

“It is invisible and yet by definition exists by being shown to the public. It exists in the ether and yet can be heard, and sounds eminently respectable and solid. It is amenable, not to reason but to social convention.

“It protracts lawsuits, breaks up family fortunes, causes murders and suicides, and yet it often makes man out of a renegade who has been insulted by his fellow townsmen, and it is prized above all earthy possession.”

“It is more powerful than fate and favor,” Lin Yutang said, “and more respected than the constitution. It often decides a military victory or defeat, and can demolish a whole government ministry. It is that hollow thing which men in China live by.” (Lin Yutang, My Country and My People, Halcyon House, New York, NY, 1938, page 200)

Chinese like Yue Fei and Guan Yu were honorable men and gained much face/respect because of their beliefs and behavior.

When anyone in China reacts to anything, politically or personally, honor plays a large role. It doesn’t matter if one is a member of the Communist Party, a farmer or a factory worker or one of the wealthiest members of the new capitalist elite.

Most Chinese measure what is important in life by a different standard than the rest of the world.

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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

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

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


What is it about the Asian Culture?

January 14, 2015

On Tuesday January 13, I briefly mentioned the 6th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration that took place in San Francisco on May 15, 2010. This post continues with that event.

There were Chinese, Thai, Tibetans—and even the Falun Gong (using another name to disguise who they were)—a free Burma booth, and booths for Dragon Boat Races, and the Lion Dance.

I was there with President Margie Yee Webb of the Sacramento branch of the California Writers Club (CWC), Frances Kakugawa, and Teresa LeYung Ryan. That year, the CWC’s booth was in front of the San Francisco library.

Authors Frances Kakugawa and Teresa LyYung Ryan at the CWC booth

It’s estimated that 100,000 people attends this street celebration each year.

Many people stopped by our booth to talk about China and/or buy books. By noon, I went for a walk toward Little Saigon. Booths lined the street for blocks. It was obvious from what I saw that all of Asia’s cultures have been influenced by China one way or another.

Lion Dance booth

California Dragon Boat Races

The Chinese believe in lucky symbols and bamboo plays a part in that belief.  China was the super power in Asia for more than two thousand years. At one booth, I stopped to take a few photos of a Chinese band playing traditional Asian music.  All the instruments I’ve written on this Blog about were there.

The silk trade started in China and there was a booth with a woman creating tapestries from silk thread.

Even the Glamour and Grace of Miss Chinatown USA was represented.

It was a long and rewarding day that went by too fast, but it was a harmonious day.

Lloyd Lofthouse (me)

When I was still teaching (1975-2005), I learned that by the third generation, the children of most immigrants are assimilated by American culture.

If that is true, why is it that Asians—as an ethnic group—have the lowest incidence of STDs, the lowest unemployment rate, the lowest incidence of drug use and the lowest incidence of teen pregnancy?

In fact, American Asians, including Chinese, tend to graduate from high school with higher GPAs and complete college at rates more than any ethnic group—including White—in the United States. For instance, the Institute of Education Sciences reports that in 2011-12, 93% of Asian/Pacific Islanders; 85% of Whites; 76% of Hispanics and 68% of Blacks, graduated from high school on time.

In addition. The U.S. Census reports that 48.3% of Asian-Americans have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 29.7% for Whites, 16.3% for Blacks and 13.5% of Latinos.

Why is education more important to Asian Americans than the other ethnic groups? When I say important, I support that claim by the graduation rates and not by what someone might say. Saying an education is important to you and then you don’t graduate, reveals the truth.

I think the answer is simple, and I’ve talked about this before in other posts—the collective family culture with a strong belief in the importance of education and respect for teachers and elders, and the public schools where I taught for thirty years had a small percentage of Asian students. Most of them always earned higher grades and were concerned about any grade lower than an A. Even an A- minus might worry some Asian-American students. I also seldom had behavior problems from the Asian-American students I taught in the same classes where every racial group was represented.


Opening Ceremony of the 2014 San Francisco Asian Heritage Street Celebration

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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


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

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Evolving Sexual Revolution in China: Part 5 of 5

December 20, 2014

Most of the prostitutes in the cities are village girls and many have little orno idea about safe sex. This is causing an increase in HIV, because many of the men refuse to wear condoms. Sometimes, when the girl says no, the paying customer will rape her.

The sexual revolution in China is fragile. While the new China supports it, the old China is afraid of the changes. Adultery and divorce are on the rise. Kids are leaving home, and there is a growing generation gap.

In the video, one older Chinese man says that China is not used to this. Under pressure from the older generation, the police end up raiding bordellos and arresting prostitutes.

However, now that China’s sexual revolution is in the open, it will be almost impossible to stop without a return to Mao’s Cultural Revolution and few in China want that to happen. At first, the government tried to stop what was going on but soon backed off, and parents, who grew up in Mao’s puritanical era, don’t want their children to experience the same repression.

With this new found freedom, women are gaining power that they never had before, and many families now value having female children. Few want to return to the way things were.

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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 Evolving Sexual Revolution in China: Part 4 of 5

December 19, 2014

China’s one-child policy, created to control the growth of the population, is complicated and is complicating the sexual revolution.

By ending the pressure on Chinese women to have many children, this has liberated them. Now Chinese women have the freedom to get an education and find a paying job.

The one-child policy also created another problem. Since Chinese families have always favored having boys, many women get abortions when the fetus is identified as a female. This has led to a growing imbalance between the number of men and women causing millions of poor men to not find a mate. With so many poor men unable to find women, gangs and crime have become a problem.

With this challenge, China also has the fastest growing sex industry in the world. A decade ago, there was little prostitution Today, there are many brothels masquerading as massage parlors, and ome are modeled after the brothels in Thailand.

Capitalism has arrived in all its guises, and the same problems the United States has with sex slavery and drugs is now a problem in China too.

Continued on December 20, 2014 in Part 5 or return to Part 3

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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.

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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