California’s Chinese during the Gold Rush: Part 2 of 2

November 25, 2015

Guest post by John Putnam

In the mines the Chinese were often forced to work sites that others had abandoned as no longer productive and, by hard work, made these claims pay.

As more men arrived in the gold fields and the amount of surface gold dwindled, tensions increased. Thirty-five Chinese showed up at Camp Salvado in 1849 where men from El Salvador had worked and here they found rich placer deposits.

White miners soon arrived and pushed the Chinese out, but they were taken in at another nearby site called Camp Washington where still more gold was found

Chinese flocked to a place where they were accepted and Tuolumne County’s Chinese Camp survives to this day.

But by 1850, a $20 per month tax on each foreign miner was imposed.

By 1852 Chinese were forced from Mormon Island and Horseshoe Bar along the American River, then from Colombia in the southern mines and Yuba City in the northern.

In 1856 Chinese paid $70,000 for the right to mine in Mokelumne Hill.

By 1868 almost all Chinese had left the mines to work on the transcontinental railroad or in Chinese operated businesses.

Return to or start with  Part 1


Reprinted by permission.
First published May 23, 2011 in My gold rush tales.
John Rose Putnam is the author of four novels.

The River of Corn

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California’s Chinese during the Gold Rush: Part 1 of 2

November 24, 2015

Guest post by John Putnam

Of all the diverse peoples that poured into California after the discovery of gold, none stood out more than the Chinese. Radically different in dress, language and culture these new men were first welcomed because of their willingness to work hard for low wages at any task presented them.

John McDougall, the 2nd Governor of California, described them as “one of the most worthy of our newly adopted citizens.”

At the start of 1849 only 54 Chinese were in California. By1852 there were nearly 12,000 living here and only seven of them women. Because of turmoil in Canton another 20,000 would arrive that same year.

A community of Chinese Americans quickly grew in San Francisco. They marched in Fourth of July parades and rejoiced at California’s statehood, but celebrated their lunar new year in their traditional way.

In 1852 a Cantonese opera was performed at the American Theater and in 1854 a Chinese language newspaper began publishing.

The Kong Chow Association formed to help the new arrivals adapt to their new home. Then another, the Chew Yick, elected Norman As-sing, an English speaking owner of the Macao and Woosung Restaurant as their leader. Soon there were six associations called tongs that combined to form the Six Companies to better represent Chinese interest.

Continued on November 25, 2015 in Part 2


Reprinted by permission.
First published May 23, 2011 in My gold rush tales.
John Rose Putnam is the author of four novels.


The River of Corn

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To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.



Is Guanxi China’s Cultural System of Grass Roots Business and Justice?

November 17, 2015

In lieu of a Western style legal system for most of China’s history, Guanxi offered an alternative for thousands of years to foster innovation, develop trust and contribute to trade and commerce.

Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character in my historical fiction novel, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he left the employ of the British and went to work for the Emperor.  He quickly learned that a “supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.” Source: Entering China’s Service

In addition, Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting—”

To translate, it takes time to develop a relationship/friendship/trust (Guanxi) that all involved might benefit from.

Warning: This is a Promotional Video. However, it offers a perspective on Guanxi worth watching.

However, I did not learn about Guanxi from Robert Hart. I first learned of it from the China Law Blog, which quoted the Silicon Hutong Blog.

Then I did more research and watched a few videos on the subject. I learned that Guanxi is one of those complexities of Chinese culture that does not translate easily.

There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates and to those no stranger – Chinese or foreign – will ever have access.

Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system similar to the one that developed in western countries.

In fact, the legal system in China today is relatively new and made its appearance after the 1982 Chinese Constitution became the basis of the law.

Since 1982, there have been several amendments to the Constitution as China adapts its evolving legal system, which was modeled after the German legal system.

In time, this Western influenced legal system may replace Guanxi since business law modeled on Western law with Chinese characteristic has developed faster than civil law.

There are a several opinions about Guanxi. I learned that Guanxi is similar to a gate that opens to a network of human beings, but it isn’t that simple.

Maintaining Guanxi is different than how relationships are maintained in other cultures. The embedded videos with this post offer a more detailed explanation.

The China Law Blog copied the post from the Silicon Hutong Blog. The post on the China Law Blog had more than twenty comments and it was a lively discussion worth reading if you are interested in discovering more.


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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What is this abstract concept called FACE?

November 11, 2015

No, this is not about looks or Botox or face-lifting creams or hairstyles, or tanning salons, or the desire to have a rounder, paler moon face—the standard of beauty to most Chinese.

What I’m writing about is the meaning of “face” to the Chinese

Dr. Martha Lee wrote, “Nobody ever said what you do with those who have ‘disgraced’ the family name by getting divorced.” Dr. Lee was writing of the ‘hongbao’ dilemma.

In China, if you do something that is considered a disgrace, like getting divorced, that may be considered a “loss of face” for everyone in the family.

Lin Yutang wrote in My Country and My People, “it is easier to give an example of Chinese ‘face’ than to define it.

“The ‘face’ is psychological and not physiological.  Interesting as the Chinese physiological face is, the psychological ‘face’ makes a still more fascinating study.  It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a ‘face’ that can be ‘granted’ and ‘lost’ and ‘fought for’ and ‘presented as a gift’.”

For instance, when our daughter was a pre-teen, we went on weekend hikes as a family in the hills behind our home when we lived in Southern California. The end of the hike was in a large park across the street from the La Puente Mall. On one fateful day, when she was nine or ten, she was the first to discover a dead man, and she came running back with a shocked expression on her face.

It turned out the dead man was an architect from Taiwan and his company had gone bankrupt. His “loss of face” for failing had driven him to take an extension cord from his mother’s house, find a suitable tree in an isolated portion of that park, and hang himself.

He was dead when we reached him.

Do not stereotype. The meaning of “face” may vary between Chinese. It depends on the balance between Confucianism and Daoism along with factors like Buddhism or belief in the Christian, Islamic or Jewish God.

“Face” is why some Chinese mothers ride their children hard to do well in school while telling everyone they know that their kid is stupid and/or lazy and has no chance to succeed.

Chinese mothers may often tell their children the same thing. However, if the child is accepted to a prestigious university, that Chinese mother has now earned bragging rights and “gained much face” for the job she did as a mother

To get a better idea, I recommend reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or watch the film.  We had a house full of my wife’s Chinese friends and their families over for dinner. After eating, the children gathered in our downstairs TV room to watch a movie. They picked “The Joy Luck Club”, and during one scene, when the Chinese mother was acting very Chinese, all the children looked at each other, nodded ‘yes’ and laughed ironically. Since my wife is Chinese, I knew why they reacted that way. They all had Chinese mothers.

“Face” is why the Chinese businessman will take great risks or take only a few risks and if given a chance may steal another person blind—that is if they believe they can get away with it. If they are caught and it is against the law, that is a “loss of face”—one reason for suicide.

Most Chinese men will wait until they are successful before they let others know. If they fail, it’s possible no one will hear about it beyond the family unit.

“Face” is why Chinese men often work twelve to sixteen hour days, seven days a week earning small but saving large. The Chinese will do without luxuries and save to pay for their child’s university education. Chinese women will work just as hard.

Studies in today’s China show that the average family saves/spends a third of its income for a child’s education.

Regaining “face” may be one reason why Mao reoccupied Tibet for China in 1949. Look closely, and you may discover that even Taiwan claims Tibet for the same reason.

The other reason may have been tactical—to control the high ground as Israel controls the Golan Heights.

Having control over the Tibetan plateau was one of the tactical reasons Britain convinced the Dalai Lama to declare freedom from China in 1912.

“Face” may be why China’s leaders get so angry over Taiwan. As long as Taiwan is not ruled by the mainland, it may be seen as a “loss of face”.

It’s why the Chinese want to walk on the moon and reach the other planets before anyone else. In China, “face” is universal to most of the population and different for each person.

For the Chinese, taking risks is no stranger. It’s probably the reason the Chinese invented paper, the crossbow, the compass, the stirrup, developed a cure for scurvy, the printing press, gunpowder, and built multi-stage rockets using gunpowder as a propellant centuries before anyone in the West did.

China’s list of innovative inventions is longer than this sample. Many of these inventions eventually appeared in the West centuries later where Westerners took credit for them.

Now you know the truth.

In What the Chinese Want Even More than Oil or Gold, the focus was on Chinese gambling and about illegal lotteries going legal and national. Since I married into a Chinese family, I understand what the author of this piece was saying, but the topic is more complex than that.

To learn more, I suggest you read the Investoralist, “Where Curious Minds Meet”. The Investorilist piece says that gambling is China’s Achilles heel.

I disagree.

I believe it is risk taking that brought China to greatness in the past. It’s when most Chinese stopped taking risks in the 15th century that China started to lose its spot as a regional superpower. It’s all about ‘face’. Take a risk and win but make a mistake and get caught, you “lose face” and maybe your life too, which may explain many of the suicides in countries such as China, Japan and Korea.


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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Burning Books and Politically Correct Censorship

November 4, 2015

My reason for writing this post was to show how cultural differences bring about biased opinions due to religious, spiritual and/or cultural beliefs.

For instance, my mother would have burned My Splendid Concubine, because she grew up in a country with the soul of a church. After my mother died, I found her videos of the Bible, an audio version and about thirty different translations/versions.

I didn’t know until then that there was that many ways to speak for one God. In fact, Biblica says, “Would you believe that there are literally hundreds of different translations of the Bible into English? For many people this huge variety is totally confusing and they just don’t know which Bible to choose.”

After my father died, mother spent her last decade to age 89 studying the Bible several hours a day. This was her attempt to discover the answer to salvation that haunted her most of her life.

My mother loved to read other books too, as did my father, who was not a religious person. However, if my mother ran into a vivid sex scene in a novel, she threw the book in the fireplace.

Since I was born and raised a Catholic, and when I was 12 my mother switched to the Jehovah Witnesses, I know why she would’ve burned my novel.

To Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and most devout Christians of all sects, lust is a mortal sin.

In fact, Catholic Questions in a Secular World says, “The seven deadly sins are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.… Lust is the self-indulgent desire for gratification … without the sanctifying graces of marriage.”

For instance, when I was single in my thirties, I had a relationship with a lawyer, who ended the relationship due to her Christian guilt. She wasn’t a Catholic but she attended two different Christian churches on Sundays, and she made it clear that it was the guilt that drove her to stop seeing me. She said she went to two churches to hear two sermons each Sunday, because it was the only way should heard what she wanted to hear.

My Splendid Concubine is historical fiction based on a real Irishman who went to China in 1854, bought a concubine and stayed until 1908 to become the most powerful Westerner in China’s history and the only foreigner trusted by the Emperor.

Books have been written on the subject of sex in America that explains why my mother would have burned My Splendid Concubine. America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty by Marty Klein, Ph D. is one example, which “Spotlights the political, legal and civic battles raging in this country against what is arguably our most private and pluralistic right – sexual freedom.”

And in Cultural Differences Defined by Written Language, I attempted to explain why cultures around the globe are not all the same, and as I did when I wrote of The Collective Culture versus Individualism.

Another example is an anonymous reviewer called “colorado outback” who posted a one-star review on Amazon of My Splendid Concubine and said, “You should Not Buy This Book – Seriously, just Soft Porn.”

My mother would have agreed with “colorado outback”, because she was influenced by her religion.

Outback says: “this seemed more like the sexual fantasy of the author and NOT the historical novel it is purported to be.”

However, “outback” was wrong. The idea to write My Splendid Concubine didn’t originate from a sexual fantasy, as I’ll explain.

Since writing My Splendid Concubine was not motivated by sexual fantasies, I responded to “outback’s” biased opinion, and outback replied that my novel doesn’t “come up to par with Anchee Min, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Charles Dickens, Amy Tan, Pearl S. Buck, James Michener, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Tom Robbins and so on.”

I’d have to agree. I’ve never thought that I was equal to or better than the authors outback listed or any author. In fact, I don’t compare my writing to any other author and if I compete with anyone, it is with my own writing with the goal to improve.

Outback claimed to have read all of the books by the above authors and thousands more yet he only had two, one-star reviews posted on Amazon (at the time I was writing this post).  Where are all those five-star reviews extolling the virtues of the work he admired?

If I didn’t write such a lusty novel from personal sexual fantasies as “outback” claims, why did I write it?

The answer is simple.

I wanted to show the clash between different cultures and Sterling Seagrave wrote in Dragon Lady, “To take the pain out of learning, his Chinese tutor suggested that (Robert) Hart might buy a concubine and study the local dialect with her.

“Hart wrote in his journal, ‘Here is a great temptation. Now, some of the China women are very good looking: You can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month. … Shall I hold out or shall I give way?'”

Seagrave writes in the next paragraph, “By early May he (Robert Hart) had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou. He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty.”

Then the editors of Entering China’s Service: Robert Hart’s Journals wrote on page 8, “But anyone who reads the journals through knows that his mental struggles about women were not soon or lightly won; whether the relapse was to daydreams or to a Chinese mistress, it caused him ambivalence and anguish.”

China has had a concubine culture for thousands of years and that culture, although changed in form, is still active today, which I wrote of in Concubines Return to China Riding Capitalism’s Wave of Wealth.

In China, the concubine is a trophy showing a man’s success, and no major religion on earth has had a lasting impact on the Chinese culture in more than a thousand years.

In fact, the concept that lust is a mortal sin doesn’t exist in China unless a Chinese adopts Christianity as their religion.

That does not mean China is without morals but the moral codes of China exist without the sin of mortal lust as Catholics and many devout Christians believe. In fact, I’ve known mainland Chinese that are extremely moral and would put most Puritans to shame.

The idea to focus on Robert Hart’s struggles with his Victorian, Christian morals while living in 19th century China’s concubine culture sprouted when I first read his journals and letters published by Harvard University Press.

Other influences were Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid and The Last Empress: A Novel—both novels go into detail about the lives of the more than three thousand concubines that belonged to the emperor.

In fact, in 19th century China, the more power and wealth a man had, the more women he owned.

Another influence was the movie directed by Zhang Yimou in 1991, Raise the Red Lantern, which “focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what is going on — taking his pleasures when he feels like it.”


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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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What’s the color of your flag? Part 1 of 2

October 27, 2015

The world’s most popular sport is Soccer with an estimated 3.5 billion fans. In America the number one sport is Football (NFL) with less than 156 million fans. The CIA’s World Factbook lists every country by its government type. In fact, click this link from Maps of the World, and explore all the different types of governments on the planet by just moving your curser over the map. There are 196 countries in the world, roughly 4,200 religions, and eight major ethnic groups and each of those groups can be broken up into smaller ethnic factions. There are 24 full democracies in the world and 51 authoritarian regimes similar to China. Can you subtract 196 from 24, and if so, once you have the answer, then tell me why the U.S. seems to only want to change China?

World Ethnic Groups

The last time I looked the U.S. flag was red, white and blue with 50 stars and 13 stripes, and 70.6 percent of its citizens identify themselves as Christians. –

The Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the U.S. Constitution were written by a group of white men influenced by Western republican/democratic governments dating back to the Greeks before the birth of Christ. In fact, Athenian statesman and member of the exiled Alcmaeonidae aristocracy, Cleisthenes is considered the father of democracy. Before his rise around 510 B.C., Athenian governance was left to aristocratic families who represented the wealthy. There is no similar figure in Asia.

Important historical figures in China were Confucius and Sun Tzu, who wrote the Art of War. From India, we get Buddha and Indira Gandhi. In the Middle East there was the Islamic prophet Muhammad. If you want a better idea of the diversity of the world, just scroll through Current World Population.

At this point someone who is ignorant might pop up and shout, “The Dalai Lama,” is from Asia and he promotes democracy, but no Dalai Lama has ever promoted a democracy similar to the United States or other European Republics.  When the Tibetans ruled themselves, they were first ruled by kings and then by a theocracy, and the Dalai Lama is still Tibet’s living god for life. Is there another country on the planet with a living god?

Tibet has never been a republic or a democracy, and its government in exile—even though they have sham elections and claim to have been a democracy since September 2, 1960—is headed by the 14th Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay. There are no political groups and no term limits. There are about 150,000 Tibetans living in exile and 7.5 million living in the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. Yes, there are elections in China too but there is only one political party—not much different than the 14th Dalai Lama’s government in exile, except the Chinese change their leaders every 5 to 10 years.

If you are an American, do you have a copy of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? I do. Have you read it, and if you have, how much do you remember besides the Pursuit of Happiness, the right to own a firearm and the freedom to say just about anything without fear of being tossed in prison?

China may start with the letter “C” as California does, but it is not part of the U.S., and its founding fathers were men such as Sun Yat-sen, Mao, and Deng Xiaoping, and less than 3% of Chinese are Christians while more than 87% are not religious or do not belong to any organized religion.

In April, 2011, CNN ran a piece on its CNN Wire service of a Chinese artist and citizen of the People’s Republic of China, (PRC). His name is Ai Weiwei.  The title of the piece was, “China says Ai Weiwei is being held for economic crimes“.

If you read the entire CNN piece, you will discover that the artist was taken into custody in route to Hong Kong. The piece quotes his wife and mother, who both believe he is innocent and that he was arrested and locked up because he refused to listen to warnings that he should stop his “reckless collision against China’s basic political framework and ignorance of China’s judicial sovereignty to exaggerate a specific case …”

Ai Weiwei is also one of China’s best-known artists. He helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ai Weiwei is more than an artist. He is also a democracy activist and a critic of his government.

Sure, the US Constitution protects U.S. citizens when they criticize the government.  However, the Chinese Constitution does not offer the same protections. In fact, most countries don’t. In Saudi Arabia, woman cannot work or drive and criminals are often executed by beheading—a practice once common in China but no more.

And China is not the only country in the world with an autocratic government. Scroll back to the top and you will discover China is only one of 51.

In fact, the American CIA has taken advantage of foreign laws such as those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt when terrorists have been sent for torture and questioning without the due process of law as guaranteed in the U.S. (not outside of it).

Continued in Part 2 on October 28, 2015


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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Being Chinese and Buying Made In China in the USA: Part 2 of 2

October 21, 2015

I’ve been in the Number One Shanghai department store off Nanjing road and seen Chinese consumers taking TV’s from the box to insure they work.

Recently, a friend who was visiting us from China was up early in the morning walking to the Apple Store, a thirty-minute walk from our house.

To buy an iPad or iPhone in America, she was willing to get up that early and wait in line for several hours until the store opened to buy this new Apple product. And she didn’t buy just one. Her coworkers and friends in China gave her enough money to buy several Apple products that were all assembled in China but sold in the U.S.

When I asked her why not buy the iPad at one of the official Apple Stores in Beijing or Shanghai, she said if you buy something in the U.S. even if it’s made in China, the buyer can be assured of the quality.

There is some truth to that. My father-in-law’s wife arrived several years ago with a new camera she bought in China, and it stopped working the first week she was here so she bought an expensive Sony at Costco and loved it because it worked just as promised and kept on working.

It would seem that Chinese manufacturers have a long way to go to earn the trust of the Chinese consumer.

Meanwhile, 109 million Chinese tourists left China in 2014 and many bought “Made in China” outside of China and spend more than any other foreign travelers at an average of $7,200 each visit to the U.S. They also buy “Made in the USA” and products made in other countries.

Don’t believe me? Well, reported recently that “they (Chinese tourists) are the most prolific spenders in the world.”

Don’t let this blow your mind, but last week I saw a busload of Chinese tourists shopping at the Costco closest to our house. It seems that even Costco is a tourist destination and Chinese tourists buy everything even filling up shopping carts with vitamins.

Next time you hear an ignorant American complaining about China stealing jobs from the U.S., tell them how many jobs they are generating in the U.S. and how much money they are spending here, and that the U.S. is now issuing more visas for Chinese citizens for longer periods of time. says, “In 2013, 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the United States, contributing $21.1 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs.”  And it is estimated that by 2021, Chinese travelers to the U.S. will be supporting 440,000 U.S. jobs.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Return to or start with Part 1.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition], a historical fiction novel with a unique love story that is set in 19th century China. His latest book, a suspense thriller set in the world that Lloyd worked in as a maitre d’ in the early 1980s, is going on sale for $0.99, a savings of 75% below regular price.

99 cents Promotion Graphic OCT 2015

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