Eating swiftlet bird saliva

June 10, 2014

Just the thought of eating soup made from bird saliva gives me the shivers. However, there is a history behind this Southeast Asian delicacy and there may be health benefits but also some degree of danger for a few people.

Myth has it that The Chinese have been eating this saliva for 1,500 years since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). But another myth says China’s most famous eunuch, Admiral Zheng Hi, brought these nests made from bird saliva back to China in the 15th century.

What we do know for sure is that the Chinese have been making soup from imported swiftlet nests from Southeast Asia for centuries.

A Review of Scientific Research on Edible Bird’s Nest from the 1990s of a few comprehensive scientific studies in Asia and China revealed that this particular bird saliva appears to play a crucial role in major normal cellular processes and may help resist the effects of aging.

However, the Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology reported that for a few people there is a major risk of an allergic reaction after eating Bird’s Nest Soup and death could occur.

To be fair to the birds and their saliva, eating peanuts and getting flu shots may also end in allergic reactions with severe symptoms that may lead to death—for a few.

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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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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The Power of Ginseng

November 13, 2013

My wife often cooks with ginseng. She slices the ginseng thin and it goes into the wok with what she is cooking—tofu, cabbage, edamame, Bok Choy, etc.  Ginseng is a dried root that the Chinese believed possesses magical powers because it’s shaped sort of like a little person.

The Chinese also use Ginseng as a powerful herbal medicine.

At one time, modern scientists rejected these claims, but recent research shows it does help the body resist illness and heal damage caused by stress by stimulating the immune system.

Because I only eat ginseng with food my wife cooks, I’ve never taken the herb for its healing properties but I love what it does for flavor.

Records in China show that ginseng was used as an herbal medicine over 3,000 years ago and in cooking as far back as 5,000 years. Chinese emperors valued ginseng enough to pay for the herb with its weight in gold.  In America, ginseng was also used by several North American Indian nations. Source: Ancient Ginseng History

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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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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Interracial love in China during World War II, a book review of “Shanghai Love”

August 13, 2013

From the title, we already know the story is about love in Shanghai, and it doesn’t take long to discover who the two main characters are that are destined to meet.

It is 1938, and in chapter one, we are introduced to Peilin in China. In chapter two we meet Henri in Nazi Germany.

But the love story isn’t what made this novel worth reading. It was the journey the two characters must take to find each other. They are both doctors. Henri is Jewish and trained in western medicine. He has to leave his family behind in Germany and flee to China to avoid Hitler’s Nazis who are hunting for him because he dared to love a woman who was not Jewish.

Peilin was trained by her grandfather in Chinese herbal medicine, and by the time Henri meets her, she has already been married to a ghost for some time.

As a young girl, a marriage was arranged to a boy almost twice Peilin’s age, but when he was a young man—before the marriage—he was killed in combat fighting the Japanese who invaded China in July of 1937. By the time Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese in December 1941, China has already been fighting Japan for more than four years. To give you an idea of how horrible it was, by the end of World War II, China lost ten to twenty million people to the war compared to 418,500 for the United States.

One would think with her fiancé dead, Peilin would be free to move on with her life, but no—because in China it is expected that Peilin must still marry the man’s ghost, stay a virgin for life and live with her in-laws who will buy a baby for her to raise as if she were its biological mother and the dead man its father.

Shanghai-Love-front-cover-194x300

The story is set in an era when both the Chinese and Europeans disapproved of interracial relationships. In Germany, there was racism against the Jews. But in China, there is prejudice from some Chinese because Henri is white. In addition, many of the Jewish refugees look down on the Chinese culture and disapprove of Henri spending time with Peilin. It seems that these two are fated to be star-crossed lovers.

I recommend reading this story because it offers a reminder of the horrors of war and racism. During World War II, 20,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai, one of the few places in the world that put no limits on the number of Jews it would accept.

Another plot thread that runs through the novel is the focus on Chinese herbal medicine and how different it is from the western concept of medical care. The Chinese were studying advanced medical care long before the West. In fact, Chinese medical tradition is more than 5,000 years old including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise and dietary therapy—concepts that the West didn’t pay serious attention to until near the end of the 20th century.

I’m not going to tell you how the love story turns out between Henri and Peilin. You will have to buy and read the novel to discover that.

Layne Wong, the author of Shanghai Love

Layne Wong, the author of Shanghai Love

I bought my copy of “Shanghai Love” by Layne Wong at an author event held at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, California earlier in 2013.

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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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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Breathing Huangzhou

June 4, 2013

The city of Huangzhou in Zhejiang province is about a hundred miles or 161 kilometers from Shanghai. We’ve visited several times. Our last trip together was in 2008 shortly before the project this story covers was launched. Huangzhou is one of the most beautiful cities in China.

In the video, Al Jazerra’s Melissa Chan reports on one of the largest bike sharing projects in the world and one of the most successful.

Launched in 2008, the city of Huangzhou provides 50,000 free bicycles at 2,000 bike stops across the city, and in July 2012 a paper was published on the Clean Air Action Planning in Chinese Cities: Hangzhou and Jinan Cases.

The people Chan interviewed say they use the bikes to go to work and it is great to be outside and exercising. One woman says it cuts her commute time.

Melissa Chan says the first hour of bike use is free. It’s actually possible to cycle free all day as long as you check in at a stop every hour.

The system is easy to use—just swipe a bike card across a reader (similar to riding many urban rapid transit systems) and off you go.

Registering for a card is simple.  All that’s needed is a deposit and identification.

Huangzhou, also known as the Westlake, has been one of the more environmentally conscious cities in China.

The government made space to build parks alongside the rapid development and modernization. Huangzhou has remained picturesque unlike many other cities in China where the concrete jungle has taken over.

Li Zhi Hong of Hangzhou Public Transport says the city wanted to encourage citizens to leave their cars and use more public transportation. The bicycles allowed people to take that final kilometer from the bus station to their destination.

The bikes are also great for tourism.

Melissa Chan says public busses have also adopted European emission standards. While there are still many cars on the road, people tell her that it could be a lot worse.

The city has taken the pollution issue seriously and Huangzhou’s success has attracted the attention of Beijing where the pollution problem is still “painfully” visible with each breath.

Today, Huangzhou is one of the cleanest cities in the country.  In fact, recently it was one of seven cities in China to limit the number of vehicles driving on roads using travel restrictions based on vehicle license plate numbers.” Source: Hangzhou Weekly.com (2013 update)

In addition, Huangzhou’s air is rated cleaner than seventeen of China’s Provincial Capitals including Xi’an, China’s ancient capital, and Beijing, its modern capital. Source: What’s On Ningbo.com

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The WHO’s War on Tobacco

January 29, 2013

Gillian Wong of the Associated Press wrote about a battle over tobacco heating up in China—pun intended. China also signed the global anti-tobacco treaty backed by the World Heath Organization (WHO) to cut tobacco use. In fact, WHO awarded China’s Health Minister Chen Zhu for his efforts to battle tobacco use.

However, in China, tobacco companies sponsor public schools.  Something similar happened in the US when Coke and Pepsi installed vending machines in the public schools where students could feed their sugar cravings and grow obese at the same time by drinking sodas.

In fact, at Nogales High School in La Puente, California where I taught for years, I was told one morning by the truck driver filling the vending machines in the halls that more than two-thousand cases of Coke were selling a week there.

I complained in writing, of course, but was told by a district administrator that the money made off all that teenage sugar consumption was more important (not in those exact words but that’s what he meant).

The school district made a nice profit from its share. Now, it seems selling sodas at school may be against the law.

Maybe the US was China’s role model, but the Chinese have gone one-step further by (according to Gillian Wong) taking elementary students on school sponsored tours of cigarette factories where the slogans say, “Talent stems from hard work, tobacco helps you become accomplished.”

Where’s Qin Shi Huangdi when China needs him most? After all, when the first emperor wanted to get something done, nothing stopped him. He unified China, finished building The Great Wall, mandated one written language and had the scholars who complained dig their own graves before setting them on fire and throwing dirt on the remains.

On the other hand, if China did nothing, the One-Child policy could be abolished to make up for deaths caused by tobacco use.

In fact, China should encourage smoking to reduce the population. Estimates say that one in three young men will die early from tobacco use. Within fifty years, China’s population problems would be solved while private companies make massive profits from smoke.

Did you know that the US State Department helped open China to US Tobacco products after the States in America took on the cigarette giants and beat them in courts hurting their profits? After all the smoke cleared in all those courts, big tobacco in the U.S. owed the states $206 billion, and those companies had to open new markets—China was the target.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine SagaWhen 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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