Peter Hessler on China

March 3, 2015

Peter Hessler arrived in China with the Peace Core in 1996 and taught English for two years. After leaving the Peace Corps, Hessler freelanced for The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and The New York Times before becoming the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker until 2007. He lived in China about fifteen years.

Today, Hessler is better known for his books on China: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001), Oracle Bones (2006), and Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory (2010). His latest work is Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West (2013).

I agree with Hessler when he said in a CNNGo interview, “People in China are not forthcoming like Americans; they don’t like to tell you their personal story. It’s a type of modesty, I think, in a culture where people are not encouraged to see themselves as the center of the universe.”

I have a born-again Christian friend—a white American—who boasted about Christianity being the fastest growing religion in China. I wonder what he’d say if he’d read what Hessler thinks: “The Chinese relationship with religion is pragmatic and fluid; people often change their faith very quickly. And I don’t see them following religion to a degree where it’s clearly not in their self-interest.”

And I also wonder what my old fundamentalist Christian friend would think if he knew the results of the CFPS 2012 survey of 25 of the provinces of China that found only 10% of the population belonged to organized religions—specifically, 6.75% were Buddhists (87.8 million), 2.4% (31.2 million) were Christians (of which 1.89% Protestants and 0.41% Catholics), 0.54% were Taoists, 0.46% were Muslims, and 0.40% declared to belong to other religions. Although 90% (1.17 billion) of the population declared to not belong to any religion, the authors of the survey estimated that only 6.3% were atheists neither believing nor worshipping gods and ancestors.

On happiness, Hessler says, “At this particular moment I think that Americans … might be less happy than Chinese people. The Chinese can roll with the punches. … Everybody in China has seen ups and downs; if they get laid off from the factory, they just go back to the village and play mah-jong.”

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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

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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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China’s curious link between Opium, Christians, Cults and Cannon balls

January 27, 2015

Organized religions and cults such as the Falun Gong have been in China for centuries, but have never played a major role in the culture until the 19th century when Christianity and opium was forced on China.

C.M. Cipolla, in Guns, Sales and Empires, wrote, “While Buddha came to China on white elephants, Christ was born on cannon balls” paid for by the profits to be made from opium. Cipolla obtained his first teaching post in economic history in Catania at the age of 27. In 1953, Cipolla left for the United States as a Fulbright fellow and in 1957 became a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Two years later he obtained a full professorship.

The treaties that ended the two Opium Wars—first Opium war (1839-1842) and second Opium War (1856-1860)—required that China’s emperor allow Christian missionaries free access to all of China to convert the heathens. The treaty also opened all of China to the opium trade. Christianity and Opium might seem a strange partnership but that’s the way it was.

Then there was the Taiping Rebellion led by Hong Xiuquan, God’s Chinese son and a Christian convert, who was responsible for 20 – 100 million deaths over a period of 14 years (1850 – 1864). Hong claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ, and millions of Chinese believed him, but the Taipings were against the opium trade and that led the Christian countries to support China’s emperor against the Christian Taipings proving that profits come before God.

Then in the early months of 1900, thousands of Boxers, officially known as Fists of Righteous Harmony, roamed the countryside attacking Christian missions, slaughtering foreign missionaries and Chinese converts.

Confucius and Lao-Tse have influenced the foundation of Chinese culture and morality, and these two along with Buddha offer more of a blended influence on Chinese culture than Christianity or Islam.

Thanks to Confucius, China’s mainstream culture understands the importance of people within the family and society more so than many other countries and cultures. This may explain why China is a powerhouse of industry today.

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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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About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China’s Kaifeng and India’s Bnei Menashe Jews returning to Israel

September 9, 2014

The first YouTube video is about the Chinese descendants of the Kaifeng Jews of China returning to Israel.  Three Chinese women living in Israel wait at the airport for their arrival.  Several years earlier, these women went through a similar experience when they arrived from China.

All of the Chinese, those arriving and those already in Israel, are descendants of the Jewish community in Kaifeng, China, that was established either during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), or earlier during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and some argue it may have been even earlier.

Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel, talks about the Kaifeng Jews and how they lost their identity through assimilation.   What’s left of that Chinese Jewish community has made great efforts to hold onto their Jewish identity.  Now, many of the Kaifeng Jewish descendants are reconnecting with their Jewish roots.

The Shavei organization has been guiding and supporting the descendants of the Kaifeng’s Jewish community for several years, and Kaifeng Jews have traveled to Israel to study Hebrew and the Jewish culture. After arriving in Israel, the Kaifeng Jews went straight from the airport to the Western Wall.


Another lost Israeli tribe, the Bnei Menashe, were discovered in India—a fascinating story.

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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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The White Lotus Mutation that led to the Ming Dynasty

July 8, 2014

Religions—as Christians, Jews and Muslims practice them—have seldom played a major role in Chinese Culture and Politics. Even today, more than 800 million Chinese say they don’t belong to any religion and the largest religion in China is Buddhism (about 10% of the population).  Even during Imperial times, most members of government didn’t belong to organized religions. The same is true today with the Communist government.

China’s struggle with pagan cults (for instance, the White Lotus Society) stretches back almost a thousand years. The White Lotus Society appealed to poor Han Chinese peasants and more so to women, who found peace in worshiping the Eternal Mother. It was believed that this Eternal Mother would gather all her children at the millennium into one family.

White Lotus Societies started out seeking tranquility through a combination of Buddhism with some elements of Daoism (Taoism) and other native Chinese religions. Even in the 12th century, the Yuan Dynasty was distrustful of the Yellow Lotus Society, which didn’t fit comfortably with Confucianism.

Persecution of the White Lotus Society started during the Yuan Dynasty (Mongols: 1271 – 1368 AD). Due to this, the White Lotus Society changed from one of peace and tranquility and organized protests to violence against the Mongol rulers, the first non-Han to rule China.

Since Yuan Imperial authorities distrusted the White Lotus Society, the Dynasty banned them, and the White Lotus went underground.  The White Lotus predicted that a messianic—Christ like—figure would come and save them from persecution. That man’s name was Zhu Yuanzhang, a Buddhist monk.

The White Lotus led revolution started in 1352 near Guangzhou before Zhu Yuanzhang joined the rebellion. Soon, he became the leader by forbidding his soldiers to pillage in observance of White Lotus religious beliefs.

By 1355, the rebellion had spread through much of China. In 1356, Zhu Yuanzhang captured Nanjing and made it his capital. Then Confucian scholars issued pronouncements supporting Zhu’s claim of the Mandate of Heaven, the first step toward establishing a new dynasty.

Zhu Yuanzhang liberated China from the Mongols and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643).

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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 third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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The Return of Confucius

June 4, 2014

The bronze sculpture of Confucius stands tall at 31 feet (9.5 meters) and is described as having a serious expression. Four months after appearing in Tienanmen Square staring at Mao portrait hanging from the walls of the Forbidden City, the statue—without fanfare—was quietly moved to the courtyard of a museum in Beijing.

Chang writes, “Confucius is enjoying a revival, in books and films, on TV and in classrooms…” In fact, a $500-million dollar museum-and-park complex is under construction in his hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province that includes a statue of Confucius almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

For those who don’t know, Mao declared war on Confucianism and education during the Cultural Revolution.

My wife, who grew up in China during Mao’s era, still believes Confucian values for harmony and peace are what made China weak and a victim to Western Imperialism during the 19th century and to the Japanese during World War II. She may be right. At the time, China believed it was too civilized to worry and wasn’t prepared to defend itself as it is today.

However, she also says to pay attention to the small things the government does. Don’t expect Chinese to be as direct as Westerners.

There’s a strong message in Confucius standing opposite Mao across the vastness of Tiananmen Square as if he were scolding Mao for what he did and few mainland Chinese will miss the meaning. Mao, the student, has been chastised and Tiger Mothers such as Amy Chua are being sent a message to stay tough with their children when it comes to having the kids eat bitterness and sacrifice having fun while working hard earning an education.

Confucius wouldn’t want it any other way.

Now that China is a capitalist/socialist nation with an open market economy, the need for Confucian values is making a comeback with government support. Confucius taught duty to family, respect for learning, virtuous behavior (three traits rare in the West) and obedience of individuals to the state.

What Chang doesn’t say is that Confucius also had expectations for the state to lead by example and to act the part of a gentleman. China’s leaders are aware that they are responsible to provide security for the nation and economic progress for the people in ways that most Western rulers would never consider.

Although China’s central government hasn’t launched a Western style public relations campaign to resurrect Confucian values, which are still a strong foundation for most Chinese families, Chang indicates that we will see some top leaders promoting Confucianism.

In fact, in 2010, a movie of Confucius with Chow Yun Fat was filmed and released in China.

There’s another message that most American weapons’ manufactures and conservative hawks won’t want the world to understand. If China is really moving back to Confucian values, that means China will not be the aggressor in war but will keep a modern military for defense only.

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Lloyd Lofthouseis 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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Organized Religions in China

February 19, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner once said, “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer difficult questions: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?” Source: Theocracy Watch

The answer to Justice O’Conner’s question may be the reason why China’s government keeps such a close watch on religions and decides which ones may practice there. In fact, there’s plenty of historical evidence that China’s restrictions on religions may be justified.

For instance, Roman Catholic Popes influenced the kings of Europe leading to the Crusades (1095 – 1291) with 1 to 3 million dead; the persecution and eradication of the Cathars, and the Medieval, Spanish, Portuguese and Roman inquisitions.

Then there were the Protestant-Catholic Wars: the Thirty Year’s War (1618 – 1648) with 3 to 11.5 million dead and the French Wars of Religion (1562 – 1598) with 2 to 4 million dead.

Next there are the major modern Islamic-Christian wars: The Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970) with 1 to 3 million dead; Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 – 2005) with 1 to 2 million dead, and the Lebanese Civil War (1975 – 1990) with 120 – 250 thousand dead.

Last there’s China’s Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864) led by converted Chinese Christians against the Qing Dynasty with 30 to 100 million dead.

You may have noticed from the few examples that religions with too much political influence and power do not have a good track record.

Then consider how many major religions there are. Why does it have to be so complicated? After all, there’s only one God—I think.

As it is, “China is a country with a great diversity of religious beliefs. The main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism… According to incomplete statistics, there are over 100 million followers of various religious faiths, more than 85,000 sites for religious activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.” Source: Chinese Culture

If you visited the previous link, you discovered that China does allow people to worship God and join a few approved closely watched religions.

Reuters.com reports: “About half of China’s estimated 100 million religious followers are Christians or Muslims, with the rest Buddhists or Taoists, the government says, though it thinks the real number of believers is probably much higher.”

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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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Ancient Treasures from a Silk Road Oasis

December 17, 2013

The first time I heard about Dunhuang in China’s Gobi desert, I was attending a seminar conducted by Dr. Vincent Yip. Dr. Yip is an accomplished photojournalist who taught a Silk Road course at Stanford in addition to his courses about Marketing to more than 1.3 Billion Customers in China and Asia.

The June 2010 issue of National Geographic had a piece about the history of the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, a Silk Road oasis in northwestern China.

 

The Buddhist art found in almost 800 hand carved caves are considered among the world’s finest. There is nearly a half-million square feet of wall space decorated with these murals and more than 2,000 sculptures.


Between the fourth and 14th centuries AD—over a thousand years of history was documented on scrolls, sculptures and wall paintings revealing a multicultural world more vibrant than anyone imagined.

 

Contrary to popular belief and the Dalai Lama’s soft-spoken words of peace, Buddhism, like all large religious movements, has had a bloody and violent history depicted in the picture on page 145 of the National Geographic that shows an eighth-century heavenly armored guard with bulging eyes trampling a foreign demon.

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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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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