From China’s Modern Gobi Stonehenge to Beijing’s Ancient Observatory

April 29, 2015

In August 2008, The Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco sent a team to China to film a total-solar eclipse. While in China, Pauld Doherty, a physicist, teacher, author and rock climber, visited China’s modern Stonehenge in the Gobi Desert.

chinesestonehenge600

Pauld says, “The Gobi Stonehenge is made with a central pillar where a viewer stands and 6 pillars that mark the positions of sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes and the solstices. There are also pillars to mark due north and south. When the sun passes over the south pillar, it marks local-solar noon.”

“The shape of an observatory like this one depends upon the latitude,” he says, “and my calculations show that the excellent Chinese astronomer who designed this one did a superb job.”

Patsy Burns left a comment, “The Stonehenge and center of Asia markers note Chinese have long been studying the skies. … Have you been to the remnants of the Emperor’s observatory just east of Tiananmen Sq by the Gloria Plaza hotel … if it is still there? Supposedly Marco Polo’s star gazing Jesuits matched calculations with the Emperor’s people there and that knowledge gave Marco Polo guanxi, credibility.”

To answer Patsy’s question, yes, the Ming Emperor’s observatory is still there and a recent planetarium has been added.

To study astronomy, the Ming Dynasty built an observatory in Beijing in 1442. The observatory covers 1,000 square meters (more than 10,000 square feet).

Eight bronze astronomical instruments stand on a platform. The design of the instruments reflects both the influence of oriental craftsmanship and the European Renaissance demonstrating an understanding of measurements and physics.

In 1955, a new hall covering 7,000 square meters (more than 75,000 square feet) was built, and it opened to the public two years later. It has an exhibition hall, a video projection room and observatory for everyone.

In 2004, a new hall covering about 20,000 square meters (more than 215,000 square feet) was added.

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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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Gongwangfu, a Prince’s Palace and Garden in Beijing worth seeing

April 7, 2015

I took these photos in Prince Kung’s (1833-1898) palace and garden (once called Gongwangfu). This palace is in Beijing’s Beihai district. Prince Kung was Emperor Hsein Feng’s (1831-1861) younger brother.

As Inspector General for the Emperor of China, Robert Hart, known as the Godfather of China’s modernism, lived in the same hutong that Prince Kung lived in. Robert Hart, the main character in My Splendid Concubine, often met Prince Kung in this garden.

After 1950, for several decades, the palace and garden became a communal home for many Chinese. In recent years, the garden, considered one of the best in China, was renovated and is now a tourist attraction, which attracts thousands of visitors daily. Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City are all within walking distance.

To design a proper Chinese garden one must build a big place in a small space.  Prince Kung’s garden and estate is surrounded by a high wall and outside is Beijing.

Once inside, it is easy to forget that outside the walls is a crowded city. It was also easy for the Qing (Manchu) royals to forget about what was happening throughout China.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Gourmet dining at McDonald’s in Shanghai

March 25, 2015

Maybe China’s government doesn’t care for McDonald’s because of the increase in obesity among the Chinese, but many Chinese think of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut as gourmet restaurants or at least they act like they do.

For instance, a few years ago, my sister-in-law hired a young Shanghai ballerina to model for a photo shoot. Afterwards, the ballerina called her husband on a cell phone and told him to meet her at the two story McDonald’s in the middle of Shanghai to celebrate the extra cash she’d earned.

McDonald’s is even planning to increase the number of outlets in China, and to get ready, they have opened a leadership school that only accepts 1% of the applicants for training.

We also saw long waiting lines outside a fancy Pizza Hut on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, a crowded pedestrian mall.

More Posts about Shanghai:
Shanghai
Shanghai Huxinting Teahouse
Shanghai Huangpu River Tour
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

______________________________

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


An Art Gallery in Zhouzhang, China’s Venice

March 4, 2015

In 2008, while visiting Zhouzhang, China’s #1 Water Town for Tourists, we stopped at Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery and art studio.

 
Xu-Xiao-dong

The artist trained under a master and keeps a newspaper clipping that mentions it.

We bought several watercolors from Xu Xiao-dong, and he gave me written permission to use his art for the cover of My Splendid Concubine’s 2nd edition. The 3rd edition has a dancer on the cover (you can see it below this post).

 Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery

There’s a narrow, steep stairway in the back (left) that goes to another floor and more art. The artist also paints his art on the second floor.

Zhouzhang, near Shanghai, is almost a thousand years old—built in 1086. Unlike most tourist attractions in America, this town is still occupied with 138,000 people, and they make their living from the tourists who cannot enter unless they pay a fee.

A boat ride through the town costs about RMB 100 (US$16). Traditional Chinese folk songs sung by gondoliers are free.
At least they were when we visited.

_______________

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Finding Clean Air in China

January 20, 2015

If asked to name cities in China, most people outside of China would probably say Shanghai and Beijing, but China has more than a hundred cities with populations over a million and some of them actually have clean air.

Mike Conklin, in a special to the Chicago Tribune, reveals a rare gem in Xiamen, China—a southeast port across the Taiwan Straits from Taiwan.

One of China’s top universities is located in Xiamen with about 30,000 students along with a half dozen other colleges.

Besides great beaches and “CLEAN AIR”, the population is environmentally conscious and prices are low.  A few years ago, the CCP planned to build a chemical plant in Xianmen.  But students took to the streets in peaceful protest and more than a million text messages were sent objecting to the chemical plant.

The central government changed its plans—meaning NO chemical plant was built in or near Xiamen.

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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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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.

_______________

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


China’s Annual Lunar New Year Migration

December 31, 2014

Imagine 220 million people on the move using the roads, rails and sky—all at the same time.

That’s what my family experienced in 2008 when we visited China during one of its national holidays, the Lunar New Year on February 7, the Year of the Rat. For 2015, the Year of the Goat lands on February 19.

In 2008, my sister and her youngest daughter went with us—and both are evangelical Christians who did not agree with China’s one-child policy. I heard this more than once but after they arrived in China and experienced that migration, they both stopped preaching about why the one-child policy was wrong.

At times, It was so crowded it felt as if we were swimming upriver through an ocean of people.

That’s when I decided that my next trip to China will not be during any of China’s national holidays—especially the Lunar New Year.

For readers who haven’t been to China, this may be your only chance to experience a taste of what it is like to live in a country with more than 1.3 billion people. By the way, 220 million people is equal to 70% of the population of the United States.

It’s possible that a passenger will have to stand for a trip of 16 to 48 hours to reach their destination.

For comparison, during the 35-day Thanksgiving to New Year holiday season in the United States, USA Today reports that Auto-club giant AAA projects that nearly 99 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles by car or air—less than half the number of people in China who travel during the Lunar New Year that’s celebrated for about 15 days.


2103 Lunar New Year in China

_______________

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.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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