Dream of the Red Chamber: much more than just China’s Romeo and Juliet

July 9, 2014

The Dream of Red Chamber (also known as The Story of Stone) is generally considered one of the four greatest Chinese classical novels; has had several versions and translations and was made into a TV series in China.

The author, Tsao Hsueh-chin (1715-1763) came from a powerful and wealthy family and lived a privileged life as a child in Nanjing. Later, he became poor and struggled to survive. Going from wealth to poverty provided him with the necessary experiences to write this tragic story.

Although this novel (English translation available on Amazon in addition to a film selection) has great literary merit on many levels, there is difficulty keeping the characters straight—there are more than four hundred characters and almost thirty are major.  The plot, like most Chinese novels, meanders and doesn’t always flow in the same direction.

Nevertheless, readers and students of Chinese history/culture should read this book to develop a better understanding of Imperial China during the Ch’ing Dynasty. The novel paints a vivid portrait of a corrupt feudal society on the verge of the capitalist, market economy we see flourishing in China today.

Another plot is the Romeo and Juliet love story between Chia Pao-yu and Lin Tai-yu, who—like Romeo and Juliet—wanted to be free to marry anyone they desired.

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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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Visiting Beijing’s Summer Palace

July 2, 2014

The history of the Summer Palace starts with the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD) when the Golden Hill Palace was built on the present site that’s a tourist attraction.

The Summer Palace that exists today dates back to Kublai Khan (Yuan Dynasty: 1277-1367), but I took these photographs in 2008—I’m not that old yet.

In 1750, Emperor Qian Long (Ch’ing Dynasty: 1644 -1911 AD) had canals built from the Forbidden City to Kunming Lake, which was enlarged to serve as a reservoir for Beijing and is still in use today. He also built palaces on the hill to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, a combined British-French military force invaded Beijing and destroyed many of the buildings.  Twenty-eight years later, the Dowager Empress Ci Xi’s brother-in-law rebuilt and expanded the palaces using money—when he was the leader of China’s the navy—meant to modernize China’s navy.

After the Ch’ing Dynasty was swept aside during the 1911 rebellion, this new Summer Palace was opened to the public.  In 1990, the Summer Palace was designated a world heritage site by the United Nations.

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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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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The Pipa and Wu Man Wu

July 1, 2014

The Chinese pipa is a four stringed lute—or Chinese guitar—with a pear-shaped body. Historical records reveal that the pipa first appeared during the Qin Dynasty (222 – 206 BCE), and become one of the most popular stringed instruments in China surviving more than two-thousand years.

Traditional Chinese music has been traced back 7,000 to 8,000 years. For centuries this music was heard primarily by the royalty and high government officials.

But by the Tang Dynasty, records indicate this music had spread to the common people.

Traditional Chinese musical instruments can be divided into four categories: stringed instruments, percussion instruments, plucked instruments, and wind instruments.

Wu Man Wu is recognized as the world’s most famous pipa player and the leading ambassador of Chinese music. She was born 1963 in Hangzhou, China and moved to the United States in 1990. She has been nominated for a Grammy Award and in 2009 was asked to curate two concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Wu has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s major orchestras, including the Austrian ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Moscow Soloists, Nashville Symphony, German NDR and RSO Radio Symphony Orchestras, New Music Group, New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

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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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Will the U.S. Fast Food’s invasion of China rival the damage of the Opium Wars?

June 25, 2014

I remember one night when we ate in a small Shanghai restaurant and at the next table, this overweight kid, maybe ten, said in a shrill voice, “I hate vegetables. Where’s the meat. I demand more meat.” Then he pounded the table with both fists while his face screwed up in a rage. His mother had an embarrassed look on her face but didn’t say a word.

The Opium Wars in the 19th century forced China to open its doors to foreign drug dealers (English, French, American, etc.).

But China has welcomed U.S. fast food with open arms leading to China’s obesity invasion. In 2005, it was predicted that 200 million Chinese would be obese within 10 years. With one year to go, China Daily.com reported that a survey of more than 43,000 adults found that more than 11 percent age 20 to 39 are obese, an increase of two percent since the last survey in 2010.

Now, 11% doesn’t sound like much but there are more than 1.36 billion Chinese and 11% equals 140.6 million. In 2006, NBCNews.com reported that number was 60 million, and according to the World Health Organization rates of obesity are below 5% in rural China but greater than 20% in areas of urban China were the fast food culture has conquered taste buds.

  • McDonalds has more than 1,800+ locations in China.
  • KFC has more than 4,563 in 900+ cities.
  • Pizza Hut with more than 1,000 in 300+ cities.
  • Starbucks has more than 1,000 stores, and China is its second largest market outside of the United States with plans to have 1,500 stores in more than 50 cities by the end of 2015.

China’s bulging middle class has fallen in love with the Western fast food diet and couch potato lifestyle.

Those hit worst with the expanding waistline are the pampered single-child generation. A 2012 study in Obesity Reviews Journal compared the risk of chronic disease in China to other countries, including the U.S. The researchers found that approximately 12 percent of Chinese children and adolescents aged seven to 18 were overweight and about 1.7 million children under 18 suffered from diabetes. Additionally, the rate of diabetes among Chinese adolescents aged 12 to 18 was about four times that of American teenagers.

It doesn’t help that in the Chinese culture fat children are seen as healthy, and this might also be contributing to China’s love affair with U.S. fast food and the alarming growth rate of obesity.

_______________

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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Shanghai and the Complexity of Spoken Language in China

June 24, 2014

The first time I flew into Shanghai, the jet landed at Hangqiao Airport. In 1999, there was no Pudong with its Maglev Train, which moves 150 to 200 km/hour—running eighteen miles to the city.

Even with the larger Pudong airport, Hangqiao still handled more than 31 million passengers in 2010, but more fly into Pudong (44.8 million passengers in 2012).

Model of Shanghai

Regarding spoken languages, China’s leaders are finishing the job Qin Shi Huangdi started twenty-two hundred years ago, and it’s not going to be easy.

The first emperor unified China with one written language but didn’t touch the spoken word. Today, the country is being stitched together with one language, Mandarin. It may take several generations, because most people still speak the language of their parents.

How tough is this goal? Well, there are about 250 spoken languages in China and some of these have dozens of different dialects (especially Mandarin and Tibetan). For instance, Shanghainese, or Wuzhou that’s about 120 miles upstream from Guangzhou, but its dialect is more like that of Guangzhou than that of Taishan, 60 miles southwest of Guangzhou and separated from it by several rivers. In parts of Fujian the speech of neighboring counties or even villages may be mutually unintelligible. Learning English is also mandatory in the public schools. In 2010, there were estimated to be over 100,000 native English-speaking teachers in China.

I’ve shopped on this street.

When England and France started two opium wars with China to force the emperor to allow them to sell the drug to his people, Shanghai was only a sleepy fishing town. The 1st Opium war was 1839 to 1849. The 2nd was 1856 to 1860.

The treaty that ended the first opium war made Shanghai a concession port bringing expats to China from all over the world, and they are still arriving.

Today, there are about 210,000 foreigners living in Shanghai (another 45,500 live in Pudong) out of more than 24 twenty million residents in the municipality of Shanghai with another 21.7 million in the urban area around the city—making Shanghai the most populated city in China and the world. Shanghai has more than 20,000 buildings 11 stories or higher with more than 1,000 exceeding 30 stories.

The 121-story Shanghai Tower will be completed this year, and it will be the tallest building in China. For a comparison, New York City has less than 6,000 high-rises and only 97 are taller than 600 feet.

The next four Shanghai photos are courtesy of Tom Carter,
photo journalist and author of China: Portrait of a People

See the Shanghai Huangpu River Tour

See more at National Geographic, Shanghai Dreams

See more about Shanghai at Eating Gourmet in Shanghai

 

Discover Hollywood Taking the “Karate Kid” to China

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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.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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How I sold almost 2,000 books in twenty hours

June 19, 2014

Lloyd Lofthouse:

“My Splendid Concubine” takes flight and joins the top 100 Amazon best-seller list, and carries ancient China with it. On June 18, “My Splendid Concubine” went on sale for ninety-nine cents and was announced with a BookBub e-mail blast. The sale lasts until June 24.

Originally posted on Lloyd Lofthouse:

If you are a serious author—indie or traditional—then you’re in business and should have an internet platform. The simplest platform might just be a blog, or it could be more complex with a combination of a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Amazon author page, etc.

Once an author has an internet platform, there’s one more step to seriously consider—to advertise. Although I have been a guest on thirty-one, traditional radio talk shows, advertised in a regional magazine, held several author events in brick and mortar bookstores, earned awards from literary contests and been on several book blog tours, the only two marketing methods that resulted in immediate, measurable sales was through blogging on iLookChina and buying e-mail blasts from BookBub and/or Ereader News Today.

So far, in one year, I’ve paid for two BookBub e-mail blasts, and three with Ereader News Today, and they have all…

View original 1,192 more words


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