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.

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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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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


Raise the Red Lantern: a look at China’s concubine culture

June 18, 2014

This film was directed in China by Zhang Yimou in 1991, and it offers a view of life within a closed, culture of patriarchy (male dominated). The film is set in the 1920s during the Warlord Era, and it focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what’s going on—taking his pleasures when he feels like it.

Before 1949, women in China were the property of men who did what they wanted with that property.

China’s central government approved of the screen play but then banned the film for a time, because it paralleled the return the concubine culture in today’s China where wealthy married men support single women (the concubines) and often buy them apartments in trade for exclusive sex and companionship. But there is a difference. Today, in China, women are not the property of men as they were in 1920.

In fact, when my wife and I lived in Southern California, we ate at a small restaurant near our home. The owner was a former concubine of a wealthy Chinese man, who paid her off and sent her packing when she got too old. He used his influence and wealth to help her reach the United States while he went in search of a younger beauty to replace her. She used the money he paid her to leave to start a business in the U.S. She was lucky. Many modern-age concubines are just abandoned and have to find another master to support them and beauty fades.

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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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A close look at Inner Mongolia through “Wolf Totem”

June 17, 2014

Another way to learn about China is through Chinese literature and film. Jiang Rong is the pen name for Lu Jiamin, a Chinese citizen and author. Set during the Cultural Revolution, Wolf Totem describes the education of an intellectual living with nomadic herders in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

The publisher of Wolf Totem says this novel is an epic Chinese tale and that’s true. Wolf Totem taught me a lot about this almost extinct culture. I learned about the fascinating connection between wolves and Mongols and why this connection may have been the reason why Genghis Khan was so successful in his conquests.

I recommend this novel to anyone who wants to learn more about the life of the Mongols and another perspective of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

However, the theme that runs through the novel of maintaining a balance with nature is a bit overdone. I got the message the first time the characters talked about it but then the topic comes up repeatedly—a bit too much but an insignificant criticism of a book worth reading

I won’t give away the ending, but don’t expect it to be happy. Most Chinese novels don’t end with happy endings.

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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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Why bother to censor anything in China?

June 11, 2014

There are hundreds of thousands of expatriates in China. They come from all over the globe, as the Middle Kingdom is becoming the center of the world again.

Alexandra Pearson, one of those expatriates, originated from the south coast of England, and she has lived in Beijing for almost twenty years.

Pearson is the daughter of a British diplomat and first lived in Beijing in 1982. She speaks fluent Mandarin and has traveled extensively in China.

In fact, Pearson earned a degree in Chinese at the University of Westminster then returned to Beijing in 1992 to study at the Central Conservatory of Music.

However, in 2004, she opened The Bookworm in Beijing—a bookstore, lending library, literary venue and restaurant. Today, there are locations in Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou.

In 2006, Pearson gained a business partner in Peter Goff, an Irish journalist and another expatriate. He opened the Chengdu and Suzhou Bookworms. In recent years, there have also been literary festivals organized by The Bookworms in all three cities.

In fact, books banned in Mandarin are often available in English and/or other languages and the Chinese Communist Party does nothing to censor banned books published in those other languages. Consider the fact that learning how to read and speak English is mandatory in China’s public schools, and one has to wonder why bother to censor anything unless its another way to generate jobs and keep the people busy.

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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.

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.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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