Making the Hajj from China: Part 2/2

May 28, 2013

Another devout Chinese Muslim in Xian is proudly transcribing the Quran into Chinese using traditional Chinese brush calligraphy. He says it took him over a year to transcribe the entire Quran this way. Now he is working on a second copy.

He has also taught his son and his grandsons how to write with the Chinese brush wanting to pass down this tradition to the next generation.

His son says that every generation should try their best to transcribe the Quran with the Chinese brush, as it is also a good way to reinforce our faith.

The original copy of the Quran in this family is over four hundred years old, a priceless relic transcribed by the Chinese imams. There are only a few remaining copies left in the world.

Jia Wen Yi, a Hajj pilgrim, says the trip to Mecca is important to him and his wife, an elderly couple. They have done a lot of preparation for the hajj. Mr. Jia goes into detail about the planning.

Going on the hajj for Yi and his wife, Jia Wang Yi, has been a dream for over two decades as they saved to have enough money.

Mr. and Mrs. Jia will be part of a group of 250 pilgrims leaving for the hajj from the city of Xian. It was a matter of saving most of their lives until they could afford the trip.

Since these Muslims are considered a minority in China, they are not restricted by the one-child policy, as you would see in the video when the family and friends gather to say goodbye before Mr. and Mrs. Jia leave on the long journey to Mecca.

There is no direct flight from Xian to Mecca, so the pilgrims will take a train to Beijing where they will board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Whenever pilgrims leave Xian to go on the hajj to Mecca, thousands of Chinese Muslims show up at the railway station to say goodbye. This is the first time Mr. and Mrs. Jia have left China. They have never been apart from their family before.

Return to Making the Hajj from China: Part 1

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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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Where Saving Money is a Virtue

May 7, 2013

Hung Huang, one of China’s four Opras, and the CEO of China Interactive Media Group, the host of TV talk show Crossing Over and one of the top-five most popular Bloggers in China wrote a post for the New York Times Economix Blog about why the Chinese save so much.

She thinks the Chinese save out of fear.

I don’t agree, because China is not unique when it comes to Asians saving money. Galbi Think.org says, “Savings rates for East Asian economies averaged about 35% of GDP.

For a comparison, the long term saving rate in the US is less than 7%.

Another study reported by All Business.com says, “The fact that the saving rate of rural households (in China) is considerably higher than that of urban households—even though their income levels are so much lower—is surprising.”

Not so surprising. I married into a Chinese family and I’ve come to believe the Chinese can out frugal anyone. The less earned, the more the Chinese save.  All it takes is saying no to buying frivolous junk and eating out when the money isn’t there.

In fact, I found the comments to Huang’s post to be more convincing.

Melvin Chin says, “Asians, including Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, are predominantly brought up with the concepts of frugality and saving from very young. … Saving teaches them to be proud of what is accumulated, enjoy the fruits of abundance, and cherish the habit as a virtue.”

B. Ray says, “The strong family connection is the reason for Chinese to save. It is the same in Taiwan. Almost every elder person I know saves for their descendents.”

Fei says, “Simply look at the generations of Chinese who live in North American, you’ll find out that the majority of them still maintain a lifelong enthusiasm of saving … because saving is a habit that’s deeply rooted in the Chinese culture.”

If all Asian cultures are so good at saving money and are all collective cultures, what does that say about the West and North America’s individualistic cultures?

 

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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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Family Roots run Deep in Israel and China

March 25, 2013

In 1967, I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. Between June 5 – 10, six months after I returned from Vietnam, Israel fought the Six-Day War defeating several Islamic nations that had twice the troops Israel had, more combat aircraft and many more tanks.

It was Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Kuwait, Tunisia, Sudan and the PLO against Israel.

Israel’s had a total of 264,000 troops with only 100,000 deployed. The Islamic nations had a total of 547,000 troops with 240,000 deployed. Israel had 800 tanks to 2,504, and 300 combat aircraft to 957.

After Israel’s victory, I remember saying, “We should let Israel fight the Vietnam War for us.  At least Israel’s leaders know how to fight.”

The Jews and the Chinese have four things in common—loyalty to family, a high respect for education, a willingness to work long hours for low pay, and a canny acumen for business. Because of these similarities, the Chinese have even been called the Jews of Asia.

The Jews have a long history with China. In China: A New Promised Land, by R. E. Prindle, an interview with David Grossman, Israel’s leading novelist talks about the Jews moving to China.

When a father goes to work in China, he works for his family—not himself. After the children grow up, they must care for their parents—not the other way around like in America.  In America, many parents tell their children to do whatever they want and be anything they want. Most children follow that advice even if it means getting a degree to become an artist or skipping college to chase dreams of acting, singing or sports fame while attending parties or visiting theme parks like Disneyland because mom and dad said, “We want you to be happy—to have fun.”

It’s different for many Jews and Chinese. Working hard and earning an education are important to both cultures.  A close friend of mine and his wife, both Jewish, took out a loan on their home so their son could become a doctor and their daughter a lawyer. They bought a condominium near the university their children attended as a place to live. Both the mother and father were teachers, who did not earn much, which shows that Jewish parents, like the Chinese, are willing to sacrifice for their children in ways many American parents would find unacceptable in the age of credit cards and instant gratification.

This willingness to sacrifice for the family and nation may have been the reason the Jews won the Six-Day War against overwhelming odds. Although the Chinese have the same values and are willing to make the same sacrifices for family, they did not know how to fight like the Jews—something the surviving Jews must have learned due to Nazi atrocities.


Will the changing China also change family values?

After Mao won China, he caused much suffering with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution where the goal may have been to root out the weaknesses that caused China to become a victim to Western Imperialism in the 19th century and then Japan during World War II.

I wonder if the Chinese learned the lessons Mao taught them through suffering similar to what the Jews experienced from Hitler.  I wonder if China will fight like Israel if threatened again. Before Mao, China was a country of poets and artists who painted watercolors on rice paper.  Even Mao and his generals wrote poems. I do not believe the Chinese are a military threat to anyone who does not threaten them.

Like Israel, China may only respond if they feel they are going to be attacked, and if Mao left them ready to defend themselves against aggressors, then the horrors that caused so much suffering and death during the 27 years he ruled China might have been worth the sacrifice for the survival of this family focused culture.

Most America families were like that once before the industrial revolution and the self-esteem movement made the individual more important than the family. Back then, 95% of the population lived on small family farms near towns and hamlets instead of bulging cities dominated by corporate cultures and sexy advertisements. Today, most family roots in the United States do not run deep—not like the Chinese and Jews.

See The First of all Virtues

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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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Caressing nature with a long handled brush

March 4, 2013

It would be difficult to talk about Chinese art without understanding Chinese calligraphy and its artistic inspiration. A painting has to convey an object, but a well-written character conveys only its beauty through line and structure.

In Shanghai, or Beijing, I’ve watched men with longed handled brushes, as seen in the first video, using water for ink and concrete for paper. With grace, they exhibit the skills of a Rembrandt breathing life in the characters.

Lin Yutang writes in My Country and My People that Western art is more sensual, more passionate, fuller of the artist’s ego, while the Chinese artist and art-lover contemplates a dragonfly, a frog, a grasshopper or a piece of jagged rock—more in harmony with nature.

Owing to the use of writing calligraphy with a brush, which is more subtle and more responsive than the pen, calligraphy as art is equal to Chinese painting. Through calligraphy, the scholar is trained to appreciate, as regards line, qualities like force, suppleness, reserved strength, exquisite tenderness, swiftness, neatness, massivness, ruggedness, and restraint or freedom.

This helps explain why the Chinese may not be as warlike as Christian and Islamic cultures.

Discover Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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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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China’s Hammered Dulcimer

February 26, 2013

The yangqin, the Chinese Hammered Dulcimer, probably did not originate in China. It came from either Europe or Persia about five centuries ago and was adapted to fit Chinese music.

One theory says that the yangqin came to Chinese on the Silk Road. A second theory says it arrived in China with Portuguese traders in the 1500s.  A third theory says the instrument was developed in China without foreign influence from an ancient stringed instrument called a Zhu.

However, it is a young instrument by Chinese standards, and was first heard during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644).  Later, it was commonly used in Chinese Operas. In Modern China, the yangqin is a major discipline in the College of Music.

The yangqin has over 100 strings that are struck with thin bamboo sticks that have rubber tips on one end.  When struck with the rubber end, a soft sound is heard.  When the strings are struck with the other end of the stick, without the rubber tip, a crisper sound is heard.

Around the world, there are many versions of the hammered dulcimer all designed and played in a similar fashion, but each country has its own distinct sound influenced by culture.

If you enjoyed learning about and listening to the yangqin, discover The Pipa

_______________

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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