Indiana Jones, make room for Irene Blum

January 7, 2013

Ballantine Books sent me an advanced, uncorrected proof of Kim Fay’s The Map of Lost Memories. Because I’m not going to check or read the finished book, note that the final novel may have been revised.

After reading the uncorrected proof, I think Kim Fay’s novel is brilliant at times, average at times and sometimes falls flat then revives to be brilliant again repeating the cycle. In fact, Fay’s descriptions were so vivid they transported me to Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia, and I could smell and see these exotic places—some I have visited and Fay’s descriptions rang true.

The main character in The Map of Lost Memories is Irene Blum, who in 1925 slams into the glass ceiling and is passed over for a job she deserves, the curatorship of the museum where she grew up and then worked. Instead, the job goes to a man who has the proper credentials even though he does not have Irene’s experience or global connections.

This leads Irene to steam across the Pacific to resurrect her career by finding several copper scrolls that record the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire (802 – 1431 AD).

Irene’s first stop is Shanghai where she is sucked into the power struggle between the nationalists and communists and barely escapes with her life. Her next stop is Saigon and from there she travels to Cambodia with her motley crew, visits Angkor Wat and then is off to discover a lost temple in Cambodia’s rugged northeast near Laos that may be the rival of Angkor Wat.

Along the way, she collects a crew of dysfunctional allies each with his or her own agenda. There is the drug-addicted Simone Merlin, who appears to be a dedicated communist out to save the poor Cambodians from being exploited by the French colonial powers.

Then there is Louis, a world renowned scholar of the Khmer civilization and Angkor Wat, who was a childhood friend and former lover of Simone.

Irene also finds romance with the mysterious Mark Rafferty, who is linked to her mentor Henry Simms, a wealthy and powerful old man dying of cancer and another reason why Irene is racing to find the copper scrolls that will reveal the history of the Khmer empire ruled by Jayavarman VII (1125–1218), the last of the great Angkor kings.

At one time, the Khmer Empire was one of the most, if not the most, powerful empires in Southeast Asia. In fact, recent satellite images have revealed that Angkor Wat, the capital of the Khmer Empire, was the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world at that time.

However, history reveals there will always be empires that rise to flatten other cultures and countries and then fall. For example: the Aztec, Han, Inca, Roman, Spanish, French, British, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian. I doubt that the future will ever see Italy rise to equal the Roman Empire.

The Khmer Empire of Jayavarman VII was no different.

I enjoyed this novel and if you enjoy an Indiana Jones adventure, this book is for you. At the end of the novel, I had a feeling that we may see more of Irene in subsequent novels as the adventure continues.

Discover China’s Three “Journeys to the West”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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The Illusion of Freedom – Part 4/4

May 10, 2012

The McCarthy era started in the late 1940s and lasted to the late 1950s.

It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. In many cases simply being subpoenaed by HUAC or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired. Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party.

However, for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous. Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. The hunt for ‘sexual perverts’, who were presumed to be subversive by nature, resulted in thousands being harassed and denied employment.


HBO Documentary of Freedom of Speech in five parts – Part 4

In fact, in 1954, a Gallup poll found that 50% of the American public supported McCarthy, while only 29% had an unfavorable opinion of the senator. In addition, Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, said that if the US Bill of Rights had been put to a vote it probably would have been defeated.

McCarthy bullied, threatened and abused witnesses while he accused them of Communist sympathies. However, in the late 1950s, public opinion turned against McCarthy.  He was forced out of public life and died several years later an alcoholic.

Then there is sedition—another restriction on so-called freedom of speech in the US.

In July 1798, Congress passed and the President signed, the Sedition Act – a bill that made it a crime to speak or write anything against the government. A person charged under the Sedition Act was subject to a maximum of two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. The 1798 Sedition Act would be repealed in 1801. However, after the US entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signed into federal law the Sedition Act of 1918.  The law made it illegal to speak out against the government, the war or to discourage anyone from enlisting in the military.

By the time the law was repealed in 1920, more than 2,000 people had been prosecuted.


HBO Documentary of Freedom of Speech in five parts – Part 5

According to Cornell University Law School, today, federal law says, “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

What do you consider freedom and does it really exist?

Return to  The Illusion of Freedom – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Ah Bing and “Reflection of the Moon”

October 26, 2011

To understand another country’s history and culture, one should listen to the music, read that country’s novels and watch its films.

This summer, my wife and daughter returned from China with dozens of original Chinese films on DVD.

Then I saw Reflection of the Moon, (ISBN: 7-88054-168-3), which is about Ah Bing (1893 – 1950), a famous master of the Chinese Erhu, who overnight—in 1950 shortly before his death—became a national sensation as radios throughout China played his music.

Fortunate for me, Ah Bing’s story had English subtitles, which were not of the best quality and true to form for a Chinese movie filmed in 1979 (shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976), the plot was melodramatic with traces of propaganda that favored the Chinese Communists.

However, to be fair, in 1950, the Civil War was over and the Communists, with support from several hundred million peasants, had won.

Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution would not begin for years and for those that survived the purges in 1949 and 1950 (mostly abusive land owners and drug dealers accused of crimes by the people they may have abused and victimized), Mao fulfilled his promises of land reforms.

To understand the era of Ah Bing’s life, much of China (including Tibet) was still feudal in nature, and the upper classes often took advantage of the peasants and workers as if they were beasts of burden treated as slaves.


This is one of Ah Bing’s masterpieces for the Erhu—Moon Reflected in the Second Spring (二泉映月)

Ah Bing’s real name was Hua Yanjun. His knowledge of traditional Chinese music and his talent as a musician went mostly unnoticed until the last year of his life in 1950, shortly after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1950, two musicologists were sent to his hometown of Wuxi to record and preserve his music. At the time, he was ill and hadn’t performed for about two years. Six of his compositions were recorded that are considered masterpieces. It is said that he knew more than 700 pieces—and most were his compositions.

As “Reflection of the Moon” shows, the lyrics of some of his music criticized the KMT (Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government), and he was often punished for speaking out through his music. If you have read of The Long March, you know that the peasants did not trust the KMT, but they did trust the Communists and that trust was earned between 1926 and 1949—a period covering twenty-three years, and most rural Chinese of that era still think of Mao as China’s George Washington.

Before the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, China’s Communist Party treated the peasants and workers with respect while the KMT did not earn that trust.

In fact, Ah Bing’s story and music is still so popular that the Performing Arts Company of China’s Air Force performed Er Quan Yin, an original Western-style Chinese opera, in 2010. Source: China Daily

To discover more of the time-period that Ah Bing lived, see The Roots of Madness.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Sun Yat-sen’s Last Days – Part 3/3

October 26, 2010

Later, it was discovered that the medical report of Sun’s condition was incomplete. Some of the samples and part of the report had been stolen and no one knows why.

During World War II, after the Japanese invaded China, Japanese troops occupied the hospital where Sun Yat-sen’s liver samples were kept.

Chinese representative requested the liver samples and the report be turned over to them.

Some of the liver samples were given to Dr. Tang Qiping, who worked at the Sino-Belgian Radium Institute in Shanghai.

Another man, Chu Minyi, forced Dr. Tang to give him those samples.

In 1946, Chu Minyi would go to prison as a traitor to China. He tried to use Sun Yat-sen’s liver samples to save himself. However, Chu was still executed by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.

Sun’s liver samples would be lost during the revolution between the Communists and Nationalists. Later, it would be discovered that the samples had been stolen again.

When the Nationalists launched their Northern Expedition to take China from the warlords, the warlord in Beijing, who met with Sun before his death, was their only ally.

When Sun died, his political advisor wrote, “If Dr. Sun Yat-sen had lived for a few years or even a few months longer, China’s situation would have changed completely.”

Soon after Sun’s death in 1925, the democratic government created by him after the 1911 revolution failed.

After a struggle, Chiang Kai-shek gained control of the Nationalists, because he controlled the army. Chiang then gave orders to his troops to execute all the Communists, which started the revolution and led to Mao’s famous Long March.

Return to Sun Yat-sen’s Last Days – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Chiang Kai-shek

July 23, 2010

Chiang Kai-shek (also known as Jiang Jieshi) was born on October 31, 1887. His family was from the upper class and was wine merchants. At 18, he attended a military college in Japan. Chiang had four wives during his life. His first wife died in the Second Sino-Japanese War. His second wife contracted gonorrhea from Chiang (a known womanizer) soon after they married. His most famous wife lived to 106 and died in 2003. Before one marriage, he converted to Christianity as a condition to marry.

After training in Japan, he went to Russia to study the Soviet government and decided he did not care for the Communists. Returning to China, Sun Yat-sin appointed Chiang to command a military academy

Under Sun Yat-sen the Communists and the Nationalists worked together to rule China, and Soviet advisers provided the help needed to increase their power since most of China was ruled by warlords.

However, when Sun died in 1925, Chiang led the Kuomintang army north to defeat the warlords and destroy the Communists.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, the Communist Party had organized labor unions to improve working conditions in the low paying sweat-shop factories. During Communist organized labor strikes, these factories were shut down.

When Chiang Kai-shek army reached Shanghai, he joined forces with gangsters then went on a killing spree known as the White Terror. Tens of thousands of workers, who belonged to the labor unions organized by the Communists, were hunted down and killed along with their Communist leaders. One of the few to escape was Mao Zedong.

For the next few years, Chiang would rule China unchallenged until 1931, when Japan invaded. During the early months of the war, Chiang ignored Japan and continued hunting for the Communist survivors, who had fled into the countryside.

In 1949, when Mao won the civil war, Chiang Kai-shek took the survivors of his nationalist army to Taiwan where, protected by the US military, he declared brutal martial law and ruled as a dictator until he died on April 5, 1975 at the age of eighty-seven.

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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


Sinophobia and the Nation With the Soul of a Church

July 1, 2010

An old friend of mine once wrote in an e-mail that Communism was evil and if China didn’t do what America wanted, the US would spank them. That and his endless born-again preaching bruised about five decades of friendship. Now, we don’t communicate much.

The definition for Sinophobia is one who fears or dislikes China, its people or its culture—in other words, an ignorant, brainwashed bigot (my opinion).

This morning, I finished reading  An Exceptional Obsession by John Lee, which was published in The American Interest. On page 42, Lee wrote, “Above all, Chinese leaders are anxious about having to deal with a society so different from their own, and by different we don’t mean a superficial contrast between communism and capitalism.  China’s is a communal culture; America’s is individualist. China is rooted in its land longer and more deeply than any society on earth. America is an immigrant society and an unprecedentedly mobile one at that. China has never institutionalized the rule of law; America is fundamentally based on it. China has never experienced deistic religions; America, as Chesterton once said is “a nation with the soul of a church.”

Lee’s comparison reminded me of the few shallow Communist haters and Sinophobic people I’ve run into on the Internet, who live in this nation with the soul of a church. Occasionally, one crawls out of the woodpile on a thousand legs.

Discover Power Corrupts

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


Pearl of China

March 12, 2010

“From the bestselling author of Red Azalea and Empress Orchid comes the powerful story of the friendship of a lifetime, based on the life of Pearl S. Buck.”

“In this ambitious new novel (Pearl of China), Anchee Min brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who is now hailed in China as a modern heroine. Like nothing before it, Pearl of China tells the story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, from the perspective of the people she loved and of the land she called home.” Source Bookbrowse

At Bookbrowse, thirty-five early, reader reviews rated Pearl of China an average 4.5/5 stars.

In the southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, two girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute local family. Pearl, the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries, will become Pearl S. Buck, Nobel Prize-winning writer and activist. Their friendship will be tested during decades of great tumult, by imprisonment and exile, bloody civil war and Mao’s repressive Communist regime.

Pearl S. Buck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, the Howells Medal in 1935, and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938.

Read International Women’s Day where Anchee Min was a guest speaker http://wp.me/pN4pY-ft

 


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