Nap Time in China

February 5, 2012

Back in November 2010, I wrote about IKEA Sleepovers in Beijing. When I wrote that post about customers snoozing at IKEA’s Beijing store, I had no idea that napping was a custom in much of China. I thought it was because the beds at IKEA were more comfortable than the ones at home.  If you have ever slept on an average Chinese bed, you may know what I mean.

The reason I didn’t know this was because my wife does not take naps. However, my father-in-law, who is age 82, naps every afternoon, but I thought it was due to his age.

Then after more than a decade of marriage, I asked my wife if her father had always taken afternoon naps. She said yes and that even at work in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party bosses made everyone take a long nap after lunch—about two hours each day.

Deciding to learn more on this topic, I turned to Google. Middle Kingdom Life.com, says. “The Chinese, particularly those in the southern and south-eastern regions, take what could be called an afternoon siesta that lasts from approximately 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.”

I learned that afternoon naps in China are common, but that doesn’t mean everyone does it.  Using Google, I also learned that the Internet and the modern-urban lifestyle has cut into the old habit of napping.

In fact, micro-blogging in China has had an impact on this centuries old custom. MSNBC.com reported that the Chinese government “sensitive to public opinion, especially stories of lazy or corrupt bureaucrats carried by massively popular micro-blogging sites,” cracked down on napping at meetings in an attempt to “instill a greater sense of duty into its officials.”

If this trend continues, this might seriously impact public health, creativity and learning in China.

Han Fang, a professor at Peking University People’s Hospital, says, “Lack of sleep can cause a significant lowering of immunity…”

In addition, the New York Times reported, “New research has found that young adults who slept for 90 minutes after lunch raised their learning power, their memory apparently primed to absorb new facts.”

“Other studies have indicated that sleep helps consolidate memories after cramming, but the new study suggests that sleep can actually restore the ability to learn,” which may explain why “Most Chinese schools have a half-hour nap programmed straight after lunch.” Source: Wiki.answers.com

Then from the China Post, I discovered, “According to the advocates, a short 10-20 minute nap in the middle of a working day can increase productivity by over 30 percent and alertness by 100 percent as well as improve memory and concentration. They also claim that it can reduce stress and the risk of heart disease by 34 percent.”

Maybe I should consider cultivating an afternoon nap.

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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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Is China a Republic? – Part 3/4

January 24, 2012

Under Chinese Communist Party rule, village elections are the only example of a one-person, one-vote democracy in China. Launched in the mid-eighties, these elections were originally introduced to replace the village communes that were dissolved after the Cultural Revolution. At the time, few outside China paid much attention and many still do not know this is happening.

In addition, according to the US Army in 1928, a republic has a Constitution, and China has one, which provides for all four points that were made in the US Army definition of a republic. Another definition for a representative type of government is that the constitution is changeable from its original meaning by amendments and China’s 1954 Constitution was amended in 1982, 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004.

Unlike the parliamentary democratic system where the prime minister may rule as long as his or her party holds the majority, China sets a limit of two five-year terms for its President, and he or she is elected by the National People’s Congress for the first of those two, five-year terms.


Emerging democracy in China

 The office of President was created by the 1982 Constitution. Formally, the President is elected by the National People’s Congress in accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution. In practice, this election falls into the category of ‘single-candidate’ elections. The candidate is recommended by the Presidium of the National People’s Congress [The 2009 NPC Presidium is made up of 171 members and headed by the Secretary General of the NPC legislative session].

The National People’s Congress is the highest state body and the only legislative house in the People’s Republic of China with 2,987 members.

The State Council is the chief authority of the People’s Republic of China. It is appointed by the National People’s Congress, is chaired by the Premier, and includes the heads of each governmental department and agency. There are about 50 members in the Council. In the politics of the People’s Republic of China, the Central People’s Government forms one of three interlocking branches of power, the others being the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army.

The Supreme People’s Court is the highest court in the judicial system of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong and Macau, as special administrative regions, have their own separate judicial systems based on British common law traditions and Portuguese civil-law traditions respectively, and are out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme People’s Court. The National People’s Congress appoints the judges of the Supreme People’s Court, which is similar to the United States where both houses of congress approve the appointment of the justices of the Supreme Court.

The governors of China’s provinces and autonomous regions and mayors of its centrally controlled municipalities are appointed by the central government in Beijing after receiving the nominal consent of the National People’s Congress.

Continued on January 25, 2012 in Is China a Republic – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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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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Is China a Republic? – Part 1/4

January 22, 2012

The reason for this post is due to a recent comment made by Troy Parfitt in another post. “You’re a mythomaniac, a propagandist, and endorser of one of the most repressive regimes in the world [Mr. Parfitt is talking about me]. And your website is a series of disconnected nonsense decorated by retarded videos. You can’t construct an argument to save your life, and the sycophants who show up here saying, ‘Yes, Lloyd, I agree with you,’ belong in Sgt. McGillicuty’s Travelling Nutbar Show.”

If Mr. Parfitt is nothing else, he is creative.

It is true that at one time a strong case could be made that during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, China had one of the most repressive regimes in the world but that claim is questionable today and has been since the 1980s regardless of what some say happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

To discover an answer to see if China is qualified to be called a republic instead of a dictatorship, I will provide information and let the reader decide.

The Oxford English Dictionary says a republic is “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

Then Albatrus.org says that in 1928, the US Army provided a more succinct definition of a republic: Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights, and a sensible economic procedure. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences.

A republic is the “standard form” of government throughout the world.

A republic is a form of government under a constitution, which provides for the election of:

  1. an executive and
  2. a legislative body, who working together in a representative capacity, have all the power of appointment, all power of legislation, all power to raise revenue and appropriate expenditures, and are required to create
  3. a judiciary to pass upon the justice and legality of their governmental acts and to recognize
  4. certain inherent individual rights

Continued on January 23, 2012 in Is China a Republic – Part 2

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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 China-India Comparison with Lots of Facts – Part 2/5

January 1, 2012

It is a fact that China has done more to reduce severe poverty than any nation on the earth and 90% of global poverty reduction starting in the 1980s took place in China. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party, starting in 1949, was the first government in China’s long history to have an organized plan to reduce poverty in that country.

Even during Mao’s era, there were annual improvements in the economy, health, life span, mortality rates and lifestyles in spite of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

To create an in-depth profile of China, I’ve written more than a thousand posts and a half million words. To talk about the reason India’s economy will not surpass China for a long time led to this post.

Then, Manjeet Pavarti, an Indian citizen, challenged my opinions on this subject. It is obvious that Pavarti must be a nationalist who loves his country—an admirable trait except when a patriot is misguided and possibly misinformed and/or uninformed.

In Pavarti’s last comment of October 16, 2010 at 01:33, he challenged my sources—a photojournalist (Tom Carter) with extensive experience traveling in China and India, and my use of evidence from The Economist.

To correct the shortcomings of the first post on this topic, I talked to Gurnam S. Brard, the author of East of Indus, My Memoires of Old Punjab. He agreed with my opinion and said there are many in India like Pavarti that refuse to see the problems that hold India back from achieving its potential.

I also talked to Alon Shalev, author of The Accidental Activist. Shalev told me of his extensive trip through India with his wife and his impressions were the same as Tom Carter and Gurnam Brard.

Next, is Foreign Policy magazine’s Prime Numbers, Mega Cities, where there are no opinions—just facts. I’m going to cover “three” that are roadblocks to India future economic growth.

Continued on January 2, 2012 in The China-India Comparison with Lots of Facts – Part 3 or return to 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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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on October 22, 2010 as India Falling Short


On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2/4

December 16, 2011

Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui (1919 – 1995), attended West China Union University in Chengdu [now called Sichuan University], which is one of the oldest in China.

Soon after graduating from the university as a Western trained medical doctor in his mid twenties, Li fled China in the 1940s to escape the ravages and dangers of the Civil War and ended up working as a ship’s surgeon out of Sydney, Australia.

Then in 1949, “Madly enthusiastic about the Communist victory in 1949, he gives up a promising young career in Australia to take part in the efforts to rebuild China after a century of warfare and internal struggle…” Source: The Lecturn

Since Mao officially declared an end to the Cultural Revolution in 1969 [its active phase lasted until the death of the military leader Lin Bao in 1971], we may assume that Dr. Li returned to Beijing from the destitute village in Zhejiang Province and/or rural Jiangxi Province where he was sent in 1965 as part of the Socialist Education Program.

By this time, Dr. Li may have become a bitter man as we discover when we read his opinions in Around the Bend With Mao Zedong.

“As Dr Li presented it, the Socialist Education Program amounted to an elaborate waste of time … given the disparity between the living standards of the city people and the poor-beyond-all-imagination villagers.”

By now, Mao has held power for twenty years and Dr. Li has only been with him for eight of those years. That does not sound like someone that was with Mao every day he was in power.

How do we know that Li did not become Mao’s doctor until 1957?

“In 1995, a Chinese language book was published in Hong Kong (which at that time was independent from the People’s Republic of China), entitled Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan (meaning The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong).

Three people who had known Mao personally wrote the book: his personal secretary Lin Ke, his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao and his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun.

The three authors argued in this Chinese language book [I understand this book never saw an English translation in the West] that Dr. Li did not only not know Mao very well, but that he presented an inaccurate picture of him in his book. The trio attack Li’s claim that he had been Mao’s personal physician in 1954, instead presenting copies of a document from Mao’s medical record showing that Li only took on the responsibility for caring for Mao on June 3, 1957.” Source: Wikipedia

Continued on December 16, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3 or return to 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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The ordinary side of urban China delivered by Chi Li

November 19, 2011

My wife and daughter returned from China last summer with a crate of Chinese movies on DVDs—there wasn’t one American movie in the mix and many do not have English subtitles.

Therefore, it is strange that the one Chinese film that impressed me the most (so far) was one I discovered at a local Half Priced Books. The movie was Life Show (2002) adapted from a book by Chinese author Chi Li.

Since the late 1980s, Chi Li has been considered a pioneer of “new realism” and her work depicts ordinary life in China so critics have identified her work with the Western school of “existentialism”.

In fact, it was the “ordinary element” of her work that I saw in the film which captured my curiosity to learn more. Since I’ve traveled to China several times since 1999 and not with tour groups, I’ve visited streets similar to the ones that appear in the film. I’m sure most foreign visitors to China that visit on packaged tours do not see the ordinary side of China as I have.

My wife says Chi Li is one of her favorite Chinese authors. The first time I was introduced to Chi Li’s work was through Life Show, which tells the story of Lai Shuangyang, a restaurant owner played by Tao Hong. Shuangyang’s life is busy dealing with family and business but she is lonely until one of her long-time customers, played by Tao Zeru, shows a romantic interest in her.

Zeru plays a middle-aged businessman, and Shuangyang takes a risk and the two strike up a romance that ends when she discovers he is the developer behind the modernization of the area where she has her restaurant.  He offers to take care of her but it is obvious that Shuangyang values her personal freedom and independence and in a fiery scene, she breaks up with him.

Lai Shuangyang’s life is filled with complications. Her younger brother Jiuju is a drug addict in jail/rehab.  The woman that loves Jiuju is Mei, who works for Shuangyang in her restaurant. Mei attempts suicide because Jiuju is not interested in her, and then Shuangyang arranged a marriage for Mei to another man, who is mentally ill.

Her sister in law, Xiaojin, is trying to regain the Lai family’s home, which was given to a neighbor during the Cultural Revolution. In addition, Shuangyang is at risk of losing her restaurant due to a redevelopment project in Wuhan.

Chi Li, the author of Life Show, is one of China’s best-known writers and several of her novels have been translated into French by publisher Actes Sud.

Chi Li was born 1957 in Wuhan, Hubei province, graduated from the Chinese Language Department of Wuhan University and then worked as an editor of a literary magazine called Fang Cao (Fragrant Grass).

Chi Li rarely travels and avoids “literary circles”.  “If my unsociability is thought to be a flaw, I admit I’m a person with a flaw,” Chi has said.

Chi Li, Chinese author of "Life Show"

During the Cultural Revolution, like millions of other young Chinese, she was sent to the countryside to become an “educated youth”. Later she studied medicine and practiced for five years before becoming a teacher.

Today, she is a member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which provides an opportunity to discuss politics with other representative of the NPC providing an understanding/education of China’s policies and political atmosphere.

Chi Li’s work relates to love, marriage, divorce and extramarital affairs of contemporary Chinese life, while her characters are imbued with common human traits such as ambition, deceit, jealousy, and sexual desire. Her work, Comes and Goes, was a story of extramarital affairs occurring in Wuhan and became a TV series of same name.

The city of Wuhan comes alive in her work—enough to be considered a character. Although many of her novels have been translated into French, there are no English translations yet, which is a shame.

Discover Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress or Not One Less

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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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