Talking about Sung Dynasty Philosophy

July 23, 2013

China may be the only ancient culture that survived the spread of Islam and Christianity and managed to keep its unique identity. The following passage comes from My Splendid Concubine’s 3rd edition. My first novel has picked up fifteen literary awards. In the novel, Guan-jiah is Robert Hart’s servant.

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“Guan-jiah,” Robert said, “before I came to China I read The Travels of Marco Polo. Do you know who he was?”

“No, Master,” Guan-jiah replied.

“He came to China from Europe more than six hundred years ago and served under Kublai Khan during the Yuan Dynasty. Polo wrote that Hangzhou was the finest and noblest city in the world.”

“Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Sung Dynasty, Master,” Guan-jiah said. “I’ve heard it is beautiful. Sung philosophy says that we have the power in our minds to overcome our emotions.”

“Marco Polo believed it was God’s will that he came back from China so others in the West might know what he’d seen.” Robert turned to his servant, who was the last in line. “Do you believe in this Sung philosophy, Guan-jiah?”

Sir Robert Hart working long hours at his standing desk.

“The Sung said that if you know yourself and others, you would be able to adjust to the most unfavorable circumstances and prevail over them.”

“That’s admirable, Guan-jiah. You never mentioned you were a scholar. If the Sung Dynasty was that wise, I want to see Hangzhou one day.”

“I am no scholar, Master, but I must believe in the Sung philosophy to survive. I have read and contemplated much literature. However, I am like a peasant and have never mastered calligraphy. It is a skill that has eluded me.”

“How old were you when you studied this philosophy?”

“I was eleven, Master, two years after I was sent to Peking.”

Source: From Chapter 4 of My Splendid Concubine

And Discover The Influence of Confucius

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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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Hangzhou – Paradise on Earth

December 4, 2012

If you ever visit Hangzhou, after cruising on the West Lake, you may want to see this tourist attraction in the city. Before 1949, it was the home of a wealthy family but was first owned by Hu Xue-yan (1823-1885).

Hu Xue-yan made his money in banking then expanded into pawn shops, import-export, real estate and made his biggest fortune as the founder of a Chinese herbal medicine company. After he died, his family lost the fortune and sold the house.

The house in these pictures and video was built in 1872. After it was renovated in 2008, it was turned into a museum and tourist attraction worth seeing.

When the Communists won China’s Civil War in 1949, the mansion (covering about two acres) was owned by another family that made its fortune first in the silk industry then banking.


rock art in garden with tunnels

There’s more to the mansion than this example of rock art in the garden you see in the photo above.  These rocks were added when the mansion was built. There was a time in China during the Imperial era when rock art was popular. Hidden under the building and among the rocks are manmade caves.

During a visit to Hangzhou, for a few yuan, you will be able to tour most of the mansion and the gardens (there is more than one garden beyond what you see in the two photographs).

The Hu Xue-yan mansion is in a city with a population of more than eight million, but once inside its walls you have no sense of the crowded city outside. Once the owner was home and the gates locked at night, it was a world-of-tranquility apart from the city.

The city of Hangzhou is more than two-thousand years old and was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279 AD) before Kublai Khan, who founded the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368 AD), conquered all of China.

Pond with carp – Hu Xue-yan’s Mansion

While Kublai Khan ruled China, Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in 1290.

There is a famous Chinese saying that says, “In heaven there is paradise, on Earth there is Su and Hang (Hangzhou – Paradise on Earth).

Discover Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty

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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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Visiting Xian – a city with more than 3,100 years of history

April 17, 2012

We are taking a quick trip to Xian (in pictures that is). Xian was China’s ancient capital for more than a thousand years before being moved to Beijing.

After landing in Xian in 2008, (our third visit to the city since 1999) we found a great driver. He was honest and knowledgeable. Here’s the cell phone number he had at the time (136-0916-251). If you visit Xian, I recommend you book him for the entire stay. He also introduced us to some experiences we’d never had on previous trips.

The Famous Terra Cotta warriors were created to guard China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-204 B.C.). Qin Shi Huangdi made Xian China’s first capital until Kublai Khan moved the capital to Beijing where he ruled his Khanbalik Empire, from 1264 to 1267.

Xian was known as Chang’an before the Ming Dynasty and is one of the four great ancient capitals of China having held that distinction under several of the most important dynasties in China’s history. In fact, Xian was a cultural center more than a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born.

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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 post first appeared February 19, 2010


Daughter of Xanadu – Part 4/4

April 20, 2011


A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by
Dori Jones Yang

By story’s conclusion, Messer Polo, who witnessed and wrote about the Mongols’ real-life battle against the Burmese in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, has elevated “Emmajin the Brave” into the living legend she wanted to be, though she now regrets it.

“These men needed a hero, but I no longer needed to be one.” She resigns her sword and rank, and departs with Polo back to Europe as the Khan’s emissary of peace, leaving the literary door wide open for a sequel.

Dori Jones Yang, who also penned the best-selling Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, is a skilled historian.

In researching Daughter of Xanadu, Yang, fluent in Putonghua, traveled all the way to the ruins of Xanadu in remote Inner Mongolia, which this itinerant backpacker can personally attest is no easy journey.

The short chapters and brief sentences, edited with razor precision for a younger audience, along with a helpful glossary for ESL students, make reading Daughter of Xanadu a breeze, though adults will admittedly want to beg this book back afterwards from their tweens.

Return to Daughter of Xanadu – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

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Daughter of Xanadu – Part 3/4

April 19, 2011


A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by
Dori Jones Yang

Authoress Dori Jones Yang is a Caucasian American, yet she is no stranger to writing from the perspective of conflicted adolescent Chinese girls, as evinced in her previous, award-winning novel, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang.

In Daughter of Xanadu, she hones in even deeper into the physiological confusion and emotional conflictions that make youth such a joy, turning Emmajin into such a hormonal wreck that this male reviewer often found himself gritting his teeth in frustration at such contradictive revelations as, “if he had pursued me, I would have rebuffed him. By holding himself aloof, he challenged me to win back his esteem.”

Daughter of Xanadu is not all-teenage angst.  As our protagonist matures, so does the content of the story.

Emmajin eventually persuades Khubilai Khan to allow her to train for war against the Burmese at the Battle of Vochan (present-day Yunnan province), where the embarrassment of getting her period in front of the all-male troops is a bloody omen for what’s to come.

Upon seeing her cousin slain, innocent Emmajin is transformed into a “mindless killer.”

  Bloodlust unleashed, the young princess swings her sword indiscriminately (“the hatred pounded in my ears…killing him felt good”), resulting in hundreds of men dead by her hand alone.

One can only imagine all the Mulan vs. Emmajin fan fiction that this novel will inspire!

Continued on April 20, 2011 in Daughter of Xanadu – Part 4 or return to Daughter of Xanadu – Part 2

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


Daughter of Xanadu – Part 2/4

April 18, 2011

A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

The merchants’ young son turns out to be one Marco Polo, the now-legendary Venetian journeyer credited for introducing Asian culture to the west.

To Emmajin, however, he is just another “colored-eye man,” a court curiosity from Christendom whose gallantry and romantic gestures are as ridiculous to the manly Mongolians as his facial hair (“his beard was so thick I could imagine food sticking in it”).

Try as she might, however, Emmajin, caught in the peak of puberty, is unable to resist Marco’s western charm, and quickly finds herself enamored by his worldly vision (“I had learned to see the world through Marco’s eyes”) as well as his pelt.

“What would the hair on his arm feel like?” she often fantasized about at night.

But she was a Mongolian first, and reluctantly sacrifices her blossoming relationship with the foreigner to complete her spy mission (“He was not a friend but a source of information.”).

Continued on April 19, 2011 in Daughter of Xanadu – Part 3 or return to Part 1

View as Single Page

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


China’s Greatest Emperors

November 25, 2010

China’s longest lasting dynasties survived due to one or more great emperors.

After China was unified by Qin Shi Huangdi (221 – 207 BC), there were only five dynasties that survived for long periods — the Han, Tang, Sung, Ming, and Qing Dynasties.

Although China’s civilization survived, the country’s history is rampant with rebellions, palace coups, corruption among palace officials, and insurrections. Between the five longest dynasties, the country usually fell apart into warring states as it did after 1911.

The most successful emperors managed to stabilize the country while managing wisely as the Communist Party has done since 1976.

Emperor Han Wudi (ruled 141 – 87 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 219 A.D.) was fifteen when he first sat on the throne.

Wudi is considered one of the greatest emperors in China’s history. He expanded the borders, opened the early Silk Road, developed the economy, and established state monopolies on salt, liquor and rice.

After the Han Dynasty collapsed, China fell apart for almost 400 years before the Tang Dynasty was established (618 -906). The Tang Dynasty was blessed with several powerful emperors.

The first was Emperor Tang Taizong (ruled 627-649).

According to historical records, Wu Zetain, China’s only woman emperor also ruled wisely.

Emperor Tang Zuanzong , Zetain’s grandson, ruled longer than any Tang emperor and the dynasty prospered while he sat on the throne.

After the dynasty fell, there would be short period of about 60 years before the Sung Dynasty reestablished order and unified the country again.

The second emperor of the Sung Dynasty, Sung Taizong (ruled 976 – 997) unified China after defeating the Northern Han Dynasty. The third emperor, Sung Zhenzong (ruled 997-1022) also deserves credit for maintaining stability.

The Sung Dynasty then declined until a revival by Sung Ningzong (ruled 1194 – 1224) After he died, the dynasty limped along until Kublai Khan defeated the last emperor in 1279.

After conquering all of China, Kublai Khan founded the Mongol, Yuan Dynasty (1277-1367). Not long after Kublai died, the dynasty was swept away.

In 1368, a peasant rebellion defeated the Yuan Dynasty and drove the Mongols from China.

The Ming Dynasty (1271 – 1368) is known for rebuilding, strengthening and extending the Great Wall among a list of other accomplishments.

Historical records show that the rule of the third Ming Emperor, Ming Chengzu (ruled 1403 – 1424), was the most prosperous period.

After Chengzu, the dynasty would decline until 1567 when Emperor Ming Muzong reversed the decline.

His son, Emperor Ming Shenzong, also ruled wisely from 1573 to 1620.

After Shenzong’s death, the Ming Dynasty quickly declined and was replaced by the Qing Dynasty in 1644.

The Opium Wars started by England and France and the Taiping Rebellion led by a Christian convert in the 19th century would contribute to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

The Qing Dynasty was fortunate to have three powerful, consecutive emperors: Emperor Kangxi (1661 – 1722), Yongzhen (1722-1735) and Qianlong (1735-1796). For one-hundred-and-thirty-five years, China remained strong and prosperous.

After the corrupt Qing Dynasty was swept aside in 1911 by a rebellion led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, China fell apart and warlords fought to see who would rule China.

When Sun Yat-sen died, the republic he was building in southern China fell apart when Chiang Kai-shek broke the coalition that Sun Yat-sen had formed between the Nationalist and Communist Parties. Mao’s famous Long March shows how the Communists survived.

Then Japan invaded, and China would be engulfed in war and rebellion until 1945 when World War II ended. After World War II, the rebellion between the Nationalist and Communists ended in victory for the Communists in 1949.

This victory was made possible because the Communists were supported by China’s peasants that hated, despised and distrusted the Nationalist Party, which represented China’s ruling elite.

The Communists gained the support of the peasants by treating the peasants with respect and promising reforms that would end the suffering.

Then Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution extended the peasants suffering.

However, since the early 1980s, the Communist Party has been working to fulfill the promises made during the revolution, and the lifestyles of China’s peasants are slowly improving.

There are many impatient voices in the West and a few in China that are not happy with the speed of China’s reforms or how the Party has handled them.

In fact, China has modernized and improved lifestyles in China since the early 1980s at a pace that has never been seen before in recorded history.

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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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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