China’s Stick People – the rural urban divide

December 25, 2012

I’m always looking for information about China, and I learned something new from The Economist’s May 6, 2010 issue. Click the link to read the entire piece or read this summary. I bought the magazine.

China has two classes—rural and urban.  The urban people have prospered for the last thirty years as China built a middle class.  Most rural Chinese have not been able to benefit from the booming economy and are getting restless.

Rural land outside China’s cities usually belongs to collectives. When Mao won China, the Communists divided the land among villages—not individuals. Individuals do not hold title to farmland and cannot sell land that no one owns.

China saw what was happening in India when farmers sold their plots to developers.  Rural people in India flocked to the cities and built sprawling slums. To avoid that, the Chinese government created a system to keep rural people on their farms.  Another motivation was fear of another famine like the one that struck China from 1959 to 1961 killing millions from starvation. If farmers left the fields for a better lifestyle in cities, that nightmare might return.

An experiment was tried in rural areas outside Chongqing to see if the land can be divided among individuals while increasing food production. Since the government still hasn’t figured out how to make the transition smoothly, don’t expect rural land reforms to happen quickly.

Read about China’s middle class expanding

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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 Beauty of Art through Silence

December 11, 2012

The art displayed in this post comes from deaf artists, who are graduates of the Shandong Provincial Rehabilitation and Career School, an institute in China that trains young Chinese with disabilities.

 

In 1949, Mao Zedong launched the People’s Republic of China and ruled with an iron fist for almost three decades.

During Mao’s time, there was almost no free artistic expression in China unless the art served the propaganda needs of the state. But today, that has changed.

Zhang Guoli, Sons

After Deng Xiaoping opened China to a global market economy, the post Mao generation was introduced to Western art and theory.


Huang Jinpo, Earth

It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that art from China started to emerge.


This is the dormitory where the artists live.

The photos in this post are presented with permission from “Embracing the Uncarved Wood, Sculptural Reliefs from Shandong, China“, which was made possible by a generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and with assistance from the Office of the Provost of Franklin & Marshall College. ISBN: 978-0-910626-04-0

Discover Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine SagaWhen 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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Mao and Snow

December 3, 2012

During one of our trips to Shanghai, China, my wife and I went to see a film called Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow.

Edgar Snow (1905 – 1972) was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He is believed to be the first Western journalist to interview Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and is best known for Red Star Over China (1937) an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.

The film was in Mandarin and wasn’t subtitled, so I had to watch carefully to understand what was going on. I Googled the move and found little about it on the Internet.

However, I discovered that Edgar Snow’s wife threatened to sue China if the movie was released but that didn’t stop the Chinese.

There’s no doubt that Mao had to have charisma to lead so many men in battle for so many years to win the civil war.


Edgar Snow and Mao

However, Mao changed after he became a modern emperor, and the power corrupted him. The evidence—the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the purges that killed so many.

There was a positive side too.  Mao’s success in the CCP’s war against poverty, the increase in life expectancy that almost doubled during Mao’s rule and the health programs that were implemented such as the bare foot doctors. The reason so many Chinese still think of Mao as the George Washington of China was because life after 1949 was better than life before the CCP won the Civil War.

Students of China may want to see this movie, but the only place one may buy a DVD of this movie is probably China.

When Edgar Snow came down with pancreatic cancer, Zhou Enlai dispatched a team of Chinese doctors to Switzerland to treat him.

The next best thing would be to read Snow’s book about Mao, Red Star Over China and/or discover about Health Care During Mao’s Time.

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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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Chinese Poetry during the Tang Dynasty

October 22, 2012

The Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) is regarded as one of the most prosperous times in China’s long history.

It was also the golden age of Chinese art and literature.

Crossing the Han River
Song Zhi-wen (656 – 712 AD)

No news, no letters – all winter, all spring —
     Beyond the mountains.
With every homeward step more timid still
I dare not even inquire of passerby
.

Song Zhi-wen, the poet, was found guilty of accepting bribes and executed. He had good reason to fear returning home from exile.


In this video is a famous Tang poem.

The classical form of Chinese poetry developed in the late Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty.

Most Tang poems have four or eight lines, with five and seven Chinese characters in each line following certain rules.

Another example of Tang Dynasty poetry is Spring Perspective by Du Fu (712 – 770 AD).

When the post of prime minister was awarded to a cousin of the imperial concubine, there was the military rebellion of An Lu–shan in 755 AD.

The nation has fallen, the land endures
Spring trees and grasses flourish in the town.
Troubled by the times — flowers bring tears;
Dreading parting — birds startle the soul.

With turmoil of battle three months on end,
A letter from home is worth a fortune in gold.
As it is, they can barely hold a pin.

This poem demonstrates what happens when the Chinese people get tired of nepotism and corruption, which should be heeded as a warning today to crack down on corruption in Communist China.

The next poem is one of many that Yuan Zhen (779 – 831 AD) wrote for his dead wife, who he married when he was poor. She did not live long enough to share his fame and fortune.

In former years, we chatted carelessly of death and what it means
     to die.
Since then, it’s passed before my very eyes.
I’ve given almost all your clothes away
But cannot bear to move your sewing things.
Remembering your past attachments, I’ve been kind to maids you
     loved.
I’ve met your soul in dreams and ordered sutras sung.
Certainly, I know this sorrow comes to all
But to poor and lowly couples, everything life brings is sad.

See Mao Zedong, the Poet

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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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China’s Cezanne

October 15, 2012

If our brains work, we all live and learn daily.

This morning I awoke to discover two books printed in Mandarin, not English, that had been tossed on the floor. It seems my wife read both books in one night and didn’t get much sleep. She reads much faster in Mandarin than in English and can polish off books as if she were eating cookies.

When I asked about the two books, it turned out that one of the books was the biography of Wu Guanzhong (1919 – 2010), the father of Chinese Expressionism. This was the first I’d heard of him.

I learned he is considered the Chinese Cezanne. In fact, he is one of the fathers of expressionism.

Wu was born in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, China. He was a graduate of the National Art College in 1942, and then studied oil painting in Paris from 1947-1950.

When Wu returned to China in 1950, he taught Western art to his students at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing to 1953. He then taught art at Tsinghua University in Beijing 1953 – 1964.

Due to criticism that Wu had been influenced by Western Bourgeois ideas, in 1966, during the beginning of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Wu was told he could not paint or write about art. To avoid persecution and possibly execution by the rampaging teenage Red Guard, he burned many of his paintings.

In 1970, he was separated from his wife and spent three years working at hard labor in the countryside as part of Mao’s re-education program.

After Mao died in 1976 with China now led by Deng Xiaoping, Wu was allowed to paint again. He had his first professional solo exhibition in 1979, and succeed as a professional artist in the 1980s.

His painting of Shakespeare’s hometown was listed to sell for
RMB: 2 million ($US 318,878) – 2.5 million ($US 398,597).

During his life as an art teacher and a professional artist, his goal was to introduce French modernism to the Chinese world of art while preserving China’s cultural identity.

Wu combined his French training and Chinese background to develop a semiabstract style to depict scenes from the Chinese landscape. Before he died, Wu had solo exhibitions in major art galleries and museums around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei, Korea, England and the US.

In 1992, Wu was honored by the French Ministry of Culture. He died at age 90. You may see a sample of his art from the embedded video.

Discover Silence to Beauty

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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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TABOO IS THE NEW NORMAL

October 1, 2012

A review of “Behind the Red Door” by Richard Burger
Review by Tom Carter

Among the many misimpressions westerners tend to have of China, sex as some kind of taboo topic here seems to be the most common, if not clichéd.  Forgetting for a moment that, owing to a population of 1.3 billion, somebody must be doing it, what most of us don’t seem to know is that, at several points throughout the millennia, China has been a society of extreme sexual openness.

And now, according to author Richard Burger’s new book Behind the Red Door, the Chinese are once again on the verge of a sexual revolution.

Best known for his knives-out commentary on The Peking Duck, one of China’s longest-running expat blogs, Burger takes a similar approach to surveying the subject of sex among the Sinae, leaving no explicit ivory carving unexamined, no raunchy ancient poetry unrecited, and, ahem, no miniskirt unturned.

Opening (metaphorically and literally) with an introduction about hymen restoration surgery, Burger delves dàndàn-deep into the olden days of Daoism, those prurient practitioners of free love who encouraged multiple sex partners as the ultimate co-joining of Yin and Yang.  Promiscuity, along with prostitution, flourished during the Tang Dynasty – recognized as China’s cultural zenith – which Burger’s research surmises is no mere coincidence.

Enter the Yuan Dynasty, and its conservative customs of Confucianism, whereby sex became regarded only “for the purpose of producing heirs.”  As much as we love to hate him, Mao Zedong is credited as single-handedly wiping out all those nasty neo-Confucius doctrines, including eliminating foot binding, forbidding spousal abuse, allowing divorce, banning prostitution (except, of course, for Party parties), and encouraging women to work.  But in typical fashion, laws were taken too far; within 20 years, China under Mao became a wholly androgynous state.

We then transition from China’s red past into the pink-lit present, whence prostitution is just a karaoke bar away, yet possession of pornography is punishable by imprisonment – despite the fact that millions of single Chinese men (called bare branches) will never have wives or even girlfriends due to gross gender imbalance.

Burger laudably also tackles the sex trade from a female’s perspective, including an interview with a housewife-turned-hair-salon hostess who, ironically, finds greater success with foreigners than with her own sex-starved albeit ageist countrymen.

Western dating practices among hip, urban Chinese are duly contrasted with traditional courtship conventions, though, when it comes down to settling down, Burger points out that the Chinese are still generally resistant to the idea that marriage can be based on love.  This topic naturally segues into the all-but-acceptable custom of kept women (little third), as well as homowives, those tens of millions of straight women trapped in passionless unions with closeted gay men out of filial piety.

Behind the Red Door concludes by stressing that while the Chinese remain a sexually open society at heart, contradictive policies (enforced by dubious statistics) designed to discard human desire are written into law yet seldom enforced, simply because “sexual contentment is seen as an important pacifier to keep society stable and harmonious.”

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Travel Photographer Tom Carter traveled for 2 years across the 33 provinces of China to show the diversity of Chinese people in  China: Portrait of a People, the most comprehensive photography book on modern China published by a single author.

Also by Tom Carter Eating Smoke — a question and answer with author, Chris Thrall in addition to Harlequin Romance Invades China

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Note: This guest post by Tom Carter first appeared in China in City Weekend Magazine. Reblogged with permission of Tom Carter. Behind the Red Door was published by Earnshaw Books


The Sex and the City Generation and the Mulberry Child – Part 2/2

July 3, 2012

While I was reading the reviews on Amazon of the memoir Mulberry Child, I thought that many critics in the West that crucify the Chinese Communist Party due to Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) seldom mention similar suffering that is happening somewhere else in the world every day.

For example, in India, between 6,000 to 13,000 children die of starvation daily (depending on the source/study you read). Tens of millions have died of starvation and malnutrition since India became a democracy in 1947—constantly repeating a history of suffering generation after generation.

In fact, Mao’s Cultural Revolution is now history as slavery in the United States was (past tense—slavery has returned) history due to the bloody American Civil War (1861 – 1865) and the Civil Rights Movement in the US (1955 – 1968).  Parents should learn from the mistakes of history and teach the children so they may avoid making the same mistakes.

Jian started writing the “Mulberry Child” memoir in the year 2000 when her daughter Lisa was still a teenager. The reason she wrote the memoir was because she was having difficulty communicating with her daughter and did not want her to forget where she came from (Lisa was born in China and came to the US at age four years six months).  It took eight years for Jian to finish the memoir due to her demanding work schedule.

The memoir focuses on the past but the documentary focuses on the present—the relationship between a mother and daughter.

At first, when the documentary of the “Mulberry Child” went into production, Lisa, the daughter, resisted getting involved. Today, she is proud that she was part of the process, and she is still discovering what her Chinese heritage means.

However—it is obvious from watching the YouTube interview (above)—Lisa is more of an American member of the “Sex and the City” generation than she is a Chinese immigrant to the US.

Therefore, it is the duty of mothers/parents that love their children—that do not want them to repeat the mistakes of the past—to take them on this journey of discovery that Jian Ping took her daughter Lisa on.

Once the next generation forgets the suffering of the past, history may repeat itself.

Return to The Sex and the City Generation and the Mulberry Child – 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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