Farewell My Concubine – a movie review

July 2, 2013

Chen Kaige, self-trained as a filmmaker, was the director for this award winning 1993 film. Prior to “Farewell, My Concubine“, Chen received modest acclaim for the “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade”. With “Farewell, My Concubine,” he won the Palme d-or in Cannes.

Although the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, the story captured me from the beginning. If you are interested in Chinese history, this film spans several decades beginning near the end of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface, it is just a story of two boys who happen to become famous, but have their difficulties like most of us lesser mortals do. However, the setting shows the  transformation of a nation from the Qing Dynasty to a warlord dominated republic, the Japanese invasion of World War II and then Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I saw this movie a decade ago and I remember this powerful, dramatic story of one man’s life from the day his mother took a knife and chopped off an extra finger on each hand so he would have five instead of the six he was born with.

The main character is apparently modeled after an actual person—Peking Opera superstar Mei Lanfang—some may imagine that Lanfang was ‘gay’. However, he only specialized in male roles. He was married at least three times and had children.

Discover Not One Less

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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, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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China’s last Empress Dowager-regent

April 8, 2013

The Last Empress of China ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule China.

Technically, The Empress Dowanger Tzu Hsi (Cixi) wasn’t the last empress.

However, she was the last empress to rule China as a regent for her son, and then her nephew after her son died at age 19.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “Absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent, who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women—a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi. In addition, she has been accused of murdering her son, and then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son may have died of syphilis because it was rumored he preferred prostitutes to the hundreds of virgin concubines that belonged to him.

Some rumors claim that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may also have poisoned him. There is no evidence to support either theory.

How did the Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation? It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in much of the Western media.

To understand how this came about, I will make a comparison to Jayson Blair, a young reporter for the New York Times who wrote more than 600 articles for the newspaper. During his short career with the New York Times, Blair committed repeated “acts of journalistic fraud”, including stealing material from other papers and inventing quotes.

Blair’s fraud was revealed in 2003, while he was still working for the newspaper. Source: BBC News

However, Jayson Blair was not the first reporter to commit “acts of journalistic fraud”.

Edmund Backhouse did the same thing writing about Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi at the beginning of the 20th century, and his lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was researching for his book Dragon Lady decades later.

And Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts still used today that continue to slander Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China.

To learn who the real woman was we may want to consider what Robert Hart had to say about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854 to learn the language and work as an interpreter for the British consulate in Ningpo. In 1859, almost five years later, Hart quit his job with the British and went to work for the Emperor of China as an employee. He returned to England in 1908.

For most of his stay in China after 1859, Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered, clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911.

Discover more of The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)

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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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Peking Opera

March 26, 2013

Peking Opera is a combination of several styles of Chinese opera.

The metamorphosis started during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), about two hundred years ago.

Peking Opera focuses on historical events, legends about emperors, ministers, generals, geniuses and great beauties.

Performances are a combination of singing, dialogue, pantomime and acrobatic fighting and dancing.

Today, Peking Opera is considered the highest expression of Chinese culture.

The origins of Peking Opera did not begin in Peking (Beijing).  The opera had its start in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei.

Experts say the opera was born in 1790 and was originally staged for the royal family and then the public.

There are thousands of these operas that cover the history and literature of China. Peking operas can be divided into two categories.

“Civil” operas focus on singing while “Martial” operas feature acrobatics and stunts.  Some are a combination of both.

If Peking Opera interests you, see 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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The Forbidden City’s Link to Tibet Revealed–by accident maybe?

February 25, 2013

Since the Western media is often critical of China and exaggerates events in Tibet to make China look bad, I was surprised while reading The Last Secrets of the Forbidden Citiy Head to the U.S. by Auston Ramzy.

I was surprised that evidence like this slipped past the Western media censors—sorry, it is politically incorrect to say that there are media censors in America. In the US, the censors are called editors.

The Time Magazine piece Ramzy wrote was about an exhibit traveling to the United States with treasures from the Forbidden City that have not been seen since 1924.

Ramzy wrote, “Many of the 18th century objects that will be displayed are symbols of the emperor’s devout Buddhism. They include a hanging panel filed with niches that hold intricate figurines of Buddhas, deities and historical teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist sect to which [Emperor] Qianlong belonged.” See Buddhism in China

I didn’t know the powerful Qianlong Emperor followed the teachings of Buddhists from Tibet. There are four Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Why would the Qianlong Emperor belong to a Tibetan sect of Buddhism if Tibet were not considered part of China at the time? There is even evidence that Tibetan Buddhist monks traveled to the capital of China to serve the emperors.

This is evidence that proves China considered Tibet a vassal state or tributary.  In fact, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty troops are known to have occupied Lhasa over the centuries.

I’ve written about primary evidence from the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine that described how the Imperial government in Beijing managed a difficult Tibet, and I’ve mentioned letters Sir Robert Hart wrote in the 19th century that also mention Tibet as part of China.

In 1890, a Convention between Great Britain and China was signed that offers more evidence that China considered Tibet part of its realm and Great Britain agreed.

Yes, Tibet did declare freedom from China in 1913 soon after the Qing Dynasty collapsed and China fell into chaos and anarchy while warlords fought over the spoils. Why did Tibet do this? Because the British Empire convinced Tibet to break from China.

Then in 1950, after World War II and the end of the rebellion between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Chinese Communists, Mao Red Army invaded Tibet and reoccupied what the Chinese considered a breakaway province as mainland China still considers Taiwan.

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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 Venice, Zhouzhuang

November 12, 2012

We arrived early when the parking lot and the streets were about empty.  That’s the best time to get there.

Zhouzhuang is surrounded by water, and boats are needed for most short trips.

Zhouzhuang history is rooted in China’s Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC) more than a thousand years before Venice was established. However, it would not be called Zhouzhuang until 1086 AD .

The town is well known for its preservation of numerous buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Zhouzhuang, the Venice of Asia,  is on the United Nations Reserve List for the World Cultural Heritage and the Dubai International Best Practice to Improve the Living Environment.

As you can see, it gets crowded. Most of these tourists were Chinese citizens from the growing middle class.

This is where I was a photo thief. I wanted to take a picture of these captured birds but the owners wouldn’t let me.  He pointed at a sign that said I’d have to pay.

I walked a distance and used my meager telephoto lens to take this shot of the birds tied to the owner’s boat.

For a comparison with Venice in Europe, while there are no historifcal records that deal directly with the founding of Venice, available evidence has led some historians to agree that the original population of Venice were refugees from Roman cities near Venice (420 – 568 AD). From the ninth to the twelfth centuries Venice became a city state.

If you enjoyed this photo essay, see the Li River Cruise

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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 United States versus the People’s Republic of China — Who is more AGGRESSIVE?

September 3, 2012

Here’s an “AGGRESSION” comparison between People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States (USA). To keep score, I will only count casualties (those killed on both sides—the wounded and cost of the wars will not be counted).  The most aggressive nation will have the highest score.

First Tibet (1950): Technically Tibet was an independent country from 1911-12 to 1950—thirty-eight years.

Before that, Tibet was ruled over by China starting with the Yuan Dynasty (1277-1367) ), Ming Dynasty (1368-1643) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) —five-hundred-forty-three years.

To read about this from a reputable Western source (because few in the West trust PRC sources), I suggest the October 1912 issue of The National Geographic Magazine.  There’s a piece in the magazine written by a Western trained, Qing-Dynasty doctor that the Chinese emperor sent to Tibet in 1907 for two years. His name was Shaoching H. Chuan, M.D. ( I have an original copy of this almost 100-year-old magazine).

When the Chinese Communist Party won the Civil War against Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT Party, in 1950, Mao sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to take Tibet back. For a comparison, when the United States declared its independence from the British Empire, the revolution lasted from 1776 to 1783—seven years.

Casualties and losses comparing the America’s Revolution with the British Empire to Tibet’s Revolution with China

Total American causalities 25,000 dead
America’s allies: The French and Spanish lost about 8,000 in Europe and America

The British lost about 20,000.

In comparison to America’s Revolution that cost 53,000 lives over seven years, in 1950 after the PLA reoccupied Tibet, the war was over in a matter of days/weeks.

The Tibetan government in exile exaggerated the number killed in Tibet at 1.2 million and has accused China of genocide.

However, Michael Parenti wrote this in his book Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth: “The official 1953 census–six years before the Chinese crackdown–recorded the entire population residing in Tibet at 1,274,000. Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about two million.”

Source: http://thenewvoice.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/the-myth-of-tibet-genocide/

In addition, China puts the actual combat losses at 114 PLA soldiers and 180 Tibetan troops, while a Western source, Thomas Laird, claims 5,000 (for the comparison, I will use Laird’s number) Tibetan troops were killed.

“Tibetan prisoners of war were generally well treated. After confiscating their weapons, the PLA soldiers gave the prisoners lectures on socialism and a small amount of money, before allowing them to return to their homes. According to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the PLA did not attack civilians.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_Tibet_into_the_People’s_Republic_of_China#Behavior_of_the_PLA

Note: In 1949, the average life expectancy in years in Tibet was 35 years.  Today it is close to 70 years. The average life expectancy in a nation may indicate the quality of life.

Korean Conflict (June 1950 – July 1953) – this war never resolved. Technically, America and South Korea are still at war with North Korea.

America and its allies lost 776,360 troops (America’s share of those losses was about 40,000 dead)

China and its allies lost 1,545,822–1,648,582 (easily twice the other side)

America’s Vietnam War (1955 – 1975) – It has been proven that America’s President L. B. Johnson started this war with a lie—watch the video.

America and its allies lost 676,585 – 1,035,585 (America’s share 58,220 dead)

North Vietnam and its allies–the PRC and the USSR lost 588,462 – 1,672,462

Civilians = 486,000 – 1,200,000.

China’s Vietnam War (1979) Note: China occupied and ruled over Vietnam for 1,000 years

“The first major threat to Vietnam’s existence as a separate people and nation was the conquest of the Red River Delta by the Chinese, under the mighty Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), in the first century B.C. At that time, and in later centuries, the expanding Chinese empire assimilated a number of small bordering nations politically and culturally. Although Vietnam spent 1,000 years under Chinese rule, it succeeded in throwing off the yoke of its powerful neighbor in the tenth century.”

Source: http://countrystudies.us/vietnam/2.htm

China’s casualties = 6,954 – 26,000 (depending on who you believe)

Vietnam’s casualties = 10,000 to 30,000 (depending on who you believe)

China’s War with India (1962 for about two months)

Note: China has clearly been successful in resolving border disputes with most of its neighbours in a ‘win-win’ situation since the 1990s.

However, India has had border wars with three of its neighbors: China, Pakistan and Nepal. In comparison, China has negotiated border disputes peacefully with North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma/Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

Source: http://www.eu-asiacentre.eu/pub_details.php?pub_id=46

India’s casualties = 1,383

China’s casualties = 722

America’s War in Iraq (March 2004 – December 2011)

America and its allies:

Iraq Security Forces = 16,623 dead

Coalition Forces (America and its allies) = 4,805

Contractors = 1,554

Awakening Councils = 1,002 or more

Documented civilian deaths from violence = 103,160 – 113,729.

America’s enemies:

Iraqi combatants during the gulf war = 7,600 – 11,000

Insurgents killed = 21,221 – 26,405

America’s War in Afghanistan (2001 – present)

America and its allies: 14,446+

No way to reliable estimate how many Taliban, Al-Qaeda, etc have lost.

Civilians killed : 12,500 – 14,700

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Final Score: (Note: In most cases, the low estimate was used—the only exception being Tibet versus China)

The United States = 2.7 million deaths (the low estimate) and forty-eight years of war

The People’s Republic of China = 1.6 million and about three years of war. (about 1.5 million of those killed were in Korea)

Some more facts to help measure AGGRESSION – nuclear warheads

The USA = 8,500
The PRC = 240

Private industry weapon sales to the world:

USA = 30% of all global weapons sales—isn’t capitalism great?
PRC = about 5% of the global weapons sales

Note: The world’s biggest weapons suppliers are the USA, the UK, Russia, Germany and France.  China doesn’t even make the top-five.

Source: http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/world-top-ten-countries-by-nuclear-warheads-map.html

Who won the AGGRESSION contest between the USA and PRC? — YOU DECIDE

Discover The Tiananmen Square Hoax

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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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Change Comes to China’s “Granite Women”

June 5, 2012

Change taking place in China is not happening as fast as many Western critics want it to. To these critics, China should flip the feudal switch to democracy and the light should come on without effort.

However, in spite of Western pressure to speed things up, changes are taking place as planned by China’s government—one step at a time.

For example, foot binding was around centuries when the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) first attempted to end the practice that would continue until 1949.

In 1976 when Mao died, twenty percent of the population was literate. Today more than 90% can read with a goal to reach 99%.

In 1985, school reform was implemented making nine years of education mandatory for all children. Academic achievement became the new priority over the political consciousness of the Mao era.

An example of how China’s education policies have brought about change may be seen among the “Granite Women”, who live near the coast in southeast China.

For centuries, these women carried blocks of granite from the quarries where their husbands, brothers and fathers worked cutting the stone.

However, today, China’s economic reforms along with education are changing the old ways.

Younger women, who have now had an education, know what they don’t want to do with their lives.

For centuries, others such the Qing Dynasty and the Nationalists failed to improve the quality of life in China for women. Where these others failed, the CCP appears to be succeeding.

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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 November 7, 2010


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