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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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


Visiting The Great Wall Part – Part 3/3

July 25, 2012

On our way back to Beijing from the Great Wall at Mutianyu, our driver stopped at a factory-showroom where we learned about the manufacturing techniques for Cloisonné brass vases.

I’ve read some tourists/expatriates complain of these sort of stops, but I enjoy window shopping and this was something new—sometimes I even buy something.  In this case, I bought three vases (photos are included here).

First, we went on a tour where we watched men and women creating vases. Once the tour was over, we went into the showroom.

The vases I bought (after negotiating the price) are yellow with a blue trim.  One has a blue dragon on it, the second a phoenix beside a chariot, and the third running horses. Each one is about the size of my hand (see photos)

The cloisonné process is enamel on copper craftwork. It first appeared in Beijing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and continued during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Cloisonné vases are crafted by using a copper porcelain process. The vase is made from copper with brass wires soldered to the body. Then a porcelain glaze is applied to cells between the brass wires.

After a series of complex procedures, such as burning, burnishing and gilding, the cloisonné vase is done. Chinese name: 景泰蓝(jǐng tài lán)

Return to Visiting The Great Wall – 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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Dissecting an American Conservative Spin Master – Part 4/4

November 7, 2011

Did you know Dennis Prager wrote on Creators.com that, “Consider the facts (I’m surprised he used this word): Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world’s oldest nations, has its own language, its own religion and even its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese, its culture has been systematically obliterated, 6,000 of its 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of its monks have been tortured, murdered or exiled.”

All of Prager’s emotionally driven claims such as “killed, obliterated, looted, destroyed, tortured, murdered or exiled” have been proven wrong, but most of Prager’s Parrots are not interested in the facts. I say that Prager owes China an apology.

In fact, Tibet was not a nation until 1911 when the British convinced the Dalai Lama to declare freedom from China, after having been ruled by China since 1279 AD during the Yuan Dynasty, then the Ming Dynasty starting in 1368 AD and last the Qing Dynasty until its collapse.

All the “facts” are there for anyone willing to trust the experts and sources such as Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911) and a piece written for the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine by an expert Western trained medical doctor named  Shaoching H. Chuan, M.D. that happened to spend two years in Tibet starting in 1907 after the last Qing emperor ordered him there to deal with a cholera epidemic.

In addition, Prager forgot to mention that there are more than sixty spoken languages in China and one written one. China has 56 minorities and each has its own language as the Tibetan minority does.  It’s been this way in China for more than 2,000 years.

In fact, by not mentioning America’s native minorities, it is my opinion that Dennis Prager is a hypocrite and deceitful.

North American native tribes and nations were free and governed themselves for more than ten thousand years (much longer than the 1,400 years he claims Tibet governed itself before 1950) before Europeans arrived and drove them from their land.

If you visit Native American Nations, you will discover how many spoke their own languages and many still do — the only difference is today native Americans live on reservations and the US Department of the Interior is responsible for the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

One example is the Navaho Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States, which is in Arizona. The Navaho Nation covers 27,425 sq miles (71,000 km2) with a population of about 174,000.

The Navajo Nation, like Tibet, is a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory within the United States.

Another example is the Cherokee Nation, which had its own written language developed early in the 19th century by a mixed-blood Cherokee called Se-Quo-Yah, so the Cherokee Nation would be considered educated, literate and capable of governing itself as an equal, independent nation.

However, this did not stop the United States from breaking treaties and waging war with the Cherokee Nation to exploit the natural resources of their land.  It’s called conquest and anyone that studies history knows this is a natural part of the evolution of all species including man.

How is this situation different from Tibet and China? Native Americans had their own religions too and were not allowed to practice them by the United States, while China allows Tibetan Buddhists to practice their religion within a semi autonomous territory, which is administered by a CCP government agency similar to the US Department of the Interior.

Another fact that Prager conveniently left out of his opinionated rant of an essay is that after 1976, China rebuilt many of the Buddhist temples in Tibet that were destroyed during Mao’s Cultural Revolution when religions in China were banned and the entire population suffered.

Today, there are seven-major religions in China including Christianity and Islam.


Rush Limbaugh, the host of the number-one conservative talk-radio show, explains how talk-radio works.

Michael Orion Powell writes, “Prager is a good example of what happens when a commentator ties himself to one side of the political spectrum permanently.” By Seattle standards, Michael Powell calls himself a conservative, but by actual conservative standards (as defined by talk show hosts such as Dennis Prager), he says he is a raving liberal.

In addition, decades ago, I too listened to Rush Limbaugh and then deserted him for Dennis Prager.

I eventually fled Prager too, after I questioned his emotionally driven opinions and compared them to the facts of experts discovering that he was often wrong and misleading.  Now that I’m an ex-Prager Parrot, I guess that makes me a leftist-liberal prone to hysteria that fears death even though I support the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms (weapons such as rifles and pistols).

So, we either trust the emotionally-driven opinions of conservative talk show hosts such as Dennis Prager (with a major in Middle Eastern Studies and History who also studied about Russia), or trust 1,500 of the world’s most distinguished senior scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in science.

And the truth is, there is a chance the experts could be wrong about Global Warming, since it is only a theory supported by facts, but are we willing to risk ignoring them as Prager and his Parrots argue?

Return to Dissecting an American Conservative Spin Master – 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.

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Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 4/5

October 24, 2011

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism had deeper roots in the culture since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight centuries after Buddhism and only a decade before Islam), when a Nestorian monk named Aluoben entered the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’ an.

Then in 629 AD, the Buddhist monk Xuanzang left Chang’ an against the emperor’s orders to travel the world in search of enlightenment. He went west toward India along the Silk Road with a goal to find original Buddhist scriptures.  He traveled 10,000 miles over three of the highest mountain ranges in Asia and was gone 16 years.

When Xuanzang returned in 645 AD, he had 1,300 scrolls of Buddhist Sutras, and requested the building of a pagoda, which became the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda—nearly 65 meters tall (more than 213 feet).  It was made of rammed earth, and the pagoda would collapse more than once and be rebuilt.  No one knows exactly how the Tang Dynasty engineers managed to build a structure that tall of rammed earth.

Neville Gishford‘s Discovery Channel documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, reveals the answer to a mystery when a hidden crypt beneath the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is discovered using ground based radar. When The Tang Dynasty collapsed due to rebellion, the city was destroyed, but the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was left untouched.

Gishford reveals that even though Tang Chang’ an was destroyed, the city was copied throughout Asia and one city in Japan, Kyoto (formally the imperial capital of Japan – 794 to 1869 AD), was a scaled replica of Tang Chang’ an.

In fact, in 1974, the modern city of Xi’an and Kyoto formally established a sister-city relationship.

However, this was not the end of Chang’ an (Xi’an). It would be rebuilt a third time.  In 1368, nearly five hundred years after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD) would rebuild the Great Wall in addition to Xi’an as a defense against the Mongols that had conquered and ruled China during the  Yuan Dynasty (1277 – 1367 AD).

Continued on October 21, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 5 or return to Part 3

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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”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.


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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