The Tao of Meditation: Part 3 of 3

October 19, 2017

I wonder what happened to all of China’s mediating Buddhists and Taoists during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Did they go underground like Anchee Min’s mother who became a closet Catholic that only prayed when her three children slept? During China’s Cultural Revolution, no one could be trusted, not even your children.

Most people don’t change who they are regardless of what the rich and/or powerful want, so it is obvious that if being a Buddhist or Taoist and meditating could get you denounced, you will find a way to practice what you think when no one else notices what you are doing.

Until Communism appeared, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org reports, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution, the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions. They were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else.

However, after Mao died in 1976, China, under Deng Xiaoping lifted the ban on religious teaching, and since the mid-1980s there has been a huge program to rebuild the Buddhist and Taoist temples that were torn down by the teenage Red Guard.

In addition, in December 2004, China’s central government announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily, “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens, but worship outside of approved religions remains forbidden. There are five religions recognized by China’s government: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s death, it was safe to meditate again without the threat of fear getting in the way of an individual’s search for inner harmony.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 2 of 3

October 18, 2017

I’ve been following an exercise routine for at least 18 years. Recently I added mind and body mediation to the physical exercise. When I mediate every day, I turn inward to link my mind and body.

What I think of when I think of Taoism is a story from Taoist tradition whose main image or metaphor is that of water that meets a rock in the river, and simply flows around it. Taoism suggests that a major source of our suffering is that we resist and try to control the natural movements of the world around us. The Tao literally means “The Way,” and it reminds us that the world is bigger than us, and we’ll enjoy it better if we humble ourselves to the natural flow of things.

You know. Go with the flow.

Taoism teaches that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

The difference from religions in the West was that Taoism did not have leaders on a national scale and was more like a federation of linked communities.

What I’ve discovered as I continue to meditation every morning after the physical exercise and before I start the day, is that I’m calmer throughout the day with little or no depression or doubts and with a lot less physical pain.

Continued in Part 3 on October 19, 2017, or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 1 of 3

October 17, 2017

Some of the earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. Between the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” -Lao-tzu, the father of Taoism (604 – 531 BC)

Lao-Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised a Christian in a Christian culture. Even though I walked away from organized religion at 12, I still retain what I learned from studying the Bible.

I’ve also learned that by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been well established for several centuries.

Taoism was popular in China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, I’ve read that the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

Certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, and those are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao: Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine, and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, that has had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

Continued in Part 2 on October 18, 2017

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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How are women doing in China compared to the United States?

October 10, 2017

In 1949, Mao announced that women hold up half the sky. In one day they went from being the property of men to being equal. Sixty-eight years later, how are women doing in China?

China’s women make up 48.1 percent of the population, but Catalyst.org reports, “In 2016, only 17.5 percent of firms in China have women as top managers. … Less than one-quarter (24.2%) of all positions in China’s single-house parliament are held by women.”

When we isolate China and report these facts, China looks bad, doesn’t it?

But how does China compare to the United States when it comes to women reaching the top?

In the United Staets women make up 50.8 of the population.  American Progress.org says, “They are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.” In addition, Rutgers.edu reports, “21 women (21%) serve in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19.3%) serve in the United States House of Representatives.”

The Harvard Business Review says, “In the decades since Deng Xiaoping instituted market reform, millions of women have profitably followed Deng’s dictate that “to get rich is glorious.”

Quartz.com tells us “No country comes even close to China in self-made female billionaires.” China has 56 self-made female billionaires; The United States only has 15. China has almost four times as many self-make female billionaires.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Women’s Rights in China Today

October 4, 2017

Dramatic changes in women’s rights have been achieved in China where for millennia women were stereotyped as inferior to men, had no rights and served as slaves, concubines, and prostitutes. Marriages were arranged as early as infancy.

In 1949, foot binding was abolished, and the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) was formed and supported by China’s Communist Party (CCP).  After the CCP won the long Civil War, it took less than a year to liberate women and bring an end to everything mentioned in the first paragraph.

At the 10th National Women’s Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in 2008, Deputy-Chairwoman HuangQingyi said, “Sex discrimination in employment should be eradicated and the income gap between men and women should be further narrowed.”

It has also been reported that domestic violence is a severe threat to women. Chinese authorities reported fifty-thousand complaints annually, according to figures released by the ACWF. The domestic violence fact sheet shows this is also a problem in the United States. And it doesn’t help that the Trump administration in the U.S. has backed away from supporting rape victims and is supporting alleged rapists instead.

Sexual discrimination was supposed to have been abolished in China back in 1949, when Chairman Mao Zedong famously announced, “women hold up half the sky”, but it wasn’t. It has only been a few years since China outlawed sexual harassment.


Imagine this happening in China before 1949.

Laws may be passed to bring about change but changing a culture happens much slower.

>Discover Anna May Wong, the American actress who died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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An Erhu Master Captures a violent slice of China’s history

September 5, 2017

To understand another country’s history and culture, one should listen to its music, read that country’s novels, and see its films.

For instance, Reflection of the Moon about Ah Bing (1893 – 1950), a master of the Chinese Erhu, who in 1950, shortly before his death, became a national sensation as radios throughout China started to play his music.

Fortunate for me, this Chinese film had English subtitles, but were not 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 Communist Party (CCP).

However, to be fair, the brutal Civil War between the Communist and Nationalist Parties raged from 1927 – 1950 (with a short break during World War II to fight the Japanese invaders), and the CCP, with support from several hundred million peasants, 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 (the victims were allegedly abusive land owners and drug dealers accused of crimes by the people they allegedly abused and victimized), Mao fulfilled his promise of land reform. Many of the landowners lost their lives, and the land they had owned was divided among the peasants collectively and not individually.

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. At the time of his death, he was 57, and the average lifespan in China was 35. Today the average lifespan is 75.5 years.

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 that are considered masterpieces were recorded by those musicologists. It is said that he knew more than 700 pieces and most of them were his compositions.

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 most rural Chinese from 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 didn’t.

China Daily reported that Ah Bing’s story and music is still popular, and that the Performing Arts Company of China’s Air Force performed Er Quan Yin, an original Western-style Chinese opera, in 2010. The performance was “Based on the story of legendary Chinese erhu performer, Hua Yanjun, or Blind Ah Bing, the opera tells the story of an erhu performer, Ah Quan and his adopted daughter Ah Li, who struggle to make a living in the 1950s.”

Discover Anna May Wong, the American actress who died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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China is Leading the World in Alternative Energy

August 23, 2017

The United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 because of polluted rivers, lakes, and dense, visible smog in many U.S. cities and industrial centers.  I grew up in the Los Angeles basin in the 1950s – 60s and was a witness and victim of that air pollution.

A 2016 Report of the Trends in Global CO2 Emissions said, “top emitters China (1st place) and the United States (2nd place) set an example by effectively reducing their CO2 emissions over 2015 by 0.7% and 2.6%, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. … The largest decreases in coal consumption were seen in the United States and China.”

But all of the gains made by the United States since the 1970s are being reversed by #FakePresident Donald Trump and his extremist administration.

Yes, the United States is listed as the second largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, but if the U.S. had China’s population, the pollution generated would dwarf China. In 2015, China’s global share of emissions was 29 percent vs 14-percent in the United States, but if both countries had equal populations, the U.S. share would be almost twice China’s.

China’s first Clean Air Act was signed into law in 1987. In 2006, Greenpeace was consulted by China’s CCP on an early draft of a renewable energy law by China’s National People’s Congress. Now China is the world’s leader in the production of renewable energy. DW.com reports, “China is one of the driving forces behind the solar power boom. Last year, around 45 percent of the world’s new solar installations were built there. The United States, Japan and India were also top adopters of the technology, albeit significantly behind China.”

China’s one-party system has demonstrated the ability to get things done quickly and, yes, mistakes are made but so are course corrections.  For instance, I witnessed China’s ability to get things done in Shanghai. At the time, we were staying in what was once the French concession. The stately mansions that once housed wealthy French families and their Chinese servants had been converted to communal multi-family homes still surrounded by high walls.  When we went to sleep one night, the walls were there. In the morning, the walls were gone.

An army of workers arrived at night, took down the walls and trucked out the debris without making enough noise to wake people.

History already shows us that when China’s leaders set a goal to achieve something, they get it done even if it takes centuries.

Need proof? China is responsible for two of the largest engineering projects of all time: The Great Wall and the Grand Canal.

China Highlights reveals that “Over 2,000 years, many imperial dynasties and kingdoms built, rebuilt, and extended walls many times that subsequently eroded. The latest imperial construction was performed by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and the length was then over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles). This is the wall often referred to when we talk about the Great Wall.”

Britannica.com says, “The Grand Canal was built to enable successive Chinese regimes to transport surplus grain from the agriculturally rich Yangtze (Chang) and Huai river valleys to feed the capital cities and large standing armies in northern China.”

Global Securtiy.org says, “The Grand Canal is composed of the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal, Sui-Tang Canal and Zhedong Canal, and is over two thousand years old. It starts in Beijing and passes through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Zhejiang, Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu. It is 21 times longer than the Panama Canal, and surpasses the Suze Canal by 10 times … the Grand Canal of China is the longest waterway in existence and one of the most ancient.”

When someone thinks China can’t replace coal with renewable green energy sources, remind them of The Great Wall and the Grand Canal. All China needs is time to get the work done. Want another example?  About thirty years ago, China decided to seriously deal with poverty and led the world by reducing global poverty by 90-percent but only in China. The rest of the world was only responsible for 10-percent of that reduction.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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