The Complex History of Buddhism

November 1, 2016

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, lived in the 5th or 6th Century B.C. He was born in Nepal and his father was the king of the Sakya people.  After he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, Buddha preached the Dharma in an effort to help others reach enlightenment too.

Unlike the other major religions, Buddhism does not have a god like the Christian, Jewish or Islamic God.  Buddha is not a deity or supreme being. The Buddha believed that religious ideas and especially the god concept have their origin in fear.

Several centuries later during the Han Dynasty in the first century B.C., trade with Central Asia introduced Buddhism to China.  Over the centuries, interest in Buddhism grew.  However, due to Confucianism and Taoism, the Chinese adapted Buddhist scripture to fit the Chinese culture creating the Mahayana sect that spread to Korea and Japan.

Like most major religions, there are subdivisions within Buddhism but most may be classified into three. This is why Southeast Asian Buddhists differ from the Chinese.  The Theravada form of Buddhism is found in Southeast Asia in countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates other beliefs, and there are four principal schools or types of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Buddhism in China reached its high point during the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907. However, in 845 AD, the Tang emperor suppressed Buddhism and destroyed thousands of monasteries, temples and shrines.

Soon after Mao and the Communists won China’s Civil War with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, Buddhism flourished for a time but was repressed during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – ‘76) along with all other religions. Many monasteries and Buddhist texts were destroyed. After Mao died in 1976, many of the major monasteries were rebuilt under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center reported there were about 488 million Buddhists worldwide, and about 244 million, half, are in China.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

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 unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Story of Stone and China’s Star Crossed Lovers.

October 12, 2016

The Dream of the Red Chamber (also known as The Story of Stone) is generally considered one of the four greatest Chinese classical novels. The story is so popular in China that it has had several versions and translations and was made into a TV series.

The author, Tsao Hsueh-chin (1715-1763) came from a powerful and wealthy family and lived a privileged life as a child in Nanjing. Later, he became poor and struggled to survive. Going from wealth to poverty provided him with the necessary experiences to write this tragic story.

Although this novel (English translation available on Amazon in addition to a film selection) has great literary merit on many levels, readers might have difficulty keeping the characters straight, because there are more than four hundred characters and almost thirty are major ones.

Nevertheless, readers and students of Chinese history and culture should read this book to develop a better understanding of Imperial China during the Ch’ing Dynasty. The novel paints a vivid portrait of a corrupt feudal society on the verge of the capitalist, market economy we see flourishing in China today.

Another plot is the Romeo and Juliet love story between Chia Pao-yu and Lin Tai-yu, who, like Romeo and Juliet, wanted to be free to marry anyone they desired.

CliffsNotes has also covered Dream of the Red Chamber.

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 [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Poetry from the Golden Age of Chinese Art and Literature

April 20, 2016

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.

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 unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on March 13 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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Who was the first Cinderella?

March 8, 2016

There is a myth that the earliest version of the Cinderella story appeared in Egypt around the first century. If true, since Egypt didn’t have printing presses back then, this may have been an oral story told around camp fires.

However, in 850 AD during the Tang Dynasty, the first known literary version of Cinderella was published in China, and it was about a girl named Yeh-Shen set in the Qin and Han dynasties centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Although there are claims the Chinese Cinderella, Yeh-Shen, had bound feet,  foot binding didn’t appear in China until the Sung Dynasty (960-1276 AD), more than a century after this Chinese Cinderella story was first published. – Bound Feet Women

The French version of Cinderella wouldn’t be published by Charles Perrault until 1697 — more than eight centuries later.

Another version of Cinderella would appear in 1867 and again in 1894 in England.

In 1945, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow would present the premiere of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet of Cinderella.

Walt Disney wouldn’t publish a version of Cinderella until 1946, more than a thousand years after Cinderella first appeared in China based on a story that is alleged to have taken place about 206 BC.

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 unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Can Chinese Medicine Beat Cancer?

November 10, 2015

Actress Pam Grier was a guest on Oprah some time back.  Grier has been a major African-American actress from the early 1970s, and she has 96 film credits on imbd.com.  She has also appeared in many TV series and each one counts as one of her film credits.

Grier says, “People see me as a strong black figure, and I’m proud of that, but I’m a mix of several races: Hispanic, Chinese, and Filipino. My dad was black, and my mom was Cheyenne Indian. So you look at things beyond just race or even religion: I was raised Catholic, baptized a Methodist, and almost married a Muslim.”

In 1988, Grier was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and she was given a few months to live. There was nothing Western medicine could do to cure her.

During Grier’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she said, “My physician said western medicine has done all it can, I recommend that you go to Chinatown. You’ll meet these practitioners and you’ll listen to them.”

She started making regular trips to Chinatown in Los Angeles.

The focus in China is on prevention — to plan your lifestyle around healthy habits. That’s why early in the morning in China you may find many older Chinese outside exercising using the graceful, poetic movements of Tai Chi to insure health and longevity.

The history of acupuncture has been traced back before the birth of Jesus Christ, and the use of herbal medicines in China has been traced back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), also before the birth of Christ.

In fact, the World Health Organization reports that “eighty per cent of African populations use some form of traditional herbal medicine, and the worldwide annual market for these products approaches US$ 60 billion.”

All of these facts of Eastern and/or Chinese medicine beg for a question. Why do Western drug companies reserve the right to use the word ‘cure’ and no one else may use it legally?

“Unfortunately the word ‘cure’ is the sole property of the drug companies. If a nutritional supplement company uses this term they are attacked judiciously. This often leads to bankruptcy. As a result, many natural cures are buried.” – Forbidden words, and diagnosis

Pam Grier was diagnosed with cancer in 1988, and her doctors believed she only had a few weeks to live, but she’s still around thanks to Chinese medicine. However that Chinese medicine didn’t cure her because that’s illegal. Only Western drugs are legally allowed to cure.

______________________________

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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Wolf Totem – the book vs the film

September 22, 2015

I walked to town recently to see the film of a book I read several years ago. The theater I saw it in was huge and there were only three of us there. Wolf Totem was in Mandarin with English subtitles. Fortunately for the audience, there isn’t much dialogue so there isn’t that much to read if you don’t speak the language but the story—through the panoramic visuals—had a powerful message about mankind meddling with nature. In China, this film has earned more than $110 million U.S. I couldn’t find out how much it has earned in the U.S. where I saw it.

Consider the fact that pollution is not exclusive to China, and the United States, for instance, has more than 1,300 superfund sites—Superfund sites are polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. – epa.gov

In addition, the book and the film also offer another way to learn about China, it’s people and their humanity.

Jiang Rong is the pen name for Lu Jiamin, the author, a Chinese citizen. Set during the Cultural Revolution, Wolf Totem describes the education of an intellectual living with nomadic herders in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

The publisher of Wolf Totem said the novel was an epic Chinese tale and that’s true. Wolf Totem taught me a lot about this almost extinct culture. I learned about the fascinating connection between wolves and Mongolians and why this connection may have been the reason why Genghis Khan was so successful in his conquests.

I recommend the film more than the novel to anyone who wants to learn about the life of the Mongols and another perspective of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. If you can’t see the film, then the book is worth reading too.

However, the theme that runs through the novel of maintaining a balance with nature is a bit overdone—I didn’t get this impression from the film. In the novel, I got the message the first time the characters talked about it but then the topic comes up repeatedly—a bit too much but an insignificant criticism of a book worth reading and a film that I think is even more powerful.

I won’t give away the ending, but don’t expect it to be happy. Most Chinese novels don’t end with happy endings. The ending for the film was different than the novel, and I actually liked it better—a powerful and breathtakingly beautiful film.

______________________________

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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Long before Romeo and Juliet there was China’s Butterfly Lovers

August 25, 2015

The legend of The Butterfly Lovers first appeared in 618 AD during the Tang Dynasty, and it’s a tragic Chinese love story similar to Romeo and Juliet.

The basic premise is of a young woman in China wanting to go to school. Since boys were the only ones allowed to attend school, this young woman, like Barbara Streisand in the movie Yentl (1983), disguised herself as a boy.

Yentl was based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s (1902 – 1991) short story Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.

When I talked to my wife about this, she found her copy of a popular theme song from The Butterfly Lovers played as a violin solo by Yu Lina. As the house filled with the music, which may also be found on the next embedded YouTube video, my wife started to dance.

She said, “This is one of my favorites. I cannot resist dancing when I hear it.”

In fact, Yentl the Yeshiva Boy and Shakespeare’s (1564 – 1616) Romeo and Juliet must be combined to become The Butterfly Lovers. What starts as a charade becomes a love story ending in the suicide of the two young lovers.

The love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is one of four Chinese folk legends and one of the most influential and best known in China.

China has traded with the West since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 219 AD). There was an overland route in the north and a sea route in the south, which the Roman Empire used around the time of Christ.

Since China traded with the West for more than two thousand years, it is conceivable that The Butterfly Lovers reached the West and was adapted by Shakespeare and then Singer after being exposed to the plot.

______________________________

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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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