Shanghai Love – a book review

June 15, 2016

From the title, Shanghai Love, we already know that Layne Wong’s story is about love in Shanghai, and it doesn’t take long to discover who the two main characters are.

It is 1938, and in chapter one in China we are introduced to Peilin. In chapter two we meet Henri in Nazi Germany.

The love story isn’t what made this novel worth reading. It was the journey the two characters take to find each other. They are both doctors. Henri is Jewish and trained in western medicine. He has to leave his family behind in Germany and flee to China to avoid Hitler’s Nazis who are hunting for him because he dared to love a woman who was not Jewish.

Peilin was trained by her grandfather in Chinese herbal medicine, and by the time Henri meets her, she has already been married to a ghost.

As a young girl, a marriage was arranged to a boy almost twice Peilin’s age, but when he was a young man—before the marriage—he was killed in combat fighting the Japanese who invaded China in July of 1937. By the time Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese in December 1941, China has already been fighting Japan for more than four years. To give you an idea of how horrible it was, by the end of World War II, China had lost ten to twenty million people (troops and civilians) to the war compared to 418,500 for the United States.

One would think with her fiancé dead, Peilin would be free to move on with her life, but no—because in China at the time it was expected that Peilin must still marry the man’s ghost, stay a virgin for life and live with her in-laws who bought a baby for her to raise as if she was its biological mother and the dead man its father.

In addition, the story is set in an era when both the Chinese and Europeans disapproved of interracial relationships. In Germany, there was racism against the Jews. But in China, there is prejudice from some Chinese because Henri is white. In addition, many of the Jewish refugees look down on the Chinese culture and disapprove of Henri spending time with Peilin. It seems that these two can’t win and are fated to be star-crossed lovers.

I recommend reading this story because it offers a reminder of the horrors of war and racism. During World War II, more than 20,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai, one of the few places in the world that put no limits on the number of Jews it accepted.

Another plot thread that runs through the novel is the focus on Chinese herbal medicine and how different it is from the western concept of medical care. The Chinese were studying advanced medical care long before the West. In fact, Chinese medical tradition is more than 5,000 years old including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise and dietary therapy—concepts that the West didn’t pay serious attention to until near the end of the 20th century.

I’m not going to tell you how the love story turns out between Henri and Peilin. You’ll have to buy and read the novel to discover what happens.

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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Was Hsi Wang Mu real?

June 14, 2016

To the Chinese, Hsi Wang Mu is the Queen Mother of the West (Western China), and she is an important figure in Chinese mythology.

It is believed that the myth of China’s Queen Mother goes back almost three thousand years, but the earliest recorded history was found from the Chou Dynasty (1122 – 222 BC) and was written in the second century BC. It appears that she may have been a real queen of a Western Chinese state and stories of her life become legend over the centuries turning into magical myths.

One of the older stories is about Hsi Wang Mu and the celestial archer, where she asks him to build her a palace of jade in the western sky. His reward was a pill made from the peaches of immortality, which ends in tragedy and heartbreak.

It is said that Hsi Wang Mu had nine sons and twenty-four daughters with her mate, Tung Wang Kung.

 Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi

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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The Statutory Woman

March 15, 2016

An honest comment for my first novel My Splendid Concubine gave me the idea for this post on the history of the changing attitudes of when a female child becomes a woman. The comment said, “The girls (the two concubines in the story) were younger than 15, for goodness sake. I had a hard time getting past that.”

According to Live Science.com, “A woman can get pregnant and have a baby as soon as she begins ovulating, or producing eggs. This typically occurs about a year after they first begin menstruating, which for North American women, usually happens between the ages of 11 and 12.”

But according to the law in the United State, a female child isn’t legally a woman until age 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 depending on which U.S. state you live in (watch the first video to discover the age of consent in each U.S. state).

In addition, the age of consent laws in the middle of the 19th century, the time period of My Splendid Concubine that was based on a real-life story, were not the same as they are today, and China is not the United States.

To understand the difference between now and then, today in the People’s Republic of China, the age of consent for sexual activity is 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In Hong Kong, it is 16 and in Macau 18.

In fact, “Depictions of ‘child-romance’ in ancient or modern Chinese literature are not difficult to find. They include passages on joyous heterosexual or homosexual activities by children as young as 12 to 13 years old with one another or with adults. Children are usually described as natural sexual beings and erotic stimulation and sex-play are seen as beneficial to their healthy development (Chen 2000). … For most of Chinese history, the minimum marriage age suggested by the government had ranged between 12 and 16.” – Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong

What about the United Kingdom around the time period of my novel? In 1875, a concern that young girls were being sold into brothels caused Parliament to change the age of consent to 13. Prior to that, the age of consent was 12.

However, in the United States in 1875, each state determined its own criminal laws and the age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. It would not be until after the 1930s that the term jail bait came into use in America as the age of consent laws changed.

I could have sanitized My Splendid Concubine and made both Ayaou and her sister Shao-mei much older to fit the politically correct attitudes of today, but that would have been historically incorrect. Sterling Seagrave in his book Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China, wrote, “He (Robert Hart) had just turned twenty. Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years.”

If Ayaou, one of the concubines in the novel, was barely 14, then there was only a six-year age gap between the two, while Hart’s arranged marriage to a young Irish woman named Hester Jane Bredon a decade later sees the gap double to twelve years when he was thirty and she was eighteen. Seagrave says, “He (Hart) sought a wife as straightforwardly as he had bought a concubine.” After returning to Ireland for a brief stay in 1866, Robert proposed marriage to Hester five days after he met her. The courtship lasted three months before they were married.

Should authors ignore historical fact and rewrite history to reflect the moral sensitivities of today’s readers?

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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Quality Wine from China

February 16, 2016

The World Bank reports, “In 1981, private sector employment accounted for 2.3 million workers, while state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had 80 million workers. Twenty years later, the private sector accounted for 74.7 million workers, surpassing, for the first time, the 74.6 million workers in SOEs.”

In addition, Bloomberg.com said, “Many of the world’s richest self-made women are Chinese,” and Psychology Today.com tells us, “Women own more than 40% of private businesses in China.”

Meet one of those women. Judy Leissner was 24 when she became the CEO and President of 168-acre Grace Vineyard in Shanxi province, south of Beijing after she quit her job at Goldman Sachs.

The first grape-vine plantings were in 1997 and the first vintage in 2001. Judy started the winery because her father liked to drink. Today, Judy produces a quality wine—about 700,000 bottles annually.

Most people do not know that quality wine is produced in China. In fact, Judy has competition because, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, China now has the second-largest vineyard area worldwide after Spain, pushing France into third position.

Judy says there is an opportunity in China to make a lot of money in a short period of time, because the country is developing and growing.

The difference between the wine market in China and the rest of the world is that most drinkers in China must drink because they have to. It’s part of the culture of doing business and developing guanxi.

Grape Wall of China.com visited Grace Vineyard in September 2011, and Jim Boyce says he visited Grace CEO Judy Leisser, and he reported, “About a week ago, she sent an email that the wines Grace bottled under screw cap earlier this year are doing fine and, if all goes well with final trials, the winery will switch closures this year for its entry level and premium level wines. Grace’s Premium Chardonnay ranks among the better Chinese wines and is found in top hotels and restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai.”

______________________________

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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What would you be willing to do to Enhance your Beauty?

February 10, 2016

According to historical accounts, foot binding appeared in China during the Sung Dynasty (960-1276 AD).

The process of foot binding often started between the ages of four and seven. Feet were soaked in a blood and herb mixture. Toes were broken. Then the arch was broken. There was extreme pain since no pain relief was used. It is estimated that in a thousand years about two billion women went through the process.

Manchu women did not bind their feet, and the Manchu leaders of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911 AD) attempted, but with little success, to stop foot binding among the mostly Han (the majority in China) women who continued the practice.

In 1928, the Nationalist government announced plans to do away with foot binding. This attempt to end foot binding met with mixed success. In rural areas, large feet were still considered unattractive and unacceptable and the practice of foot binding continued.

While working in China for National Geographic Magazine on a three part Marco Polo series, Michael Yamashita, a veteran photographer, went in search of women who had bound feet. He found them living in remote urban villages. Yamashita’s book Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey was published April 5, 2011.

Even in 19th century San Francisco, there were Chinese girls and women with bound feet. Source: Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco

In most of China, like all countries, social and sexual customs resist rapid change. For millions of women, the practice would continue until 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party came to power under Mao. That is when the popularity of foot binding to enhance a woman’s beauty—according to the men who wanted women to suffer for what they thought was beauty—ended.

______________________________

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

Where to Buy

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Book Promotion for “My Splendid Concubine” on Sale for $0.99

January 16, 2016

“My Splendid Concubine” is based on a true story. A larger-than-life bronze statue of Robert Hart, ordered by the Emperor of China, was placed on the Bund in Shanghai, China to honor this Irishman, and it stood for several decades before the Japanese removed it during World War II and turned the metal into bullets. It took almost a decade to research and write this novel.

#Irish in 19th century #China
Based on REAL #LoveStory
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4&5-star reviews
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http://www.mysplendidconcubine.com/

99 cent sale from Jan 16 - 18 2016

Thanks to his live-in Dictionary
He became China’s godfather of modernism
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http://wp.me/P2mPRS-I

______________________________

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.

Two 99 cent sale Jan 16 - 18 2016

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