Religious Influence in China

April 17, 2018

The Financial Times reports, “Christianity first reached China in the 7th century AD, brought by Nestorian Eastern Syriac believers.” The Review of Religions.org says Islam arrived about the same time, but in the 17th century, The downturn for Muslims began with the rise of the Qing Dynasty in 1644. Qing Emperors made life very hard for Muslims. First they prohibited the Halal slaughter of animals, then they banned the construction of new Mosques and the pilgrimage for Hajj. Conditions grew bleak for Islam in the second half of the 19th Century when rebellion led to the slaughter of possibly millions of Chinese Muslims.”

This helps explain why China has never had an organized religion dominate the culture as religions have in Western and Middle Eastern countries.

In fact, when organized religions meddle too much, the Chinese eventually strike back. During the Tang Dynasty in 878 A.D., a rebel leader named Huang Chao burned and pillaged Guangzhou (better known in the West as Canton) killing tens of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Then there were two Opium Wars during the middle of the nineteenth century where France and England invaded to force opium and Christian missionaries on China.

That resulted in the Taiping Rebellion, which was led by a Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, known as God’s Chinese son. Hong claimed to be Jesus Christ’s younger brother. Estimates say twenty to thirty million Chinese may have died during this religious war to rid China of opium and turn China into a Christian nation, far more than all the Crusades combined.

The culmination of a series of campaigns against organized religions starting in the late 19th century, including Mao’s Cultural Revolution, destroyed or forced Christians, Jews, and Muslims to hide their religious beliefs.

More than thirteen hundred years have passed since Christianity and Islam were introduced to China, but after all those centuries only 0.45-percent of the Chinese population follows Islam while about 2.5-percent are Christians. That means about 97-percent of the population does not belong to an organized religion like Christianity or Islam that often has an influence on politics.

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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China’s Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

February 13, 2018

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an (once Chang’an) is home to almost nine million people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six-hundred years old and longer than 12-kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first built over two thousand years ago and has been three cities, not one. The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’an), which is located close to the modern city of Xi’an, and the old eroding walls of the Han Dynasty capital are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’an was more than one-and-a-half-times the size of Rome.

Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asian cities, said, “A delegation of jugglers from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Roman history) traveled and performed in the Han Court of Chang’an.”

More than two thousand years ago, the walls of Chang’an (Xi’an) were made of rammed (compressed) earth and most of the city was built of kiln-fired clay bricks, which was a revolutionary building material at the time.

The builders of Han Chang’an used this new technology in revolutionary ways such as building an underground sewer system connected to the moat that surrounded the city.

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’an. The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was eight-hundred years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. The Daming Palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’an powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai, Chang’an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China. But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Several major religions were also introduced to China.

For instance, Islam was barely a hundred years old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’an. Today’s Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

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

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight hundred years after Buddhism and only a few years before Islam), when a Nestorian monk called Alopen reached the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’an.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.

One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace” that in Mandarin is “Xi’an”.

Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’an, but nearly six hundred years later,  Xi’an’s walls still stand representing the largest, best-preserved set of ancient defensive walls in the world.

History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack took place from April – November in 1926. The 20th-century artillery rounds only dented the walls.

The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from too many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.

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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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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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Did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Communist China?

December 20, 2017

I don’t read or speak Mandarin and a few years ago in early December an e-mail arrived that was in Mandarin and there was a link to a video and other attachments.

Since I learned the hard way years earlier that you don’t open an attachment from an e-mail when you don’t know where it’s from, I waited until Anchee read it and said it was from one of our daughter’s grandfathers in China.

Inside the attached file were twelve virtual Christmas cards in English with flashing Christmas lights in winter settings. There was also a link to a video where people in China were being asked questions about celebrating Christmas.

Daughter’s grandpa lives in Shanghai, and the city’s shopping malls were decorated for Christmas. It seems that many Shanghai Chinese adopted the Christmas holiday and take it seriously even giving gifts.

One Chinese man in the linked video said, “Perhaps because Shanghai is quite an international city, we attach much importance to this festival and celebrate it in a grander manner compared to other cities in China.”

A young Chinese woman said, “If you live overseas for a long time, you will know that this is the time to reunite with your friends and exchange Christmas presents with those you know.”

The twelve virtual Christmas cards our daughter’s grandfather attached to his e-mail said:

  1. “Remember… Through the year, be thankful for what you have…”
  2. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… You are richer than 75% of the world.”
  3. “If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”
  4. “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.”
  5. “If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.”
  6. “If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death… You are more blessed than three billion people in the world.”
  7. “If your parents are still alive and still married… You are very rare, even in the United States.”
  8. “If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful… You are blessed, because the majority can, but most do not.”
  9. “If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder… You are blessed because you can offer healing touch.”
  10. “If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore … You are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.”
  11. “Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are. You are wished a Merry Christmas.”
  12. “Remember … throughout the year, be thankful for what you have been blessed with …”

This e-mail came from a grandfather that fought on the winning side of China’s Civil War (1925 – 1949), and then he held an important position in China’s Communist Party until he retired at 67 (as the 1982 Chinese Constitution requires).

Country Digest says that Shanghai has a population of more than 24-million people, and only 2.6-percent (624k) are Protestants and Catholics.


There are Chinese and expatriates who celebrate Christmas in Beijing too.

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 Chinese Perception of Christianity Explained

June 22, 2016

Christianity has existed in China since at least the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). Yet after more than twelve hundred years there are only 30 to 40 million self-identifying Christians in China. That’s less than 3% of China’s total population compared to more than 87% that are not religious who mostly follow the teachings of Confucius and/or Taoism, and Muslims (Islam arrived in China in the 6th and 7th centuries) represent less than 2% of the people.

Christianity hasn’t had much success in Japan either. The first known appearance of organized Christianity in Japan was the arrival of the Portuguese Catholics in 1549 more than four hundred years ago but only 2% of Japan’s population are Christians today.

Why?

For an answer, let’s turn to what Lin Yutang had to say on this subject.

Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976) was a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. He was one of the most influential writers of his generation. In 1933, he met Pearl S. Buck in Shanghai and she introduced him, and his writings to her American publisher.

Lin Yutang says, “For most Chinese the end of life lies not in life after death, for the idea that we live in order to die, as taught by Christianity, is incomprehensible, nor in Nirvana, for that is too metaphysical, not in the satisfaction of accomplishment, for that is too vainglorious, nor yet in progress for progress’ sake, for that is meaningless.

“The true end, the Chinese have decided in a singularly clear manner, lies in the enjoyment of a simple life, especially the family life, and in harmonious social relationships.”

“The Chinese are a nation of individualists. They are family-minded, not social-minded.  …  It is curious that the word society does not exist as an idea in Chinese thought. In the Confucian social and political philosophy we see a direct transition from family, ‘chia’, to the state, ‘kuo’, as successive stages of human organization. …

“The Chinese, therefore, make rather poor Christian converts, and if they are to be converted they should all become Quakers, for that is the only sort of Christianity that the Chinese can understand. Christianity as a way of life can impress the Chinese, but Christian creeds and dogmas will be crushed, not by a superior Confucian logic but by ordinary Confucian common sense. Buddhism itself, when absorbed by the educated Chinese, became nothing but a system of mental hygiene, which is the essence of Sung philosophy.”

My Country and My PeopleLin Yutang. Halcyon House, New York. 1938. Pgs 94; 101; 103; 172, and 108

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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Abortions—are you pro or con, and do you know the difference between a fetus and a child?

August 11, 2015

This post was inspired from Foreign Policy.com’s Meet China’s Pro-Life Christians.  The subtitle of the piece ran with “Can they succeed in a country with the most abortions in the world?”

When I read that question, my first thought was to fact check and discover if this claim was true, because anyone who reads that question might conclude that China has the highest ratio of abortions on the planet—and, as I discovered, they would be wrong.

The result was that the claim in the U.S. media that China had the most abortions in the world spawned a protest from a small number of Christians in Chengdu, China (various statistical analyses have found that between 2% and 4% of the Chinese identify as Christian)—“Their faces downcast, they carried large posters with gruesome photos of aborted fetuses and headlines that read, ‘A fetus is a child too’.”

But a fetus is not a child. To compare a child to a fetus is deliberately misleading to cause an emotional reaction from ignorant people who are easily fooled. More on this later.

There is also a BIG difference between the number of abortions and the ratio of abortions. After all China has the largest population in the world. The country with the largest ratio of abortions in the world has a population of 56,483 compared to China’s almost 1.4 billion people.

The Foreign Policy piece started by mentioning the anti-abortion movement against Planned Parenthood in the United States, and then in the second paragraph said, “The news quickly reached China, and within days the video had been posted to Chinese video streaming site iQiyi, where it received more than 170,000 views (0.012% of total population). China has the highest number of abortions in the world, with an estimated 13 million performed annually.”

I’m curious what the other 99.988% of China’s people think about this issue. I mean, are they allowed to have an opinion or do only the Christians in China count—you know, the 2% – 4%?

But in countries where abortion is not available and/or is illegal, women who don’t want a child get an abortion anyway regardless of the pro-life, anti-abortion mob and their lies about fetuses being children. In fact, “Globally, approximately three births occur for every abortion performed, and half of all abortions are unsafe.” – Abortion Ratios Worldwide in 2008 and Abortion Laws Worldwide

How does China compare to other countries with the percent of known pregnancies ending in a legal abortion?

Greenland was #1 in 2012 at 49.9%. China was ranked #12 at 29.2%, and the United States was ranked #32 at 20.2%. – Johnston Archive.net (You might be interested in looking at the list to discover what country had the lowest number of legal abortions).

And according to Nation Master.com, “It is estimated that there are 44 million induced abortions annually, half of them in countries where abortion is illegal.”

In addition, the US National Library of Medicine reports that “Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications.”

Now, back to the Christian claim that “a fetus is a child too”

“The just-conceived prenatal life form is called a zygote (not a child). While migrating down the woman’s Fallopian tube to her uterus, it is named a morula (not a child), and from days five to 12 post-conception, a blastocyst (not a child). The blastocyst implants in the nutrient-rich lining of the mother’s uterus. From day 12 through week six, this being is termed an embryo (not a child or even a fetus).”

The rest of the description of the fetal development timeline may be found at baby center.com. For instance, during the first 3 weeks, “Your baby-in-the making is a ball of cells called a blastocyst (still not a fetus or a child).” … It isn’t until week ten that the embryo becomes the famous fetus that is still not a child.

In conclusion, back to that protest sign in Chingdu, China that said, “A fetus is a child too”.  It‘s obvious from the facts that this cannot be true. It also helps to know the reasons why most women make the choice to have an abortion, and according to WebMD on Women’s Health, the most common reasons women consider abortion are:

  1. Over half of all women who have an abortion used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. (This means these women were not planning to get pregnant.)
  2. Inability to support or care for a child. (often caused by poverty, and did you know that 1 of every 4 children the United States lives in poverty?)
  3. To end an unwanted pregnancy
  4. To prevent the birth of a child with birth defects or severe medical problem
  5. Pregnancy resulting from rape or incest
  6. Physical or mental conditions that endanger the woman’s health if the pregnancy is continued.

In addition, in the United States 9 out of 10 abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy while most are done within the first 9 weeks and technically the embryo isn’t even a fetus yet. In fact, very few abortions are done after 16 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is a long way from becoming a baby or even a child.

Did you know that fetuses spend most of their time sleeping. At 32 weeks, the fetus sleeps 90% to 95% of the day and this is the result of an immature brain. To learn more about the development of the brain, I suggest you read this piece from Harvard.edu. For instance, “at 9 months (after birth), the human brain is too immature to firmly register experiences, while at 17-21 months it has developed enough to record and retrieve memories of single distinctive experiences,” Kagan says.

To the pro-life, anti-abortion people, how does a fetus become a child when 90% of abortions take place before the embryo becomes a fetus and a fetus is never a child?

And last but not least, why pick on China when there are eleven other countries with higher ratios of abortions?

By the way, I learned something in the last few weeks. While talking to a few members of pro-life, anti-abortion crowd outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic, I learned that Christians in the United States are just as ignorant as Christians in China when it comes to knowing the difference between a fetus, a baby and a child. Do you know the difference? If not, watch the first video in this post.

I think every woman should have the legal choice to a safe abortion as long as it is still an embryo or an early fetus and not a baby or child, but truth be told, you can’t abort a baby or child from a womb because a baby or child has already been born and has left the womb.

______________________________

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.

A 130th 5-Star Review

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Peter Hessler on China

March 3, 2015

Peter Hessler arrived in China with the Peace Core in 1996 and taught English for two years. After leaving the Peace Corps, Hessler freelanced for The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and The New York Times before becoming the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker until 2007. He lived in China about fifteen years.

Today, Hessler is better known for his books on China: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001), Oracle Bones (2006), and Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory (2010). His latest work is Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West (2013).

I agree with Hessler when he said in a CNNGo interview, “People in China are not forthcoming like Americans; they don’t like to tell you their personal story. It’s a type of modesty, I think, in a culture where people are not encouraged to see themselves as the center of the universe.”

I have a born-again Christian friend—a white American—who boasted about Christianity being the fastest growing religion in China. I wonder what he’d say if he’d read what Hessler thinks: “The Chinese relationship with religion is pragmatic and fluid; people often change their faith very quickly. And I don’t see them following religion to a degree where it’s clearly not in their self-interest.”

And I also wonder what my old fundamentalist Christian friend would think if he knew the results of the CFPS 2012 survey of 25 of the provinces of China that found only 10% of the population belonged to organized religions—specifically, 6.75% were Buddhists (87.8 million), 2.4% (31.2 million) were Christians (of which 1.89% Protestants and 0.41% Catholics), 0.54% were Taoists, 0.46% were Muslims, and 0.40% declared to belong to other religions. Although 90% (1.17 billion) of the population declared to not belong to any religion, the authors of the survey estimated that only 6.3% were atheists neither believing nor worshipping gods and ancestors.

On happiness, Hessler says, “At this particular moment I think that Americans … might be less happy than Chinese people. The Chinese can roll with the punches. … Everybody in China has seen ups and downs; if they get laid off from the factory, they just go back to the village and play mah-jong.”

_______________

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.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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