A Short History of China: part 6 of 6

January 18, 2017

Mao Zedong walked a long and dangerous road on his way to leading China for 27 years starting in 1949 to 1976. His first step down that road was to survive the Civil War against the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, a brutal dictator for life that the United States supported. To escape defeat, Mao avoided combat as much as possible to retreating on an almost impossible march known as Mao’s Long March that’s considered one of the most significant military campaigns in the 20th century, and one of the most amazing physical feats ever attempted.

Surrounded by hostile armies, 87,000 Communist troops escaped and started a retreat that covered nearly 6,000 miles in one year.

In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended and America’s ally for life Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan where he ruled as a brutal dictator until he died in 1976. For a peek into Chiang’s brutality, one example of many was his 2-28-1947 Massacre in Taiwan.

Meanwhile in China, Mao launched his Great Leap Forward that failed in the disaster of what’s still know as Mao’s Great Famine that I wrote about in Part 5.

Having failed, Mao stepped aside to let someone else run China. The large communes of the Great Leap Forward were abandoned and the peasants returned to their villages to farm the land,

Fearing the return of capitalism, Mao’s supporters printed a book with his slogans. Mao wanted to break the thinking and attitudes of old China. Through film, a propaganda campaign was launched so Mao could regain power, and in 1966, he launched the insanity of the Cultural Revolution.

Soon after Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping ended the Cultural Revolution, led the revision of the Chinese Constitution to limit leaders to two 5-year terms so China would never have another Mao, a powerful dictator for life, and opened China to world trade, and in the last 40 years, thanks to Deng, China is not only responsible for ninety percent of the reduction in global poverty but also the growth of a U.S. style consumer middle class of about 300 million Chinese.

In fact, the Chinese middle class now leads the world in tourism, and sends more of their children to attend colleges in the United States, Canada, and Europe than any other country. More than 100 million Chinese freely leave China annually to visit, as tourists, other countries around the globe and then fly home.

One blight on China under Deng’s leadership was the alleged crushing of a student democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.  The truth is the protests that took place in Tiananmen Square didn’t start as a democracy movement, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not deny that there were deaths, but the CCP says the deaths took place several miles from Tiananmen Square due to a bloody confrontation between the People’s Liberation Army and violent protestors throwing Molotov cocktails. What is the truth about Tiananmen Square?

As this 6-part series ends, you might be thinking about what was missing. For instance the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canal, or China’s ancient irrigation system, the Treasure of Sichuan, built more than 2,200 years ago, the oldest and only surviving non-dam irrigation system in the word. The next two posts will be about the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canal. Click the link in this paragraph to discover the Treasure of Sichuan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site admired by scientists from around the world.

Return to Part 5 or start with Part 1

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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A Short History of China: part 5 of 6

January 17, 2017

After a decline that started in the 16th century about the time Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macao, and 22 years later established a permeant settlement there, in 1912, China’s last Imperial Dynasty, the Qing, after more than 2,200 years of Imperial rule, collapsed followed by chaos, anarchy, and widespread suffering, and mass deaths.

Sun Yat-Sen attempted to form a republic in China but failed. Not long after his death, China was plunged into a Civil War in 1927 (with a short break to fight Japan during World War II) that raged between the Nationalists under a brutal dictator called Chiang Kai-shek, an American ally, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong until 1949 when Mao’s CCP won.

The Rape of Nanking offers a brutal snapshot of what happened to China after Japan invaded in 1937.

In addition, David C. Schak reports, “Throughout most of Chinese history the majority of Chinese have lived in poverty. As the hundreds of famines that have killed millions of Chinese attest, Chinese poverty has often been absolute, i.e., lacking the very material resources needed to sustain life and maintain health.”

In 1949, the population of China was 562 million, and the average life expectancy was 36 years. In 1976 when Mao died, the population had reached 930 million and average life expectancy had increased to about 65 years.

But for his 27 years as the leader of China, the West had repeatedly blamed Mao for murdering 60 million of his own people by letting them starve to death during what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine of 1958 – 62. The CCP admits there was a famine but says that only about 3 million died. Henry Kissinger says it was closer to 20 million. Where did all of those estimates come from – 3 million, 20 million, and 60 million? From the same data that the CCP made available for the world.

What was happening in the West in the 1950s and 60s: The Cold War, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee and mass hysteria over the perceived threat posed to Capitalism by Communism. It was known as the era of The Red Scare. There was a war against the spread of Communism in Korea (1950 – 1953) that ended in a stalemate ,and then another war in Vietnam that the U.S. lost, because the government in Vietnam today is a Communist one, the same one the U.S. fought from 1955 to 1975.

Five U.S. Presidents fought the Vietnam War from Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953 – 1961) to Gerald R. Ford (1974 – 1977). In between were Presidents John F. Kennedy (assassinated), Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon (resigned to avoid being impeached).

Few in the West know that America’s leaders refused to lift an embargo on China during what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine, and help feed those starving Chinese once Mao and the CCP discovered what was happening and asked for help from the world.

The only help came from Canada and France, two countries that broke ranks with the United States to help save lives in China.

To end Communism in China, America’s leaders were willing to let millions of Chinese starve to death, and then blame Mao even though China is known as the Land of Famines, because Imperial records for more than 2,000 years recorded that China has had droughts, floods, famines, and loss of life annually up to 1962 when under the leadership of the CCP, the Chinese haven’t suffered from one since, a first in Chinese history; a first most of the global media outside of China has not reported on.

Continued in Part 6 on January 18, 2017 or return to Part 5

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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A Short History of China: part 4 of 6

January 11, 2017

Before moving on with China’s history in the 20th century, it’s important to understand that China has a rich and long history of the arts: for instance, literature, poetry, painting, opera, and music. China, after all invented the printing press during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) and paper in 105 AD. This history reaches back thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to fiction novels from the Ming Dynasty published to entertain the masses of literate Chinese.

For a comparison with European civilization, the printing press in the West wasn’t invented until after 1300 AD, centuries after China, and it’s possible that the west stole the technology for the printing press from China just like the British Empire stole the secrets of growing and brewing tea from China.

For literature, there are the four Chinese classics: “Outlaws of the Marsh” (set in the Sung Dynasty, 960 – 1279 AD), “Romance of the Three Kingdom” (set during the end of the Han Dynasty, BC 206 – 220 AD), Journey to the West, and The Dream of the Red Chamber (China’s Romeo and Juliet set in the 18th century in the middle of the Qing Dynasty).

Traditional Chinese Poetry is similar to Western poetry.  Lines in Chinese poetry may have a fixed number of syllables and rhyme was required, so ancient Chinese poetry resembles traditional English verse and is not at all like the free verse in today’s Western culture.

Mao Zedong was more than just a revolutionary and the leader of China from 1949 to 1976.  He was complex man who was also a poet. Anyone who studies all of Mao’s life instead of relying on his last decade would understand that he cared deeply about the common people. In addition, Mao is responsible for ridding China of illegal drugs like opium and cocaine, liberating women when he announced they were equal to men, and his health reforms almost doubled the average lifespan before he died.

Opera has a long history in China. To learn more, I suggest: Chinese Opera and Mao Wei Tao, China’s Living Treasure, and The Mother of Chinese Operas.

For brush painting (with a 6,000 year history) and calligraphy, I recommend: Gongbi Style Chinese Brush Painting, and Caressing nature with a long handled brush.

Last, there is China’s music. For instance, the Chinese mouth organ dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (BC 1111-222), and has been found in Han Dynasty tombs. Then there are the 2,553 year-old chimes of Marquis Yi.

Continued in Part 5 on January 17, 2017 or return to Part 4

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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A Short History of China: part 3 of 6

January 10, 2017

In China’s long history, two times China was conquered and ruled by minorities. The first time was by the Mongols led by Kublai Khan. His Yuan Dynasty was short lived, lasting 89 years from 1279 to 1368 AD. After Kublai Khan’s wife died, he isolated himself from the public and his government fell into corruption. He died alone in his palace at 80, and it didn’t take long for a rebellion to break out and the Ming Dynasty to replace the Mongols.

The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1683 AD) was established by the White Lotus, a secret Buddhist society. The Ming would be China’s last Han ruled dynasty.

Near the end of the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century, China started its long decline as the wealthiest, most powerful and technologically advanced nation on the planet to be replaced by the rise of the European colonial empires and the United States.

Joseph Needham (1900 – 1995), a Cambridge Don, went to China during World War II as a spy for the British, and discovered just how advanced and powerful China had been. When he returned to Cambridge after the war, he dedicated his life to writing “Science and Civilization in China” that was about the history of science and technology in China.

Needham’s research revealed that the ancient Chinese, when Europe was suffering through its Dark Ages (5th to 15th centuries AD), had an average of 15 important innovations a century for a total of more than 1,500. Then came the sixteenth century, when the Renaissances was under way in Europe, and the creative passions of China seemed to dry up and ended in the 19th century with the Opium Wars (1839 – 1860).

Foreign traders, mostly the British (The French and the United States eventually joined the British in this war to force illegal drugs on China), had been illegally exporting (smuggling) opium from India to China since the 18th century.  The resulting widespread addiction in China caused serious social and economic disruption leading to the collapse of the last imperial dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912 AD) led by the Manchu minority.

Continued in Part 4 on January 11, 2017 or return to Part 3

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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A Short History of China: part 2 of 6

January 4, 2017

During the Han Dynasty (BC 206 – 210 AD) 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, which spread to Korea and Japan.

Paper is one of the significant inventions from China, and in 105 AD, Cai Long submitted this discovery to the Han Emperor Liu Zhao.  The basic method of papermaking that Cai Long developed is still in use today.

In 132 AD, the first seismograph was invented, and in 134 AD the device measured its first earthquake that helped to accurately predict the location several hundred miles away.

Feminism is a social movement in the United States and Europe that is still struggling for equal rights for women, but China had a powerful feminist in Emperor Wu Zetian (625 – 705 AD), who was the only female emperor in China’s history.

The Tang Dynasty was a time of relative freedom for women. Women didn’t bind their feet (for a few more centuries) or lead submissive lives. It was a time in which a number of exceptional women contributed in the areas of culture and politics.

Gunpowder was also accidently discovered during the Tang Dynasty while Chinese scientists were looking for an elixir for immortality. What they ended up with, gunpowder, was a formula for death.

The Chinese also invented the crossbow, firearms, canons, and rockets, and ironically, the Mongols conquered China in the 13th century using weapons the Chinese invented.

Continued in Part 3 on January 10, 2017 or start with Part 1

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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A Short History of China: part 1 of 6

January 3, 2017

We start the New Year with a series of six-short posts quickly covering 9,000 years of Chinese history. This is short, not long, so a lot of detail has been left out.

In 1999, Chinese archeologists unearthed what is believed to be the oldest know playable instrument, a seven-holed flute fashioned 9,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird.

Fast forward about 4,000 years to the discovery of Silk. In 1984, silk fabric dating back more than 5,000 years was found in Henan Province.

In 1959 AD, scientists excavated the city Yanshi, and discovered large palaces. Some archaeologists think Yanshi was the capital of the Xia Dynasty, once a myth. The discovery, the first of its kind “causes great concern because it was founded at the key moment when the Xia Dynasty was replaced by the Shang Dynasty (1783 BC – 1123 BC),” said Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The Shang Dynasty (BC 1766  – 1122) followed the Xia. The Shang Dynasty was also a myth until about a hundred years ago with the discovery of the dynasty’s last capital, Xin Xu. Xin Xu was the capital for about three hundred years.

China’s Spring and Autumn period started about the time of the Zhou Dynasty between BC 1126 – 226. During this period, Confucius lived in Qufu, in Southwestern Shandong Province, and Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War,” a book still studied today by the West Point cadets and the CEOs of many global corporations. History records that Buddhism first arrived in China near the end of this period more than two hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

China’s first Emperor Qin She Huangdi, known as the Tiger of Qin, unified China for the first time by conquering six of the seven countries that made up what’s known as today’s China. His capital was Xian. The city’s original name was Chang’ an, and it was more than one and a half times the size of Rome.

Continued in Part 2 on January 4, 2017

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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A Brief History of New Year Celebrations

December 28, 2016

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival dates back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox, a day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness, and this ushered in the beginning of a new year.

If the first recorded New Year’s celebration was in March, how did it move to January 1st?

The answer to that question may be found at History.com where we discover that Emperor Julius Cesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC, and it closely resembled the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries use today. In addition, Cesar made January 1st the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings.

Therefore, if you celebrate the New Year on January 1st, you are celebrating a pagan holiday. But all is not lost. Later, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Christian leaders in medieval Europe during the Dark Ages replaced January 1st as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance such as December 25, the anniversary of Jesus’s birth, and that lasted until Pope Gregory XIII (AD 1502 – 1585) reestablished January 1st as New Year’s Day in 1582.


Countries that do NOT celebrate the New Year on the first of January

For China, the first day of the New Year falls between January 21 and February 20.  The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar, also known as the Spring Festival.

The Chinese New Year gained significance because of several myths and traditions. History.com reports the ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that it existed as early as the 14th century BC, during the Shang Dynasty.

Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities (gods) as well as ancestors. The Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories that have significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines.

In 2015, China witnessed 261 million people on the move to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, and they traveled by road, rail and air—all over a short period of time. The Chinese Lunar New Year for 2016 takes place on Monday, February 8, and it is a national holiday that runs from February 7 – 13. If you are curious and want to see what it looks like in China when all those people are on the road at the same time, the International Business Times has a great photo spread to scroll through.

When we visited China in 2008 during this incredibly crowded holiday for travelers, the Lunar New Year was on February 7, the Year of the Rat. In 2017 it will be the Year of the Rooster on January 28th. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year-cycle.

Back during the Year of the Rat in 2008, it was so crowded when we were traveling in China, that it felt as if we were swimming upriver through an ocean filled with people and no water.

For readers who haven’t been to China and want to visit one day, this may be your only chance to experience a taste of what it’s like to live in a country with more than 1.3 billion people. By the way, 261 million people is more than 80% of the population of the United States. Imagine the gridlock if that many Americans took to the roads and air all at the same time.

 
2015 Lunar New Year in Shanghai, China

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline